5 Times Not to Save Money While Traveling

It may be prudent (and commendable!) to check for the best deals on hotels, flights, and entertainment when planning a vacation, but there are some things you should not feel guilty about splurging on when traveling. The following splurge-worthy purchases can make your next vacation more comfortable, more meaningful, or even simply more fun.

1. Time is Money

Source: Living in Another Language

Sure, my first instinct on travel sites is to book the cheapest flight possible, but while booking a trip to Asia a few years ago, I learned there is another number just as important as the price when looking at flight options: the duration. While searching for flights from San Francisco to Bangkok, it only cost me $100 extra to have a four-hour layover in Taiwan, as opposed to a much longer layover or even—in some cases—two connections.

If paying a marginal amount more means you get to spend a few extra hours in your destination of choice, sipping a martini poolside (as opposed to sitting against the wall at a crowded airport gate, hoping passersby do not kick your coffee over), the more expensive flight might be worth it. This theory also applies when avoiding connections in airports with notoriously bad flight statistics or airports where you have had a bad experience (or two).

2. Paying for the Experience

Source: To Europe and Beyond

One of my earliest international travel memories is sitting in Paris, incredulously watching my mom order an €8 Coca Cola. She noticed my disdain and taught me a very valuable lesson: “I am not paying eight euro for this soda,” she told me. “I am paying eight euro for the opportunity to drink this soda in the sunshine with a lovely view of the Louvre. I am paying for the experience.” So spring for that pitcher of sangria at the Hotel Alfonso XIII in Seville, Spain! You might not be able to afford a room, but why not enjoy a refreshing drink with impeccable service? Spend $12 on that hot dog at a soccer match that would only cost $3 outside the stadium. Fork over a few extra bucks per plate to dine at an establishment with an ocean view. Like many splurges, paying for the experience is healthy in moderation.

3. The Value of Education

Source: Matteo Acitelli

Sometimes, splurging for a guided tour can help you save time and get more out of your experience, often with the added bonus of a local’s perspective on places and events in the destination’s history. I am a huge advocate of the free walking tours offered in many major European cities; they are a great opportunity to see the city and decide what you want to see more of later and what you would be OK skipping. (Just be sure to tip your guide!)

However, there are a few times I have splurged on a paid guided tour, including my visit to Vatican City. I am a bit of a history junkie, and I tend to get caught up in museums because I feel I have to read every plaque and appreciate each item in the collection. Paying for a tour in Vatican City meant not only did we get to skip the huge line outside the museum doors, but also the guide directed my attention to the most notable objects and kept me moving at a reasonable pace (to the great gratitude of my travel companions).

4. The Window of Opportunity is Closing

Source: Five Five Fabulous

These splurges are also known as “once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.” Maybe the splurge is worth it because you do not anticipate ever returning to that city or country again and you want to make the most of it. Maybe there is actually an expiration date on the museum exhibit or the attraction is closing at the end of the year. Maybe the region is experiencing environmental issues that suggest tourists will not be able to enjoy its offerings by the end of your lifetime. Take advantage now! You are already in Madrid—shell out the 40 euro for a flamenco show at a bar with overpriced dinner entrees. Book that flight to the Maldives before the coastlines disappear. Bottom line: Do not let these exciting travel opportunities pass you by.

5. Supporting Ethical Tourism

Source: Charlotte Messervy

We all have different comfort levels when it comes to ethical tourism and these examples are meant to be illustrative, not judgmental. Maybe you are visiting a genocide widows’ group outside Kigali, Rwanda and they are selling their canvas artwork for three times the price you saw in the market, but you want to support their community. Splurge! Or, maybe you are jazzed to ride an elephant while exploring Southeast Asia, but the appearance of the elephants offering rides to tourists around the ancient temples makes you uncomfortable. In that case, you might prefer to spend a few hundred dollars for the opportunity to bathe a rescued elephant in Chiang Mai, Thailand, rather than to spend a fraction of that for a ride through Angkor Thom. Splurge! Know your comfort levels and respect them. A lighter wallet is worth a lighter heart at the end of the trip.

Tell us, what is one travel experience or purchase you splurged on recently? Why was this important to you?