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What Does the Average Vacation Cost?

We’ve all heard that taking a vacation is great for our mental health. It’s a chance to get away from our stressful daily lives and go on an adventure. In addition to figuring out where you’ll go on your next vacation, don’t forget to start saving for all those vacation expenses. Before we can figure out what you need to save, we need to know, what does the average vacation cost?

How Much Does a Vacation Cost?

I decided to use my vacation budget planner (updated travel budget vacation cost worksheet) and get a basic idea of what the average vacation cost is for a family. Of course, these numbers are just averages to help you with your planning. I’ve researched the average cost for most the standard vacation expenses. These numbers can easily be used to calculate the vacation cost for one person or a couple, but for a family of four, the average cost of vacation will be $5,197.

**Use the calculator at the bottom of this post as a personal vacation cost estimator based on your family size and destination.

And be sure to read our best tips for how to save for vacation!

Transportation Costs – $1,775

This can be one of the largest expenses for a vacation. Driving can be a great way to keep costs low, so figure out if you should fly or drive for your next trip.

Airfare – $349 pp / $1,395 family of four

These prices will be all over the board. According to the Dept of Transportation, the average cost of a domestic (US) plane ticket is about $349. International airfare is going to vary greatly based on your outbound city. You can often find international deals from major coastal hubs that will get you an international ticket for $400-$600. You can also consider credit card points to help lower your transportation costs.

Rental Car / Rideshare – $40 per day / $280 / week

This can be an easy expense to cut if you plan a trip to a walkable city. However, even the best cities will often require you to get to and from the airport. And, if you’re traveling to somewhere like Oahu, you definitely want to have your own car for exploring. Again, there are so many factors to determine this expense, but based on my experience I calculate $40 a day. Relying on rideshare could save you money if you’re visiting a walkable city. But, if you’re headed to someplace like Hawaii, you’ll need to budget more. Don’t forget to consider gas expenses as well.

Parking / Shuttles – $100

If you’ll be parking at the airport, don’t forget to add that expense into your plans. And if you’re driving or renting a car, be sure to check to see if your hotel charges parking fees.

Hotel Accommodation Costs – $250 per night / $1,750 for a week

There are two primary values for this expense, your nightly rate, and the hotel taxes & fees. According to the Business Travel Index the cost of a hotel room in NYC, San Fransisco, and Austin are $393, $387, and $215 respectively. These prices include the taxes and fees which are typically around 10%-15%. For our calculations, we’ll assume you can find a deal and score a room for $250 a night. You can also consider a home rental, which can often cost less.

Don’t forget to budget for any daily resort fees and for tipping hotel staff.

How Much to Budget for Food on Vacation? – $63 per day

We all now that one of the big perks of a vacation is the food. Not only do we get to try new restaurants and foods, but we also don’t have to do the dishes! To calculate the food costs you want to budget daily for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. I estimate a daily food budget of $63 for an adult, $441 for a week. These numbers are primarily based on table service meals. You can certainly find less expensive dining options in almost any city.

Families with young kids can save a bit with kids meals, so for a family of four, I’d budget $1322 for a week. With daily budgets of $40 for breakfasts, $60 for lunches, $80 for dinner, and $20 for snacks, for a total daily food budget of $200. Now that I have a tween and teen, we have to budget as if we’re four adults, so we have a daily food budget of $250 for our family of four. You can serious shave some of these expenses down if you stay at a hotel with a free breakfast or if you make some of your meals in a rental or hotel kitchen.

  • Breakfast = $12 pp / $84 for the week
  • Lunch = $20 pp / $140 for the week
  • Dinner = $25 pp / $175 for the week
  • Snacks = $6 pp / $42 for the week

If you enjoy alcoholic drinks while on vacation, be sure to increase your dinner budget to allow for those. They’ll run you anywhere from $9-$20 depending on your destination.

Cost of Activities

This will all depend on what you plan on doing while on vacation. Some cities are filled with free things to do, while others are museum meccas where you’ll find plenty of admission ticket costs. Assuming a one week vacation, let’s estimate that you’ll visit three attractions that have an admission fee of $25. For a family of four, you’ll want to budget $300 for attractions. And if you like to get your kids souvenirs on vacation, be sure to allow perhaps another $50-$100 for shopping.

Of course, this doesn’t work well for a trip to Disney, so we’ll look at what a trip to Florida sample cost breakdown below.

How Much Does It Cost to Go To Florida?

Our family has taken quite a few vacations to Florida. While it’s a huge state with so many great places to visit, most families are going in order to visit the Mouse. Let’s use our calculations above to help determine what to budget for a vacation to Florida.

