Though the coronavirus pandemic hasn’t entirely gone away, many travel restrictions have been lifted, leaving many Americans traveling for the first time in years in 2022. But the combination of rising travel costs and pent-up demand leading to overspending can mean your vacation costs more than you might have budgeted for. 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 on their travel spending and other travel-related issues. Here’s a look at some of the answers that may be helpful when creating a budget for your next vacation.
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How many respondents went over budget?
Overall, 33.75% of respondents in the survey said they were over budget, with 11.38% saying they paid significantly more than their budget. A tiny 6.46% said they were under budget.
What was the average travel budget?
While the over-budget numbers are helpful, they are meaningless if not correlated with actual numbers. To understand how much Americans actually spend on vacations, one of the survey questions asked how much money respondents spent on their most recent vacation. Nearly 27% of respondents said they spent over $2,000 on their most recent vacation. However, nearly 35% said their most recent travel budget was $500 or less. Overall, the top answer in the survey was a budget between $1,001 and $2,000.
POLL: How much do you expect to spend on travel this summer?
Where did respondents spend more than expected?
Respondents seemed surprised at how much they spent across different categories. Whether this is due to overall increased costs or unexpectedly high spending by respondents is unclear, but it is likely a combination of these factors. A third of respondents said accommodation, travel and entertainment costs were all higher than expected, while a whopping 44.65% said they spent more than expected on food. Fees were also rated higher than expected by 17.36% of respondents.
How did respondents try to save when traveling?
Almost 40% of those surveyed stated that they had cooked themselves on their last vacation to save money. This is a smart strategy, as nearly 45% of survey respondents said dining out was more expensive than expected. More than a third said they use public transport and/or avoid hiring a car to save money, which is a particularly appropriate strategy at a time of skyrocketing fuel costs. About 30% used a discount travel site to save money, while just over 23% said they used airline or hotel points.
More tips for saving when you travel
As the survey makes clear, respondents’ travel expenses were generally higher than expected, and a variety of factors caused many to exceed their budget. If you’re planning a trip later this year, you can take inspiration from the survey to help contain your own expenses. Here are some suggestions based on the information provided by respondents:
Start with a larger travel budget
As simple as it sounds, the easiest way to stay under budget is to start with a bigger budget from the start. The best way to do this is to delay your vacation and give your savings some time to grow. For example, if you contribute $300 a month to your vacation budget, waiting just three more months to travel will add almost $1,000 to your budget. While no one wants to delay a trip, it makes sense when you can travel stress-free without worrying about going into debt to fund your vacation.
Two of the most competitive industries in the world are lodging and food service. This offers great opportunities for travelers willing to look around. Except in the most remote places, there are many options for dining and accommodation. If you can avoid the most expensive hotels and restaurants, your vacation budget can go much further. Even if you’re looking for a five-star experience, there are likely choices you can make to keep some of your money in the bank. For example, instead of staying at an international five-star branded hotel, look at private accommodation in the area or even locally run hotels. You may find that the class and service of these offerings matches or even surpasses the more popular options.
Watch out for fees
Fees are often well hidden by travel service providers, but can break your budget if you’re not careful. From airline service fees to hotel “resort fees,” these not-so-small surcharges are easy to dismiss but can wreak havoc on your travel budget. Airline credit cards can help you avoid baggage fees and may even offer access to airport lounges, while hotel loyalty programs can offer perks like waived parking and free breakfast for your entire group.
More from GOBankingRates
methodology: GOBankingRates surveyed 1,037 Americans ages 18+ from across the country between April 8 and April 9, 2022 and asked seven distinct questions: (1) How much did you spend on your most recent vacation?; (2) If money were no object, where would you go on vacation?; (3) What was your biggest incentive to travel?; (4) How did you pay for your last vacation?; (5) Did you stick to your budget on your last vacation?; (6) Which part of the trip cost more than you thought? (Select all that apply); and (7) What cost-cutting measures did you use during your last vacation? (Choose all that apply). GOBankingRates used PureSpectrum’s survey platform to conduct the survey.