It can be hard to fit a vacation into your busy schedule, not least of all because vacations aren’t cheap. Not many people have the budget, or the flexibility, to pick up and travel the world on a whim. But that doesn’t mean you should table your travel dreams or let your vacation days go to waste.
If you’ve wished for fun getaways that don’t wipe out your savings, here are some creative ideas for cheap vacations to help you make the most of your time off.
Table of Contents
- 1. Have a Staycation
- 2. Go Camping
- 3. Travel During the Off-Season
- 4. Book a Last-Minute Cruise
- 5. Travel Regionally
- 6. Become a Contrarian Traveler
- 7. Visit Friends or Family
- 8. Travel During the Week
- 9. Try House Sitting
- 10. Skip the Popular Beaches
- 11. Visit National Parks
- 12. Book a Last-Minute Tour
- 13. Try a Small Amusement Park
- 14. Go All-in on All-Inclusive Resorts
- 15. Book a Cheap Flight
1. Have a Staycation
When cheap vacations are the goal, it’s hard to beat the ultimate money-saver: staying at home.
You can save tons of money and have a great time trying out new restaurants, going on sightseeing tours, and more. However, be careful not to fall into the trap of forsaking all of that fun for your everyday routine. More time away from the desk means more time to scratch overdue projects off the to-do list and catch up on your favorite series.
Make it a point not to do that.
Instead, treat your staycation the same as you would a vacation away. Turn it into an opportunity to explore the place you call home.
Even the most experienced travelers will find they haven’t explored nearly enough of their own backyard. For example, the average tourist in a city like New York has probably seen more of its iconic sights than a native city-dweller.
So, pretend to be a tourist and explore your home city. Visit art museums, catch live music shows, check out must-see attractions, and stop in at the local farmers’ market.
You’ll be surprised by how much there is to discover in a place you’ve lived in for years.
Pro-tip: Find a cheap hotel room or vacation rental to make it feel even more like a vacation—and ensure you don’t put off your exploration with excuses.
2. Go Camping
Cheap vacations begin with camping.
You don’t have to be a hardcore outdoor enthusiast or spend a lot of money to have a fantastic camping experience, which makes it the perfect vacation idea for your next warm-weather adventure. Fun activities abound, from roasting marshmallows over campfires to stargazing at night.
Of course, setting up a tent out in the middle of the woods with no running water and no electricity isn’t everyone’s idea of fun. In that case, you can still find ways to enjoy the outdoors and keep to your goal of planning cheap vacations.
For a happy middle ground, look into renting a camper van or cabin. That way, you can enjoy all the comforts of modern-day living while still reveling in the outdoors.
Whether you choose from local or out-of-state destinations and set up camp under the trees or on a cozy bed, take advantage of all of nature’s beauty, from the gorgeous views to the incredibly affordable price tag.
3. Travel During the Off-Season
What’s the secret to cheap vacations? Traveling in the off-season.
By avoiding the busiest times of the year for travel, you won’t just escape the crowds. You’ll also avoid the thing that makes all cheap vacations infinitely more expensive: peak prices.
Without fail, travel prices rise during peak season. Outside of the holidays, peak season is the time of year when the largest number of tourists descend on a destination. For many places, from South Carolina to Big Sur, that peak season is summer, when nice weather lures in crowds from all over. However, in other vacation spots like Hawaii or Lake Tahoe, you’ll find peak seasons in both winter and summer.
So, plan your travels accordingly to take advantage of lower prices and enjoy fun destinations outside of their busiest times.
Pro-tip: Can’t swing traveling in the off-season? Shoot for the shoulder season, between peak and off-seasons, for affordable prices that’ll make your cheap vacations possible.
4. Book a Last-Minute Cruise
Cruises are a fun, all-inclusive way to travel, though unfortunately, they can be quite expensive. However, if you know the secret to booking cheap cruises, you can still count this among your cheap vacation ideas.
Cheap vacation packages for cruises typically go on sale twice throughout the year: when tickets first become available and last minute.
So, if you haven’t planned your cruise vacation out months in advance, worry not. Search for cruises with upcoming sail dates, and you can still make out with a cheap cruise for your next trip.
Because cruises don’t want to leave port with empty cabins, you can often score lower prices and amazing last-minute vacation deals for onboard credits and free upgrades.
With all of your main expenses covered—accommodations, entertainment, and food—you can enjoy your vacation worry-free.
