The True Cost of Taking a Break
Thursday, December 23rd, 2021
woman riding kayak at the middle of the sea

Every one of us looks forward to taking a break from our routines sooner or later. Whether it’s a trip to visit loved ones over a holiday, a weekend trip to the mountains to ski, or a kid-cation to one of the best family-friendly destinations in the country, it’s good to get away and spend quality time with those we care about.

But when we start to add up the costs of taking off, there are a lot of little costs that might be forgotten. Here’s a guide to get you thinking as you plan this year’s excursions.

Lost Work Hours

Time away from your job may and may not “cost” you. For example, if you are self-employed, have a part-time gig, or work a contract position, taking time away could mean the loss of real dollars from not producing while you are gone.

If you have an employer-provided benefit that includes vacation days, then that cost is already factored into the equation. But be careful if your employer benefit has evolved to PTO (paid time off) benefits as you may use up valuable days off as vacation. Thus, leaving you with insufficient time in case you have an illness or other reason to be away from work.

If you’re married, be sure to speak with your spouse about this matter. Planning for a vacation should factor in both of your work responsibilities.

Travel Expenses

An important consideration for any trip is the cost of travel. These costs can vary drastically depending on your mode of transportation and the time you intend to travel. For example, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the nationwide average cost of domestic airfare in Q2 of 2021 was $299.93. In comparison, the average in Q1 of the same year was $260.31. But airline tickets are not the only travel cost to account for. Travel expenses include a variety of items, such as auto wear and tear, gas, car rental fees, hotel stays, food, and other accommodations en route.

Packages are available, and wise shopping for these costs pays off. Buying ahead of time when costs are lower is key in many cases. If you have rewards you can use, every dollar saved is invaluable in the end. Chances are you have some saved, too, since a recent travel study from NerdWallet estimates that travel reward card holders are sitting on an average of 64,800 points/miles.

Entertainment and Special Events

If you are going to a destination where there will be tickets for attendance at events or venues you wish to take advantage of, be sure to take advantage of specials. There may be group prices that you can use with your family, for example. Some venues even have discounted tickets depending on the seating or package. But make sure that you factor in the price of any merchandise, snacks, or beverages you may buy once at the venue. Many locations now require attendants to buy these things on-site, so don’t trust that you can just bring your own.

Add those costs in and be honest with yourself about all the possibilities. When planning for trips to kid-friendly destinations, encourage children to save their pocket change or allowances ahead of time for any items they might want inside the theme park – or simply establish a dollar amount for each child and stand by it when the day comes.

Vacation Wardrobe

Let’s be candid here – most people want a few new duds (items of clothing, that is) when it’s time to hit the road. On its own, clothes are a big expense no matter what the reason to buy them. But somehow, going away can bring out the worst shoppers in the best of us. From new beachwear to cruise wear to ski wear to the accessories that go with most trips, the retailers are more than prepared to give us tons of options. 

It’s tempting to sport your own fashion show, but you’re better off digging into your wardrobe. See if you can make anything you already own work again this year. Or, if the situation really calls for it, try to shop smart.

Put a limit on your spending before a holiday for you and anyone in your household. And prioritize buying when there are sales available. Don’t bank on buying a whole new style for you and the kids on your credit card, either, since that leaves you vulnerable to overspending. Only buy new items as they are needed and save those bucks for more fun while you are gone.

Additional Living Expenses

You think, “We’re just going to see family. What expenses could we possibly have to pay?” But if you believe nothing will come out of your own pocket, think again. 

Experience tells us that there will still be some eating out, visiting venues with various charges, and who doesn’t try to help out with food costs when we stay with family? After all, it’s expensive to entertain guests, and when the utility and grocery bills pile up, it only makes sense to pitch in for your gracious hosts.

Pet Sitting

Don’t forget those fur babies most people leave behind when it comes time to travel out of town. Unless you have a sitter, friend, or family member who agrees to take your fur child, it’s likely that there will be a cost for a sitter or kennel fees.

You may pay more or less for your sitter, depending on various factors. For example, do you plan to have your sitter stay at your home? Then, rates typically jump, if not double, since the sitter now has two jobs – to watch your pet and your home. According to, pet sitting rates in the top twenty cities ranges from $11.50 an hour to $16.25.

So, look at local prices and consider anything that might cause the rate to increase. That includes factors like extra duties, watching multiple or different types of animals, staying overnight, or requiring the sitter to have a certain level of experience. 

The Bottom Line

And the list goes on and grows the more consideration it’s given! Of course, with any financial decision, you want to make sure you create a budget and stick with it. That way, you can enjoy your break guilt-free, knowing you never spent money you didn’t have.

But one thing is certain: taking your loved ones out to enjoy each other’s company and the world every now and then is worthwhile. The irreplaceable memories you make together have more value than any money spent. Because not only do you get to bond and share the experiences, but you receive a boost to your health. Mentally, physically, and spiritually – you can reset and enjoy forgetting everything “normal” for a few days.