How Much Do You Spend On Vacations?

Carnival Cruise Trip Cost ReportVacations are one of my favorite times of the year.

I know I’m not the only person that feels that way.

If you’re lucky enough to get paid time off from work you even get a paycheck while you’re relaxing on a beach or riding the roller coasters in your favorite theme park.

The sad part is we all know that vacations aren’t free unless you win a contest or pay for your vacation with credit card sign up bonuses.

Related: Disney World Trip Cost Report

Vacations Aren’t Cheap!

Vacations can be extremely expensive if you’re not careful. Many people easily overspend on vacations to make their families happy or because the particular vacation you are on is a once in a lifetime trip.

It is easy to relax your wallet at the same time that you’re trying to escape your daily life. Trust me, I’ve seen it happen to others many times in the few vacations I’ve been on.

On our last cruise (read the 7 day cruise cost report here) we saw plenty of evidence of people overspending on vacation all within about 5 minutes of each other. We were waiting in the guest services line to ask a question and overheard two people arguing with guest services about their bills.

The Crazy Bar Tab Denial

How Much A 7 Day Carnival Cruise CostsThe first was a group of three girls in expensive clothes arguing about their bar tab. They were certain there was no way they charged $700 of drinks in just 4 days.

The funny part was it wasn’t $700 between the three of them, it was around $700 each! Insane! If I had to guess, they probably did charge the drinks and were just trying to get out of it once they saw the bill.

Maxed Out Credit Card Denial

The second example of overspending on vacation was a lady who was asking why she couldn’t charge any more money on her onboard cruise ship account. The guest services clerk had to explain that she had maxed out her credit card at her limit of $7,000.

The cruise ship representative told the cruiser that they could put cash on the card or give a different credit card to make more charges. The guest argued with the guest service clerk for a while, but eventually left without giving another card or cash for future purchases.

Take On Debt To Go On Vacation? No Thanks!

PHoneymoon Cruise Trip Cost Reportersonally, I don’t think anyone should take on debt to go on vacation. While I will charge my purchases on a credit card when I’m on vacation, I always ensure I have enough cash to pay my credit card bill in full as soon as I get home.

Plus I get rewards for money I would have spent anyway so it is a win-win for me.

So how do you determine how much to spend on vacations? It all depends on your values and how much value you place on getting away versus living your everyday life.

Personally, we put aside a set amount of money every paycheck for any vacation we’d want to take. Once we have enough money in the account we get to go on the vacation, assuming we can get the time off from work together.

I Want To Know! How Much Do You Spend On Vacation?

I am extremely curious when it comes to average vacation spending so I thought who better to ask than you!

How much do you spend on vacation? How much do you spend in dollars or a percentage of your income? What does a typical vacation include for you? Do you use a particular method to save for your vacations such as saving up credit card rewards?

Our 7 day honeymoon Carnival cruise trip cost report, Disney World cost report and 5 day Carnival cruise trip cost report show how much we spend on our vacations.

All photos by Tori.

10 Ways We’re Saving Money On Our Disney World Vacation

Visiting Disney World on a budget may seem impossible. Luckily, I share 10 Disney World tips and tricks on how we're saving money on our Disney World vacation. Even if your whole extended family travels to Disney World, these Disney World secrets should help you with your planning. Disney World is often thought of as an extravagant and expensive vacation for most.

We’ll be visiting Disney World later this spring and the trip should be relatively inexpensive for us.

Here are 10 ways we’re saving money on our upcoming trip to Disney World.

Related: Our First Disney World Trip Cost Report from August 2012

1. We Bought Florida Resident Tickets

We live in Florida which allows us to buy Florida resident tickets at a discount.

However, Disney was running a special called Discover Disney which allowed us to buy even more heavily discounted tickets.

We were able to get two four day tickets for just $159 plus tax each.

After taxes the total came to just $338.68 for admission to one theme park for each of four days of fun.

2. We Didn’t Buy The Park Hopper Option

I don’t really understand the park hopper option other than the blatant money grab it is. Each of Disney’s four theme parks have plenty of activities to fill a whole day.

I wouldn’t imagine trying to fit two theme parks into one day as you would miss out on too many fun activities and waste a lot of time traveling between parks. Instead of paying Disney extra, we just plan on doing everything we want in each park on the day we’ve planned for that park.

