Vacationing on a Budget

Now that the world is reopening, it’s time to go celebrate by going on vacation! As much as we would all love to go on glorious, tropical, month-long vacations at all-inclusive resorts, realistically, we all have a vacation budget identified, and it’s important to stay within that budget. In addition—the tighter we keep to the budget, the more vacations we can go on! There are a lot of ways to cut costs on vacations, but here are some great tips for how best to keep everybody happy, including your wallet.


Most campgrounds, especially state and national parks, are within the $15-$30/day range, which is an absolute steal in comparison to pricy hotels! Campgrounds also tend to have a lot of great free activities—you don’t even have to leave your campsite if you don’t want to. Most have hiking trails, and many even have playgrounds and swimming beaches. There is an initial investment for camping, in order to purchase the supplies needed, but if you go camping often enough it evens itself out over the years. Camping also has the added perk of saving money on food, as meals cooked over the campfire are significantly tastier than any other meals—and way more fun to cook. 

Stay with Friends or Family

In our early twenties this was known as “couch-surfing”—but as adults with families it’s more positively known as “spending quality time with our loved ones.” It may not be possible, or the best situation from some families with complicated relationships, but if you have the right interpersonal chemistry this is the perfect solve. Not only will you get more time than usual to bond with your loved ones, you will get time to hang out as just adults when the kids go to sleep. Bonus points if you happen to have friends or family who live near a tourist attraction. (I’m looking at you, relatives with beach houses!)


Okay, hear me out on this one. I fully recognize that some of the options on Airbnb can be quite expensive, but there are many affordable options, especially if you travel outside of peak times and book ahead. Most places also offer a discount if you book a place for at least a week. If you are able to find a good one, many rentals can actually be cheaper than a hotel room—and you are more likely to be able to have separate bedrooms from your children. The biggest savings, however, is in food costs. When staying in a rental you essentially just keep your normal food budget—adding  in a dinner out or two into the vacation budget. By having space and facilities to cook and store food, you can save upwards of hundreds of dollars in dinners out and takeout food! 

State Parks

When you find a place to stay, figure out what to do while you’re there. One of the cheapest (often free) options is to enjoy nature in a state or national park. Some of these are free, but some of them have a daily fee—make sure to do your research before you go, so you have the necessary cash. Our state and national park system has a huge variety of sights to see, and many free activities, hikes, and ranger programs to choose from. Spending time outdoors has also been scientifically proven to improve mental well being and increase a feeling of relaxation, so it makes it the perfect vacation destination.

Research Free Activities

The best way to do vacation on the cheap is to do your research in advance. Most towns have town websites that include a directory of activities—many of which are free or low cost. In addition, there are loads of lists online of free activities in most areas, especially high traffic tourist areas. Festivals usually have free kids’ activities to attract the parents, so, as long as you trust your willpower not to buy everything in sight, these can be a great option. Finding a Facebook group for the area that you are traveling to can open up a lot of events you might not find otherwise, as well. 

We all know how important vacation is, both for resetting our bodies and minds and making memories as a family. With these few tips I trust you can make amazing memories and come back feeling relaxed and refreshed, without having to juggle around any finances to make it work.


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