The average cost of a vacation: Transportation, food, entertainment and more

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Americans are ready for a vacation. According to a survey from AAA Travel, 55 percent of adults in the U.S. are planning a getaway of at least one night before the end of 2022.

It’s smart to plan, save money and budget for a vacation, especially since some places still have COVID-19 restrictions and the cost of fuel, food and most everything else is on the rise.

Vacation costs vary tremendously depending on the destination, accommodations, activities and other factors. The average cost of a one-week vacation in the U.S. for one person is $1,558. Here are some average costs to help you budget for your vacation.

Key vacation cost statistics

  • The average cost of a one-week vacation in the U.S. for one person is $1,558.
  • The average cost for a one-week vacation in the U.S. for two people is $3,116.
  • The average nightly cost of a double-occupancy hotel room in the U.S. is $204.
  • The average cost of food per person per day in the U.S. is $45.

Average cost of a vacation

Transportation, accommodations and food and entertainment are the main expenses of a vacation budget. Let’s look at each of these categories more closely.

Transportation costs

Getting to and from your vacation destination can account for the single largest chunk of your vacation budget, so start with transportation costs when planning your trip. Besides airfare, if you’re flying, consider other transportation costs. Do you plan to rent a car? If so, you have to figure how much you expect to spend on gas, tolls and parking fees.

If you plan to take public trains and buses or use rideshare services such as Uber and Lyft, tally those costs into your total transportation budget. If you’re leaving a car at the airport, don’t forget to add that in, too.

Average cost of transportation
Domestic round-trip flight $275
International round-trip flight $735
Rental car $99 a day
Gas $58 a day
Airport parking $3.39 a gallon
Intracity mass transit $39 a day
Rideshare services $25.50 a trip

Airline ticket prices plummeted 19 percent in 2020 due to COVID-19, but prices are rising due to increased demand and higher fuel prices. The majority of Americans plan to take their first post-pandemic trip to visit family and friends.

Hotel and other accommodation costs

Hotel prices vary dramatically depending on the location and demand. An oceanfront hotel room in South Florida, for example, will cost more in the winter months than in summer, when deals can be found. If your budget isn’t generous and you’re OK with fewer comforts, hostels or a recreational vehicle park can save you money.

Average cost of accommodations, nightly
Single-occupancy hotel room $133.11
Double-occupancy hotel room $204
Airbnb $161
Hostels $20-$35 for dorm bed;
$40-$60 for double room
RV $30-$60 for basic to average RV park

Food and entertainment costs 

Food and entertainment expenses can lighten your wallet if you don’t draft a thorough vacation budget. They tend to be among the last costs travelers consider when planning a trip.

Average cost of food and entertainment
Restaurants $60 a day, per adult
Sports events $140.50-$195.50 for one adult to attend an NFL game
Museums $6 a person
Concert tickets $96 a person
National parks $30 a vehicle

Average cost of a vacation by number of people

Budgeting for a family vacation can be trickier than budgeting for a solo trip, especially if young children are coming along. You probably won’t be eating at posh restaurants and strolling museums with kids in tow, but you likely will have to budget for a bigger hotel room and reservations for activities they’ll enjoy. Don’t forget to look for group rates and discounts, if eligible.

Average cost of a vacation by generation

AAA’s latest Travel Trends report shows that baby boomers spend the most on vacations, probably because 53 percent of them are retired. Millennials spend the least, but are more likely than other generations to use technology to book plans ahead of time.

Average cost of vacations by generation
Baby boomers $7,800
Gen X-ers $6,191
Millennials $4,464

In addition, millennials are most likely to go in debt for travel, according to a VRBO survey, with baby boomers least likely to go in debt for vacations.

Vacations vs. staycations

A “staycation” is a vacation without travel. You stay home, but take day trips. No packing, no checking in and out of hotels, no renting cars, no air travel. A staycation can be less stressful, and certainly less expensive, than a traveling vacation. Aside from the money you save, a staycation has other advantages. Here are some of the pluses of taking a staycation versus a vacation:

  • It’s a better fit for young children who are not ready to travel.
  • If you’ve just moved to a new city, a staycation gives you a chance to explore.
  • You may be skittish about traveling during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • You can enjoy the comfort of your own bed and surroundings while still taking time off work.
  • It allows you to do projects around the house, at your leisure.
  • It’s perfect for dating couples who aren’t ready to take overnight trips together.
  • You can give your local economy a boost by visiting attractions and restaurants.

Vacation budgeting tips

Planning a vacation on a budget requires forethought and creativity, but the time and effort invested could not only save you money but also make your vacation go smoother.

  • Determine how much you can spend on the vacation and draft a budget.
  • Avoid taking vacations during peak seasons (e.g., don’t take a ski trip to Colorado in January or February).
  • Search for inexpensive flights and book in advance.
  • If traveling abroad, find places that offer the best currency exchange rates.
  • Consider using a prepaid debit card to control daily spending or a good travel rewards credit card to earn cash back on certain purchases.
  • Plan meals. Opt to dine in sometimes instead of going to restaurants for every meal.
  • Find affordable accommodations and book in advance. You might be able to save with an Airbnb rather than staying at a hotel.
  • Make a list of what to pack so you don’t end up having to buy stuff you need but forgot.
  • Keep destinations to a minimum. You can spend a lot of money visiting multiple events and attractions.
Written by
Libby Wells
Contributing writer
Libby Wells covers banking and deposit products. She has more than 30 years’ experience as a writer and editor for newspapers, magazines and online publications.
Edited by
Wealth editor