10 Ways to Waste Money on Vacation

A vacation can be a lot of fun. It can also be very expensive, although it does not have to be. There are many ways to cut costs on a vacation, but even the most conscientious cost cutters are sometimes guilty of throwing away money needlessly. It’s easy to waste money on vacation. You get in the vacation zone and you forget to watch your pennies. Either that or you get into the mindset of, “I’m on vacation, it doesn’t matter.” Then you come home to find large bills that could easily have been smaller. Although there are many more ways to waste money on vacation, here are ten likely money wasters.

Pay for more accommodation than you need

When you think about where to stay, don’t get caught up in the glossy brochures with their promises of great views, superb service, and lots of amenities. Unless you will be spending a lot of time in your room (such as on a honeymoon), you’ll likely only use the room to shower and sleep. Chances are you’ll be satisfied with a hotel that’s clean and close to the attractions you want to see without being five star (and priced accordingly). If you want to waste money on vacation, book a swanky hotel with tons of amenities and then only use the room to shower and sleep.

Buy lots of junk you’ll never use

Souvenirs can be a big money waster. You get so caught up in trying to remember your trip that you buy t-shirts you’ll never wear, do-dads that will look hideous in your house, and toys for the kids that break after the first play. Think about your souvenirs carefully and only buy things that you know you’ll love for years. Anything else is a waste of money.

Pay for a package with features you won’t use

If you want to waste money on vacation, be sure to book the deluxe package full of special outings, meals, and tickets that you’ll never be able to use. If you’re not sure you’ll have the time or desire to make use of all the package components, book things a la carte instead.

Buy tickets at the gate

Don’t waste money by buying tickets at the gate. Many attractions offer discounts if you buy tickets before you arrive instead of buying at the gate. For some places, like Disney World, you can buy discounted tickets from reputable third party brokers. Take the time before you leave home to order tickets for any attractions that are “must see’s” on your vacation.

Forget about your memberships that might save you money

AAA, AARP and other organizations offer discounts at many attractions, hotels, and campgrounds. Yet how many times have you returned from vacation and received the club newsletter in the mail, only to be reminded that your membership could have saved you money on tickets or your hotel? Remember the groups you belong to and check their benefits before you leave so you don’t waste money that you could easily have saved.


When on vacation, you don’t need to eat four course meals in every restaurant and drink every drink special of the day. Eventually you start wasting money because the food doesn’t taste as good (because you’re still full from the last meal) and you’re not enjoying it. Not only will you come home broke, you’ll be thicker around the middle, as well. Eat some meals in your room or at inexpensive chain restaurants and limit the big meals to one per day so you can savor the food.

Pay for cash advances or use out of network ATM’s

Continually running to the ATM for cash or a credit card cash advance is a big money waster. You’ll likely be incurring out of network ATM fees and interest charges on your cash advances. You can rack up enough of these charges in a week to pay for a night at a decent hotel. Take enough cash with you, or use your credit card or travelers checks for purchases. If you must get cash, then get enough in one transaction to cover your whole trip. This is less wasteful than hitting the ATM four times per day.

Don’t have a plan

If you’re traveling to a busy destination, particularly during the high tourist season, you’ve got to have a plan. Otherwise you risk getting shut out of the things you really want to do and paying more for everything. You end up flinging money at things just to survive the disaster.

Forget things

Make sure you have everything you need before you leave home. Pack your swimsuit, hat and sunglasses. Pack all your prescriptions, a selection of over the counter remedies and basic first aid in case you come down with something or get hurt. Everything in tourist destinations costs far more than it does at home, so everything you forget and have to replace on vacation is wasting money.

Pick the most expensive transportation option, also known as the most convenient option

If you don’t want to waste money, think about how you’ll get from place to place. A rental car can be great, but do you really need it in a city full of cheap public transportation? Air carrier A may offer a great non-stop flight, but the train might be cheaper and more fun. Transportation that is quick is expensive and may be a waste of money if you have other options.

You don’t have to watch every penny on vacation. That wouldn’t be fun. But it is easy to become unconscious or forgetful while on vacation and spend money that you didn’t have to. To have a great vacation that’s kind to your wallet, you not only have to save money, you have to avoid wasting money, too.

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4 Responses to 10 Ways to Waste Money on Vacation

  1. Stephan says:

    Some great advice. I would also add all inclusive packages. From my experience its very hard to eat and drink enough each day to justify the costs for the week.

  2. Jen says:

    Actually, in Europe, low cost airlines are almost always cheaper than the train 🙂
    Unless you book the Eurostar WAAAY in advance.. or if you buy a Eurorail card and go to more than 4 destinations.

  3. Isabelle says:

    We have a set amount of holiday money, put it in an envelope for each day and stick to it. Often money is left from one day and can be rolled over into a treat!

    if you go to Spain, booking the Alhambra in advance is ESSENTIAL – in high season it can be fully booked for days in advance. Really worth going though!

  4. Anne says:

    Two things I would add:

    1. If you need to buy something (we’ve all packed carefully and still forgotten something), try to get out of the ‘tourist district’. Often, going several blocks over off the beaten path will lead to substantial savings. Same thing applies to buying food to eat in your room.

    2. Another way to waste money is to not keep track of what you are spending. That may seem like a downer to do on vacation, but it’s much better than the downer of coming home super in debt and not even realizing what you spent it on. There may be times when on vacation you have an opportunity that really is ‘worth it’ to go outside the budget…but then you know you are doing it and you can make a plan to pay for it.

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