5. Travel Regionally
You don’t always have to go abroad to have an incredible vacation. In fact, keeping it regional may just be the answer you’re looking for if you want to cash in on cheap trips.
Traveling somewhere that doesn’t require a passport may not seem quite so exotic at first, but that’s before you consider just how big, beautiful, and diverse the US is.
Want to feel like you’re in France? Take a trip to New Orleans. In the mood for some Swiss bliss? Visit America’s Little Switzerland in New Glarus, Wisconsin. And for a small taste of Cuba, head on down to Miami.
The US is full of fantastic gems that offer cultural charms, majestic natural beauty, and big-city fun. You’re guaranteed not to have visited even a fraction of them.
So, start planning a road trip to nearby destinations or hop on a bus heading anywhere. North America has lots of options for bus travel, including popular companies like Greyhound, Flixbus, and Megabus, to name a few. In addition, metasearch engines like WanderU can help you explore cheap routes to nearby destinations and big cities.
Of course, you can’t forget air travel either. Take advantage of affordable vacation package deals and access discounts on everything from flights to rental cars and hotels. Whatever you desire, your perfect vacation spot is waiting to be discovered. Head to Florida for an epic beach vacation or a less-traveled gem such as Maine for a bit of New England town charm.
And if you’re not sure where to begin your regional travels, start with the most affordable cities in the US and work your way out from there!
6. Become a Contrarian Traveler
When the weather’s poor, people tend to hunker inside and wait for the sun. A contrarian traveler decides they don’t need the sun and sets out anyway. It doesn’t matter if the sky is gray and drizzling or the air foggy and cool.
Becoming a contrarian traveler doesn’t take much, other than an adventurous heart and a bit of grit. Instead of trying to plan your vacation around perfect weather, chase the rain and watch it drive away the crowds and high prices.
Or, instead of trying to turn expensive vacation destinations into cheap vacations, look for cheap alternatives. Think Panama instead of Costa Rica, Montenegro instead of Italy, and South Korea instead of Japan.
The world is a big place, and there are reasons the much-loved travel destinations of the world are, well, beloved. With that said, you can find an endless number of incredible destinations by merely stepping off the beaten path. At that point, the fact that they make for cheap vacations will simply be a bonus.
7. Visit Friends or Family
The best vacation destinations serve a dual purpose. What better excuse will you find to pack up your bags and travel the world than visiting family or friends in another city? You can knock out two goals with one trip and save money too.
Another perk is crashing with friends or family so you don’t have to hunt down cheap hotels or other accommodations during your vacation. What’s more, you can also plan fun activities with your family and friends and grab group discounts on experiences through sites like Groupon.
8. Travel During the Week
Other than traveling during the off-season or becoming a contrarian traveler, a surefire way to score vacation deals and plan countless cheap vacations exists: travel during the week.
Cheap hotel rooms, less expensive flights, and even fewer people out and about mean ample opportunity to explore and get to know your destination. Many places also try to drum up traffic during the week—usually before the 5 PM crowd leaves work.
So, if you time it right, you may be able to get ahold of some last-minute vacation deals. In turn, that means you get to enjoy more affordable excursions and activities at cheaper rates.
9. Try House Sitting
For many, the cost of accommodations always puts a big hole in their vacation budget. If this sounds like you, you’ve no doubt contemplated ways to save money on your next trip. One way to cut down on your lodging expenses is to stay somewhere for free. Or, get paid to stay somewhere.
House sitting for someone on vacation allows you to travel to new places without worrying about getting your hand’s on a cheap hotel booking or other accommodations. As a bonus—as if a free stay wasn’t bonus enough—you also have a place to cook and relax after a long day of travel.
Start with small, local jobs with friends and family to build up your housesitting credentials. Then, aim your sights toward destinations in major cities and eventually abroad! You’ll be amazed at the exciting places and fascinating people you can meet while house sitting.
10. Skip the Popular Beaches
Beautiful beaches are always a big draw for vacation destinations, from colorful “rainbow” sand to stunning white-sand beaches. But getting sucked into the pull of the most famous shorelines worldwide might start to turn your cheap vacations into expensive nightmares. So, how do you avoid the heavy price tag of well-known beaches? Easy. Skip them altogether.
Now, we know the lure of some spectacular beaches can be irresistible. The bright lights and fervor of Miami Beach or the striking Pink Sands Beach of Jamaica can seem hard to beat. But consider the big-name these beaches have created for themselves in the travel world and the crowds enticed to their coasts.
