Don't let the little things become big things!

7 Small Expenses That Can Blow Up Your Vacation Budget

by Shaunna Privratsky


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You are finally taking that long-awaited vacation. You've thought of everything, including travel, hotel, and food. You budget accordingly and then realize three days into your week vacation that you're running out of money. What happened?

Small expenses can creep up on you and sink even the savviest budget. Unless your vacation is "all inclusive," there will be extra expenses you'll need to pay. Don't let the little things ruin your vacation. Here are several things to watch out for and how to outsmart these budget busters.

  1. Airport amenities. With long wait times at the airport, it is tempting to eat at restaurants and have a beverage or shop at the cute boutiques and gift shops. Most restaurants don't even post prices on their menus, but you'll be paying a premium price for those chicken wings or glass of iced tea. Instead, bring food from home if your wait will be several hours or purchase food along the way. This is one time the drive-thru can be cheaper.
  2. Hotel room service. Everyone knows the mini-fridge is like a landmine; everything in it is extremely expensive. Even room service can eat into the budget. A better alternative is scouting out the local eateries close by or marketplaces. If your room doesn't have a fridge, a cooler and ice will keep your items fresh for snacks and mini-meals.
  3. Souvenirs. Picking up a few trinkets won't hurt, right? Well, that's until the $20 here or the $15 there really starts hurting the bottom line. Also, if you buy too much, you'll have to pay taxes at customs. Instead, look for free souvenirs like the stunning pictures you take with your phone. Or visit a local thrift store for local flavor items. These will mean more because you actually found them yourself.
  4. Tips. You probably know you should tip your bellman at the hotel. Did you know that most foreign restaurants and bars add an 18% gratuity tax? Don't tip if you've already been charged a gratuity.
  5. Add ons. You probably won't be spending your whole vacation in your hotel, watching the one English-speaking program that comes on at 1:00am. Spa treatments, side trips, guided tours, libraries, aquariums, zoos, scuba diving, snorkeling, wind surfing, helicopter tours, area attractions or other fun activities can cost a bundle. Plan ahead to pay for these extras, but don't try to pack in so much that you exhaust your budget. And, don't forget to look for discount coupons in those tourist coupon books or on local websites. Being on vacation doesn't mean you should forget your frugal ways.
  6. Fulfill all of your vacations needs at Priceline.com.

  7. Entertainment. You just have to see the nightly show, but it's well over $100 a person. Instead ask at your hotel; often they have free or less expensive shows just for their guests. Also, a stroll around town will reveal many free options for entertainment.
  8. Health and beauty products. Oh no! You forgot to pack sunscreen and it is 92 degrees out! Be prepared for sticker shock; virtually all health and beauty products are double or even triple the prices at home. Also, due to size restrictions, you may have to leave that $18 bottle of contact solution behind. Instead shop for travel-sized items at a dollar store or discount supermarkets. You'll save a bundle with savvy shopping.

Reviewed April 2017


Shaunna Privratsky became an expert in personal finance out of necessity. Between writing, reading and gardening, she is always on the lookout for bargains. Please sign up for the free newsletters at The Discount Diva. You can also visit Shaunna on Google+.

Take the Next Step:

  • Decide which of the 7 expenses is most likely to blow up your vacaation budget and make plans to avoid that expense.
  • Make travel part of your frugal lifestyle with The Dollar Stretcher's Guide to Vacationing for Less.
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  • Join those who 'live better...for less' - Subscribe to The Dollar Stretcher newsletter, a weekly look at how to stretch both your day and your dollar! Subscribers get a copy of our ebook Little Luxuries: 130 Ways to Live Better...For Less for FREE!

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