Tag Archives: vacation

How Much Did We Spend On Our Honeymoon?

Our plan was to spend $3,500 on our honeymoon, which we took the last week of December. Now that things have calmed down a bit, it’s time to look back and see how we did.

Keep in mind that our financial results have nothing to do with how much fun we had. We went swimming with dolphins, zip lining, and we made some great new friends, too!

We originally booked our hotel room for $1,798 and our flights were $1,332, so right there we spent $3,130 and I knew we were going to go over our planned $3,500. We set our expectations too low, so we adjusted up.

3 weeks before we left, we decided to upgrade to a much larger, one bedroom suite. That was another $567, so even before we arrived, we looked at our planned spending in the rear-view mirror. Our new suite included a kitchen, large fridge, dining area, a larger balcony with a hammock, and another room for us to hang out in. In retrospect, this was a great choice. We did not feel cramped and having a kitchen was a blessing as it gave us much more flexibility.

We brought some staples with us as we weren’t sure where we’d be able to go shopping. As it turned out, there was a little market on site where we were able to buy fresh fruits and vegetables, bread, and cheese.

We spent 8 days in Cancun and here is how our spending broke down:

  • Hotel: $2,365
  • Flights: $1,332
  • Activities: $545
  • Cash & ATM (spent on activities, drinks, tips, etc): $181
  • Food: $95
  • Travel: $91
  • Random other costs: $36
  • Foreign Transaction Fees: $35

For a grand total of $4,680.

In 2010, the average honeymooners spent $4,466, so we came pretty close to that. I thought it would be cheaper, but once we upgraded our room, it was clear we weren’t going to hit our original $3,500 goal and it was also clear that we didn’t want to. We didn’t let any opportunities go by.

We had an amazing time and in retrospect, we made a great choice of hotel and activities. Even when things didn’t go well (we sat in a van with a vomiting boy for a few hour), we made the most of it and had a good time (it meant we snorkeled with just one other couple instead of the 15 person group he was with).

How Much Should We Spend On Our Honeymoon?

With all the excitement of our wedding early this past summer, we forgot to plan our honeymoon! OK, we didn’t exactly forget, we expected Lauren to be in school all summer, so we’ve been planning on going during her winter break in January.

We decided to go somewhere where we could sit at the beach and truly relax. That’s not to say we want to sit around all day, but sticking our feet in the sand and having a few drinks sounds pretty nice. We’d definitely be interested in some snorkeling, parasailing, and other water sports, but our first long vacation together will definitely be about us being alone rather than in a loud and crowded resort.

Average Honeymoon Costs

In 2010 (the most recent data I could find), the average honeymoon cost was $4,466, according to The Knot. That sounds like a lot of money, even after having an expensive wedding. Nearly $4,500 as an average? Damn.

So where does this money usually go? 30% of honeymooners stay within the continental United States, while the most popular “international” destinations include Mexico, Hawaii, Jamaica, The Bahamas. If people are staying close, that means they’re really going all out on all-inclusive resorts and upgraded rooms.

We explored all inclusive reports, but since we keep Kosher, having all our meals provided is actually a negative. We’d much prefer to have a kitchen where we can make our own food. And we’re not big drinkers, so it was unlikely to get our money’s worth with an all-you-can-drink plan.

We weren’t really sure how much to spend on our trip, but we know that cost wasn’t going to be prohibitive. Whether we spent $1,000 or $7,000 on our honeymoon, it wasn’t going to have a large long-term impact on our savings or debt progress.

We like to be smart spenders, but we also didn’t want to cut back on a fun trip to save a few dollars. We looked at a few destinations and decided that we wanted to spend our money on having fun and relaxing, not on our airplane flights.

What Are Our Plans?

So we settled at $3,500 as being reasonable and agreed that we would not try to go below it. We’re not looking to waste money, but we also don’t want to worry about getting drinks in the pool or missing out on a fun activity, so we are planning on doing everything we can that’s within our budget. It makes little sense to try and save on our experience if it means we’ll be missing out on having more fun.

Lauren and I are not world travelers, so spending several thousand dollars on travel alone seemed like a waste. Why go somewhere far away to sit on a beach and relax? I’m sure we’ll eventually take trips to Europe to explore all the exciting culture over there, but right now we’re looking for something much quieter.

We decided to save on travel and spend about $1,000 on airfare to a hotel on a small island off of Cancun, Mexico. We decided to spend our money on an upgraded room at a quiet hotel right on the beach which will provide us with the privacy we want and also be just a 30 minute ferry ride from the water sports we’re looking for.

Readers, what suggestions do you have for us? Are you as surprised as I was by the average cost of a honeymoon?

Top Five Stress-Free Vacation Tips

Imagine this: you’re on a secluded beach sipping the beverage of your choice – doesn’t matter if it’s a pina colada or a plain old South style sweet tea; you’re listening to the waves rolling in, and wondering whether you’ll order the fresh lobster or the more exotic conch for dinner. That decision – what’s on your dinner plate – is your biggest worry. There’s nothing else bothering you, no financial troubles hidden in the depths of your mind, zilch, zip, nada. You’re feeling completely, 100 percent stress free.

