It’s the time of year when everyone you know is either on vacation or about to be on one. So, you might be asking yourself, are expensive vacations worth it? Here’s where you start wondering what exactly is an expensive vacation anyway? Is it a brand name vacay, like Disney or a five-star resort? Or just spending more than some metric say, more than you normally spend on groceries every month? Perhaps the real question to ask is, “What is the right amount to spend on a vacation?”
Let’s start with the purpose of vacations, and then perhaps you can develop a better feel for what would be a reasonable price to pay for it. There are three time periods relating to a vacation and they have wildly varying goals. There is the preparation and anticipation stage followed by the actual getaway and finally the aftermath and memories. The preparation and anticipation stage is driven by a desire to change the status quo. Your everyday activity is likely lacking certain elements. You may desire more time with your family or friends, you need to get away from a stressful job, or you crave something exciting to look forward to. Any of these are legitimate motivators for a break and a change of pace.
The second stage is the experience of the vacation itself. This could be a relaxing experience (think beach resort, or log cabin in the woods), or an exciting one (think theme park, hiking or skiing) or an experiential one (think visiting a place you have never been to, or a place with personal meaning). As you can see the values here are often quite different than those which got you planning in the first place.
Finally, there is what comes after the vacation. You may want to share (or boast about) your experience with your social media networks, or you may want to just hang on to the happy memories for a while. And then, you want to feel like it was worth the effort, the time and the energy expended.
With so many different aspects and element to vacations, it is really hard to put a price tag or value on them. However, I would like to point out several things that may help you decide what it is worth to you. First off, of the three stages, the one that the pricey vacation will impact the most is your ability to boast about it afterwards (if you’re into the how to take an expensive vacation on credit card points etc., even this may not be true). Planning and anticipation can be just as rewarding with a modest and affordable getaway. Even the real time experience of luxury vacations is highly overrated. How much will you actually notice the difference between a five-star experience and a three-star one? Most people can’t even tell the difference between a $100 wine and $10 one, the distinctions are even less apparent for hotel amenities like pools, pillows and mattresses.
It seems that the value of a luxury vacation is either mostly focused on the memories that you will take with you, or on the experiential elements that you anticipate can only be satisfied with a specific set of expenditures. For most people then, it is likely a better choice to come back from vacation without an overdrawn credit card. Overspending will result in a whole new set of negative feelings and may actually overwhelm the positive memories and experiences of the vacation.
Based on this thought process, I would recommend considering your primary motivation for the vacation, and with that in mind considering how much to spend. If you will be spending enough to substantially mess with your cash flow situation, you should set this vacation as a savings goal to avoid the negative aftermath. If you have come to the conclusion that you really want a specific vacation and you are willing to save towards this goal, by all means enjoy the journey. However, if you are just trying to keep up with everyone else’s (it isn’t really everyone’s) social media posts, or just trying to shake things up, don’t destroy your finances in the process. Figure out how to getaway for less. There are thousands of options out there and you will have a great time without killing your next year trying to figure out how to pay for what you just did. Try the book: How to Travel the World on $50 a Day: Third Edition: Travel Cheaper, Longer, Smarter by: Matt Kepnes (Amazon Link) for some ideas or just Google: “How to travel on a budget” for tons of great resources.
Let me know what you are planning for your vacation. I love to hear from you. Joe