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Can I afford my vacation? You can with the right choices

Can I afford my vacation? There's lots of choice you can make.

Can I even afford my vacation? And why do vacations cost so much in the first place?   These are some of the more common questions we get.

Vacation cost is highly variable.  Sure it depends on where and when.  But it also depends on quality of  accommodations, what's included and the quality of any included tours, service, food and drinks.  So perhaps instead of thinking of cost, think of choices to accommodate your budget. In other words, move from "can I afford my vacation" to "which choices should I explore to match the value of the vacation with my budget."


Where you vacation and the specific itinerary you choose will greatly influence vacation cost.  A trip to Hawaii is almost always going to cost more than a trip to Detroit.  A trip to Paris is almost always going to cost more than a trip to Prague - all other factors being the same.  Certain locations are just more expensive.   A 20 day ocean cruise itinerary is going to cost more than a 7 day western Caribbean cruise.  It's also important to consider other factors such as how long it will take to get to the destination, number of time zones from your home, ability to drink the water once you are there, how unique is the itinerary offerred and how English friendly the destination is.


Within the itinerary, there are choices with respect to location.  You'll notice that certain tour operators are always cheaper than others for the same itinerary.  This is largely because they have selected hotels outside the city center.  Sometimes it's very nice to be able to walk to all the important sites.  But it can be just as important to be close to a metro or tram stop, near the cruise port or airport, or sometimes in a quite and safe location.  Some ships dock close to the town center, others need to tender you in to port before you can start your explorations.  Location, location location is just as important in travel as it is in real estate.

Exchange rate

Think currency exchange rates don't make a difference in your cost?  If you're traveling outside your native country, exchange rates can make a huge difference in cost.  The EUR / USD exchange rate has varied room .85 to about 1.6 since 1990. That means that a tour costing 100 Euros would cost a US based traveler either $85 or $160 (88% more) depending on when they took the trip.  Over that same time period, the CAD / USD rate varied from .62 to 1.1o  meaning that a hotel room in Canada costing 100 CAD would cost the US traveler between $62 and $110 USD (77 % more) . Finally consider traveling to London.   Today a  100 GBP meal would have cost the US traveler approx $130.  In 2007, that same meal would cost approx $200 (48% more).

The consumer doesn't always see this much volatility since the major travel providers (tour operators, cruise lines) will either hedge currency or absorb some of the cost variation.  But this does illustrate that it's important to look at exchange rates when planning your trip. So if the answer to "can I afford my vacation" is no, perhaps you are not taking advantage of favorable exchange rates.


When you travel is as important as where you travel in terms of pricing.  A river cruise down the Danube will cost more in the warm summer months than it does once the winter turns colder at the end of the calendar year.  Sometimes booking off season can be a great way to experience a location when there's less crowds and save money.  Some people would rather have a nice quiet walk along a beach in October than fight the crowds during August for example.  Current events can also make a difference in the cost of your vacation; when there's geo-political pressure on a particular region, chances are the tourism will suffer and suppliers will lower their prices.

Quality and service level

This is one of the areas where a consumer really does get what they pay for.  A 5 star hotel is simply going to cost more than a 3 star hotel - it will have more services, the rooms will be more modern, the staff will be better trained, the bed will be of better quality, the sheets / linens will be a higher thread count, the soaps and shampoos will be top of the line, the air conditioning will be quieter and the food offered will be superior.  Its very hard to compare a Scenic river cruise to a Tauck river cruise because the quality of the products are so different. When you ask "can I afford my vacation," be sure to ask what level of quality you can really afford.  For some, the value of a quality hotel more than offsets the cost.  For example, some upscale hotels offer concierge floors which serve appetizers during the day; many people simply use this as their dinner for much less than the cost of going out.

What's included

Also, cost and value are directly related to what's included.  Many times, people fail to make the proper comparison.  Prices may or may not include airfare, port charges and taxes, meals, excursions, transfers, water sports, fitness centers, spas and spa treatments, instruction or lectures, alcohol (top of the line, local or none), soft drinks and water, tours, help with luggage, etc.  These can make a huge difference.  I've been on an all inclusive in the Dominican Republic that had a beautiful beach; but they served only mongrel brands of alcohol that made the drinks literally undrinkable. In that case the value of the all inclusive drink package was zero.

What options are offered

Finally, think about what options are included or even offered.  It's one thing to reduce the cost of your trip by reducing the number of excursions but if the vacation location chosen only offers expensive spa treatments instead of lower cost tours, that might not be the best choice for you.  "Can I afford my vacation?" - consider what's included and what's offered.

Can you afford this vacation? Can you afford this vacation?

Can I afford my vacation?

So why does your vacation cost so much?  Perhaps because you have not chosen the best option.  Everyone values these things differently - some people want to only experience a luxury vacation.  There's value beyond the actual cost.  Can you afford your vacation?  For some, it's a matter simply of asking does this vacation provide the kind of value I'm looking for.  So change your question from "can I afford my vacation" to "can I change my itinerary, location of hotels, timing with respect to exchange rate and seasonality, quality of services and offerings,   and what's included to match my the cost and value of the vacation with my budget."

We've had people give us several several credits because they are not sure which will have sufficient credit to cover the cost of the vacation.  not everyone has the ability to pay for large vacations easily.  There are choices as listed above to vary the cost of your vacation.   A great travel agent can help you make these choices fit with your budget and value proposition. There's an option for almost any budget.

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