You’re probably saying, “Yeah right, Daniel. On what planet do you live?” Fair enough. But the truth is, I live on a planet where vacations can be stress free… as long as you take your time planning and financing them.

Stress Free Vacation Tip #1: Don’t Follow The Crowds

Remember back when you were a teenager, and you wanted a tongue piercing because everyone else was doing it? Your mom said no, using the age-old adage, “If everyone else were jumping off a bridge, would you?” to dissuade you. Well, the same theory holds true when it comes to vacation planning.

There’s a reason why a five-star hotel on a popular Florida beach goes for $400 a night – because the property’s managers know they can command that price tag. They know that their rooms are filled on a regular basis, and can charge a premium for that very reason. Hotels – and, more generally speaking, resort towns – that are off the beaten track are more likely to be the ones offering you room discounts, free meals, and other perks to entice you to bring your business to them. Same goes for traveling in the off-season; if everyone is traveling to the Bahamas in the late winter – the region’s peak season – that shouldn’t be reason enough for you to follow them. Instead, find out when your destination’s slow season falls, and book your vacation accordingly to get the lowest prices.

Stress Free Vacation Tip #2: Set A Budget And Stick To It

This sounds like a no brainer, right? Say you plan to spend $2,500 on your family vacation, setting aside
the following amounts:

  • $800 for travel costs
  • $1,000 for hotel rooms
  • $500 for food
  • $200 for entertainment

But once you arrive at your destination, you’re bombarded by incidentals you didn’t plan on. Maybe it’s a $12 photo of you and your spouse about to board a Royal Caribbean cruise ship; or maybe it’s a $15 boogie board at a surf shop. Whatever it is, if you’re not setting aside a little extra cash for expenses that creep up along the way, you’re not accurately budgeting your trip. My standard rule of thumb is to set aside an additional 10% of your budgeted vacation expenses for incidentals.

But this vacation tip goes both ways; just as you shouldn’t overspend on your vacation, you shouldn’t underspend either. I have a friend who recently scored a great deal on a beach condo – I’m talking a deal of a lifetime here: she saved hundreds of dollars, slashing her estimated hotel budget by more than half. Instead of stashing that money back in her bank account, she plans to use it to indulge herself and her family on their vacation. After all, they’ve worked hard for it, and using those funds to pay for a few extra dinners out will definitely make for a more stress free trip than if she was slaving away in the condo’s kitchen every night.

Stress Free Vacation Tip #3: Save, Save, Save

There’s nothing worse than going on a vacation, only to find yourself wondering halfway through the trip, “How am I going to afford all this?” If you’ve ever traveled with this type of vacationer, who charges everything that comes their way without having the necessary funds already in their checking account, you know how miserable they can be. They’re constantly obsessing over every little expenditure, from the hotel bill to gas prices to tipping a waitress.

Instead of stressing over expenses, set the money aside before you leave – long before you leave. Say you’re planning a family vacation to Universal Studios six months from now. Take your budget (don’t forget that extra 10% for incidentals!), divide it by six, and make it your goal to set that amount aside every month until you leave. If you do, you’ll be able to pay for your entire vacation in cash – or, if you use a credit card simply for rewards, you could go that route – without worrying about whether you’ll have enough.

Stress Free Vacation Tip #4: Use A Travel Rewards Card (If Applicable)

I know this is a risky piece of travel advice to give on a personal finance blog, but I’m going to dole it out anyway. Using a travel rewards card can really pay off for certain destinations. For example, Disney offers a Visa card from Chase that includes a $50 gift card to Disney the very first time you use the card. If you’re planning a family vacation to visit Mickey, Minnie, and the gang, that $50 gift card can help defray the cost of your park tickets or room fees. On top of that, you can also earn 1% in rewards dollars, which can also go toward your Disney vacation. Sure, this option doesn’t work for every destination, but there are plenty of hotel chains and airlines that offer credit card and loyalty programs that can help reduce your costs if you know you’ll be using the company’s services.

Stress Free Vacation Tip #5: Leave Your Home In Good Hands

This isn’t technically personal finance advice, but that’s why it’s so important. So many travelers head out the door for their vacation without a second thought to what’s going on at home, only to come back to discover they’ve been the victims of vandals or, worse, thieves; this happened to a good friend of mine when he and his fiancé went out of town over July 4th. Here are three ways to avoid problems:

  1. Let people know you’ll be out of town. I’m talking about your neighbors, family, and – most importantly – the police. Many municipalities will do an extra drive-by of your home if they know you’ll be out of town.
  2. Don’t let the world know you’re going away. This means Facebook – do not, I repeat, do NOT leave a message on your profile stating that you’re going out of town. Even if you think you have your profile information set to private, there’s still no guarantee.
  3. Make it look like you’re still home. You should stop the mail, set light timers, and ask a neighbor to pick up your newspaper (if you’re one of the 1 in 100 Americans who still gets home delivery) so robbers won’t get the idea that you’re out of town.

Following these simple tips can make sure your vacation goes off without a hitch.

Readers, what are your vacation tips for a stress free trip?