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5 Inexpensive Vacation Ideas

Vacations are a great time to decompress and reconnect with loved ones, but quickly get expensive. Therefore, if we’re living on a budget, we tend to forgo vacations altogether, detracting from our quality of life. However, with a little know-how, you can score a cheap vacation and have a great time.

We’ve suggested some inexpensive and potentially free vacation ideas, and also given tips to save money while on vacation. You can enjoy a relaxing vacation with your family while still staying within a reasonable budget.


Camping is very inexpensive, and is a great way to get some fresh air and exercise while unwinding and enjoying time with loved ones. After gear, the only fee is the campground rental, which is ordinarily only a few dollars per night.

You can pick up cheap gear on Amazon or through REI’s outlet. Alternatively, you can get it used on Craigslist, or even rent it from LowerGear.

You can also borrow camping gear from friends and family if they’re willing to lend it out.

If you’ve never been camping before, you will want to start out with a fairly tame trip.

You can go to camping grounds at state parks, where you can pitch your tent close to your car. Also read up on camping beforehand to make sure that you have all the right supplies and know what to do.

Think of what kinds of activities you are interested in, and pick a camp ground accordingly. For example, if you enjoy fishing, pick out a park with a lake or river. If you’re interested in hiking, make sure to choose one with hiking trails. You may also just want to relax and take in the scenery.

Visiting Friends and Family

Visiting with friends and relatives is a great way to spend time with loved ones, and is also inexpensive if you are able to stay at their house.

Think of someone special that you haven’t seen in a while, and ask if they’d like you to come visit. Chances are that they’ll be happy to have you.

It is generally more economical to drive, and best if you can make the trip within one day to avoid lodging expenses en route. If you have a few days’ drive, check to see if anyone you can stay with lives along the way.

If you have a friend or family member nearby that would also like to visit, you can go together and both chip in on gas money. Also consider packing food so that you don’t have to eat out on your way.

You can also look up attractions that may be nearby or on the way, and stop by while you’re there. Free or inexpensive attractions like zoos, museums and parks are ideal. Also ask your host if there’s anything in the area that he or she recommends, and go together.

Airline and Hotel Rewards

Most major domestic airlines offer a frequent flyer program to reward repeat customers for their continued loyalty. Some even offer hotel stays and rental cars as an added bonus. You can usually even credit your frequent flyer number for business travel, and use the miles on personal trips.

Most airlines also offer credit cards, where all transactions earn free miles. As long as you are able to pay off the balance each month, you can earn free miles and allow money that would ordinarily be spent instantly for each transaction in your account collecting interest all month.

Just be sure that you can exercise enough restraint to refrain from overspending and accumulating credit card debt.

Many national hotel chains now run frequent-stay programs, where customers are rewarded with free nights after a certain number of stays. You can credit these programs when traveling on business, and use the free nights later for vacations.

Save up bonus miles and hotel stays until you have enough to take your family on vacation, and then pick out a destination.

While on your vacation, you can save money by visiting inexpensive or free local attractions, and buying your food at a local grocery store rather than eating at restaurants.

Vacation Packages

You can find vacation packages for many popular vacation destinations, wherein airlines and hotels have paired up to offer a full vacation at one reasonable price.

Some airlines offer packages, and you can also find them on Expedia, Travelocity and Priceline.

If your travel dates are flexible, check to see what dates might be cheapest. Generally, things will be cheaper in the off months. For example, travel to tropical destinations will be cheaper in warmer months.

For major destination cities such as Las Vegas, prices will depend upon what conventions and other events are in town at the time. Also keep an eye out for temporary specials and promotions.

Vacationing After Business Travel

Depending upon your employer’s policies, you may be able to vacation after a business trip is complete. Most conferences and conventions are held in destination cities, and you can fly your spouse or family in at the end of the event.

You will need to pay for remaining hotel stays and also pay airfare for family members, but your airfare is paid, which can save quite a bit of money.

This becomes even cheaper if you are able to use frequent flyer miles and other travel bonuses earned from previous business travel.

You should, of course, verify ahead of time that your company is OK with this to avoid disciplinary action or refusal to reimburse legitimate business travel expenses.

Also avoid the temptation to credit personal expenses to your business account, which could jeopardize your employment.

Going on vacation doesn’t have to break the bank if you choose carefully and are willing to compromise by finding the cheapest travel dates and keeping your expenditures reasonable once you’re reached your destination.

You can enjoy a relaxing vacation with your loved ones without worrying about whether you’ll be able for afford it or accumulating debt.

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  • http://planwise.com Kira @Planwise

    Great post! I definitely go for the visiting friends and family approach! Even when I do travel to far away places, I make a point to make lasting connections with people I meet in hostels or traveling and end up connecting again when we travel to each other’s cities.

    • http://incometherapy.com Edward L.

      Traveling really is a great way of meeting new people. Every city and every country has something new to offer!

  • http://femmefrugality.blogspot.com femmefrugality

    Love these ideas! We’re thinking about taking a late fall camping trip. We’ll see how/if it happens. :) Many times we’ll take smaller trips where we can drive to the destination rather than forgo it all together. We save up for big trips, though!