Personal Finance

5 Cheap Summer Vacation Ideas

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Young woman and man using smartphone by the river

There’s nothing better than taking a much-needed vacation. Everyone deserves to unwind from the hustle and bustle of their daily lives. I don’t know about you, but whenever I go on vacation, I’m not worried about anything in the world… except for one thing—how much money I will end up spending?

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I hope that one day I can go on vacation and not care about how much I spend, but until then, I am constantly trying to figure out how to not break the bank. That’s why I’ve come up with these creative ways to vacation on a budget.

Contrary to popular belief, the summer travel season is your best bet if you’re trying to save cash. Sure, some might think otherwise; however, remember the outdoors are cheap (or free!), thus your options for budget-friendly activities are that much more versatile!

Check out the following ways to take a summer vacation on a budget. And if you’re not planning to travel this summer, no worries. A few of these tips are applicable year-round. Or if you’re lucky enough to live in a warmer climate, you can take advantage of these whenever you decide to travel!

  1. Camping

Camping is a great alternative to a hotel. Forget resort fees, and indulge in the smell of fresh air. After all, the outdoors are free, right?

There are plenty of free campgrounds to choose from. Not sure where to find free spots? Check out Campendium.com. This website has a great search function where you can narrow down the campsite by price and/or category (i.e., RV park, campground, etc.).

Already have camping gear? Great! If not, I would be careful, as tents, sleeping bags, and other gear can get very pricey, defeating the purpose. Borrowing gear is always a good idea. Alternatively, see if you can purchase used gear from Craigslist, OfferUp, or other discount methods.

People Friendship Hangout Traveling Destination Camping Concept

  1. Outdoor activities

Enjoy the outdoors? The summer season is the perfect time to enjoy everything that Mother Nature has to provide. Hiking, biking, and picnicking are excellent low-cost activities that won’t break the bank. Most (if all) trails are free, unless you’re paying to get into a national park.

Outdoor activities can take a few hours or up to the entire day, so you’re sure to not get bored.

Related: How to Save Money: 5 Areas of Your Life Where You Can Save Serious Cash

  1. Groupon and other money-saving websites

Not a fan of camping or the outdoors, but looking for ways to save while on vacation? Check out Groupon or other daily deal websites. Groupon has a “Things to Do” tab that includes discounts (averaging 50 percent off original pricing) on a plethora of local activities. Common heavily discounted activities include concerts, golfing, museums, and sporting events.

Husband and his wife after buying food in grocery store or supermarket.

  1. Pack your meals

As you know, eating out can get very expensive. It’s even more expensive when you’re on vacation and eating out for every single meal. It really adds up without you realizing it.

If your hotel comes with a fridge, I would highly recommend going to the nearest supermarket and stocking up on easy and quick meals, such as sandwiches. No need to make it complicated!

Sure, some may say that eating out is part of going on a vacation. If you must, breakfast or lunch are usually quick and convenient meals, so stocking up on at least one (or two) meals would keep your wallet happy.

Related: 3 Simple Ways to Cut Back & Save Money Without Feeling Deprived

  1. Stay local

Staycation, anyone? I live in Denver, a fairly large city, and have yet to discover 20 percent of the area. Staying local not only saves on airline fees and gas costs but also on room and board. If you think of it this way, most of the time, you’re spending a good chunk of change on a hotel that’s only used to sleep. Explore your town all day and come back to the comfort of your own home. Wake up and do it all over again!

And there you have it! Vacation doesn’t have to be expensive when you plan ahead. Life is too short to not enjoy it. Don’t let money get in the way of having fun. There are always ways to be smart and get around it. In the words of Robert Kiyosaki, “Don’t say, ‘I can’t afford it.’ Ask yourself, ‘How can I afford it?'”

Do you have any creative tips to add to this list?

Share in the comment section below. 

Mary is a Marketing Manager for a cost segregation software solution, Titan Echo (www.titanecho.com), located in BiggerPockets' hometown - Denver, Colorado! Mary was first introduced to the world of real estate investing when starting at Titan Echo. In her spare time, Mary enjoys exploring the Denver food scene or cooking in the comfort of her kitchen.

    Dave Rav from Summerville, SC
    Replied 4 months ago
    Great tips. Don't forget the beach for outdoor activities. Especially if you live close, as I do. It can be a day-cation stay-cation. Our beaches are free to access, and even parking on certain beaches (others are maybe $10 a day - still not bad). I totally agree with packing lunches too. Eating out can get very pricey, especially when paying for a family ( unless kids are toddler age - some places are free to this age group). Eats into the budget, no pun intended!
    Mary Hitchcock Specialist from Denver, CO
    Replied 4 months ago
    Thanks, Dave! Yes, the beach is definitely a viable option even if you're traveling to a location near a beach! Oh, the great outdoors!
    Thomas Dougherty from New York
    Replied 4 months ago
    Really great tips! Thanks for sharing
    Mary Hitchcock Specialist from Denver, CO
    Replied 4 months ago
    Thanks so much, Thomas!
    Jeffrey Bower
    Replied 4 months ago
    These are great tips, especially when you're planning on saving for the big vacation next year. It's a great way to enjoy your summer while saving for the vacation you have always wanted.