How much does a vacation cost?

How to shift your focus from money worries to making memories

The pressure to shell out for the best vacation ever – one to rival the Facebook and Instagram feeds of our friends – can compel us to make unwise financial decisions. In fact, 74% of Americans have taken on debt in order to pay for a vacation – $1,108 on average. That’s no small amount. Among those who aren’t planning a vacation, 60% said the reason is that they can’t afford it. But you don’t have to fall into either of these groups – you can save for a vacation and take memorable getaways in the meantime.

How much does a vacation cost?

According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Expenditure Survey, the total average vacation cost varies from $581 per trip for a 4-night domestic trip to $3,251 for a 12-night international trip. A NerdWallet study found the average cost of a family vacation is $2,256 and more than 70% of families spend over $1,000 per vacation.

Here’s the breakdown of average vacation costs from the Consumer Expenditure Survey:


$2,100 per year. This includes all types of transportation, from a quick road trip to an international flight. Only about 10% of families fly, but those who do spend about $3,304 per year.


$2,158 per year. With the average hotel room costing $141 per night, it’s no wonder many families favor camping, RVs and staying with family to save cash.

Food and drink:

$38 per day. For the most part, we don’t want to cook on vacation – it’s all about relaxation, and that means eating at restaurants. This expense can sneak up on you.

This doesn’t account for missed work: For the 25% of U.S. workers who get no paid time off, taking a vacation means forfeiting some income. And if you’re one of many Americans who puts travel expenses on a credit card, accrued interest can add up. Other expenses like entertainment, car rentals and even hiring a dog sitter can also sneak up on you. Saving and budgeting are critical skills for any vacationer.

How to afford your dream vacation

You don’t have to go into debt to afford a vacation. You need concrete, essential skills for saving money first, before you plan a trip. As Tony says, “You don’t get beyond scarcity, you start beyond it. And the way you start beyond scarcity is every day you build your wealth.” Here are three changes you can make to your vacation spending habits to help you afford the “big one” – and reach financial freedom.

Take a few staycations

Average vacation costs drop dramatically when there is no airfare involved. Take a “staycation” and explore all the free or low-cost things to do in your own city. You might be surprised with all the things you haven’t yet done. Road trips are another tried-and-true vacation for families, friends and couples. Take in all the sights, play classic games and stop at fun (and cheap) roadside attractions for memorable family photos.

Visit long-lost friends and relatives

The best way to lower the average cost of a family vacation is to stay with family or friends. Reunite with your aunt or second cousin and make it a family reunion instead of a getaway. Solo travelers can have an even easier time finding a free place to crash. There’s a reason you stayed in touch with those old college roommates.

Get the whole family involved

Every parent wants the best for their children, including vacations – a theme park trip or a tropical getaway. But it’s also important to raise financially responsible kids, and getting them involved in saving toward the average cost of a family vacation is a great place to start. Make a “vacation jar” and add money to it instead of going out for treats like ice cream or buying that impulse purchase at the supermarket. Kids learn about saving and the whole family gets a treat when the jar reaches a certain amount.

The real average vacation cost

The real answer to “How much does a vacation cost?” is that it can often cost you more not to take a vacation. Only 25% of Americans take all their paid vacation days, according to Forbes, and 61% said they continue to work while on vacation. However, taking time to make lasting memories with the ones that you love is vital to living a fulfilled life – and it doesn’t have to cost a fortune. It’s not the amount you can afford to spend that determines your wealth. The magic moments you create and the gratitude you cultivate ultimately determine your wealth – and outweigh the average costs of a vacation.

Hear what Tony has to say about it:

Header image © Sunny studio/shutterstock 

Team Tony

Team Tony cultivates, curates and shares Tony Robbins’ stories and core principles, to help others achieve an extraordinary life.

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