The Cost of Vacation

The Cost of VacationJust got back from a great vacation in Texas. My brother and his wife moved to Austin about a year ago so we went to visit them. They just built a really nice house with a pool, hot tub, cabana, outdoor kitchen, etc. – how can you pass up a visit with all this good stuff?!!  So we stayed at their “oasis” for a little over a week and had a great time.

Unfortunately, I was so relaxed that I realized I had forgotten to think of what to write about this week.

So I decided that I’ll give you a breakdown of what we spent on this trip to get your feedback on if we spent too much money or got away with a relatively inexpensive vacation.


PlaneLet’s start with one of the money savers. We had actually booked our flight almost a year ago and we were able to use frequent flier miles to cover all three of us (my wife, my daughter, and little old me). That’s definitely a huge win to start with. Sure, there are stupid taxes on the freebie, but this was still a steal.

Total cost for the flights: $33.60

Rental Car

CarNow, let’s throw out a good and bad one. When we initially booked the flight, the plan was to fly into Houston and then take a cruise either from there or Galveston for a handful of days and then later head to Austin for a few days.

A few months after booking our flight, however, we learned that cruises out of those places during the time-frame we booked were scarce or not what we wanted (Carnival-cough-cough!).

So now that we had booked a 10-day trip, we were kind of stuck.  One option was to book a resort in the Galveston area, but as the perfect hosts, my brother and his wife invited us to just stay with them the whole time. We decided to take them up on that offer.

However, we were flying into Houston, not Austin, and changing to a flight to Austin would have been costly and wasn’t easy to find… so we left the flight as is.

So, the good news is that we saved the giant cost of a cruise (although I’m really itching to book one in the next year or so).  But that saved us a ton of dough.

We did still have to book a rental car to take the two-hour drive from Houston to Austin.

What’s that you say???  It’s actually longer than a two-hour drive???

Yes, you are more than correct – it turns out it’s really a THREE-hour drive, but I was informed otherwise by my wife.  When we got in the rental car and I punched in my brother’s address on my phone’s GPS, that surprise on the ETA did not make me very happy.  But the drive was a smooth one and it didn’t hamper things too bad.

Cost of the rental car and gas: $283.74

Meals Throughout

MexicanFoodSo let’s talk about meals.  I hate spending good money at restaurants.  I feel like some places are overpriced and your money is just gone in an instant (I hate to part with my money) and to me, food is food.  A good example was a Mexican restaurant that we went to.  The bill came out to be $228.25 (after the tip).

Were there drinks involved… of course!
Was the food good… sure!
Was it worth that much money… not in my opinion.

In fact, we had Mexican food again on a different day at another place and the bill came to less than a hundred bucks for all of us (my comfort zone) and I thought the food and the drinks were just as good.

Now before you call me a cheap bastard (which I am), please realize that I was absolutely fine with picking up the tab on the first Mexican restaurant and a couple other places.  My brother and his wife took us in for the week and are the best hosts I’ve ever known.  And I’m sure they spent a lot more money overall on our vacation than we did.  I know that they enjoy the nicer places and we had fun.  I’m not sure why pricey restaurants just irk me.  My wife, brother, and sister-in-law love to harass me about that mind-issue I have.

But overall, I think we did alright – our costs for meals was under $450 and that’s for over a week out-of-town.  That’s not too shabby for a vacation if you ask me!

Cost of meals: $440.96

Other stuff…

BeerThen there’s all the rest… drinking, site-seeing, alcohol, entertainment, drinking, souvenirs, alcohol – you get the gist.

Yes, we did some drinking… OK, a lot of drinking.  The good thing is that we toasted different people and things throughout, so just know that there are a lot of blessed people out there all thanks to us!

Oh, yeah – let’s go back to the rental car…
So about halfway through the trip, I learned something… something not so good. Texas does toll roads a little different than they do in Ohio. In Ohio, you can pay by cash or through their E-ZPass system. If you pay via cash, you do just that – stop and pay money right then and there.

