Is your vacation spending normal? Here's how much money most people pay to travel.
It's summer! Time to travel to some dreamy locales. You may already know a few good tricks for saving on airfare and hotels, like booking on Tuesdays and getting discounts through work. But you may still wonder if you're getting a good deal, and exactly how cash much the average person drops on vacation — aka whether your spending is typical.
The number crunchers at ValuePenguin have looked at consumer spending data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of 2013 to answer this question. Prices have risen slightly since due to inflation, but it's still a close point of comparison. Want to see how your last trip compares with the average?
Here's ValuePenguin's master table breaking down per-person costs of various elements of a vacay, whether you're staying in America or going overseas:
These numbers seem low to you? The total average costs include penny-pinchers' vacations in which some expenses are zero. For example: If you stay with family, then your lodging cost is likely free. A day at the beach or a museum visit followed by a free concert puts your entertainment costs at zero, as well. And if your hotel price includes a free breakfast buffet, your average food costs will take a nosedive, too. Nothing is cheaper than free, after all.
Now, of course it can be tough to cut costs so dramatically. Need help finding savings on all of the expenses above — from gasoline to fun? Read on for tips.
How much to spend on airfare and gas
Transportation is a monster expense. The typical vacationing U.S. family spends about 44% of their travel funds getting to, from and around their destinations: "This figure spans a variety of different modes of transportation, ranging from driving a family's own car to taking cruises," ValuePenguin noted.
So, if you're spending a little more than $220 on transport for a domestic trip, or $1,750 on an international one (for 12 nights), you're in range of the average. Want to slash your travel costs? Consider flying off season, using apps like Gas Buddy to find the cheapest gas prices if you're driving and taking the bus instead of the train, if it will take you to the same place for a lot less.
Need to book a last-minute flight? Read up on helpful apps here. Another tip: Get a rewards credit card that earns frequent flyer miles, and plan ahead as much as you can — two months before if possible.
How much to spend on hotels and lodging
Hopefully if you're traveling, you're staying with a friend or relative — more than half of people who take trips don't report any lodging costs, ValuePenguin found. Not surprisingly, for international travel, those percentages are flipped. Lodging costs are about 26% of total travel expenditures for domestic trips, and 21% for international trips, ValuePenguin noted.
Within the U.S., the average hotel room costs $141 per night, ValuePenguin said. They don't have data for international accommodations, but note that as a percentage of your total vacation spend, it's less than domestic, because air travel is so expensive.
One smart hack: Look at business hotels or non-seasonal lodging — think ski lodges — with low summer occupancy rates for big discounts. You might also consider a vacation rental apartment or even housesitting to save more.
How much to spend on food and drink
You're probably not going on holiday to cook. About 80% of vacation meals are eaten at restaurants, ValuePenguin found. That sums up to $27 a day on average for domestic trips, and $35 for international trips.
Food plus alcohol take up about 16% of the budget for an American’s international trips; and about 27% of their domestic trips.
But considering how much food costs, it wouldn't hurt to have a few meals in your hotel room if it comes with even a basic kitchenette. Foods you prepare yourself are always going to be cheaper than something someone else cooked. And let's face it: How hard is it to scramble up some eggs and make some toast in the morning? Throw in the free hotel coffee and you're set.
Too rushed to cook? Eat delicious, interesting street food on the go and carry water in a refillable bottle to cut costs on restaurant-bought beverages.
How much to spend on fun
The average traveler spends about 9% of their vacation budget on entertainment, whether at home or abroad. That adds up to $52 for one domestic vacation, and $293 internationally, ValuePenguin found.
Over the course of a year, the biggest entertainment spend on average is on "participation sports" — namely, golf. After that, people spend $541 a year on movies and culture, and $250 a year on general "recreation."
All this comes out to a cost-per-day of $144 for a domestic trip, and $271 for international, ValuePenguin noted. Want to come in under budget? Look for free activities happening during your visit by checking the websites or Twitter feeds of city sites where you're visiting — or ask your hotel concierge for suggestions. Better yet, ask friends who've visited before for ideas.
If you need help or inspiration, here is Mic's guide to cheap stuff to do and places to stay in hot vacation spots — and 10 cities to which airfare is projected to drop. Plus, check out these fun staycation ideas that cost less than $100.
Sign up for The Payoff — your weekly crash course on how to live your best financial life. Additionally, for all your burning money questions, check out Mic’s credit, savings, career, investing and health care hubs for more information — that pays off.