  • Airfare = $1396 ($349 pp)
  • Rental Car [Disney] = $0 (if you’re just visiting WDW and staying on-site you get free transportation)
  • Rental Car = $280
  • Airport Parking = $100
  • Hotel = $1750
  • Tipping = $35
  • Food = $1322 (The Disney Dining Plan option will cost a family of 2 adults and 2 kids $206.94 per day)
  • Activities = $1484 ($1384 for 2 adults and 2 kids 4-Park Magic Select Ticket + $100 souvenirs)

That Florida Disney vacation can add up fast – based on averages you’ll want to budget $6,087 for the trip. And if you plan to have a car while visiting, you’ll need to budget even more for the rental car and hotel/park parking fees.

Vacation Cost Calculator

Conclusion

Over $5,000, $5,197 to be exact, is how much you should save for a one week vacation for a family of four! Are you a bit surprised? I know I was when the numbers all came together. As we’ve said this is just an estimate. I’m sure many families can travel for less, and there are plenty who travel for much more, too. The goal is to help you have an idea of the cost so that you won’t be surprised and stressed when the trip is over and the charges start piling in.

Now that you know how much a vacation will cost, check out these fun ideas to help you save money for your vacation!

saving for vacation expenses and costs

How much does a vacation cost?

Get My Best Travel Planning Tips & Worksheets!

Comments

  1. Lynne Childress says

    I like how you reasoned this out. We often get to vacations and kind of just turn our brains off when it comes to spending, even if we set out not to do that. We charged WAY too much for food on our last vacation. Thanks for this tool. It will help us plan better for the next one.

    • Kim says

      I’m absolutely with you Lynne. I always tell me hubby, “oh, it’ll probably only be like $2-$3k” then when I start adding things up it’s a real eye opener. I’m really excited to continue writing up my ideas for how to save up for your family vacation, so check back soon for that post!

    • Kim says

      Michelle, that’s one of the big ways we try to save money. It also encourages healthier eating typically too! We have yet to rent a condo, but we’ve stayed in the suite hotels that include kitchens to help save money. That’s one of my tips in my upcoming “save for vacation” article. Shhhh, don’t tell. :)

  2. Vicki M Taylor says

    Last year, my husband and I went on a round the States trip. I left first from Florida, flying to Arizona. Hotel an car rental. visiting kids and grandkids. Hubby flew out a few days later when he could get off work. We then drove from Arizona to Wyoming, stopping along the way to see various monuments and Yellowstone. Saw the geysers and falls. Saw the animals. Saw everything. Flew back to Florida from Wyoming. All in all, it cost us about 5K. Whew! About twice as much as what I thought it was going to cost us.

    • Kim says

      I’ve been there Vicki. It really is amazing how quickly it can all add up. However, that sounds like an awesome trip and hopefully well worth it! We always say we like to buy experiences more than things!

  3. AwesomelyOZ says

    That is awesome – thank you for putting it into perspective – that’s not too bad at all for a family of 4 and thankfully we’re a family of 3! :) Coming to ya from SITS – Happy SITS Day! -Iva

    • Kim says

      Hi Iva! It definitely is doable, but surprises many how the costs add up. Having 3 definitely helps with the airfare, attractions, and food expenses! My in-laws have 3 kids (so family of 5) and we’ve noticed how it increases traveling costs for them versus us just with that one extra kid.

  4. Rachel says

    Very interesting post! I always wonder what other people pay for a vacation. It’s amazing how widely this can vary. My husband and I usually did European trips (just the two of us) for about $7,000, but that was for 16 days, which I thought was pretty good! The last time we went, we took our daughter and were able to do it for about the same price, but just cut down some of the other expenses.

    • Kim says

      Hi Rachel! I considered trying to add different types of trips (like international), but thought this would be the most straightforward. Even international trips vary widely depending on your destination, while most domestic trips are consistent. Many families also don’t travel for a full week (I think the average is 4-5 days), but lots of people I know fly somewhere for at least a week for a family vacation.

      • Rachel says

        Oh, definitely! There are a million and one ways you can make any vacation cheaper or more expensive. It’s all about priorities and what’s most important to you in a vacation:)

    • Kim says

      Glad it was helpful Tenns! You can always make choices to decrease (or increase) those costs, but this gives you a basic plan to work from! Hope you have great travels!

  5. Julie Moore says

    Happy SITS Day! I hope you have a great one!

    $4,000…Yikes. Now I know why we haven’t been on one…ever! We are a family of 5, so a vacation other than to visit family is just not in the budget, unless of course we saved up for awhile, and we’d definitely not be able to do a week. I think this post left me in sticker shock…

    • Kim says

      It really adds up Julie! A big way to save costs is to consider driving locally instead of flying (no 5 plane tickets). I’m going to post soon about how to save up for a vacation, so perhaps that can help you come up with a way to make one happen. You could also plan a staycation where you do something in your own hometown!

