How Much Do You ‘Live It Up’ With Spending on Vacations?

beachAs a follow up on my post last week about spending while vacationing in Spain, I wanted to reflect a bit more on how I spend money on vacations, especially big trips to places like Europe.

The quote that I’ve heard before and always think about when I’m on a trip is “You’re on vacation, so it’s okay to splurge.”  To some extent I would agree.  Yes, I am on vacation in an exotic location.  There are lots of special things to do and they cost money and can’t be done anywhere else.  If you have a full-time job, your vacation time, no matter where it’s spent, is limited, too.  Still, I think there’s a lot to be said for what you can get out of a trip without spending a lot.  Here’s what I will and won’t spend money on.

What I will spend on:

Trying new foods I can’t back home.  Obviously, paella was at the top of my list for Spain, and I was excited to try it.  I also enjoyed eating tortilla, bread with tomato, and other seafood.  The wine was great, too.

Museums and historic sites.  Some things you just can’t see elsewhere, like Velazquez’s Las Meninas or Gaudi’s Sagrada Famila.  These are truly extraordinary sites to check out, and I wouldn’t miss them.  Admission is usually affordable, so there’s really not much to debate here.

Transportation that’s convenient.  In Spain, we flew from Barcelona to Madrid and then took the high-speed train from Madrid to Sevilla.  These were probably not the cheapest ways to get around, but they were fast. We simply didn’t have a lot of time in Spain, so it wasn’t worth it to try to save a few bucks but lose a lot of time to sight-see.

Just about anything that a local would do.  I’m always really curious what people do for fun in the places that I visit.  If it’s something that is off the beaten path of tourists, that definitely gets me interested.

What’s not worth my money:

Expensive hotels. To me, if you’ve planned your trip right, you’ll be at your hotel (or hostel) as little as possible.  More than likely, you’ve already spent hundreds or thousands on airfare.  Why tack on hundreds more simply for a fancy bed to sleep on?

Lame, tourist-trap attractions.  No, I’m not gonna cruise around on a boat or ride the hop-on, hop-off bus.

Mediocre food. It’s one thing to seek out good places to eat for a nice dinner.  But when you’re hungry, it’s easy to pick any restaurant that’s around.  This usually results in less-than-stellar quality food, and it might not be a bargain either.

Most souvenirs.  I’m happy to send postcards or buy something else small to remember the trip by (my girlfriend bought a scarf for less than $10).  But Barcelona t-shirts are totally out.  There’s a lot of knick-knacks that are cheaply made that I don’t know what to do with once I get home.  If I want to remember a trip, photos are by far the best way to do this.

Anything else that’s marked up in price for tourists.  This can encompass a lot of things.  But, generally, if you’re hanging out in touristy areas (i.e. Times Square), prices will be higher while quality may actually be lower.  I try to avoid these areas, but often there are things worth seeing nearby.

Doing anything that I could back home.  Please don’t try to take me to an Chinese restaurant in Spain. There’s plenty of those in New Haven (and I don’t like them here, either).

Overall, I’d much rather extend the length of my trip, if at all possible, rather than pay for anything on the “not worth it” list.

What’s your vacationing style? Do you try to get the most for your money? Or do you prefer to live it up, no matter what your vacation destination?

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photo by: (Xip)