A long time ago, flights used to be at least half the cost of an entire trip. But with the increased popularity of low cost airlines and fare wars, flying has become a lot more affordable. If you’re opportunistic, you can snag a flight deal to pretty much anywhere for a fraction of the cost. Despite that, many of us still anchor to the cost of a flight when we estimate the overall cost of a trip. However, when a destination is cheap to get to but expensive to visit that estimation can be very wrong.
Popular destinations that are cheap to get to but expensive to visit
Europe is the main offender when it comes to low-key expensive trips. With airlines like WOW and Norwegian shuttling people all over Scandinavia for less than the cost of a nice meal, countries like Norway, Iceland and Sweden have never been more accessible. Only problem? Those countries are expensive as hell. Major transportation hubs in cities like Zurich can also make places affordable to fly to on traditional airlines. Like Scandinavia, Switzerland is outrageously expensive to stay in (and a lot less interesting).
Though these places are still worth visiting, they’re certainly far more enjoyable when you can afford to enjoy yourself there. What use is it to be able to fly somewhere for cheap if you have to live off ramen and bread the entire time you’re there? Or worse, miss out on once-in-a-lifetime excursions and activities that you can’t afford.
How to really predict the cost of your trip
It’s hard to really imagine how much you’ll spend in a place that is expensive to visit. When you look up the average cost of a meal, you’re more likely to make a conservative estimate of what you’ll spend, and less likely to do the math to see how much spending money you’ll comfortably need in a place. For one, you know you don’t eat and drink on vacation the way you normally do at home. You’ll want drinks and to try the dessert and you’ll be starving several times a day because walking around sightseeing really opens up your appetite.
If you don’t take this into considerartion when you estimate the cost of your trip and decide whether or not you can afford it, you might leave out the biggest slice of the pie. So do the math. A $6 latte doesn’t seem like that much on its own until you add that to a $7 ham and cheese croissant, plus tip. Then a breakfast that’s almost a snack is upwards of $16-18. If you want a real breakfast, you might be spending $30-40 before 11 am. Now multiply that by three and extrapolate it to account for a vacation diet over the course of your trip. So maybe you got to Iceland for the low low price of $99, but food alone might be anywhere from $120-140 a day.
Why it’s important
If you don’t have an accurate perception of how much you’re going to spend, your trip can go downhill very quickly. You can run out of money or end up getting frustrated every time you’re going to sit down to eat, not to mention do anything else. At the end of the day, you can’t get a clear idea of whether or not you can afford to go somewhere unless you make a realistic budget about how much you’ll spend on a daily basis there. Key word being realistic. You know you like an extra beer or two with lunch when you’re on vacation, don’t play.
Some destinations are expensive to travel to but cheap to visit
The same way that people are easily swayed by a good flight deal, we’re also more likely to be dissuaded from visiting a place because the flight is so expensive. But this alternative might be a more affordable option. Even if it seems like a big hit up front, taking a $1000 flight to Southeast Asia can end up being cheaper than that $99 Scandinavia trip. There are places in the world where you can stay in luxury hotels for $50 a night and eat a good square meal for less than $5. Do that math. Imagine your entire daily food budget is around $25. Not only is that a pleasant surprise at every meal, that also means you can afford to visit for a longer time without bleeding your bank account dry.
Am I trying to dissuade you from visiting Iceland? Absolutely not. I’ve been to more than 40 countries, and that’s still my favorite one. What I’m trying to suggest is that you should stop using flight deals alone as the main factor for whether or not a trip is feasible or affordable. There’s a lot more to the cost of the trip than that.