How do you decide if it's time to quiet that frugal voice in your head while you're on vacation?
This came up several times for me while on my latest vacation. I knew that it was going to be much more expensive than my usual camping/road-trip variety, for lots of reasons, so I was definitely keeping my eye out for ways to cut costs.
But, as usual, cutting costs comes with a whole set of trade-offs. Here are just a few of the questions we faced during our trip:
- Should we stay in lodgings very close to cities and/or other sites of interest, in order to make the most efficient use of our time... or stay farther away and save money but spend an extra half-hour or 45 minutes driving?
- Should we pick the most interesting and appealing attractions every time, regardless of the price... or choose cheaper or free ones sometimes, which we would enjoy but maybe not quite as much as our top picks?
- Should we pay to enter a museum or visitor's center when we knew it would close before we had time to see the whole thing... or skip it and save the entrance fee but miss out on learning what we could in the time we had?
- Should we always choose to eat good, authentic local food, even when the only options were pricey... or sometimes grab cheap food of the kind we could find almost anywhere?
As we wrestled with these questions, I noticed that I generally found myself on the money-saving side of the issues. "Do we really want to pay $25 for the four of us to spend a half-hour in this museum?" "Look, this B&B is almost $50 cheaper, and it's not too far outside of town..." On the other hand, my father was very focused on making the most of the trip. "This sounds really interesting, don't worry about the price. Who knows when we'll have a chance to see this again?" "Yeah, that hotel is more expensive, but look at the location! I bet that means we can fit in something else we wouldn't have time for otherwise."
I found myself feeling a little guilty about the dollar signs (or should I say Euro signs?) popping up in my decision-making process. One of my most important values is that money concerns shouldn't interfere with living a happy, fulfilled life. Wasn't I doing exactly that by penny-pinching on a once-in-a-lifetime (or at least once-in-a-decade) trip, at the cost of maybe passing up some really special experiences? I didn't want to be distracted by worrying about money!
In the end, though, I think it was valuable to have both perspectives involved in the decision-making process, and we ended up somewhere in the middle, which was probably more-or-less the best outcome. We had to find a balance that let us fill our vacation with things that made us happy and satisfied, but also kept costs in control so we can afford to take our next great vacation sooner!
How do you strike the balance while on vacation? If you're trying to keep frugal, do you feel like you miss out on some experiences? Or do you plan to indulge on vacation and budget around that? Do you have a different mindset about spending money at home and on vacation, and if so, do you find it difficult to switch over? Do you and your traveling companions usually agree on the approach?