Psychology Behind Spending Habits on Vacation & How to Break the Bad Ones

2023 has seen people take to traveling more often as a reaction to being cooped up for the past few years. People want to spend more on and during vacation, even as travel prices increase significantly.

In fact, surveys show that Americant travelers are planning to take at least three leisure trips within the year despite international travel costs hitting record highs (with tickets about 60 percent higher than they were in 2019.)

You may wonder about the psychology that goes into why people spend on what they do during their travels, especially with the phenomenon of “revenge travel” on the rise. It will also be good to know how to break off certain bad habits, so you don’t end up regretting a few expenses after your own trip.

Common Travel Spending Habits

When you travel, some non-negotiables include airfare, accommodations, and food. You’ll also want to factor in local transport and any costs that arise from tours, attractions, and any entrance fees.

Statistics also show that families will usually spend around 44 percent of their vacation funds on transportation. With that in mind, lots of people use tricks to get cheaper flights and lodging so that they can allocate more of their budget to the experiences they can have while traveling.

Depending on the nature of their trip, a lot of travelers also set aside a budget for shopping and entertainment.

Recent stories from families vacationing in different places show surprising costs and varied ranges depending on the itinerary and means of travel. For instance, a two-week driving trip to France for a family of three costs about $3,000 with tolls being the constant clincher in the price.

Meanwhile, a week in Hawaii for a family of four costs around $10,000 with activities like whaling involved.

Why We Spend On Vacation

When you consider the psychology behind spending money and breaking bad habits, it’s important to really dive into why you might be spending the way you are on vacation.

After the pandemic, reports reveal that people started spending about 18% more in general than they did two years before. Add the fact that inflation has made everything pricier, and you can see why your travel budget may balloon.

It’s not just about the “revenge travel” phenomenon seeing a surge of people making up for lost time, though. Data shows that a lot of people end up traveling because of message targeting from social media, having a fear of missing out, and reactively spending to emotional triggers.

People often book vacations as a getaway and response to stress. While this is perfectly understandable, things start getting more complicated when more emotional triggers cause overspending when you’re actually on your trip.

The fact that it’s easier than ever to access your bank account on the move also doesn’t help when you have a tendency to spend as a form of therapy. A survey of adult consumers even shows that around 40% of adults cite spending on travel as an emotional purchase that made them happiest.

How to Break Bad Spending Habits

This doesn’t mean that spending on travel and during vacation at all is bad. It’s just about breaking bad spending habits so that you can fully enjoy your trip without hurting your finances. There are a few things you can do to curb some of these habits:

1. Recognize Your Triggers

If you know that you have a tendency to spend emotionally, be it from stress or even happy emotions, then make sure you can recognize what your triggers are. This can help you avoid them as much as possible. Even when you do get triggered, simply being aware of it will help you be mindful and avoid going for the usual response of spending a lot.

It’s also a good idea to remember that you don’t have to spend just because you can. With tons of ways to make money traveling, you need to avoid using these resources as a way to justify spending on things you’ll only regret later on.

2. Avoid Spending for ‘Image’

If you want to spend on something, make sure you are really doing it because it’s something you want. Whether it’s a gift or purchase for yourself, make sure you aren’t shelling out money just so you can flex on the ‘gram. The incessant need to curate a social media image is not only a ticking timebomb for overspending but also has a huge impact on your overall mental well-being.

3. Create a Budget You Can Stick To

When you have something concrete to follow, there’s less of a tendency to spend randomly. One of the most important things about creating a budget is making something you can actually stick to. If you don’t allocate enough funds for wants, you may end up casting the whole budget aside anyway.

Make sure you take time ahead of your trip to figure out your maximum budget and allocate accordingly for transport, meals, lodging, activities, and miscellaneous expenses.

4. Find Other Avenues for Gratification

People tend to go for the dopamine hit of instant gratification even if that means impulse buying and ruining their set budget.

Some of the most common travel purchases that travelers regret include novelty souvenirs that eventually just collect dust.

It can be hard to simply cut out all instant gratification from your desires, so it can help to find other avenues of getting this joy and satisfaction.

Meeting new people, discovering something unfamiliar, or simply taking a moment to practice mindfulness can help you feel gratification without having to spend on a whim.