      • Julie Moore says

        Sounds great! The most fun we have on vacations is going to either visit my Granny or my sister. Both live near lots of cheap activities to do and have lots of room for us to stay. :) I welcome tips, however, on all the things you mentioned. Driving is always more economical for us, and I have a fear of flying anyway, so that’s all good. :) Thanks for the advice!

    • Kim says

      Thanks SWG! I hesitated to make a post about something that can vary quite a bit, but it’s been pretty standard for most of our vacations. I thought it would be helpful for others to see how the numbers all come together!

    • Kim says

      How fun! A big spot to keep in mind for Disney are the admission passes and parking fees. They can really add up. Food can also be priced higher, but not as high as I’ve seen at other theme parks. Are you heading to Disneyland or Disney World?

      • The Divine Ms M says

        We are doing Disneyland. 7 Adults and two kids, so 4 hotel rooms. We found our hotel which is about 2 miles from the park so it is cheaper, but it has a direct shuttle to the front gates of Disney. We also found its cheaper to book a limo from the airport to move all of us and our luggage than it would be to travel any other way. Any other tips anyone has would be great!

    • Kim says

      Hi Barbara! Yeah, you can try to save money in a lot of areas, but transportation is kind of a non-negotiable area! Sounds like you’ve given your boys a bunch of great experiences!

  6. Alecia says

    A family vacation can add up quick that is for sure! We cut costs by using our timeshare that we purchased on our honeymoon. That saves on accommodations and we cook most of our meals in the condo so that helps as well. Then every few years we do a cruise so that I can get a real vacation of no laundry, cooking, or straightening up! Happy SITS Day!

    • Kim says

      Sounds great Alecia! We don’t have a timeshare, but we do like to save by making our own meals. Or we stay at a hotel that offers breakfast (and sometimes weekday dinners) to help cut costs.

  7. Charlotte says

    I love that you take so many trips with your family :) My mom is German so all of her family is in Europe. I consider myself so incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity to travel at a young age and I think it has played a huge role in my overall sense of adventure and willingness to roll with the punches. You are teaching your children invaluable lessons they’ll carry with them forever :)

    Happy happy SITS day–hope you enjoyed your day in the spotlight and keep up the great posts (don’t yet have a family but I enjoy how you broke this down)! It’s always good to know!

    • Kim says

      What an awesome experience for you Charlotte! My husband and I both agree that traveling has a lot of benefits for our girls. Thanks for stopping by, it’s been a great SITS day!

  8. christa sterken says

    We have never in 26 years had even $1000 to spend on a vacation, how fun that must be. We have been able to have many weekend trips though and are thankful for that. Keep encouraging!

    • Kim says

      Hi Christa, everyone has different budgets and goals. It’s great that you’ve enjoyed your weekend trips and what you’re able to budget. I love how travel can just let you reset from the daily grind, even weekends away do that! :)

  9. Gracia Gilbertson says

    Kim,
    Great post on the average cost of a vacation for a family of 4! I love how you broke it all down…just FYI, if you have boys, the price definitely rises when they hit their teens….the food budget goes crazy! Love your blog…Warmly, Gracia at Gracious Offering

    • Kim says

      Hello Gracia, thank you for stopping by! That is a great point about teen boys food intake, and one I can absolutely believe. My in-laws have two teen daughters, and buy an extra room just so their girls can have their own bathroom!

  10. Chamisa says

    Interesting to see what other people budget for vacation! There are so many factors that go into budgeting, but this is a good place to start.

  11. Paige Conner Totaro says

    That seems like a pretty realistic budget. Our family has stuck to a $5000 budget for week-long trips to Hawaii, Italy, and Puerto Rico (camping, visiting friends, and living large, respectively). We try to spend as little as possible on accommodation, which is usually the most expensive part (after the flights). We have had great luck using vacation rental websites like airbnb and vrbo to cut costs and get more space (and a kitchen) while traveling. Looking forward to reading more on your site!

    • Kim says

      Hi Paige! Vacation rentals really are becoming a great option for saving money. They make a lot of sense for traveling families. Thanks for stopping by!

  12. Kim says

    My budget is $1000. Our trips are regional so we drive; we stay in friends’ homes, so we have no hotel expenses; we bring lots of food and wine for cookouts with our friends. We take little vacations during the year rather than one big one. To note: my husband is from South Africa, and went to RSA during Thanksgiving due to excellent SAA rates (that is a separate budget). It is cheaper to send him to RSA than for us to travel in the USA.

    • Kimberly says

      That’s great that you have so many friends and family to stay with along the way. Sounds like a fun way to travel and stay in contact!

