Vacation Spending Without Limits

My wife and I first came to Florida on our honeymoon. It was only the second time either of us had travelled on a plane. I booked the trip through the travel agent at our favorite department store for about $800. That included airfare on Northwest Airlines, a Pontiac Sunfire rental car, and 7 nights stay at the beautiful Westwood Winfield Inn near Orlando.

All week long we tracked every expense on a trusty index card. How much we paid for meals, gas for the car, and theme park tickets. No expense – regardless of how small – escaped the accounting. I have that card at home in a box of keepsakes and can confirm it includes every ice cream bar, orange juice, or souvenir magnet we bought at a tacky Kissimmee gift shop (still there).

Some of the items were recorded with the cents, not a dollar sign!

This year’s extended vacation to Florida is completely different. I told my wife when we got down here that we are not even going to discuss the cost of park tickets, dinners out, or day trips. We’re just going to enjoy ourselves, as if everything was offered to us as free. Any spending we do will be covered later with “fun money” from paid board work that I’ve done.

I thought it would be fun because while we haven’t tracked expenses on an Index card for some time, we do have the habit of mentally noting (and talking about) how much we spend as we go. We’ve never allowed ourselves to vacation ‘without limits’. This time, I just wanted to be able to say “let’s do this, let’s do that, and we’ll see what it adds up to later … if at all”.

I don’t honestly worry that we will get back and find we’ve spent way too much of our retirement savings. I don’t see we have suddenly upgraded our ‘vacation lifestyle’ just because we aren’t tracking our costs. When we got our rental car (a Toyota RAV4), I briefly considered upgrading to the Mustang GT Convertible, but it was the lack of space – not cost – that prevented the switch.

Like everything, there is a time and place for daily budgeting, tracking, and being a responsible adult. When you are just starting out, those actions are especially important.

Thankfully, for us, that time has long passed. Now is the time to just enjoy our time together – without the worries of planning and saving for the future. We are so blessed to be able to do so!

Do you still carefully track vacation expenses?

8 thoughts on “Vacation Spending Without Limits

  1. That’s an awesome place to be.

    I don’t think we ever worry about the day to day budget, but I do remember we went on a European cruise and made cash envelopes for each day. Though I think that was more to not have to cary around a large wad of cash everywhere.

    We tend to try to budget in advance as much as possible by keeping the hotel/rental(s) in line and knowing that the actual day to day expenses will average around a pre-expected amount. We even just did this for a 3 week road trip we are planning this summer.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I usually am good about doing the pre-budget, but this trip, I am just winging it. I know the trip essentials (airfare, car & lodging) are less than $10K. For 6 weeks, that’s super cheap. Beyond that, I’m not paying attention to daily spending – which has been a fun novelty!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Enjoy, Chief! You’ve both earned it!! I’ve always been a big-picture guy. We have a master-budget for the year, including a category for vacation expenses. We use cards to track for end-of-year reconciliation. If we went under (like 2020) I carry-over as add-on. It we went over, like 2018, I subtract from following year plans. However, with each advancing year, I add on a “kicker,” knowing from experiences of older friends that travel vacations can become less desirable as we age past a certain point. (We’re not there yet!). My wife doesn’t like to travel for more than two weeks, nor “luxury” anything. The one to watch out for is me on solo-trips she doesn’t want to take.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s how we started tracking retirement travel spending a few years ago – add it up at the end of a trip and compare to a budget at the end of the year. The last couple years I’ve gotten lazy and stopped tracking. This is the first trip I didn’t even bother to make a budget for at the outset!

      We’ve never gone more than 3 weeks until now. 3.5 weeks in and we’re having fun. We’re not here long enough to be snowbirds, but too long to be simple vacationers too.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. The index card is an interesting keepsake. We always tracked our fuel and mileage on trips. I am with bowmanifesto in using our credit cards to total up expenses at the end of the year.

    We are really missing our Florida trips, last March break was cancelled and this year too. Once all the travel bans are lifted I hope we can travel again. Hope you have a great vacation and enjoy the no-limit spending!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. We’ve been traveling without tracking details for the last four years. We set aside an overall travel amount each year and have come in under that overall amount all four years of our retirement so far. We actually still have quite a rollover from 2020 because of COVID, even though we still made three trips to Florida in 2020! Hopefully COVID begins to wane soon, and we can get back to our travel plans later this year.

    I hope you guys had a great trip. Are you hooked on winters in Florida now?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. When I was tracking spending, I was coming in under budget, too. Then we started adding trips. Then we started adding weeks to trips. Still, it’s all working. It helps that the market has helped our investments go up exponentially faster!

      We’re definitely hooked on extended winter trips somewhere warm. Maybe Florida – my wife likes it better than AZ, but I like variety. TX and CA could be interesting too.

      Liked by 1 person

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