Vacation is Expensive!!! Is it worth it?

As I return from a couple weeks of vacation in Italy, it is time to reflect on whether vacation is worth it or not.

Vacation tends to be very expensive, and what do you get for it? A huge hole in your pocket!

In the US, we typically start out with 2 weeks of vacation from work in which we try to cram as much awesomeness in as possible while not going broke. Some people are more successful at this than others. As we work more and more for the man, we begin to amass more vacation time and they are able to take longer or more vacations each year.

Similar to the “keeping up with the Jones’s” materialist culture, we compare our vacations with each other and try to have the most enviable vacation as possible.

Keeping up with the Joneses is not the point of vacation we need the time to relax and recharge our mind.

What is the purpose of vacation?

Attention span is said to be your age in minutes. So for me, my attention span is 28 minutes. How then, are we supposed to be able to work for 8+ hours per day, 5 days per week, 52 weeks per year, for 40+ years?

With an attention span of 28 minutes, I get bored or distracted with work pretty quickly. I also get tired of the monotony of work. I don’t think this is an altogether unusual experience with the euphemisms of “the rat race” and “the daily grind” out there. These euphemisms came around because for many of us we need to escape the race, to free ourselves from the slavery.

The best way to escape the race, even for a short time is to take a vacation.

Vacation allows us to “recharge our batteries” per say. It allows us a time to relax, escape the rat race, and get a taste of what true freedom could be like. Vacation helps to align our vision for our future and helps to set our resolve to reach our goals.

No matter whether those goals are vacations travel, power, money, financial independence or just less stress, vacation done right is the solution.

What type of vacation?

There are many types of vacations to be taken. They can be taken quickly in a “wham-bam-thank you ma’am” approach or you can take it slow. Vacations can be long month+ long travels or short 3-4 day trips to the local lake.

Vacation is truly what you make of it. It should be what you want and not what society promotes to you. The tourist traps can be interesting, but you will likely get a better experience in a place that has less tourists and allows you to really get to know the locals or get away from it all and just relax.

You can splurge on the all-inclusive resort vacations and just lay in the lap of luxury or you can go hoofing it through the mountains of Peru (that’s what I did for my honeymoon).

Types of vacations:

  • All-inclusive resort
  • Completely self-planned excursion to nowhere
  • Beaches
  • Mountains
  • Local
  • International
  • etc.

The types of vacations really are limited only by your imagination. As in everything, it truly is a personal decision which vacation is best and which one is actually worth the time, energy and money put into it. The world is ours for exploration.

What about the cost of vacation?

Our most recent vacation cost on the order of $2,000, which is not too much for a 2 week vacation in Italy (It would have cost $4,000 except for our free flights for home leave from our expat package), but is no small amount of money to spend on 2 weeks of relaxation or stress depending on your point of view.

Cost can be controlled on vacation, but it always seems to balloon up quickly when you start to eat out on a regular basis.

For example, our recent vacation had 2 days in Rome, 3 days with family in a small Italian country town, 3 days on the Amalfi Coast, and 4 days in Tuscany for a grand total cost of $2,000. However, if we chose to participate in one of the highly touted Tuscan organized bike tours, we would have spent $3,000 per person for a 1-week tour. Our total time in Italy for 2 weeks would have been $12,000! :-O

As can be seen from that little example, the cost of vacation is highly variable and can be controlled. This post is not about how to control cost on vacation, but to get you motivated to go on vacation. It only needs to be as expensive as you let it.

If you need a cheaper vacation, you can always go camping in a park or outdoor area closer to home for next to nothing. It may even be cheaper than staying at home. I have a coworker that used to go camping for 1-2 months every summer 2 hours from home. It was only 45 minutes from his job, so he would still go to work during the week, but come “home” at night to the campsite. Sounds like a wonderful life if you are still working.

The unspoken cost of vacation

There is a second facet to the cost of a vacation and that is the time your company gives you for vacation. Many workers, in the US at least, leave unused vacation at the end of the year. This is like working for free, for no pay! Your employer gives you a certain number of days that you can not come to work and get paid for it. Why would you not take them?

Many think that working tons of hours and never taking vacations shows that they are a better worker and they can get a promotion. Here is a great quote about what you get from working more and more:

By working faithfully eight hours a day, you may eventually get to be a boss and work twelve hours a day. ~Robert Frost

Take your vacation. You are wasting your most valuable possession if you do not, time.

I value my time enough each year to even pay for a week of extra vacation or take a week of unpaid leave for more of the all-important vacation time.


Tired of work, but still have years to go before reaching financial independence and retiring early? Vacation is the answer. It gives you a small taste of what life can be like after retirement and keeps the motivation there to reach your goals. Without keeping a level head on the journey to FIRE you will likely never reach it. Vacation can be the help you need to stay the course and finally make your dream a reality.

Do you take vacations every year or do you leave paid time off on the table? Let me know in the comments.

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