In Texas, you pay via EZ TAG or they mail you the bill (they take a pic of your plate to know where to send it). But either way, you don’t stop.  And either way – I didn’t know this.

For the first half of the week, I just thought Texas was a little weird and wasn’t hitting us with tolls.  I mean, after all, I never got my chance to pay by cash.

Okay, definite oops on my part, but the look on my face when I finally figured it out mid-week was probably worth it to anyone who saw it.

I had passed on the use of the rental places place’s EZ TAG because I intended on just paying cash. I also knew that there were some penalties with the rental place if you skipped through the tolls… $25 per day plus tolls!

So, after two days of calling the rental car place before they answered their phone (you read that correctly), I confirmed that this was a problem, pleaded ignorance, and got them to hook a brotha up. It still cost me about$15 for the week (plus tolls, of course), but I was able to relax after that was settled.  I won’t know the cost of the tolls themselves for up to a couple of weeks, but let’s go with $35 for our number for the time being.

We also visited the Texas State Capitol, the Thinkery, and the Congress Avenue Bridge to see the bats among other cool things.

On the second last day, we drove back to Houston and visited the Downtown Aquarium.  That was a good time and my daughter loved it.  We stayed at a hotel in Houston for the night and flew back the next day.

Cost of all this other crap: $452.83

So that’s about it.  We all had a great time, but I’m sure my brother and his wife were ready to kick us out by the end.  That’s a long time to have family stay with you, but like I said, they are great hosts and they helped make for a fantastic vacation!

Total Cost for Vacation: $1,211.13

What do you think – how was my spending?  Too much wasting of money that could have been better invested or saved?

How does your vacation spending usually compare?

Thanks for reading!!

— Jim

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8 thoughts on “The Cost of Vacation”

  1. We paid quite a bit more on our one week vacation to Hawaii. Everything costs more there…and we didn’t even drink. Meals outside our house were actually pretty limited.

    So I’d say you did pretty good! $1,200 for a week is good for a luxury vacation like this!

    Your big savings comes from not paying for lodging. That’s always a huge cost….

    1. I could only imagine the costs of a week in Hawaii!! That might cause me to drink even more!! 😉 I haven’t been there before, but I would imagine that it’s worth the cost of at least one vacation there, though.

      Yeah, I would say that having a “resort” to stay at really brought down our costs.

      — Jim

  2. Our vacations are getting less expensive as we travel hack more. A ski trip planned for Jackson Hole next February is covered with four free tickets for the family and our lodging partially covered by credit on a cash back card. Mrs. PiE also found an awesome deal on lift tickets through the mountain collective program.

    We also took a trip to the UK last year ( our native country before we relocated to the US about 18 years ago) and rented a cottage for family to visit and stay. VRBO or HomeAway are just awesome and being able to accommodate a family of four plus visiting parents for a week in the highlands of Scotland at under $1600 is a deal in our opinion.

    Our vacations more an more are involving travel hacking and renting homes through the aforementioned sites.

    1. Wow, those are some great deals! Travel hacking is definitely the way to do it to save some bucks!

      We’ve had some pretty good success with VRBO and HomeAway as well though we’ve only used them a few times.

      — Jim

  3. I love Austin. My brother used to live there. Did you make it to Salt Lick? Good enough BBQ to even give your Montgomery Ribs a run for the money.

    As far as expenses, yours seem pretty reasonable. We’re all over the board on our vacation spending. Sometimes we vacation on the cheap and other times, it’s high end. Just depends.

    1. They didn’t mention Salt Lick, but we did hit Rudy’s for some BBQ and then he bought a giant 12 lb. brisket on another day to cook up (which was fantastic!). He’s still pretty new to Austin, so I’ll be sure to pass Salt Lick onto him – looks like it’s got some fantastic reviews out there.

      — Jim

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