Travel Budget vs. Vacation Budget

Much of the “traveler” vs. “tourist” division people have in their head really comes down to time and money. Do you have more time than money? You probably consider yourself a traveler and look down at those crazy tourists who blow so much money overspending on everything. If you don’t consider yourself a tourist but your budget is huge and you’re in a hurry, you’re going to be viewed as one, fair or not. But you may look at those shoestring backpackers as having no fun at all.

I’m not here to judge as I’ve been in both camps quite a lot. At times I’ve had all the time in the world. But last Saturday I drove to Orlando just for the day to take my birthday girl daughter and two of her friends to a water park. Like everyone else there, I was a tourist. No way around it. If there were any question about it, look what we paid to rent a locker—and we needed two of the big ones.

travel budget

Since my wife, daughter, and I took advantage of cheap Southeast Asia this summer (see travel prices in Cambodia), we know a thing or two about what it costs a traveler with the time and means to get out of the USA or Europe. For that $20 we spent on two jammed-full lockers for five people, we could have eaten two good meals, taken 10 taxi rides, or gotten four one-hour massages. For what those lockers cost, one person can enter one of the great wonders of the world: Angkor Wat.

For what a beer costs at this park ($6.35 for a 16-ounce Yuengling—I passed), I could have gotten legless in Siem Reap with 12 drafts and a tip or six bottles. For what I spent on parking alone, you could get an air-conditioned hotel room with a private bath in Vietnam. See the post linked at the bottom for details, but when we went to a smaller water park in Mexico, parking was free and a locker was a dollar.

If you’ve been around the world, you’re used to traveler prices. If you only go on vacation for a week or two once a year, you’re used to tourist prices. That’s why most of your relatives think travel has to be expensive. It can be—especially if you’re headed to one of the 10 most popular foreign destinations for Americans—but not if you’re taking your time exploring The World’s Cheapest Destinations.

It’s not that one camp is smart and one is stupid though. They’re two different worlds that sometimes intersect in the town square. Many in one camp could never dream of being in the other, but both can be just as happy because the don’t even want to be on the other side. In some places they’re all getting a bargain, like in Southeast Asia.

Despite the hit to my wallet, I had a blast at that water park.

But…here’s what a simpler one costs in Merida, Mexico.


  1. Meredith

    My parents have been to three Caribbean Islands, Europe, New York, and San Francisco. So this is their vacation budget view. I don’t think they even believe me when I tell them I traveled for $30 a day in Southeast Asia.

  2. Johnson

    I consider myself a traveler. I have more time but less in budget. I think I could avail some travel packages to save money.

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