3. We Don’t Plan To Eat Every Meal At Disney World

We plan to eat as few meals as possible in the Disney parks and we don’t plan on buying any drinks while we’re there. This should help us cut down on costs drastically. While we probably will eat lunch in the parks, we will plan to eat breakfast and most dinners outside of the parks.

While eating in the parks, we don’t plan on going to any of the fancy or expensive eateries since we’re visiting Disney for aspects other than food.

4. We Will Bring In Snacks & Water

We plan to bring a few small snacks and a water bottle or two in to the Disney parks with us. It really isn’t much to carry and this is a super simple way to save us some money.

We can refill the water bottles at fountains and even bring in flavored water drink packets if we want something other than plain water.

Related: 5 Clever Ways To Save Money While On Vacation

5. We Planned Our Parks Based On Crowd Calendars

Many websites offer crowd calendars to show which parks are predicted to be busiest on each day. While these predictions aren’t always 100% accurate, they are generally pretty good at picking which parks will be busier or slower on any given day.

By using these calendars, we were able to plan a schedule that should allow us to enjoy the parks without waiting in crazy long lines each day simply because we picked the wrong park on the wrong day.

This should also allow us to finish our visit of each of the parks in time to enjoy dinner outside of the park, saving us money.

6. We’ll Be Staying With A Friend

One of our friends moved to Orlando a couple years ago. We’ve visited her a couple of times since then and we’ll be visiting her again for our Disney trip. She has a guest room and she is super nice for letting us stay there while we visit Disney World.

Of course, we will be spending time with her as well. She has an annual pass so she can come along with us to the theme parks whenever she wishes. We normally don’t spend the whole day in the parks, either, as the hours are much longer than needed for us to do everything we want.

We should be able to grab dinner with her outside of the park at least one or two nights during our stay.

7. We’re Driving To Orlando

It helps that we’re within driving distance of Orlando when it comes to keep our costs down. While we could fly, it would take just as long or longer and we’d have to pay for plane tickets, transportation and many other inconveniences.

We will have to pay to park at the theme parks, but overall we’ll be saving money by driving rather than flying.

8. We Plan To Skip Out On Expensive & Throw Away Souvenirs

Souvenirs at Disney definitely are not cheap. Lucky for us, we don’t feel the need to buy some cheap item to remind of us our trip. Most of the time, souvenirs just end up getting thrown away or donated at some point in the future.

Instead of buying something that will just take up space until it is thrown away, we only buy up to one souvenir each and only if it has a purpose. That is in addition to the one Christmas tree ornament we get on each vacation to help us remember our trips.

Related: What The One Percent Buy At Disney World

9. We’ll Take Our Own Pictures

Disney loves to take your picture for you. You’ll see cast members offering to take pictures everywhere. Of course, they’re really trying to sell you the pictures they take.

If you ask nicely, sometimes these cast members will take a picture for you with your phone or camera which eliminates the need to buy the pictures from Disney.

The quality may not be the same if your camera stinks, but you will still capture the memory for free.

10. We Could Use Credit Card Rewards To Pay For Our Expenses

Finally, we could take this whole trip for free based on credit card rewards if we wanted to. I could easily earn enough cash back with just one or two credit card sign up bonuses to pay for our whole trip.

Related: Best Credit Card Sign Up Bonuses Available This Month

We aren’t using our rewards for Disney because we can get a better value for them elsewhere, but this is definitely an option if you’re looking to do Disney on the cheap.

Overall, we expect this trip will probably cost us between $500 to $650 for four days of fun in Walt Disney World. In addition, we get to spend time catching up with one of our friends. How awesome is that?!

How would you save money on a Walt Disney World vacation? Do you have any tips or tricks I didn’t mention here? I’d love to hear your thoughts to see if there are any other ways we could be saving money on our fun trip! I’m looking forward to reading your comments below.

One Small Change Can Save Big Money On Your Vacations

Vacations and quick weekends away can get expensive fast. It doesn’t have to always end up that way though. If you simply use this quick tip, you can cut a big chunk of money off of your weekend getaway or full blown vacation!

