How Much Money Do You Spend on Vacations?

Every year, the US spends over $1.1 trillion on vacations. The average person spends almost $2,000 on summer vacations alone. The main spending categories while on vacation are food, lodging, local transportation, and retail. (Check out The Long Haul for tips to save on the transportation costs between your home and your destination.) 

Every year, the US spends $279 billion on food services while on vacation. That breaks down to about $33 per traveler per day, and 80% of this spending is on restaurant food. In addition to food, the US spends $242 billion on lodging. At least 6% of operating costs at hotels are spent on the energy used in hotel rooms, a lot of which comes from travelers leaving on the AC, heat, or lights while they’re not even in the room. The US spends $170 billion and $107 billion per year on auto transportation and retail, respectively.

How Can You Reduce Your Vacation Expenses?

Eat Local and Save Your Food

A great way to get high quality food for your money is to eat at local restaurants. Be sure to order only the food that you know you will eat, so you can ask the servers about portion sizes before ordering. You can also bring your own containers to eat the leftovers for a later meal. Our episode called Save the Food as some great suggestions for making sure you don’t waste money on food. 

Hotels or Airbnbs?

The cheapest lodging is to stay with family and friends (hopefully for free!). If you don’t know anyone in your destination city, instead of staying in hotels, you can stay in Airbnbs or Couchsurfing homes, or you can camp. Airbnbs can be much cheaper than hotels, especially if you rent out a private room instead of the entire home. 

If you do have to stay in a hotel while you travel, there are a lot of ways that you can lower the hotel’s operating costs, especially when it comes to energy and water usage. And if everyone implemented these tricks, in theory hotel rates should also go down. By turning off the AC, heat, and lights when you aren’t in your room and by reusing your towels, you can greatly reduce the energy and water costs for your room. If everyone implements all the energy and water savings tricks from our first season, the hotels can save a lot of money and pass those savings on to their guests.

And lastly, if you open a bar of soap at a hotel, take it with you! That’s free soap for you to use at home!

Don’t Rent a Car

The cost of car rentals can be greatly reduced by renting smaller cars. You can also travel to places that have good public transportation systems or have a high walkability score. Rideshare apps or shared bikes or scooters can be much cheaper than car rental as well.


Spending on retail can be greatly reduced by avoiding impulse or unnecessary purchases. If you do buy souvenirs, make sure they’re made of quality material that will last long. And it’s a plus if the souvenir is something you don’t have yet but could serve a practical purpose in your daily life, like a reusable mug or bag. You could also avoid paying for souvenirs altogether, and instead use your vacation photos to make a scrapbook of your trip as a timeless souvenir. 

Disclaimer: Please consult with a professional before making any changes to your travel, transportation, diet, or lodging. Any and all changes should maintain proper health, safety, and sanitation levels within your daily lives. It All Adds Up and its affiliates are not responsible for any household/vehicle damage or personal injuries that should occur from following any suggestions from It All Adds Up.


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