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The average cost of a vacation: Transportation, food, entertainment and more

Bankrate 11/29/2022 Karen Bennett
Young family getting the camping supplies out of the car © Marko Geber/Getty Images Young family getting the camping supplies out of the car

At a time of soaring inflation, escalating mortgage rates and fears of a looming recession, many Americans still feel travel is worthwhile. Just over one quarter of adults — 26 percent — said now is a good time to spend money on travel, according to a September 2022 survey by travel market research firm Destination Analysts.

It pays to set money aside and budget for a planned vacation, especially since the cost of fuel, food and nearly everything else is on the rise. Saving up in advance for a trip will ensure you’ll be able to send money to vacation rental owners and pay any other upfront expenses.

Vacation costs vary tremendously depending on the destination, accommodations, activities and other factors. The average cost of a one-week vacation in the U.S. for one person is $1,578. Here are some average costs to help you budget for your vacation.

Key vacation cost statistics

Event Average cost
One-week vacation in the U.S. for one person $1,578
One-week vacation in the U.S. for two people $3,156
Two-week European vacation for one person $4,000
One-night double-occupancy hotel room in the U.S. $205
Food per person per day $46

Sources: Budget Your Trip, BalancingEverything

Here are a few travel-related statistics about where Americans like to travel within the U.S. and the places they’ll pay the most money to visit:

  • Most commonly traveled place in the U.S.: Geography resource World Atlas reports New York City’s Times Square is the most visited destination nationally and internationally. The average weeklong trip to the Big Apple runs $2,057 for a solo traveler and $6,926 for a family of four, according to travel guide provider Champion Travel.
  • Most expensive summer destinations in the U.S.: Staying in the cheapest double-room accommodations on Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard — two islands off the coast of Massachusetts — will set you back $525 and $485, respectively, according to Travel Industry Today.
  • Most common type of travel: Four in five domestic trips in the U.S. are for leisure purposes, according to The Broke Backpacker, which also reports one in 10 U.S. jobs are dependent on travel and tourism.

How much does a vacation cost?

The cost of a vacation is on the minds of many Americans who plan to travel during the 2022 holiday season. A significant percentage of those who plan to take trips will take various measures to cut costs, according to Bankrate’s 2022 Holiday Travel Survey.

Of those who plan to travel over the holidays, 82 percent of both millennials and members of Generation Z reported changing travel plans due to inflation. Income-wise, households earning less than $50,000 are changing plans as a result of rising prices.

Prices of some vacation aspects have fluctuated greatly between Thanksgiving 2021 and 2022, according to travel booking website Hopper.

Let’s look at the categories of transportation, accommodations, food and entertainment — and how they’ll likely fit into your vacation budget.

Transportation costs

American families typically devote around 44 percent of their vacation funds to transportation, according to ValuePenguin, which tracks consumer spending. This consists of traveling to and from a destination as well as getting around during the trip.

Transportation can account for a large chunk of your vacation budget, so it’s a good idea to start with these costs when planning your trip. In addition to airfare, factor in any other costs such as car rental, gasoline, tolls and parking fees.

Average cost of transportation
Domestic round-trip flight $330
International round-trip flight $810
Airport Parking $18 a day
Rental car $65 a day
Gasoline $3.61 a day
Uber or Lyft $1-$2 per mile

Sources: Hopper, AAA, Ridester, Bankrate research

Airfare rose nearly 43 percent from September 2021 to September 2022, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index. This comes at a time when demand for leisure travel remains high following two years of pandemic-induced travel restrictions.

Hotel and other accommodation costs

Hotel prices vary dramatically depending on the location, demand and time of year. An oceanfront hotel room in South Florida, for example, will cost less in the winter months than in summer, when deals can be found. If your budget isn’t generous and you’re OK with fewer comforts, hostels or a recreational vehicle park can save you money.

Average cost of accommodations, nightly
Hotel room $157.43
Airbnb $168
Hostels $10-$40
RV $30-$50 for mid-range RV campsite

Sources: Hotel Management Magazine, The Points Guy, Volunteer Forever, Camper Report

Food and entertainment costs

Food and entertainment expenses can lighten your wallet if you don’t draft a thorough vacation budget. They tend to be among the last costs travelers consider when planning a trip.