How To Save Money While Travelling

This tip may seem stupid, but if you really think about it, it has massive potential to save you money. Simply don’t eat out, or cut back on eating out, while you’re on vacation. I know that a lot of people love to eat out when they reach their destination.

We’ve been programmed to believe it is part of the vacation feel. Before you completely revolt, the occasional special meal at a nice restaurant on vacation isn’t what I’m talking about. I’m talking about eating out when you get in the car and drive or get on a flight and fly to your destination.

The best part about this tip is the bigger the family the more you save!

Your Dining Options For A Road Trip

If you are driving to your destination, stop by the grocery store before you leave for your trip. Instead of spending money on the typical restaurant experience, buy some items you can pack for lunches, dinners and some snacks for in between.

Most people just stop somewhere quick in the rush to get to wherever they are going. Your fast food options normally include McDonald’s, Wendy’s and Burger King at most interstate exits and can be quick if appropriately staffed. That isn’t always the case and they aren’t very healthy either.

Gas stations are another option but they have very inflated prices and typically only carry snacks and lighter meal items. That doesn’t even factor in the cost of putting the horrible food into your body!

Packing your food is even faster than fast food or a gas station because you don’t have to stop at all! I always liked to pack peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with Pringles but you can pack deli meat sandwiches in a cooler if you prefer. For drinks I pick up a 24 pack of water bottles (the only time I buy bottled water) and a 12 pack of soda as well.

Again, the larger the family the more you stand to save. The best part is, I always have leftover drinks to enjoy once I’m at my vacation spot so I don’t have to pay the high prices from vending machines or local vendors. I get to save money twice with this trick!

Your Dining Options When You’re Flying

Things can be a bit more complicated in the airport but bringing along food and drink is still manageable. Airport food is very expensive and, unless you like overpriced food, is rarely worth it. You can easily pack some food in your carry on bag but drinks are a bit harder because of those pesky security guards.

There is a way to get around it. What I do is buy a 1.25 liter bottle of Coke Zero (my soft drink of choice) a week or so in advance. When I am done drinking it I keep the bottle. You can take empty bottles through security and the fill it up with the water fountain on the other side. Drinks at the airport cost at least double what they are anywhere else so I always bring an empty bottle.

Like I said before, once you reach your destination you’re free to eat out if it is part of the vacation plan. I like eating at beachfront restaurants when I’m going to beach. I try to stay away from the major chains because I can go to them at home and it is the same exact experience.

Vacations should be about experiences and memories. The car or plane ride is rarely one of them so next time you head out save some money by stopping by the grocery store before you go!

If you really want to save the maximum amount of money on your vacation and you’re not a big fan of dining out, you should book lodging with a kitchen. Simply stop by the grocery store on the way to your lodging destination and stock up on groceries to cook your meals at your vacation “home”!

Do you have a travel tip you’d like to share? What do you think about this idea? Let me know if you plan on trying it out!


How Credit Card Rewards Paid For Our 5 Day Carnival Cruise

We recently returned from a fun-in-the-sun vacation on a 5 day Carnival cruise. The best part of the vacation was that it was almost completely free due to credit card rewards. We did end up having to pay just a tiny bit of money, but everything else was covered by credit card rewards!

Most people would never think 2 people could take a 5 day cruise for almost nothing, so I thought I’d share how we were able to pull it off. First I’ll cover how much everything cost, then I’ll share how we used credit card rewards to pay for everything.

How Much Our Five Day Carnival Cruise Cost (Everything Included)

I’ve done write ups on how much our cruises have cost in the past (read our first 5 day cruise costs here and our 7 day honeymoon cruise costs here) so I’m not going to explain what all of these costs are for. If you want to read about hidden costs on a Carnival cruise, click here.

The cruise itself, with all fees and prepaid tips included cost us $770.96. This was the first cost we paid and we paid it all with our credit card rewards. The next cost we paid was a shore excursion, snorkeling in Grand Cayman, that we planned a few weeks ahead of the cruise. It cost $73.98 and was also paid for completely with credit card rewards.

About a week before we left for the cruise we booked a hotel for the night before the cruise left. We always do this so we don’t have to worry about traffic or missing the cruise! We booked through and got a killer deal at the Hilton Garden Inn just a few miles from the port. It only cost $63.76 and was again paid for completely with credit card rewards.

