People are funny about money...particularly when you ask what they want to spend on their vacation. I get it...who wants to divulge their financial info just to get some candid advice on where to grab dinner? Traveling is about more than just the "spend" though, and I am a firm believer in establishing a budget before a big trip so that you don't up and blow the bank just because "YOLO."
So, then the question is, where should you scrimp and where should you splurge when laying out your itinerary? In my experience, here is where you should go "all out" versus keeping your cash in your wallet.
SPLURGE: One great meal per day. I love food as much as the next gal (okay...a little more), but you probably don't need to blow the bank on every meal during your trip just because you are in a new or exotic place. Do your research (or ask me to) and select restaurants that you know will give you an experience worth splurging on.
SAVE: The other two meals. Your best bet is to pick one mid-price/high end restaurant per day, and balance it with easy meals (to clarify: not fast food meals) for the others. A croissant and cappuccino will do just fine for a budget breakfast, and even dare I say, even feels pretty luxurious if you sit down and leisurely enjoy your flaky treat while getting ready for the day. A gyro from a street cart isn't a shabby lunch either! Grab a budget meal during the day, pick a scenic spot, and save up for your splurge dinner.
SPLURGE: Private tours. If you have a limited time in a city, I highly encourage you to find the best tour company and get a small group tour. This intimate approach can completely change your interaction with your surroundings and provide you with tips that you may not have known otherwise. My favorite private tour was in Rome with EasItalyTours. I can't speak highly enough about how knowledgeable the guide was, how helpful she was to navigate us through the city, and how she even helped us plan the rest of our trip with local flair. The cherry on top? With a private guide, we had a photographer on hand to help capture our trip as a family!
SAVE: Free walking tours. Okay...sounds contradictory, right? Well, if you are hitting multiple cities within one trip, you most likely can't book a private tour in every major site. I suggest using free walking tours (see post on companies to check out here) for overall tours of cities and picking a site that you want to know more about (or maybe is just flat out overwhelming to do on your own) for your private tour. You'll be able to lay the groundwork for the cities that you visit and invest more in sites that you have a deeper interest in...win/win! However, there are also some GREAT tours (both international and domestic) that cost less than $25 and can be a game changer for your overall experience.
SPLURGE: Hotels with a view. Some cities are just too incredible to stop looking at, which is why you may want to splurge on a hotel with an impressive vista. I'm all for an economical AirBnB, but when you are in Paris you may want just one night with a view of the Eiffel Tower. In my recent trip to Athens, we splurged and stayed at a hotel with a view of the Acropolis from the top floor. Was it worth it to spend the evening drinking a robust red wine and overlooking one of the most magnificent sites in the entire world?! Heck yes!
SAVE: Long-term accommodations. If you have a full week in one location, you may want to take the more economical route. Make sure that your bare necessities are met, and then look for places that meet your needs. My personal preference is an AirBnb/ Homeaway in a safe neighborhood with a kitchen, strong Wifi, a hairdryer, washer, bathroom with privacy, and a terrace is always a major perk! If you are wanting to add a little luxury to your stay, switch it up and head to a swanky hotel on your last night as a treat.
SPLURGE: Flytographer or artwork. I'm a big believer in spending money (in moderation) on something that you will appreciate forever. I love Flytographer specifically because it captures beautiful moments in beautiful places (read my post here). I also love purchasing artwork, even if it is off the street, because it can be hung on the wall and appreciated forever. Souvenirs can be expensive, but with either of these options, you can hardly go wrong.
SAVE: Cheap Trinkets or clothes. I've made the mistake of buying clothes as souvenirs before, and then practically grew out of them within the week (okay...maybe that's an exaggeration...but close)! Cheap souvenirs break, end up getting hidden on shelves, or end up on your garage sale table within the next few years. It may be hard to find something you love, but think twice before giving in and buying the first thing that peaks your interest. After all, don't forget that the memory of your trip is a souvenir in itself!
If you're budgeting, just beginning to plan a trip, or you're just reading this and daydreaming...I hope this helps you think about what you value and want to get out of your time away. Everyone is different, and everyone has different priorities. If you have any save vs. splurges, we would love to hear them!