The average cost of food for a family of four on vacation, per day, is $132, according to SpendMeNot. This figure does not include snacks, tips or alcohol.

Average cost of food and entertainment
Food $60 a day, per adult
Sports events

$151 for an NFL game ticket

$53 for an MLB game ticket

$94 for an NBA game ticket

Theme parks $75 per person
Concert ticket $108 for top 100 tours in North America
National parks Ranges from $5-$30 per vehicle

Budgeting for a family vacation can be trickier than budgeting for a solo trip, especially if young children are coming along. You probably won’t be eating at posh restaurants and strolling museums with kids in tow, but you likely will have to budget for a bigger hotel room and reservations for activities they’ll enjoy. Don’t forget to look for group rates and discounts, if eligible.

Average cost of a vacation by generation

A  2021 AAA travel report showed baby boomers expected to spend the most on vacations during the year — an average of $6,691 — possibly since the majority of them are retired. Generation X members and millennials reported expecting to spend $5,000 and $4,000, respectively.

Reasons for millennials expecting to spend the least may include their higher likelihood than older generations to use technology to book plans ahead of time, according to AARP.

Generation Average expected cost of vacation* Percent who planned to spend more in 2022 than prior to the pandemic
Baby boomers $6,691 61%
Gen X-ers $5,000 67%
Millennials $4,000 70%
Generation Z n/a 72%

* Data is from 2021.

Sources: AARP, Avail

In addition, millennials are most likely to go in debt for travel, according to a VRBO survey, with baby boomers least likely to go in debt for vacations.

Vacations vs. staycations

A “staycation” is a vacation without travel that involves staying home and taking smaller day trips. No packing, car rental, or booking of hotels or flights is necessary. A staycation can be less stressful, and certainly less expensive, than a trip that involves traveling. A staycation may offer various advantages in addition to money savings:

  • It’s a better fit for young children who are not ready to travel.
  • If you’ve just moved to a new city, a staycation gives you a chance to explore.
  • You can enjoy the comfort of your own bed and surroundings while still taking time off work.
  • It allows you to do projects around the house, at your leisure.
  • It’s perfect for dating couples who aren’t ready to take overnight trips together.
  • You can give your local economy a boost by visiting attractions and restaurants.

Vacation budgeting tips

Planning a vacation on a budget requires forethought and creativity, but investing time and effort can save you money and make the trip go more smoothly. Here are some tips to help you get the most trip for your money:

  • Determine how much you can spend on the vacation and draft a budget.
  • Avoid paying high prices for lodging at popular destinations by finding accommodations slightly farther away.
  • Save money by visiting destinations during off-seasons.
  • Search for inexpensive flights and book in advance. You might save money on international flights by booking the cheapest flight to the destination country, followed by another flight to the particular city you wish to visit.
  • If traveling abroad, find places that offer the best currency exchange rates.
  • Consider using a prepaid debit card to control daily spending or a good travel rewards credit card to earn cash back on certain purchases.
  • Plan meals, and work them into your budget accordingly. If you wish to eat at a high-end restaurant for dinner, choose an inexpensive meal for lunch.
  • Find affordable accommodations, and book them in advance after researching all options. Getting the best deal on lodging can depend on factors such as location and number of people in your party.
  • Plan what you’ll need to bring, and pack those items in your travel bag. This can help you avoid buying things on the trip that you forgot to bring, such as toiletries or over-the-counter medicine.
  • Rank possible destinations by most desired to least, and select the ones that are worth including in your budget.

Budgeting for a family vacation can be trickier than budgeting for a solo trip, especially if young children are coming along. You probably won’t be eating at posh restaurants and visiting many museums with young kids in tow, but you will have to pay for a bigger hotel room and plan for activities they’ll enjoy. Don’t forget to look for group rates and discounts, if eligible.

Bottom line

The main budgetary components of a vacation include lodging, transportation, food and entertainment — all of which cost more now than they did in recent years, due to 40-year-high inflation.

While all aspects of a vacation can be pricey, it’s possible to lower your costs significantly through things like budgeting, traveling during the off-season, finding affordable ways to eat, and even considering a staycation.

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