I’ve never traveled to a distant beach or cozy ski cabin for Christmas. Perhaps that’s why the allure of a holiday vacation sings so brightly in my mind. I have this fantasy that one year I’ll take a relaxing vacation with my family instead of enduring (it sometimes seems) the hubbub of exchanging presents. A big part of this holiday fantasy is that it will save me a lot of money!
Is taking a Christmas vacation cheaper than exchanging gifts? Let’s do the math.
An average family of four spends $840.57 on holiday gifts, according to the National Retail Foundation. I’ve spent as little as $300 using online rewards from Swagbucks, discounted gift cards, and a Christmas budget, but I think some families spend well over $1,000, especially if you consider the high price tags of popular consumer electronics, like the iPad, laptops, and video game consoles. Let’s take the NRF estimate of $840.57 and add another $100 for gifts for friends, neighbors, and colleagues.
Total cost of exchanging presents: $940.57.
Ski trip (via car)
How much would a 3-night 4-day long weekend ski trip cost for a family of four? Let’s estimate hotel at $150 per night, plus $100 in groceries for breakfast and lunch, and $50 per day for the family to eat out one meal a day. Gas could cost as much as $50, plus lift tickets average $46 per day per person! If you rent gear, that’s another $30 per day per person. This all adds up to:
Hotel: $150 x 3 nights = $450
Meals out: $200
Lift tickets for two days: $368
Gear rental: $240
Total cost of ski trip: $988 if you own gear or $1,228 if you rent
Beach vacation (via plane)
I doubt a beach vacation is any cheaper than a ski trip, due to the price of air fares this time of year, but let’s tease ourselves with the thought of laying in the sun and run the numbers. The costs would include flight, hotel, meals out, and excursions (optional, like the gear rental). I eat out a lot more on beach vacations than ski trips, so I bumped up the meals out budget and eliminated the grocery costs. This all adds up to:
Flight: $220 per person x 4 = $880
Hotel: $150 x 3 nights = $450
Meals out: $300
Total cost of beach vacation: $1,830
So, which option is cheapest?
Exchanging gifts at home turns out to be the cheapest option at $940, but a long weekend ski trip is not far ahead at $988 if you own your own gear or $1,228 if you rent ski or snowboard gear. Flying to Florida or Mexico for a quick burst of sunshine is noticeably more expensive. Of course, there are plenty of ways to travel on the cheap that could bring down my estimate. Ditto for the ski trip and for exchanging gifts at home! So in short, if you really want to take a trip for Christmas, set your budget and make it happen. You can do it!
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