You may start to see the upside to planning your epic beach vacation on less crowded shores.
You can find alternatives for nearly every famous beach out there. So, the next time you catch yourself dreaming of Santorini’s gleaming white buildings and sprawling sands, turn your sights to a more laidback destination, like Paros, Greece. You’ll find a very similar experience with a much more affordable budget.
Pro-tip: Want to skip the overcrowded beach? Check out vacation rentals with oceanfront property and a private beach you can call yours for a week or two.
11. Visit National Parks
Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, big into water sports, or just looking to take in jaw-dropping panoramic views, national parks will offer some of the most unique and memorable experiences for your cheap vacations.
The amazing thing about national parks is that there’s always something new to see or experience, as no two are the same.
Consider two of the most visited national parks in the US: Blue Ridge Parkway and Natchez Trace Parkway. Each offers visitors a scenic drive. However, one takes you through rugged mountains and Appalachian highlands with incredible views. In contrast, the other takes you on a journey through time with frontier history and Native American burial mounds.
National parks provide unmatched adventures for pinched wallets. Hiking gorgeous trails, hunting scenic waterfalls, and snapping Instagram-worthy pics are all free. Or you can splurge a bit and enjoy park experiences like white water rafting, ziplining, canopy tours, and so much more.
Consider combining cheap vacation ideas like camping and national parks to take your stargazing and marshmallow roasting to new heights in some of the most scenic locations in the US!
12. Book a Last-Minute Tour
If you’re doing some last-minute travel, you may be able to bolster your cheap trips with cheap last-minute tours. Many tour companies will offer last-minute deals to rid themselves of open seats or spaces on their excursions. After all, a seat bought for cheap is still a seat someone paid for versus it being left empty.
So, if you play it smart, you may be able to score big on exciting excursions like boat tours, ATV rides, wine excursions, and more.
Pro-tip: Leave some time in your schedule open for non-essential activities. You may be able to save money booking some tours last minute.
13. Try a Small Amusement Park
When planning a family vacation, what’s the first destination that comes to mind? If you thought of the Big Mouse, Mickey himself, don’t worry. We did too.
Along with other Disney parks, Disney World gives off a quintessential magic that brands it the ultimate destination for fun family adventures. It doesn’t seem like a hard sell with taglines like “Where Dreams Come True” and “The Most Magical Place on Earth.”
But as far as cheap vacations go, Disney has never been at the top of that list.
Fear not. You can still find magic sprinkled throughout other vacation spots, even if you’re working with a smaller budget. For example, at Universal Orlando Resort, magic comes equipped with wizards—a la the Wizarding World of Harry Potter—and cheaper on-site hotels than Disney.
Meanwhile, if your family loves entertainment, Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, can’t be missed. And for a trip out west, Silver Dollar City has rides, concerts, and fun festivals year-round.
14. Go All-in on All-Inclusive Resorts
Intuitively, all-inclusive resorts don’t seem like the kind of places you’d go if you want to keep your vacations cheap. But once you think about everything they cover, those individual costs start adding up to savings.
Like cruises, you have your accommodations, food, and entertainment all taken care of. Additionally, some resorts and online travel agencies (OTAs) allow you to book your all-inclusive resorts together with an added flight. So, you don’t even have to worry about how you’ll get to your all-inclusive paradise.
With your expenses paid in advance, you can enjoy your vacation stress-free. Just be sure to read the fine print on resort fees and gratuities so that you’re not surprised by any additional charges on your way out the door.
Pro-tip: If you want to land last-minute vacation packages, try checking out OTAs like Expedia—the flagship of the Expedia Group Company—and CheapCaribbean.
15. Book a Cheap Flight
Two travel expenses routinely eat up more of your vacation budget than any other: airfare and accommodations.
Cheap vacations in places like India, Croatia, and Arizona all start out with low daily costs. But watch that overall budget estimate skyrocket once you add in airfare.
Flying isn’t cheap, whether you’re trying to get to popular vacation destinations or well-hidden gems. So, to cut down on your vacation costs and keep your cheap vacations, well, cheap, you need to find great deals on airfare.
Luckily enough, that’s where Next Vacay enters the picture.
With deals to vacation destinations worldwide delivered right to your inbox, you’ll find yourself flying to places like India, Thailand, New York, and more at a fraction of the average cost.
Keep your cheap vacations inexpensive and carefree. Fly with Next Vacay!