Tips for Estimating the Cost of a Summer Vacation

Due to the poor economy, many Americans are foregoing their annual summer vacations or at least significantly cutting back.  If you are on a budget, but still want to plan a good summer vacation, you should take three steps.  They involve determining how much money you have available to spend, estimating the cost of your trip, and cutting corners when needed.  Out of these three steps, estimating the cost of your summer vacation is the most important, but it can also be the most difficult.  Continue reading on for a few helpful tips.

Estimate the cost of everything.  Your goal is to plan a summer vacation you can afford.  To do that, you must know how much you can expect to spend.  Are you driving or flying?  Honestly, it doesn’t matter.  Estimate the cost of travel.  Where do you intend to stay?  Unless staying with friends and family, estimate the cost of a hotel or resort.  You want to account for each dollar you are likely to spend.  If you will buy souvenirs, estimate the cost of them.  If you attend to pay for activities and attractions, estimate their costs.  Since you need to eat, estimate the cost of food, snacks, and drinks.

Do more than just a general estimate; create a detailed one.  For example, you may think “I can spend $50 to eat on the first day of my trip.”  This is good, but created a detailed list.  Start with breakfast, lunch, snacks, and dinner.  A good example is to plan to spend $5 for breakfast at a fast food establishment, $15 dollar for lunch at a casual restaurant, $5 for snacks a local convenience store, and $25 for dinner at a nice sit-down restaurant.  This approach is best as it later allows you to cut corners.  If your estimates have you going over your vacation budget, forgo the dinner at a fancy restaurant.  Reduce the cost from $25 down to $12 by opting for a casual restaurant instead.

Use the internet to help you estimate the cost of your trip.  As previously stated, you want to know how much you can expect to spend.  This will help you determine if you can truly afford your dream vacation.  It is easy to estimate the cost of air travel or hotels.  Use the internet and request a free quote.  As for attractions, activities, and food, use the internet as a guide.  Visit a few websites for nearby restaurants and attractions.  What are their average costs?  Use them as a guide.

Overestimate. Using the internet makes it easier to estimate the cost of a summer vacation, but rarely are you 100% on.  For that reason, always overestimate.  If you come across a cute restaurant online that charges an average of $12 a meal, roundup to $15.  This will help account for an unexpected price increase.  Overestimating is better than underestimating.  If you underestimate the cost of your trip, you may be left broke on the last two days.  How will you eat now?  With overestimating, the worst is you will have extra cash in your pocket.  Splurge on a nice meal, buy a few extra souvenirs, or save the money.

Don’t forget about free things.  The best way to save money on a summer vacation is to take advantage of anything that is free.  For example, your hotel may have free donuts or bagels available for guests.  A warm breakfast is nice, but why pass up something for free?  At the very least, intend on eating breakfast at your hotel half of the trip.  By doing so, you have no costs to estimate as it is free.  Do the same with activities and attractions.  Use the internet to research those with low or no admission fees.


As a recap, if you are vacationing with limited financial resources, create a budget.  Determine much money you have to spend, estimate the cost of your vacation, and compare the two.  If your dream vacation is too expensive based on your estimates, work on cutting costs.


8 thoughts on “Tips for Estimating the Cost of a Summer Vacation

  • I try to look for hotels with free breakfast. I feel it’s better to get on the road when you’re full rather than driving around with a car full of people who need food haha.

  • That’s all great advice, I always try to overestimate the cost of everything and then add a little extra at the end…so far, so good. I found it useful to pick up one of those entertainment books too….lots of great discount coupons for admittance tickets.

  • Great tips! I always try to overestimate so we don’t run short. We have taken advantage of free breakfasts as well as free snacks, drinks & popcorn in the evening, which always helps.

  • We use Groupon when we travel and always set a budget We look for hotels with breakfast and we do sandwiches for lunch. We allow one meal out a day. I have rather have experiences than spend money on food.

  • My husband has a degree in finance, so I usually let him handle the budget for our vacations. We certainly always plan on spending a little extra, because my daughters always want souveniers.

  • I always look for coupons and deals for dining when on vacation. It saves a little bit.

  • I always look for free things, especially breakfast!

  • We would have gone on more family vacations if we had planned ahead, so this is good advice. Thanks for sharing!


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