12 Times You Should Break Your Travel Budget

piggy bank

Piggy Bank. Photo courtesy of mconners.

While it’s smart to plan a budget and make wise spending decisions, there are times while traveling when a splurge is in order. Don’t think of these instances as wasting money, but as investments into your personal happiness and enhancements to your travel experience.

When Safety Is An Issue

While this should be a given, it still bares repeating. If you ever feel uncomfortable in a certain situation, whether it be on a tour, in a hotel, in a city or district, or with the people you’re with, forget social graces and your budget and get out of there. Whether you have to lose your money and rebook accommodation somewhere else or hop in an overpriced taxi to get yourself away immediately you should never let money keep you in an uncomfortable or dangerous situation.

If It’s Something On Your Bucket List

We all have a bucket list, whether it an actual written list or a series of “I would love to XYZ one day” statements we say to ourselves in our heads. Either way, checking off bucket list items is important. These are things that enrich your life and help you feel fulfilled. If you’ve always dreamed of skydiving in New Zealand, but when you price it out it ends up being $200 more expensive than you expected, think to yourself what you’ll remember in 10 years, the thrilling experience of jumping out of an airplane from 15,000 feet above one of the world’s most beautiful landscapes, or a couple hundred dollars. If anything, skip going out a few nights when you go home or cut back on your groceries for a couple weeks. You won’t regret it.

For The Chance To Get A Great View

A visit to a new city is never complete without getting the chance to experience it from a great view point. While sometimes you can simply hike somewhere to get a bird’s eye view, there are often towers, incline hills, restaurants, and museums that offer these views for a small price tag. Sometimes, however, an amazing view can leave a bit of a dent in your wallet. When I was in Interlaken, Switzerland, I had heard the view of the Alps from the Jungfrau was unbelievable. Unfortunately, my Eurail Pass didn’t work in the country and local trains were expensive. I weighed my options, pay $215 and immerse myself in a place considered to be one of the most beautiful in the world, or save my money and buy a postcard. In the end, I paid the money and it was absolutely worth every penny to get a first-hand experience of this rare and serene landscape, not only because it was beautiful, but because it invoked a peaceful feeling of being in nature that I couldn’t possibly get from seeing a photograph.

mount everest

Heading to the top of Mount Everest. Photo courtesy of Rupert Taylor-Price.

If It’s Something You Can’t Do Anywhere Else

Once in a lifetime experiences only happen, well, once in a lifetime. If one comes your way and price is the deciding factor, break your budget. Touring the site of Pompeii, exploring the Vatican, climbing Mount Everest, scuba diving the Great Barrier Reef, hot air ballooning over Wadi Rum — these are the types of experiences that, if they interest you, shouldn’t be missed out on.

On A Taxi After A Long Flight Or When You’re Pressed For Time

I love to explore a city on a foot, as I feel it makes it easy to discover places and meet people you normally wouldn’t. Moreover, I firmly believe that regularly using taxis over subways and buses is a big waste of money. That being said, there are certain instances when the convenience of a cab is worth the extra cash. After a long flight, the hassle of attempting to navigate the city’s unfamiliar public transport system while lugging around a heavy bag just isn’t worth it. Furthermore, when I’m in New York city I often find myself rushing to catch the train back to Long Island, having a small heart attack as the subway’s digital clock seems to change minutes to seconds. I’ve realized that splurging on a cab when I’m really pressed for time is worth it, especially if it means I won’t have to sit around for an extra hour waiting for the next train.

When You Fall In Love

I know some people may debate this one, but I’m a firm believer in taking chances and exploring possibilities so that you never have to wonder “what if?”. Throughout my travels, I’ve met many backpacking couples who had met on the road and have witnessed travelers making connections that seemed to be promising. When I was in Amsterdam, I met another backpacker in my hostel who I immediately hit it off with. After spending a long weekend together, we decided that it was worth exploring where the relationship could go and I booked a flight to visit him in Vancouver, Canada. It was an amazing trip, and we spent the next 6 months traveling together and trying to make it work. While we’re not together anymore, I have fond memories of the time we spent together and am comforted by the fact that we gave it a genuine shot. Sometimes it’s worth the price tag to allow yourself these spontaneous and passionate experiences, as you never know what can happen.

french macaroons

French Macaroons. Photo courtesy of SheriW.

If It’s Something You May Never Get To Experience Again

Have you ever been traveling and said something like “When will I ever get to take a pastry class in France again” or “This may be the only time in my life I get to bamboo raft down the Li River.” Granted, these kinds of statements can apply to many situations, but if you’re referring to something you’re genuinely interested in doing then go for it. One rule of thumb I live by is if it’ll be an experience I look back on fondly and will enhance my trip experience, it’s worth breaking my budget for.

