Although the coronavirus pandemic hasn’t completely gone away, many restrictions on travel have been lifted, making 2022 the first time in years that many Americans will take to traveling again. But the combination of rising travel costs and pent-up demand leading to overspending may mean that your vacation will cost more than you may be budgeting. To get a snapshot of how people in the United States are managing their travel budgets as we head into the busy summer travel season, GOBankingRates conducted a study of 1,037 Americans in early April 2022 regarding their travel spending and other travel-related questions. Here’s a look at some of the responses, which may be helpful when you are drafting a budget for your next vacation.
How Many Respondents Went Over Budget?
Overall, 33.75% of respondents in the survey indicated that they went over budget, with 11.38% stating that they paid significantly more than their budget. A minuscule 6.46% indicated that they came in under budget.
What Was the Average Travel Budget?
Although the “over budget” figures are helpful, they are meaningless when not connected to actual numbers. To get a grasp as to how much Americans are actually spending on their vacations, one of the survey questions asked how much money respondents spent on their last vacation. Nearly 27% of respondents indicated that they spent over $2,000 on their last vacation. However, just under 35% indicated that their most recent travel budget was $500 or less. Overall, the top response in the survey was a budget of between $1,001 and $2,000.
Where Did Respondents Spend More Than Expected?
Survey respondents seemed surprised by how much they spent in various categories. Whether this was due to increased costs across the board or higher-than-expected spending by respondents is unclear, but it is likely to be a combination of these factors. One-third of respondents indicated that the cost of accommodations, travel and entertainment were all more than expected, while a whopping 44.65% noted that they spent more than expected on dining. Fees were also noted as being higher than anticipated by 17.36% of respondents.
How Did Respondents Attempt To Save on Travel?
Nearly 40% of respondents indicated that they made their own meals on their last vacation to save on costs. This is a smart strategy, as nearly 45% of survey participants indicated that dining out was more expensive than expected. More than one-third indicated that they used public transportation and/or avoided renting a car to save on costs, which is a particularly appropriate strategy in an era of skyrocketing fuel costs. About 30% used a discount travel site in an effort to save money, while just over 23% indicated they used airline or hotel points.
Other Tips for Saving on Travel
As the survey makes clear, travel costs were generally more than expected for survey respondents, and a variety of factors made many of them spend over their budgets. If you’re planning a trip for later this year, you can draw some inspiration from the survey to rein in your own costs. Here are a few suggestions, based on information gleaned from respondents:
Start With a Larger Travel Budget
Simple as it sounds, the easiest way to remain under budget is to start with a larger budget from the beginning. The best way to accomplish this is to slightly delay your vacation and give your savings a bit of time to grow. If you contribute $300 per month to your vacation budget, for example, waiting just three more months to take your trip will increase your budget by nearly $1,000. While no one wants to delay a trip, if it means you can travel stress-free without worrying about going into debt to finance your vacation, it makes sense.
Two of the most competitive industries in the world are lodging and food service. This provides great opportunities for travelers willing to shop around. In any but the most remote of locations, there are plenty of options for both restaurants and lodging. If you can avoid the most expensive hotels and eateries, your vacation budget can stretch much further. Even if you’re looking for a five-star experience, there are likely choices you can make that will help keep some of your money in the bank. For example, rather than staying at a name-brand, international five-star hotel, check out private lodgings in the area, or even locally run hotels. You may find that the class and service of these offerings equals or even exceeds the more well-known options.
Watch Out for Fees
Fees are often well hidden by travel service providers but can surely bust your budget if you don’t watch out for them. From airline service fees to hotel “resort charges,” these not-so-little add-ons are easy to dismiss but can wreak havoc on your travel budget. Airline credit cards can help you avoid bag fees and may even provide access to airport lounges, while hotel loyalty programs can provide perks like waived parking fees and free breakfast for your entire group.
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Methodology: GOBankingRates surveyed 1,037 Americans aged 18 and older from across the country between April 8 and April 9, 2022, asking seven different questions: (1) How much did you spend on your last vacation?; (2) If money were no object where would you choose to go on vacation?; (3) What was your biggest incentive to travel?; (4) How did you pay for your last vacation?; (5) Did you stay in your budget for your last vacation?; (6) What part of the trip cost more than you thought it would? (Select all that apply); and (7) What cost cutting measures did you use on your last vacation? (Select all that apply). GOBankingRates used PureSpectrum’s survey platform to conduct the poll.