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My vacation cost (lots) more than I thought

Why the dirty details matter when you're figuring out how much your trip will really cost. Here are some you can anticipate.

By MSN Money Partner Oct 28, 2011 9:38AM

This post comes from Len Penzo at partner blog Len Penzo dot Com.


Sometimes things aren't always what they seem. Especially upon first glance.


This past summer I was examining my Marriott rewards account when I noticed that I had finally -- finally! -- accrued enough points to score a six-night stay on Maui at their  beautiful Wailea Beach property.


Within seconds my head was filled with visions of the Honeybee and me enjoying a few days of romantic bliss -- sans kids, of course -- on a beautiful island paradise.

Needless to say, I was absolutely determined to see this unplanned trip happen.


No matter what.


Well, that is, as long as all of the adventitious outlays weren't going to exceed the roughly $5,000 we had sitting in our "mad money" account.

So, with that ground rule in mind, I dutifully surveyed several of the top travel websites to get airfare and rental car prices, and then quickly made the following back-of-the-envelope estimate:

  • Airfare ($1,250).
  • Lodging (free!).
  • Food/drinks ($1,250).
  • Rental car ($200).

As you can see, my rough calculation suggested our Maui trip would be somewhere in the neighborhood of $2,700, which was well within our budget. And so, with that gross estimate in hand, I told the Honeybee to pack her bags -- and mine too. Post continues after video.

Reality, what a (more expensive) concept

But like most things in life, the devil is in the details. It turns out that a good chunk of our total Maui vacation expenses was locked in the dirty details too. In fact, soon after we committed to travel, it became apparent that my initial vacation cost estimate wasn't worth a hill of Kona coffee beans.


I had no idea just how badly that original back-of-the-envelope guess of $2,700 was, though, until I finally got home last weekend and totaled up the damage.


Here is the final tally of every expense related to our trip.


Those pesky "other" costs

Now, don't get me wrong; I'm not complaining about the bottom line. The resort accommodations were spectacular, and the Honeybee and I had a great time, so the $4,365 price tag was well worth it.


Still, tracking vacation expenses to the last penny revealed some interesting unexpected outlays that significantly drove up actual costs well beyond my original estimate.


With that in mind, here are four prime examples you should remember to account for when budgeting for your next vacation:

  • Other hotel costs. Although I should have, I never considered that I would want to take advantage of the hotel's optional resort and Internet fees, which came to more than $280 in additional charges. I also didn’t plan on spending $680 for the week to upgrade into one of the best oceanfront rooms in the entire resort (room 6208, in case you're interested). But in the end I decided I would be crazy not to -- especially considering that same room would run me about $3,000 under normal circumstances.
  • Other airfare costs. Costs related to airfare didn't stop with the $1,241 we spent on tickets. For example, United charged us an additional $85 each way for our three bags. The private sedan that took us to and from Los Angeles International Airport cost us another $182. And on the way to Maui, the Honeybee spent $15.59 on the plane for a cold sandwich and, um, an adult beverage.
  • Tips. Maybe I was guilty of a little tip inflation on this trip; I spent $251.82 on tips to the bell hops, drivers, maid, waiters and pool servers. Not only is that a fairly significant amount of cash, it's also $251.82 that I didn't include in my initial estimate.
  • Souvenirs. Some people can travel halfway around the world without getting so much as a two-bit refrigerator magnet. For this trip we spent $351.58 on vacation mementos -- which represents roughly 6% of our entire vacation cost. I know.

More on Len Penzo dot Com and MSN Money:


I have a couple of problems with this article and his expenses:

1. If he and Honeybee had taken one carry-on bag each they could have saved the $170 airline fee.

2. The Wailea Beach Marriott probably would have upgraded you to a partial ocean view room free because they simply don't have that many garden rooms. You fell victim to an unecessary upgrade expense of $680.52.

3. The Wailea Beach Marriott resort fee includes self parking and wired internet service in their guest rooms. Wi-Fi is complimentary in the public areas of the hotel. No need to spend  $93.14 on the internet or valet gratuities of say, $100 if you just self park for free.

4. Why pay $182 for round trip transfers from the airport to the Wailea beach Marriott? Why not make arrangements to pick up and return your rental car from the Kahului airport and save the $182?

5. I would have taken the $389 you spent on pool drinks and purchased a $5 styrofoam cooler and filled it with gourmet sandwiches from the sunfry store at the Fairmont Kea Lani, Kona Lager beer, bottled Hawaiian water and some really good bottles of wine. The ice cold beers taste much better when you and Honeybee are on a secluded beach rather than a crowded resort swimming pool!

6. I would have used my iPhone app, Yelp to find some hidden little jewels where the locals eat outside of the resort area of Wailea and saved 50% off your $460 dinner tabs.


That's just me... But if you vacation the way I do, I could have saved you over $1,800 bringing your actual vacation expense down to a more reasonable $2,520.73!


Oct 29, 2011 1:52AM
Or just stay in an Oceanfront Condo for a whole lot less, and save by not eating out on every meal.  Free parking, free Wi-Fi, no facility fees, and nobody you have to tip.  Sure, it may not be exactly comparable with where you stayed, but a week in Maui even without a "free" room can be enjoyed for considerably less that $4365. 

Next time, check out my place:
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