Budget does not mean cheap! I’ve said it many times, and I will say it again. Budget means value.
When grocery shopping, I compare prices to get the best value for my dollar. Sometimes, I buy store brand. It’s often the cheapest, and if it tastes just as good as the name brand, it’s a great value. Sometimes, I buy store brand and it tastes awful (mac-n-cheese especially… at least to me). That’s not a good value, because if I don’t like it, I won’t eat it. In fact, bad store brand food is a horrible value because I paid for something I won’t use.
Vacation budgets are no different. Let’s say I want to vacation at the beach, feel the sand between my toes and enjoy some saltwater taffy. Doesn’t that sound fun? I do the research and find a hotel for $80/night at a nice beach about 4 hours from home. Total, the hotel costs $560 and gas for the car costs about $90. So, for $650 I get a decent vacation.
But, what if during my research, I find a hotel deal “near the beach” for $30/night and take it instead? Sounds great…. Unless, it’s for a for a no-frills motel alongside the highway that most people wouldn’t consider vacation destinations. Imagine the disappointment!
Budget does not mean the cheapest thing around.
Budget means the best value for the vacation dream. Sometimes, it includes a splurge — or two or three. Sometimes, it means eating most meals “at home” and enjoying the amenities of the resort. Sometimes, it means camping on the cheap and enjoying the fresh air (though I do require a cabin and indoor plumbing).
Value is determined by the type of experience desired.
We took a cruise from LA to Mexico a few years ago. Cabin options for a family of five were a bit limited. In the end, we spent an extra $600 for a concierge level suite and enjoyed the perks immensely. When a hurricane turned our weather gray, windy and cold, we appreciated the extra attention provided. For less than $100/day, our whole family got private dining for breakfast, “free” beverages, reserved seating in the main theater and expedited check-in. In making the choice, we determined that for us, the value was worth the extra expense.
When we traveled to China in 2005, I longed for a business class seat to stretch my legs and get some sleep. However, that pricey seat cost $2,000 more than my $900 coach fare seat. No matter how I longed for that cushy seat, I couldn’t justify the expense (well….. maybe if I wouldn’t have felt guilty for leaving my whole family behind in coach I could have done it. LOL). The trip to China was already quite expensive and adding the business class fare didn’t add enough value to the overall trip to justify the expense.
On a vacation to Hilton Head many years ago, we rented a vacation condo to keep expenses down. It cost no more than a regular hotel room, but offered the convenience of a kitchen, living area and laundry. When traveling with young boys, these amenities are priceless! We brought our own, easy-cook meals and ate out only a couple of times, making the trip even cheaper. With the savings, we splurged on a dolphin tour. Even though my boys were only 3 and 6 at the time, we still talk about that dolphin tour. I know my younger son doesn’t remember “driving the boat” (we were the only family on the tour, so the guide let him steer in clear water), but the story lives on. Ben zig-zagged his way across the water, laughing the whole time as he “d’ove the boat.” The value of that dolphin tour, which was an expensive splurge, was worth every penny.
Perceived value is different for every family.
On the blog, I sometimes review inexpensive vacation attractions or destinations. Farmer’s markets and street festivals are great examples of budget attractions that will never break the bank. Sometimes, I share splurge attractions, like Grosse Savanne Eco-Tours, Culinary Tours and higher end cruises.
Either way, they fit the “budget” term — because I am determining value for the experience.
When I share information on destinations and attractions, I try to include objective information to help you determine whether the experience is a great value for you or not.
I hope I include enough information to help you plan well. If you ever have questions, please email me, tweet or facebook me. I’ll do my best to help.
May your travels be blessed… wherever you go and whatever your budget!