8 Cheap Summer Vacation Ideas That Won’t Break the Bank

Everyone looks forward to taking some time off and enjoying a nice summer vacation. We have all been working and studying hard throughout the year, and it’s time for a well-deserved break. But what if you’re trying to save money? Or you have debt? While it might seem like an exciting idea to spare no expense on the vacation of your dreams, when the trip follows you home, that’s when reality sets in. That’s why we wanted to give you some fun and affordable summer vacation ideas. Along with planning ahead, and stashing away some extra cash, use these ideas to enjoy a summer trip that won’t break the bank.

Affordable summer vacation ideas

Try a staycation
A staycation is a much more budget friendly vacation idea, where individuals or families stay at home or nearby and enjoy some local fun. It’s a great way to get out, explore and have a little adventure without spending a ton of money on traveling costs. Some common staycation ideas include; camping in your backyard, having a movie or game night at home, or attending local festivals and exhibits.

Go on a cruise
Believe it or not, you can save a good chunk of change by booking a cruise, compared to a traditional vacation. The price of the ticket is all inclusive, which means your meals, lodging and entertainment are all wrapped into one discounted price. I’ve been on several cruises, and normally only pay about $250 for the weekend. There’s unlimited access to food, drinks, snacks and all sorts of entertainment – day or night, at no additional cost.

Extend a business trip
Most business trips are already paid for by the company, so since you’re already getting a “free” trip, invite your family to come along too. Extend your stay, or have them meet up with you a few days later, to enjoy an inexpensive vacation. My family used to do this while my dad was traveling around the country. At night he would have meetings and seminars, but during the day we all went out and explored the city together.

Book a weekend getaway
If you only have a limited amount of time off work, a weekend getaway is the perfect solution. I like to book weekend trips using Groupon Getaways. Of course, you might not have as much control over what deals are available, but that’s the fun part. Many destinations, offer amazing deals for travelers who book at the last minute. Sometimes they offer specials for day spas, family water parks and a cabin on the lake, for 55% or more off the original price.

Road tripGo on a short road trip
Who doesn’t love a road trip? But with the price of gas climbing higher and higher, it can easily bust your budget. Try a short road trip instead and plan everything ahead of time. Consider staying with friends and family to save money on lodging, or using a mobile app like Priceline to negotiate and compare hotel prices. Utilize other apps like GasBuddy to find the cheapest gas near you and Yelp to locate the nearest coffee shop with free Wi-Fi.

Try roughing it
Most lakes and parks nearby, have campgrounds available for public use during the summer months. It’s easy and often inexpensive to rent a space, where you can set up camp for the night. Although you might be roughing it, with so many activities like fishing, swimming, barbecuing and roasting marshmallows, you and your kids are bound to have a blast!

Visit a national park for free
Every year the U.S. National Park Service hosts National Park week. This is when all 397 American state parks offer free admission, for an entire week in April. But in case you missed it this year, they still offer several other Fee-Free Entrance Days throughout 2012.

Mark your calendars for all the free admission dates:

  • January 14-16 (Martin Luther King Jr. weekend)
  • April 21-29 (National Park Week)
  • June 9 (Get Outdoors Day)
  • September 29 (National Public Lands Day)
  • November 10-12 (Veterans Day weekend)

This is a great way to get outdoors with your family and enjoy the beauty of nature, all without spending much money. To find the national park nearest you, check out the full list of free entrance parks by state.

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Become an “insider” tourist for a day
Equipped with the knowledge of a local, you probably already know all the hot spots and insider tourist secrets. Avoid the areas that thrive on tourism, since you’re likely to pay a premium price for everything. Opt for the “road less taken” and explore what else your city has to offer. Go ahead and try that new little restaurant everyone’s been raving about, or visit a local market or gallery. Use a resource like Free-Attractions.com to find entertaining but free things to do in your area. There are literally thousands of free activities available, all over the United States.

With all of these options available, you no longer have an excuse not to plan a vacation that’s both budget-friendly and fun! The next time you’re tempted to book a lavish trip, try one of these ideas instead. I promise you will have just as much fun (if not more) and you’ll come home with more cash in your pocket.

This article is part of our Budgeting Tips Resource Center.  If you’re looking for additional information about budgeting tips, be sure to pay a visit!

Image 1 credit: Pink Sherbet PhotographyImage 2 credit: Jo Levine

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  • The Groupon Getaways sound like a great idea. I’ve used their service to save a lot of money on restaurant meals. It makes sense that their travel deals would be pretty sweet too. Living Social offers travel deals as well. I should routinely check out both sites to take advantage of maximum savings. 

  • Deborah @ImpulseSave

    I love the free parks week! Great tip!

  • Barb on the Lake

    great ideas. I live in a “vacation hot spot” and staying around and getting out to “go & do” when there are lulls in the tourism here makes for fun, cheap days. This summer will be spent also going to AAA baseball. The tickets are cheap (specially if you decide to buy general admission and sit on the grass like a picnic) and you can bring snacks. It’s exciting, there’s usually some give away going on and by spreading out trips to the ball park all summer it’s a super fun way to relax, enjoy the weather and friends. If you have minor league ball in your area it’s fun (if ya like baseball of course!) it’s America’s greatest pastime!

    • That sounds really nice! I can imagine how pleasant it is to enjoy a nice day at the ballpark – and know that you’re saving money on the Triple A tickets.

  • I agree with the tips! There are things that makes your vacation more enjoyable without spending too much. Thanks for the advices.

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