Going on vacation isn’t cheap. Between the road trip or the plane tickets, the food, the fun, the activities, the hotels it can end up costing you a pretty penny. Don’t despair. Everyone deserves a vacation and even if you need to conserve your cash to do it, you can still have a fun time! Here are 20 of our cheapest vacation ideas:
1. Go short
Sometimes, the best idea for a vacation is to go ahead and take one, but don’t go for as long as you normally would. Instead of going for a week or two, go for a long weekend.
2. Road trip
Don’t fly — drive. Even with the cost of gas, often the best option to save money is to drive to your destination. Make it fun. Stop and see attractions along the way to your destination, like Mount Rushmore or the world’s largest ball of string. Do a web search ahead of time and find small, inexpensive attractions in towns along the way — you’ll be amazed at how much you’ll see and learn.
3. Travel with friends
You can often save a lot of money when you buddy up and travel with a group or with friends. Group rates are available for hotels, rental cars (you could rent a large van), even tours of museums and other attractions.
4. Day trip it
You don’t need to travel far to have fun. Instead of going far during your vacation and staying somewhere else, stay home and take a different trip each day. Look at destinations about two or three hours away from where you live and look for different things you can do there. Enjoy the drive, bring a lunch and spend the day doing something completely different than you normally would.
5. Cook in
Wherever you stay, eat at home, just as you would normally. Go to a local grocery store and purchase a week’s worth of groceries and make most of your meals in. Save a little money for a special dinner while you’re on vacation or for that fun day on the boardwalk. Otherwise, make the meals you like. You’ll probably eat healthier too.
6. Mind your perks
Do you get perks from your store cards? Your credit cards? For staying in hotels for work? Go look over all of your perk plans before your vacation. You might have a free night or two in a hotel, some miles for a flight or even a free meal or two while you’re out.
7. Rent it
You’d be amazed at the money you can save when you rent items instead of buying them. You can rent an RV and save yourself money on hotels and flights. You can rent a luggage carrier for the top of your truck instead of buying a fancy new one. You can rent bikes when you get there instead of paying to put them on the plane.
Instead of doing the regular vacation thing, try volunteering instead. You’ll be surprised at the number of deals and perks available for those who choose to volunteer at a location instead of just be a tourist. Going to Alaska? Try volunteering for the Iditarod. You’ll get to see some of the most amazing scenery, get free bush flights out to a checkpoint and even meet and talk with famous dog mushers. Heading to South America or another country, look up JustGive.org and find other locations that need people to help build homes, teach classes or do other things in exchange for your time.
9. Room ideas
Decide on just what you need when you select a hotel or motel. Do you intend to do a lot of sightseeing or outdoor activities? Maybe you don’t need a huge, all-inclusive resort and can save yourself some money by getting a small, plain motel with basic amenities. On the other hand, if you want a big resort style vacation with a spa and water park, maybe you can save yourself the money by not flying to somewhere far away, but instead choosing a large, all-inclusive resort to which you can drive.
This is a great way to explore local areas without the expense of leaving home or staying somewhere else. According to Geocaching.com: “Geocaching is a real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices. Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache (container) hidden at that location.”
11. Check out a National Park
You’ll be amazed at how many National Parks are close to where you’re staying — or where you live. National Parks are a great resource and you can visit the Ranger Station and learn about different features of the park, take a hike or a picnic and explore. Most parks have nominal day use fees, some allow camping and there are a number of free days throughout the year.
12. See a game
Most of cities and towns have minor or major league teams for soccer, baseball, football or basketball. Take a day and head to a game. Even if that sport isn’t your “thing,” most major league or professional sporting events are a big deal and the experience itself is a lot of fun.
Camping is a fun and exciting way to see parts of the country you’ve never been to before. You can either rent a small cabin or bring a tent or an RV. However you choose to camp, make sure you select a location that allows you to explore and gives you plenty of opportunities to do the types of activities you like.
14. Book a last-minute cruise
Search online at sites like Expedia for last-minute cruise deals. Cruises are usually expensive, but if you can wait until the last minute to pack and make your plans — and you aren’t picky about where the cruise is going — you could pick up a sweet deal.
15. Visit local tourist spots
Stay home and visit all of the local touristy stuff you never do because you live there. Take a tour of the local microbrewery, go to a vineyard or even a local amusement park. You could make your staycation really awesome and hire a house cleaner for the week as well.
16. Go somewhere completely different
Thinking of Paris? How about Budapest instead? Want to go to Brazil? Try Belize. Just by picking somewhere a little less popular, you could save big bucks. And in Europe, you can travel easily to the places you want to see without having to stay there.
17. Do something new
Staying home over vacation? Take the opportunity to try out something you’ve never done before. Take sailing lessons, learn how to throw pots (clay, on a wheel, not the pasta pot through the window). Sing Karaoke at the local bar.
18. Go to local festivals
Head to the state fair, the local Bluegrass festival or the Garlic Festival (or whatever plant or item your state is known for). Do it big — try everything and have a great time.
19. Be quiet
You could lay low, too. You could really do nothing for a whole week. Sleep. Eat junk food. Watch TV. If you’re a go, go, go type of person, a few days to be quiet and do nothing might be all you need to feel refreshed. And you’ll save a ton of money not entertaining yourself.
Want to go somewhere new and not pay for it? Find a housesitting gig. Whether for a week or three months, you can find some great places to go and not pay a dime for staying there.