Probably the biggest topic our readers ask us to write about is the cost of traveling. It doesn’t matter if you’re fresh out of college with mountains of student loans or you have already started to grow your family, a vacation’s cost is important. All too often, the cost of traveling will end up exceeding your travel budget. Don’t let this deter you from scheduling your next vacation. We’ve found five budget busters you can plan for to make sure you don’t come home having to work extra hours for the fun you’ve already had.
Gas Station Garbage
Not actual garbage, but the junk you end up purchasing when you stop for gas or a bathroom break. Don’t be that person–and I’m calling you out Seth Fletcher–that can’t leave a convenience store without two bags of chips, a caffeinated beverage, and the bobblehead for sale at the register. During one stop you can drop $10-$20 easily. Do this every time and you’ll end up with a $100 worth of empty wrappers on the floor. The bobblehead on the dash will be a constant reminder of the money you could have saved.
Our advice: Avoid snacking at gas stations by packing food. If you can’t pack a lunch, limit what you can spend at each stop. Try to keep it under a certain amount each time, $5 is a good starting point.
Yes, you are about to get the staying hydrated speech again. Not really. But, while you’re on vacation enjoying your Mai-Tais and Mojitos out in the sun it’s important to remember to drink water from time to time. But what does that have to do with the budget? The money issue arises when you don’t have access to free water. Public water fountains exist, but they are few and far between. It’s much more likely you’ll end up buying bottled water. It won’t break the bank, but if you end up buying a few bottles of water at $2-$4 multiple times each day the price tag will rack up quickly.
Our advice: Bring refillable water bottles. If you can’t do that, make sure to order a cup of water when you eat out and if you don’t finish it, ask for a to-go cup.
There are so many chances for parking to be a part of your budget busters. Parking at an airport. Parking at a concert. Parking by the beach. The list of places that now come with a price tag to leave your car grows daily. It also has become more expensive. Do a little research about the places you’re going to visit, not just your travel destination. You can get a decent idea of the parking expense with a few google searches. Make sure you are paying your meter because even worse than paying $3 per hour to park is a parking ticket.
Our advice: Prepay for as much parking as you can (such as airport parking) after doing a price comparison. Download parking apps to eliminate the necessity of keeping cash to pay for meters.
Picking up good libations can set the tone for relaxation time. Picking up the bill for them can end it abruptly. Alcohol often is one of the biggest expenses on a vacation (if you drink). Specialty drinks can start at $10. We’ve found $15 virgin drinks before. Craft beers often range between $5-$9 a glass. Make sure you don’t let the good times roll too long. A hangover lasts a day. You can’t get the $100 bar tab back. A week’s worth of $100 bar tabs can add up to a paycheck quickly.
Our advice: Set a limit on both the number of drinks per bar and the cash you’re willing to spend.
Another one of the budget busters that you are aware of, but rarely plan for accordingly, are tolls. For extremely long trips like our 1550 mile trek down the east coast, it was difficult to accurately calculate every toll. That’s fine. Problems arise when you know there are going to be tolls but forget, or don’t care, to factor those into travel expenses. There are hundreds of roads across the US that cost money to navigate. Traveling across I-76 in PA can start to add up quickly if you aren’t paying attention. Tolls range widely, anywhere from $0.25 to get back on Rt. 1 in Delaware to $15 to cross the George Washington Bridge in New York.
Our advice: Try to plan out your route and see how many toll roads you actually cross. Then, get an EZ-pass and link it to a card with travel points. Travel expenses earn more rewards on these cards and in a roundabout way, lower their cost.