10 Things Travelers Should Stop Spending Money on While on Vacation

what not to buy on trips save money

As a traveler and digital nomad, I know the importance of budgeting — especially while I’m away on vacation.

While there are definitely some things you should spend your money on to make sure your trip is enjoyable (hello, comfortable shoes!), there are also plenty of things that you don’t need nor do they add much value to your experience during any given getaway.

My goal here is to help travelers save their money by avoiding one simple mistake:  spending money on things they don’t actually need! 

So let’s dive in and discuss why travelers should stop spending their hard-earned cash on all the wrong stuff when it comes to vacationing.

1. Souvenirs

Souvenirs shop turkey

On my last vacation, I went a little wild buying souvenirs. I came home with all sorts of trinkets and items that I had no place to store, so it was a lot of money wasted on junk items.

As much fun as it is to bring home something when you travel, the truth is that spending your hard-earned money on more “stuff” just doesn’t make sense.

Instead of putting individual souvenirs in your suitcase, why not take pictures and post them online, where everyone can see.

This way, you’ll have something special to remember about the trip, plus you won’t break your budget.

2. Rental cars

Car rental service

Well, it’s time to get real. Renting a car on vacation can put a massive dent in your wallet and put a lot of unnecessary stress on your shoulders.

Not only that, but you’re losing out on experiencing everything the destination has to offer while also adding way too much parking frustration into the mix.

And don’t even get me started on the feeling of being tied down trying to find your way around an unfamiliar city – that isn’t what you want when taking a break from reality!

I’m telling you that forgoing rental cars is the easiest and most budget-friendly option out there.

Take advantage of public transportation, ride-hailing services or even walking if available – all are usually cheaper and more convenient.

And if you really need to rent a car, only to do it in countries or locations where absolutely necessary.

3. Expensive meals and wines

Rocks Glass Whisky

Whenever I go on a trip, my first impulse is to head to that high-end restaurant or try the most expensive bottle of wine I can find.

It’s like an adventure in flavor—exotic and exciting.

But what I’ve come to realize is that there are some gastronomic experiences you can only have if you dig into the culture and really find the hidden gems.

Sure, the food at Michelin-starred restaurants can be amazing, but why not take the time to explore a unique eatery with authentic flavors?

You’re never too busy for a real adventure when it comes to trying something different.

An added bonus: If you stay away from tourist traps and prix fixe menus, it gives you a much more intimate look at local culture and its traditional foods.

So this vacation season, avoid splurging on pricey meals; seek out those small local spots and your taste buds will thank you for taking them on an unforgettable journey.

4. Luxury fashion shopping

Luxury brands shopping

When you’re on vacation, all the wonderful attractions and experiences can have you feeling like a kid in a candy store. But don’t allow that same enthusiasm to influence your wardrobe purchases while abroad.

Sure, it might seem like a great idea to splurge on luxury designer-branded clothes and bags – after all, you are on an adventure.

But spending money on those items takes away from all the other amazing things you could be doing with your vacation budget.

Instead of splashing out on designer labels your friends won’t recognize when you get back home, I would suggest investing in clothing pieces from independent boutiques or local markets – it’ll save you money and still offer up unique items that reflect your individual style and travel experiences.

5. High priced “must see” attractions

Golden Bridge Vietnam

Let’s face it: high-priced attractions can really cut into your vacation budget. What many don’t realize is that there are often some great activities around that cost nothing at all – provided you go off the beaten tourist path.

Sure, it can be tempting to get those picturesque shots everyone else posts on their social media feeds, but why spend more money than necessary when there are often plenty of free sites and activities available for exploration?

Next time you plan a trip and are torn between a touristy roadside attraction or exploring somewhere without the fuss: go check out that unexplored local park, explore a lesser known part of town, or just relax by the pool and enjoy some quality time with your travel buds.

Let me tell ya, a guided walking tour of a local neighbourhood can tell you just as much about the culture and history of a city as any expensive museum or show.

Stop spending money on these overpriced attractions on vacation, you’ll be surprised how much breathtaking beauty you can find even in rural areas if you take the time to look – all while saving yourself some cash.

6. Too many taxis

Taxi traveling

I can personally testify from countless vacations spent in cities around the world that taking too many taxis while on vacation is a terrible money waster!

While I understand the convenience that a taxi brings, when it comes down to it, walking or biking around your destination can be especially memorable and are proven methods for cost savings.

Not only is walking and biking great exercise, it allows you to check out hidden gems while immersing yourself in the local culture.

One of my favorite things to do while sightseeing is talk with locals passing by or even ask them where I should explore next – something you’ll never get if you’re stuck in a taxi.

So, my advice to all of you adventure seekers out there is this: save your money for more exciting experiences and leave the taxi cabs behind.

7. Expensive accommodations

Singapore Cityscape Shot with DJI Mavic Air Drone
Singapore night cityscape shot with the DJI Mavic Air

One of the smartest ways to save money for those looking for a vacation on a budget is to avoid overspending on accommodations.

It’s understandable if you’re tempted by the swanky options—like that five-star beachside resort or Marina Bay Sands Hotel with the world’s largest rooftop infinity pool overlooking the city—but trust me, there are plenty of alternatives.

Consider Airbnb or hostels to get all the comforts without spending too much cash. You won’t break your bank account, and you might even get a more authentic travel experience in the process.

8. Outlet mall shopping sprees

Mall shopping Japan

When it comes to outlet mall shopping while on vacation, I suggest that you do a little research beforehand rather than blindly believing the signs advertising sale prices. Make sure you’re actually getting what you think is an amazing deal because if an item is discounted at an outlet, then it could be cheaper still at other stores nearby.

Also consider what you will buy versus why. If you purchase something just because it’s cheap or available then it might cost you in the long run – with space in your luggage and money in the bank.

In the end, you’ll usually save by not shopping at an outlet mall and spend your money more wisely in other ways that would have more meaning on your vacation.

9. Excessive tips

restaurant waiter

As an experienced traveler, I know all too well how easy it is to get swept up in the excitement of a new location and start spending money left and right. But when it comes to tipping on vacation, it’s important to be conscious of your spending habits.

Despite best intentions, leaving generous tips for every service rendered can quickly add up and set you back on your budget. An extra dollar or two from time to time may not seem like much but they can add up quickly if they’re left without paying attention.

As such, consider only leaving tips that are proportional to the level of service you have received. Don’t let yourself fall into the trap of feeling obliged to give more than necessary just because you’re on vacation.

10. Unnecessary travel insurance policies

vacation adventure luggage

Every time I go on vacation, I’m bombarded with ads for travel insurance.

It seems simple enough at first glance — why wouldn’t you want some extra protection while on your trip? The honest truth is that many of these policies are just unnecessary expenses.

Before buying additional coverage, take the time to really look over your existing health and home/renters insurance policies. Chances are you’ll find that you already have plenty of protection in place — so why waste money doubling up?

Bottom Line

maldives water pool beach

Vacations are a great opportunity to create fantastic memories and see places you’ve never seen before.

That said, it doesn’t make sense to waste money on trinkets, clothing you don’t need, and expensive means of transportation that do nothing to enhance the experience.

Instead of filling our suitcases with meaningless knick-knacks and activity expenses we can’t recoup, invest in experiences that are most important to you and make sure to capture those moments with good photos.

That way when your time away comes to an end and you look back at what makes your vacation special, you’ll have something tangible like photos as well as stories to share with friends and family.

Now that’s how a smart traveler ensures a memorable getaway!

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