I Went $400 Over Budget on a Vacation. Here's How to Avoid Doing the Same

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  • There are different costs to account for when taking a vacation.
  • I misjudged our dining category in a very big way.

You can avoid making the same mistake I did.

Recently, my family and I went out of town for a long weekend. It was supposed to be a quick, inexpensive getaway. And all told, it was. Our credit card tab following that trip was considerably lower than that of our average trip.

That said, in the course of that getaway, we actually wound up going $400 over budget. And the worst part? It was $400 we should've budgeted for in the first place.

When you fall into a trap -- and spend more because of it

My family tends to book private vacation rentals when we travel rather than stay at hotels. In some cases, it can actually cost less. But since we tend to need a lot of space, often, the cost of a vacation rental will mimic what a hotel costs, or even cost more.

Our main reasons for booking private homes are twofold. First, we don't enjoy having to cram into a single hotel room or suite. My kids are fairly young, so it's not uncommon for me to stay up later than them. But having to turn off all the lights at 9:30 p.m. when I'd like to unwind with a book doesn't make for a fun vacation, which is why I prefer a home with separate rooms.

The other reason we like renting private homes is that we have a dog, and we prefer to bring him on our travels as often as we can. That's often not possible at a hotel. And even when it is possible, it's not desirable, because if you think it's tough cramming a family of five into a hotel room, try adding a 75-pound dog into the mix.

During our recent getaway, we stayed at a private home that came with a full-sized kitchen. And our plan had been to cook a bunch of meals at the house to save money on dining out.

But in the end, we got lazy and didn't cook at all. And that left us an extra $400 in the hole at the end of our trip. Worse yet, this isn't the first time we've under-budgeted a trip by thinking we'd cook and then not doing so. And so that added insult to injury.

It's important to be realistic

At first, my husband and I were annoyed at ourselves by going $400 over budget due to sheer laziness. But then we realized something -- it's okay to take a break from cooking when you're on vacation. And so going forward, I think we'll just assume from the start that we mostly won't cook while we're away and arrange our trip budgets accordingly.

In fact, we learned an important lesson from this past trip -- that it's important to be realistic about what you'll spend money on while on vacation. I tend to work more in the weeks leading up to our vacations so we can pay for our trips outright. Now that I'm more resigned to not cooking, I'll know to put in more hours and try to scrounge up more cash.

There's nothing wrong with trying to save money or take a low-cost vacation. But it's also important to know yourself and figure out how you want to spend your time away.

Even though I like to cook, when I'm away, I've realized I'd rather explore new things and relax at the end of the day by letting someone else do the cooking. And that's likely to help me better plan for future getaways.

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