  13. Mo says

    You forgot to mention preparing for the vacation :) new outfits bthing suits, mani pedi, family travel insurance and of course the shopping while you are away gifts for friends and family memorabilia. We just got back from Virginia Beach and we spent about $500

    Tx Mo

    • Kimberly says

      We normally make due Mo, so our pretrip purchases aren’t too bad. However, it’s a great point to recognize that sometimes you do buy new things for the trip. We travel too often to buy gifts for all our friends while away, so they’re stuck with an occasional postcard. :) Trip insurance is a great point and something some people will want to add into their plans.

  14. kioku says

    I feel like $50 for dinner for 4 would be tricky when you have to eat at a restaurant (assuming you can’t make things at your hotel) especially if you are in a touristy location. All the meal prices sound low for 4 people if the idea is that it will be bought at a restaurant.. but maybe I’m wrong.. I’m not very traveled..

    • Kimberly says

      Hi Kioku, it definitely depends on they type of restaurant you’re eating at. I decided an average could be around $14 per adult and $6 per child, totaling $40 then you might have tax and tip. Some dinners could be less depending on where you dine. If you’re choosing sit down restaurants for your meals, then you probably will need to bump up the $50 amount. These are just averages based on our own traveling experiences.

  15. Angela says

    We are going across two states to visit family in Colorado. We have 6 kids and a tiny budget, so we are driving our 15 passenger van, and camping along the way. I’m cooking our food over a fire….and we’ll drive to see some sites and go visiting. I’m hoping we can do it for $1,000….but stuff adds up quickly!

  16. Pat says

    3 Tickets to Dominican Republic. =1500
    7 Nights beach front hotel =500
    Food per day 120 x 3 = 840
    Activities = 500
    Spending cash = 600
    Long term parking 50
    Total 3990

    It helped that the exchange rate was 46 to 1
    My wife, 9yr and I lived like kings.
    Will be doing it again next spring worth ever cent.

    • Kimberly says

      Very nicely done Pat! That’s a great deal on airfare. From Seattle to the DR we’re looking at around $700-$800 pp. It’s great to hear that you enjoyed your vacation so much as well. When you go through all the time, effort, and money for a trip, it only works if it’s worthwhile. Happy traveling and thanks for sharing!

  17. Mark J Hill says

    usually you dont want the economy car and dinner can be way more when you factor in tip and drinks especially in touristy areas. Your going to need a drink or two ;}
    But I guess you could skimp on other meals even without a kitchen a trip to the supermarket making sandwiches i the car or pack a foldable cooler.
    dont forget the extras trips to the pharmacy for bandaids, aspirin, forgotten items like batteries . there are so many random expenses that seem to pop up.

    AirBNB can be a good option and sometimes can be close to attractions with no need for a car. Rates are much cheaper and you can have a kitchen and the hosts can often make suggestions on activities, deals and recommendations on restaurants. Sometimes they will even drive you around. Our experience last summer in Japan at a beach fairly close to Tokyo. We didn’t want to travel far from Tokyo like the other lemmings with the traffic and expense and went to a beach fishing village near Tokyo.

    camping for a few nights is also an option and kids always love it.

    International trips are ridiculous now all that budget you mentioned and then some. But try Thailand or Bali everything else is cheaper!
    This year my daughter in I will visit the US. from Tokyo
    Tip: buy tickets early and just a day or two before school holidays. A longer trip is better and multi city flights aren’t that much more. We are going to stay with relatives (is it really a vacation?) to lower costs and hopefully since we’ve traveled so far we can bum a few home cooked meals off of them. Benefit of staying with family you can pawn your kids off for a night or two out! And probably the kids wont fight as much. Also you get access to all their amenities and stuff so you don’t have to pack all that crap.

    Rental cars are really expensive though because I don’t have a car in Tokyo so I have to pay Liability. But I am cutting that Damage Waiver cost by enrolling in American Expresses Premium insurance- a flat rate fee $25.00 a rental not per day! Also rent a car away fro the airport because those premium locations make you basically pay for the airport extra $200 in fees! Booking with a travel agent can cut these fees and sometimes included extra insurance especially for International travelers with non US or Canadian licenses. If you have a US license you don’t get that break.

    A word about staying in a city as opposed to a rural area- i find that even though hotels may be a bit more but not always, you save lots in transportation and hassle.

    • Kimberly says

      Great tips, thanks for sharing Mark! As a family we rarely want the economy car since they can’t fit our luggage! And the food costs seem to be increasing since I first created this, so I need to update it. Thanks again, happy travels!

  18. Neliza Drew says

    The husband and I recently spent 7 days driving around Florida and it ended up costing about $1200. We had it pretty well budgeted before we left because we’d already booked all the overnight stays (and paid for about half) and we’d already bought food for most of our meals. Still we splurged on an awesome meal the first night and a great B&B the last night.

  19. dennis says

    I am not at all amazed at the cost of vacations. I have always been observant about spending since growing up poor. Since I have always lived below my means and have always vacationed on purpose, this has never been a problem.

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