On our way to the port we had to fuel my car. Total fuel (both on the way there and on the way back) cost us $71.64. We also stopped to stock up on a few vacation necessities and a meal on the way to and home from our cruise which cost us $58.32. Unfortunately, we couldn’t pay for these costs with our rewards at the same rate at which we could redeem our miles for travel, so we paid for these costs out of pocket.

When we finally arrived at the port and had to pay to park our car. These cruises really know how to nickle and dime you! The parking cost $75.00 and while we put it on our credit card, it didn’t count as travel so we didn’t use our reward points for this part either.

We always bring some cash to pay for tips and purchases in the ports. This time we only paid additional tips to the porters ($2) who took our bags when we arrived at the port and $4 to rent a locker on one of our excursions. We got by pretty cheap with our cash spending this cruise.

While we were on the ship we enjoyed our cruise and knew how much money we had left in credit card rewards and we wanted to make sure we spent it all. We both bought a t-shirt and we bought a few drinks here and there on the cruise ship. In the end, we spent the last $75.20 of our credit card rewards on our on-board cruise account.

Total Cost Of The Cruise

The total cost of our cruise was $1,194.86 and we were able to pay for $983.90 of it with our credit card rewards. That means we only had to pay $210.96 out of pocket for a 5 day Carnival cruise. Pretty sweet huh?

We could have done even better and completely paid for the cruise with credit card rewards, but we wouldn’t of had as much fun and we wouldn’t have been able to redeem our rewards at maximum value. We’re super happy with how our trip turned out and how we didn’t have to pay hardly anything for it, compared to a normal cruise!

How We Earned Our Credit Card Rewards

To earn the rewards to pay for our cruise, we used a sign up bonus credit card. I signed up for the card first and hit the minimum spend threshold to earn the sign up bonus. Next, my wife did the same thing.

We continued to put our normal spending on these cards until we hit our desired point amount for our vacation. Then we redeemed our rewards for travel to get the maximum value possible! It’s pretty simple!

Have you ever used credit card rewards to get a cheap or free vacation? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments below!

Are Staycations Really That Cool?

Today’s post is by our Wednesday contributor, Catherine Alford!

Lately there has been this trend of people taking staycations. Have you heard of them? Basically, this idea came about during the early part of the recession, and it has continued to pick up steam.

The way it works is that instead of taking vacation time from work and flying someplace new, people started staying home instead and enjoying their own cities. After all, it’s kind of a good idea, right? You get to save a ton of money and learn more about where you live.

Realistically, how many of you have been to the museums and other sites in your city? Maybe you only go when someone visits you or when your child goes on a field trip. The truth is, we almost never see what our own city has to offer unless it’s free food of course! A staycation is an opportunity to get out there and try that new restaurant or that cool hiking trail or that crazy ice cream shop with all the unique flavors.

My Staycation

Before I moved to Grenada, I was living in Richmond, Virginia. Richmond has an over abundance of great activities to do. From white water rafting through the middle of the city to tons of unique historical sites and restaurants, you can truly see it all.

It was a great place to live with a unique mix of people. Plus, they always had a festival of some sort going on every weekend and a hugely popular 10k that people came to run from all over the country. The thing is though, the hubs and I are introverts and we rarely took in what our city had to offer. I know; we’re nerds.

I even had a free pass to every museum in town since I worked for the park service, but I never used it until the last week we lived there! Basically, my husband and I decided that since we were moving, we had to see everything Richmond had to offer and catch up on everything that we missed. So, in one week, we checked out botanical gardens, historic cemeteries, and several museums. It was so much fun, and we couldn’t understand why we didn’t do it sooner! Plus, it was all free since I had the pass, so it was wallet friendly too.

Fancy Staycation

If you want to get fancy or you just have a slightly bigger vacation budget, you can even stay in a hotel in your own city. This helps you to really forget about the chores and the responsibility at home and instead focus on kicking up your feet and ordering some room service.

Remember, even if you stay in a hotel, you are still saving a lot of money on gas or flights all while enjoying time off and new, fun experiences.

So, I want to hear from you. Have you ever had a staycation? Do you love the idea or are you really devoted to the idea of actually going somewhere else when you take time off of work?