Think about value, not just cost, when planning your theme park vacation
Published: August 31, 2010 at 9:19 AM
Focusing on value instead of cost sharpens your thinking about spending. Too often, people get caught up looking for discounts instead of thinking about what they're getting for their money. It's not really a discount if what you get isn't worth even the cheaper price, now is it?
So let's keep a few questions in mind as you start thinking about your next theme park vacation:
- Is the experience unique? Is this something you can do anywhere, anytime, or is it something that's available only one place on Earth?
- Does this vacation engage your passion? Does the idea of visiting this destination get you excited? Or does it leave you feeling a bit more "ho-hum"?
- Will this visit help you forge a connection with others? Will it give you the opportunity to spend more time and do more things with your family or friends?
- Will you get something lasting from this trip? This can be tangible, such as unique souvenirs or photos, or intangible, such as lasting memories of something truly special.
- What's my time investment? Think about the ratio of the time you'll spend doing what you want to do at your destination versus the amount of time you'll spend getting there, coming back and waiting around while you are there. Don't forget that the time you spend arranging the trip is part of your time investment, too!
Now comes the tricky part: You've got to balance those options with the money you have available. In business schools, instructors often present a simple challenge to students, to get them thinking about cost trade-offs. They give you three options:
Well, you could have a unique experience that fully engages your passions, brings you together with all your friends and loved ones, leaves you with lasting tangible reminders of the trip and wastes none of your time along the way - the trip's even planned for you!
But you're going to pay - a lot - for that vacation!
We've talked before about making a budget for your vacation: Ultimately, the best way to do that is to start thinking about value in everything that you buy. Do you need that cup of take-out coffee? Do you need that pre-prepared meal? What are you getting from that night at the movies?
Balance the value of those smaller expenditures throughout the year versus the value that you want to get from your family vacation. Thinking this way can help you justify spending less on things that really don't deliver you that much value, so you can have that money available for things which do.
Then, after a few weeks of saving, when you have an idea how much you'll have available for a vacation, you can start balancing your goals. For example, if you're willing to invest more time in your vacation planning, you'll be able to find better deals on more unique opportunities than you would if you decided to hit the road with no advance planning. (And some folks find planning the vacation a fun part of the experience, too!) The farther you're willing to travel, the more likely you might be to find a unique experience, but maybe that prevents you from bringing along as many friends or family members.
It's always a trade-off. But focus on the value you get from each of those options, and weigh what's more important to you.
I've met a few wealthy people in my life, and had wondered how they approached spending money: Did they just buy whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted it, with no advance planning? After all, they didn't need to budget their money. What I found was that the wealthy people I know spend even more time thinking about this stuff. But they don't think about the amount of money they're spending. They think about the value that they're getting for that money. Ultimately, that's how rich people stay rich: By never wasting money on anything that doesn't bring them value.
That's a great lesson for the rest of us, too: Plan your vacation like a rich person would: Focus on value instead of simply looking for the cheapest discount, and you'll end up with a vacation that you both can afford and will enjoy.
Please share some of your value-building vacation-planning tricks and tips, in the comments: