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Cheap Vacation Ideas: Budget-Friendly Trips Guide

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As the summer months begin, the family starts dreaming of vacation. Everywhere you turn, it seems like there’s an excuse to pack up your family and head to the beach for some fun in the sun. Vacations are a necessary part of life, and they help us unwind and relax after a year of working hard. The only issue with taking a vacation – is that it costs a fortune.

Spending money on hotels, meals, transportation, and entertainment bleed your budget dry. At the end of a vacation, the financial stress can leave you feeling like you didn’t get your money’s worth, especially if you overspend on your budget.

Before you go ahead and book with a travel agent, or decide to cancel this year’s trip, we have some tips for an affordable family vacation.

Get to Know Your State

Many families like the thought of heading to the beach for their summer vacation. However, if you’re living in a landlocked area of the United States, that means that you’ve got to spend money on flights, car rental, accommodation, and food. Unfortunately, you’ll be paying these expenses in a beach town at the height of summer.

Seasonal towns increase their prices during peak vacation season. As a result, you can expect to pay up to 50-percent more for food and accommodation. Flights to popular destinations also increase in cost, and when you check-in at the car hire desk, prepare for a shocking estimate.

Instead of taking the family to the beach, why not keep your vacation local? Many people decide to visit other regions of the country before they think of exploring their native state. The United States is full of popular and exciting destinations for you and your family, and many of them are probably in your back yard.

Before you commit to booking your out-of-state vacation, search online for places to visit in your home state. Think outside of the box of a typical beach vacation, and look into other venues.

You could go on a whitewater river adventure, go mountaineering, spend some days at the side of a lake, or camp on public land. Weigh your options and get input from your family about alternative holidays they might enjoy.

Read: 10 Ways to Save Money as a Family: Complete Guide

Visit Public Land

Instead of frolicking on the beach and enjoying the waves, consider taking your vacation on public land instead. You’ll find cabins for rent online, or you could go old-school and rough it out with a camping trip. If your friends or family members have an RV, ask them if you can borrow it for your trip. Airbnb also offers campers for rent for as little as $39 per night.

The great outdoors offers plenty of entertainment for the entire family. Dad can take the boys on a hunting trip while the girls relax by the lake with mom. Get some fishing in while the girls go on a hike, and spend your evenings as a family gazing up at the stars under a clear night sky.

Public land offers campers an affordable alternative to heading to the beach for your vacation. Look around your home state for areas that you think will make a suitable vacation spot.

Cabin Vacation
Try a Cabin Vacation

Try Less Popular Destinations

If you have your heart set on a beach vacation for the family, think about avoiding the popular tourist destinations during the summer. Taking your beach vacation in Miami isn’t the best idea if you’re trying to save money on your trip. Miami crowds are enormous during the peak season, and you’ll struggle to find accommodation, let alone anything affordable.

Instead of visiting the beaches where you know the crowds are thick, try other areas with thinner crowds during the summer. Sure, you could head to Laguna Beach or the Florida Keys, but you’ll have to contend with plenty of tourists and high prices.

Taking your family to Galveston, Texas, provides you with an affordable vacation, and fewer crowds to contend with on the beach, at restaurants, and out on the town. By the end of your vacation, you’ll save your family hundreds of dollars, and you can afford to have a family pizza night more often throughout the rest of the year.

Galveston, Texas
Galveston, Texas

Book with a Travel Agency

You might be under the impression that booking your holiday and planning your itinerary yourself will save you money. However, the truth is that you can save yourself hundreds of dollars by using a travel agent package. Travel agents receive group discounts on flights, accommodation, and car hire packages.

If you plan on taking your vacation overseas, then booking with a travel agent is the best bet to save your money on your vacation costs. A travel agent does everything for you saving your time and frustration on booking everything yourself.

A comprehensive vacation package from an agent will include your flights, accommodation, meals, and transfers. Some agents even offer affordable entertainment packages that let you experience the culture of the destination you visit.

Trying to book all of this yourself will take you plenty of time, and money. Get a few quotes from agents, and look for the most affordable option for your family vacation.

Stay with Family or Friends

Do you have an uncle or an old college friend that lives near the beach? If you still have a good relationship with these people, then why not visit them on your vacation? Staying with friends or family can save you thousands of dollars on accommodation, food, and car hire.

However, you’ll need to ensure that you have a current amicable relationship with the friend or family member. Calling up someone that you haven’t seen in years, probably isn’t a good idea.

Family members are the best option, as they have an obligation to you. The chances are your siblings or parents will be happy to host you and your family for a few days. Staying with your family gives everybody a chance to reconnect with each other. Maybe your folks haven’t seen their grand kids in a while, and they’ll gladly put you up for a few nights.

If you do decide to stay with family or friends, then don’t be a cheapskate when you arrive at their home. Take everyone out for dinner, and splash out on groceries for the house. With the money you’re saving on accommodation and food, you can afford to treat the family to a nice meal.

Off-Season Traveling

We get it; you want to take your vacation in the summertime and go to the beach. However, if you break this paradigm and decide to travel outside of peak vacation seasons, it may surprise you at how much money you can save on your trip.

Traveling during peak season can increase your vacation costs on flights, accommodation, and car rental by as much as 100-percent or more. Plus, local restaurants hike their prices to take advantage of the tourists as well. If you’re tired of spending money on an inflated restaurant and hotel bill, then consider traveling out of season instead.

Make sure you do your research to find the most affordable times of the year to visit your desired locations. Going on vacation after Labor Day weekend, or any time after the fall break is a great way to reduce your vacation costs.

Plus, if you decide to visit one of the gulf states, it won’t be snowing or freezing. You’ll barely notice the temperature difference between summer and winter in these locales, and the ocean is still plenty warm for swimming.

Visit the National Parks

America has some of the most breathtakingly beautiful National Parks in the world. Instead of visiting the beach for your vacation, take your family to Yellowstone in Wyoming, or Yosemite in California. Glacier National park is also a top destination if you enjoy hanging out by the water, with over 700-lakes in the vicinity through the state of Montana.

There’s plenty for the family to do at National Parks. Take a walk through the forest, swim in a lake, and spend your evenings snuggled together in a wooden cabin with a roaring fire. The best part about visiting a national park is the wildlife. If your kids have yet to see bears or deer in the wild, then this is the perfect opportunity to introduce them to the real-life Bambi and Yogi Bear.

There are over 61-national parks in the United States, and there’s bound to be one close to where you live. Save money on your vacation and keep it local by visiting one of these national treasures with your family.

Beautiful Yosemite National Park

Use Self-Catering Accommodation

Most American families book into hotels when planning their family vacation. A hotel is awesome, you get room service, a maid, and the thrill of staying in a classy establishment is something that everyone looks forward to experiencing on vacation. However, hotel bills can ruin your vacation and blow up your budget. Accommodation is often the most significant vacation expense, and hotels know how to charge – especially during peak season.

Instead of booking into a hotel, consider self-catering accommodation instead. Review Airbnb’s listings for the area you want to visit. Airbnb is an online platform where people rent out their real estate to business people or holidaymakers. You can usually find a deal at a fraction of the price you would pay for a hotel.

Sure, you’re missing out on the room service and the maid, but do you need them on your vacation? A self-catering apartment can give you all the creature comforts of home while you enjoy your vacation. When the bill arrives, you won’t have to deal with any $300 room service charges for a few packets of chips and some M&M’s.

AirBnB is a great way to find different vacation experiences

Book in Advance

When planning your family vacation, make sure you book in advance. If you leave your planning to the last minute, you might not find any affordable accommodation or flights left. As a result, you’ll have to decide on whether you want to spend money on an expensive vacation, or skip this year’s family holiday and stay home instead.

We recommend that you book at least 4-months in advance of your travel date, and 6-months is better. By taking the time to book early, you get to take advantage of early-bird discounts and promotional deals. We recommend that you visit a travel agent and ask them about the specials they are running on family vacations.

Booking in advance allows you to save money on the three highest vacation costs – flights, accommodation, and car hire.

Pay for Your Expenses Using a Credit Card

If you have a credit card, make sure you sign up for the lender’s rewards program. Credit card companies incentivize your spending on the facility by offering you rewards. The most popular rewards program on offer is the cashback system. More than 70-percent of credit card owners use this facility.

When using a cashback facility on your credit card, the lender pays you a rebate of between 1 and 5-percent on all of your purchases. Save on your accommodation, flights, car rental, and vacation expenses with cash back rebates. The lender deducts your rewards from your credit card statement, or they send you a check in the mail.

Reward Credit Cards Guide

Read: Complete Beginner’s Guide to Reward Credit Cards

Wrapping Up – How to Save for Your Budget-Friendly Vacation

Saving for your family vacation isn’t as challenging as you think. The chances are that you can already afford your holiday if you make a few changes around your spending habits. Cut back on the unnecessary household expenses throughout the year, and you’ll have plenty of money left over for a family vacation.

Make a budget with your partner that accounts for vacation savings. You need an incentive to stop you from overspending. Imagine how your kids will feel when you tell them you can’t go away this year on vacation.

Open a CD or savings account with your bank and your monthly vacation deposit. The interest on these accounts grows your money to keep up with inflation.

After a year of saving, you’ll have plenty of spare cash available to give your family the time of their lives.


Oliver Dale is Editor-in-Chief of MoneyCheck and founder of Kooc Media Ltd, A UK-Based Online Publishing company. A Technology Entrepreneur with over 15 years of professional experience in Investing and UK Business.His writing has been quoted by Nasdaq, Dow Jones, Investopedia, The New Yorker, Forbes, Techcrunch & More.He built Money Check to bring the highest level of education about personal finance to the general public with clear and unbiased

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