To Gain A New Perspective

One of the best things about traveling is it allows you to visit a unique culture or city and experience life from a different point of view. However, if you spend your entire trip pinching pennies and worrying about transportation and entrance fees you’re going to miss out. Splurging on things like a boat ride to a cultural village in Fiji, a tro-tro to the slave castles in Cape Coast, Ghana, entrance to a monastary in Thailand, or a ticket to a Dong Minority Cultural Show in China (pictured) allows you to have a unique cultural experience.

To Experience A Local Specialty

There are certain experiences that you may be able to have all over the world, but are extra special when done in certain places. Some of these may include taking a karate class in Okinawa, doing yoga in India, trying Tai Chi in China, seeing a live music show in Austin or partaking in a Japanese Tea Ceremony in Tokyo. If an experience is truly part of the local culture you can’t afford not to break your travel budget.

mardi gras

Mardi Gras. Photo courtesy of DoctorWho.

For A Ticket To An Unusual Or Unique Festival

Festivals allow for unique opportunities to experience events that do not happen on a regular basis. While the Winter Music Conference in Miami, Florida, allows you experience the world’s top techno DJ’s and non-stop parties, Burning Man is a radical celebration of extreme art and expression. The Carnival and Mardi Gras festivals around the world give people the chance to celebrate by dancing in the streets and dressing up in outrageous costumes, while the annual Stampede in Calgary, Canada, gives a rowdy glimpse into western heritage and rodeo culture. If you’re in a city during a time when a festival is happening I would recommend forgoing a tight budget and allowing yourself the rare opportunity you’ve been given. Another option is to base your travels around festivals and visit cities during times when you know you can attend one.

When You’re Feeling Travel Fatigue

Travel fatigue is never fun. If not remedied quickly travel fatigue has the potential to ruin a trip. This is why it’s important to take the necessary steps to get yourself rested, rejuvenated and ready to travel again. This may mean forgoing the backpacking for a bit and splurging on an upscale hotel room, a spa treatment or western comfort meal until your energy levels are back up and your curiosity has returned.

To Try Something Adventurous

Everyone should experience what it’s like to have a heart-pounding, shriek-inducing adventure, or something that allows you to prove to yourself that you’re capable of more than you thought. Whether it’s mountain climbing, trekking, scuba diving, or sky diving, think of something you’ve always wanted to try but have been too scared try and do it. I’ve been terrified of heights my entire life and still am, however, that has not stopped me from Bungee Jumping in the Swiss Alps, skydiving in New Zealand, cliff diving in Italy, or doing a Go Ape! high-wire obstacle course in Scotland. By trying these things, I’ve actually learned that fear will never stop me from trying new things, and I find being terrified oddly invigorating.

This post was adapted from my original article on Gadling

12 Comments

  1. You should ALWAAAAAAAAAYSSSSSSSSSS break for a bucket list item. Instead of thinking “I am spending an extra $200” look at it as “I am saving the cost of a flight to have to come back later on in life to cross it off my bucket list”.

  2. Couldn’t agree more. I consider myself a budget traveler half the time. I try to be as frugal as possible on things that won’t impact the enjoyment of the trip so I can spend more freely on things that will create memories. It can be as simple as staying in a budget-friendly hotel so I can splurge more on a meal.

  3. @Lance- It’s so true. It’s the experiences that create the memories you’ll remember forever 🙂 Corny but true!

  4. I do my best to save money too but as you say – splurge when it makes the trip better.

    I travel lots, mostly for professional soccer games over here in Europe and have an international (AIPS) press pass. This little card has saved me tons of money where journalists are allowed in for free (Champagne cellars in France, port cellars in Porto, the Prada in Madrid, etc.). What I save there is used for some of the things that you’ve mentioned.

    Good article!

  5. @Mike- That AIPS press pass is a great tip. I’d never heard of it before. Do you have to live in Europe to get it or can you be visiting Europe from another country?

  6. Reading this makes me really regret not spending on trips around the Caribbean…I think about it all the time, like, when might I be 30 miles south of one of the least visited places in the world again! I kept being told I could come back…but who knows. It was a lesson learned and your points reinforce how important it is not skimp on experience!

    Considering how much I want to do it, I may just have to splurge on visiting from farther away! Thanks for sharing, Jessie.

    Yours in Travel,

  7. @Alyssa- Anytime 🙂 I definitely think there’s a balance between budgeting and splurging. Of course you can travel on a budget and have a great trip, but you always don’t want to deprive yourself of any special experiences!

  8. My problem is that all the local foods are all on my bucket list… aw man. I’m always breaking my budget because my stomach told me to do it! (But… totally worth it. 🙂 )

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