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7 Ways Your Vacation Budget Gets Out Of Control

September 20, 2023

Vacations are a wonderful way to unwind and explore new places. But, without proper budgeting and financial discipline, your vacation expenses can easily spiral out of control.

Before you swear off vacations forever, let’s look at the 7 most common ways that your vacation budget gets out of control and how to not let this happen to you.

Not Enough Planning

So, I’m currently in the middle of putting together a multi-city itinerary for Clients. Upon presenting the options to these Clients, I was met with gasps and comments like, “Oh my gosh…can’t you find any cheaper hotels?” It’s ok…they’re family

What was my reaction? “Yes…but these cheaper options are at least one hour away from the things you told me you wanted to do. And the options I’m recommending all have free breakfast and free parking included in the price. And they all fall within your overall vacation budget. Everything you’ll need is included in the total price, so you won’t have any hidden fees when you check out.”

Upon hearing the explanation and realization that there would be no hidden fees throughout their trip, they agreed to book these hotels. They also realized that this was the very reason that Travel Advisors are in such high demand right now. Thanks, girls…

Hidden fees are a big reason that your vacation budget will take a hit. Look at hotel reviews. They’re loaded with angry customers complaining about hidden fees they say they weren’t told about ahead of time.

Before booking anything, check the fine print. Yes, it’s sneaky to put these fees in small print. But, they are telling you ahead of time. Look for anything that says XYZ will need to be paid when you check in or check out.

Common fees include overnight parking, resort fees, tourism fees, destination fees, occupancy tax, etc. Trust me…it can add up.

Underestimating Costs

You know that feeling when you look at a menu and think, “They’re charging that much for THAT”?

One of the worst things I did before becoming a Travel Advisor was not checking to see how much things were going to cost before going on vacation. I’d pull a random number from the sky and proclaim that this is how much I’d be spending on meals and souvenirs for this trip…and not a penny more.

And sure enough, I’d spend more than that. Why? Because I didn’t do my homeowork.

Once you know where you’re going, start doing your research to see how much it will cost to eat, visit museums, tours, etc. And start planning your itinerary, and your vacation budget, that way.

I could have stayed within budget if I did my homework ahead of time. I would have known which restaurants to eat at and what activities we could do, without letting my budget get out of hand.

Without doing your homework, your vacation, and your vacation budget, will ultimately suffer.

Prioritizing Wants Over Hotel Essentials

It’s easy to justify splurging on luxurious accommodations – especially if it’s a once-in-a-lifetime trip. But, if you’re worried about going over budget, it’s just not worth the extra cost. What’s the point of booking a fancy hotel if you can’t afford to do anything else once you get there?

There are a few things that I consider, aside from price, when I’m choosing hotels for my family or my Clients’ families:

  • Is it close to things we/they want to do?
  • How much would it cost to get to the places we/they want to visit via Uber, public transportation, Taxi, etc?
  • How much are the “hidden” fees?
  • Is the location safe?
  • Are there restaurants/activities nearby that are easy to walk to?
  • What do the reviews say?
  • If someone has a disability, will they have the things they need?

Often, a budget hotel provides all of this. And keep in mind that “budget” doesn’t always mean “the cheapest”. It means choosing a place that fits your exact needs. Unless you’re planning to spend a significant amount of time at the hotel, being comfortable doesn’t mean you have to stay in a 5-star hotel.

The “Let’s Do It All” Mentality

I know what it’s like to have the mindset that you must do and see as much as possible within a short time period. Trust me…it’s something I still struggle with.

But, if you’re on a tight budget, it’s important to plan your must-do activities in advance and budget accordingly.

If you want to keep your schedule open to a little flexibility, that’s ok. But, even unscheduled events should have a budget. Set money aside for anything you may want to do along the way.

Just remember to keep your finances in check. If you try to do too many unscheduled things, you’re going to go over budget.

Overusing Credit Cards

Credit cards make spending easy…perhaps a bit too easy. And before you know it, you’ve spent way more than you wanted to.

I know many people will tell you to just carry cash with you. But, I tend to disagree with this advice. Having a little bit of cash on hand isn’t a bad idea. But, in many places, having credit cards is much safer than carrying around a wad full of cash.

But, this shouldn’t give you free reign to buy anything you want. Many travelers will set a daily spending limit. This way, they can physically keep track of their expenses and prevent overspending.

Dining Out Too Often

While dining out is convenient, it’s the fastest way to blow your budget.

Most hotel rooms at least have a mini fridge. If you can, stock up on items you’ll want to snack on during your trip, so you’re not tempted to grab something from a vending machine or onsite restaurant.

If you have gift cards lying around, bring them along. While chain restaurants aren’t the most exciting meals you may have, it’ll help with your budget. Speaking from experience, we’ve paid a lot less (sometimes getting a free meal) when we’ve opted to dine at restaurants we had gift cards to.

Going to Disney? Stock up on those gift cards! Not only can you pay for your meals and souvenirs with them, it keeps your budget in check. We also get groceries delivered to our Resort, so we can eat breakfast in our room before heading our for the day.


We don’t like to think about our vacation going wrong. But, that’s why Travel Insurance exists in the first place. Sometimes, things just happen.

In an ideal world, everyone would have 10-20% of their vacation budget saved up and set aside for emergencies. But, that’s not always feasible for everyone. So, my recommendation it to save what you can and don’t spend it unless you absolutely have to. And get Travel Insurance whenever you can.

By planning for hidden surprises ahead of time, you won’t have to stress about where the extra money will come from when you actually need it.

Got questions? Feeling a bit anxious? Not sure where to begin? We help families, just like yours.

Planning an entire vacation can be overwhelming. But, here’s the good news: we have the answers to the questions that have been stopping you from pulling the plug on your next vacation.

We understand the journey, the ups, and the downs. We’ve been through the training, made our fair share of mistakes, and learned valuable lessons from them. This is what makes us the perfect people to assist you.

From thoughtfully crafted itineraries to having direct access to your dedicated Travel Professional, our mission is to remove the stress from your vacation planning. With our simple 3-step process, we’re here to help you every step of the way, ensuring that your dream destination becomes an unforgettable reality. is not authorized or endorsed by, or officially connected with The Walt Disney Company, or any of their affiliates. For official Disney information, visit

Hawaii Destination Specialist

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