How to Vacation for Cheap

How to Vacation for Cheap

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While it’s now officially the Fall season, that doesn’t mean that you can’t vacation any longer. We’ve still got a good month or two left of decently warm weather, and we want to make sure we take advantage of every last ounce of sunshine we can possibly get our hands on.

It’s time for a vacation. You want to go somewhere fun with the family and your spouse, but the money just isn’t in the budget, quite frankly. Another year has come and gone, without a vacation.

But here’s the thing. You can get a great vacation, without breaking the bank.

Vacation somewhere close to homehow-to-vacation-for-cheap

The reason that vacations get so expensive so quickly is primarily due to airfare. Say you have a family of 4, and you’re flying across the county from the East coast to come visit Disneyland in California. I’d be impressed if you were to find airfare for less than $500/person. For a family of four, you’ve just spent $2,000. And that doesn’t include renting a car and driving to the airport, paying for parking, hotel once you get there, or the three meals a day. The sad part that this doesn’t even count the price to get into the amusement park, yet.

During the Summer months, gas prices tend to increase too. Oil companies know that traveling is going to increase, and so they temporarily (or permanently) inflate fuel prices.

Staying locally prevents all of this.

Plus, the shorter distances you drive, the less you’ll be spending in gas any way.

Besides, you probably have some really great sights to see in your local area. I once heard of a man visiting the Space Needle in Seattle. As he was sitting down for his meal at the top, the waitress asked the man where he was from. The man replied, “Oh, I’m from Arizona.” The waitress responded, “Oh! How lovely. I’ve always wanted to go see the Grand Canyon. What’s it like?” The man turned slightly red and replied, “I…uh…I’ve never been.” How often do we take for granted the beautiful scenery and attractions that we have in our own state? Rather than going somewhere far, stay local and visit some tourist spots in your area.

Vacation during non-peak times

Popular tourist destinations go up in the summer months, when businesses know that kids are out of school. Same during Spring Break. If you can work it in your schedule, try taking a vacation in May, rather than June or July during summer break. Or instead of going to Cancun over Christmas Break, go in October instead.

Along with that, if you do have to purchase airfare to get to your location, be sure to fly and return as close to the middle of the week as you can. Airlines hike up their ticket prices on the weekends, so leaving on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday is likely to find you the best rate.

Stay at an AirBnb instead of a hotel

While I doubt the hotel industry is hurting all that much from the advent of AirBnb, I know that I generally turn their first instead of a hotel. This past March, a few friends and I went to Mexico for a 5-day vacation. Four the five of us, it came out to $17/per person per day. And we had the entire town home to our selves. Not to mention, it was very modern, had a great view of the ocean, and was in a nice, gated community.

It’s not always cheaper than a hotel, but in the few times I’ve used them, it has been.

Another perk of using an AirBnb is you generally gain access to a full kitchen. Rather than spending $50 or more for a meal for the entire family, you can cook yourself for $10 or $15 instead.

Wait until the last minute

For once, the early bird does not get the worm. When you’ve got a flexible schedule, you’re able to save more money on snatching up deals at the very last minute.

I’ve seen this work with vacation rentals. Landlords often get anxious when they don’t have something rented. On a vacation home, if you see a slot that’s still open a week or even 3-4 days before, you might be able to reach out to them to see if they’d be willing to give you a discounted rate. What’s the worse that can happen? They may tell you no, but that’s okay. At least you tried.

Cruise ships are notorious for doing this as well. If you have the flexibility to be able to leave within a week and a half to two weeks, I’ve seen tickets drop from $400-500/person all the way down to $119/person. Cruise lines, such as Carnival or Royal Caribbean would rather make some money than have them go entirely vacant. Plus, in the long run, they’ll probably make up for it in entertainment and alcohol sales.

Swap expensive activities for cheaper or free ones

If you’re taking a vacation in Hawaii, you may not be able to pay for the entire family to go parasailing. Instead, swap out that expensive activity for something cheaper, such as a hike. Not only is it better for you physically, it doesn’t cost a dime.

Some of the more memorable vacations growing up were just those. We would go on a long hike to find a waterfall at the end. The company was the best part, more so than the activity itself. You don’t have to spend money to have a great time.

More popular tourist locations offer at least some sight-seeing opportunity along the way. Take advantage of those.

Search for Groupons

On my last vacation, we went to Chicago. I had never been before, and so we wanted to make sure to pack as much in as we possibly could. We ended up going on an Architectural Boat Tour, up to the top of the Willis Tour (the tallest building in Chicago), and also went to the Aquarium. We paid for each of these activities separately.

It wasn’t until after we had already done all of them that we found a Groupon package deal for all three of those, for a cheaper price. It would’ve probably saved us close to $30/person had we done some research ahead of time.

With the money that you save from that, you might be able to splurge on a different tourist attraction that doesn’t have a Groupon or other discounts available.


Ultimately, I think it’s important to stop and think about why you’re vacationing in the first place. Often times it’s to get away from the busy routine of life, and relax with family and friends. To do that, you don’t need to spend money. Sure, it’s fun to go somewhere and experience something new, but that doesn’t always mean you need to fork out hundreds of dollars to do so.

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