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The Average Cost of a Vacation: Getting Your Money’s Worth

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As you’re toiling away through your working week, the only thing that keeps you going is the promise of a relaxing vacation. However, when that time finally arrives, you come to the realization that you need to make some tough financial decisions to make it all work. So, what is the average cost of a vacation? Can you afford to go to Hawaii or take your children to Disneyland? And do you need to take out a loan to pay for it?

Choosing Your Destination

The first step in planning the perfect vacation is choosing the right destination for your trip. You need to decide whether you want to spend your days resting on a warm, sandy beach, or whether you’d rather scale mountain peaks in search of fresh air. Perhaps your ideal vacation is a round-the-world cruise or a Tiger-style golf challenge. 

Vacation spending statistics show that more than half of Americans love going on beach vacations both in the USA and abroad. Another 30% enjoy cruises, while 28% like active vacations, regardless of the location. At the other end of the spectrum, only 4% of respondents said they would go on a strictly golf-focused vacation.

Going to Hawaii

Hawaii is still one of the most popular destinations for American vacations. Last year, nearly 10 million visitors went to this beautiful island, spending around $17.82 billion in the process. Of that figure, an amazing $11.21 billion came from Americans alone.

The most frequently visited island on Hawaii is Oahu, with 4.7 million visitors every year. Oahu is home to the state’s capital, Honolulu. but it’s better known around the world for its famous Waikiki beach and historically important Pearl Harbor. Besides its countless beaches and pleasant climate, Oahu also has inexpensive accommodation, which is why it’s still a favorite for many.

So, what is the average cost of a Hawaii vacation? Data shows that, in 2018, a typical visitor to Hawaii spent an average of $201 per day. Of course, this figure doesn’t include the costs of travel, which are usually significant depending on where you fly from. 

A Disney trip for the entire family

Disneyland is still a top choice for millions of US families with children. According to recent family vacation statistics, more than 18 million people visited Disneyland last year, and these numbers continue climbing by the year. Of course, this theme park also has a big brother, Disney World, which draws in a whopping 52 million visitors per year. In addition to that, Disney also offers its famous cruises, which provide entertainment for the whole family: parties, musicals, swimming pools, fireworks, as well as adult-only nightclubs and lounges. All in all, there are more than enough activities to choose from.

The average cost of a Disney vacation depends mainly on your destination of choice and the number of days you’re staying.

At Disneyland and Disney World, daily ticket prices can range anywhere from $100 per child to $150 if you want to hop between parks. A five-day ticket including visits to several parks costs nearly $400, but offers the full Disney experience your kids will never forget. Obviously, the Disney cruise is a much more exclusive option, which will dent your budget by about $1,400 per person. That said, if you travel during the off-season, you can find some decent discounts.

According to some estimates, the average cost of a Disney vacation for 4 family members amounts to $3,656, which is an average of $914 per person.

Traveling Expenses

Traveling from A to B can take a huge chunk out of your vacation budget. But if you’re thrifty enough, you can reduce your travel costs and set more money aside to spend during your trip.

Travel by car

If you decide to go with your own car, you need to consider not only the price of gas, but also additional travel costs and car deprecation. Today, gas costs an average of nearly $2.8 per gallon, and prices are increasing steadily every year. You’ll also have to factor in costs like road tolls and overnight stays.

The average cost of a vacation also includes car depreciation. This might not seem important now, but it affects your budget in the long run. Studies have shown that your vehicle loses a significant chunk of its value each year after you buy it. Indeed, after five years, the average car is only worth 37% of what its owner paid for it at the dealership. Of course, the further you drive during your vacation, the faster your car’s value will depreciate.

Travel by airplane

The easiest and often most affordable way to reach a faraway vacation destination is to fly there. Statistics on traveling costs show that airfares have dropped significantly in recent years. In the final quarter of 2018, the average flight in America cost around $360. For your trip to Hawaii, for example, you’ll need to fork out anywhere from $450 (if you’re traveling off-season from the West) to more than $1,200 (traveling from the East during the season peak).

Travel by bus

For Americans, bus travel is the third-most popular transportation method, though it accounts for only 2% of long-distance journeys. Buses represent great value for short-distance trips, but when it comes to longer journeys, you’re often better off flying.

The Price of Flight and Bus Tickets by Distance (miles)
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As you can see from this graph displaying the prices of travel, after a certain point, bus journeys become more expensive than flights, despite the fact they take far longer and are less comfortable. Even if you’re on a tight budget, if you’re traveling further than 1,300 miles, you should simply fly.

Average Accommodation Costs

If you want to save money on your accommodation, the best thing you can do is reserve your room as well before you travel. This principle applies for all kinds of vacations, whether they be outdoor adventures, cheap beach vacations, or city breaks. However, that doesn’t mean that you should book a hotel a year in advance for next summer’s vacation. According to Trivago, the perfect time to book your accommodation is one month before your holiday. In general, that’s when you’ll find the lowest prices and the best deals.

Disney World accommodation

The average cost of a family vacation to Disney World varies significantly depending on what you’re looking for. If you want to enjoy all the action of the full Disney experience, you can opt for on-site accommodation, which costs around $300 per night for a family room. Staying within the complex gives you a host of benefits, including free transportation and access during the “magic hours,” after all the other visitors have left.

Just a few minutes from the resort, you can find much cheaper accommodation, which costs an average of $150 per night for a family room. All you need to do is decide whether the full experience is worth the extra money.

Hawaii accommodation

Based on the latest info from the Hawaii Tourism Authority, the average price of a room on the island is $278. Of course, this is the average Hawaii vacation cost; if you know where to look, you can find much better prices. The easiest way to cut costs is to opt for a room without an ocean view, if that doesn’t bother you. Look for hotels or guesthouses that cater primarily to locals; they’re usually much more affordable. 

Visiting US Cities

New York is still the number-one vacation destination in the USA, according to Tripadvisor’s 2018 list. The average hotel room cost is $406 per night, but if you want to save some money, consider visiting in August, when prices are about 4% lower. When it comes to a city as big and expensive as New York, 4% can mean quite a lot.

Besides New York, Americans and foreign tourists love visiting the original Sin City: Las Vegas. This flashy metropolis in the middle of the desert is the perfect location for bachelor parties, company excursions, and gambling adventures. Accommodation here costs just over half of what it does in New York, with the average hotel room setting you back $207 per night. Of course, you can still find extravagant suites that cost thousands per night; it’s the abundance of affordable accommodation scattered throughout the city that brings this average down.

Orlando, Florida, occupies fifth place on Tripadvisor’s list for best vacations in the US, thanks mainly to its wide selection of amusement parks. While Disney World and Universal Studios are the main attractions, Orlando also has several other amazing theme parks, including SeaWorld and LEGOLAND. If you stay in the city centre, you’ll find that the average hotel room costs $203 per night. On-site accommodation at one of the theme parks is a lot more expensive.

Cost of a Vacation: How to Control Your Spending

  • To make sure you don’t go over your set budget, do your research beforehand. Websites like Numbeo can help you get acquainted with local prices and keep your vacation cost to a minimum.
  • Remember to go easy on your credit cards during your trip. If you don’t, you might return home to an outstanding debt as millions of Americans do. Also, remember to let your credit card provider know where and when you’re traveling so your card doesn’t get blocked on suspicion of fraud.
  • If you’re heading overseas, look for destinations where the dollar is strong so you can get the best bang for your buck.
  • Use technology to your advantage by downloading a travel budget app. This will help you keep track of your spending to make sure you don’t exceed the average cost of a vacation in your destination of choice.

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