24 Best Ideas To Vacation On A Budget

Are you planning a trip and want tips that will help you vacation on a budget? Taking a vacation can get very expensive very quickly. There’s the time you need to take off work, travel expenses, the cost of staying somewhere, food, and much more. When you add it all up, it might feel like…

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Last Updated: March 13, 2024

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Are you planning a trip and want tips that will help you vacation on a budget?

Taking a vacation can get very expensive very quickly. There’s the time you need to take off work, travel expenses, the cost of staying somewhere, food, and much more. When you add it all up, it might feel like a vacation just isn’t in your budget.best ideas to vacation on a budget

In fact, one of the top reasons I hear for why people don’t travel more is that they feel they don’t have enough money to do so. However, it’s very possible to vacation on a budget.

Many people think that they need to spend thousands upon thousands of dollars in order to have a good vacation.

But, that’s simply not true.

There are many ways you can take family vacations on a budget, spend less on solo travel, or take a vacation with your friends and not go into debt. 

You may have to rethink the way you travel, do a little more planning and research, or stay a little closer to home. But, there are low budget vacation ideas for almost everyone. 

Remember, vacationing should be a time to relax and help you escape the stresses of everyday life. 

Paying thousands of dollars you don’t have to take a vacation is the opposite of stress-free because it can lead to debt, a feeling of regret, and more.

I’ve heard from many people over the years that have spent more than they could afford to take a vacation. Some of them even had a great time on their trip and didn’t think about money. But, they eventually had to face the reality that they should have planned a more affordable trip.

Planning budget getaways is one of the best ways to avoid that situation, and the tips you’re going to read about today will help you plan an amazing vacation on a budget. 

There are many reasons to spend less on your next vacation. Perhaps you don’t have a huge budget for your next vacation, or maybe you want to split your vacation budget into multiple trips. 

By finding ways to save money, you can go on a stress-free vacation and not have to worry about money. This makes your vacation much more enjoyable because who wants to think about money when they are trying to relax?

Related content: Here’s How To Save Thousands For Your Next Vacation – This article is different than today’s, and it teaches you how to save for a vacation. You’ll learn how to create a savings plan that allows you to actually save all of the money you need before you leave for your trip.

Here are 21 tips to vacation on a budget.


1. Stay in hostels to vacation on a budget

Hostels are great for budget travel. They are often quite affordable, and you can usually stay in a hostel for less than $50 a night depending on where you’re traveling to.

My mother is over 60, and she has been traveling all around the world, and she has even stayed in hostels many times. In the past couple of years she’s gone to Switzerland, Canada, South Korea, all over the U.S., Europe several times, and more. Sometimes she even couch surfs!


2. Join Facebook travel groups to find the best deals

I’m a huge fan of travel-related Facebook groups. I love hearing about the amazing places that people travel to, and they often share great deals, such as limited-time flash sales.

Flash sales are a GREAT way to save money on travel, and the Facebook groups below make it easy to find deals.

My two favorite travel-related Facebook groups are:

  • Girls Love Travel – This is a travel group for females, and it has over 1.2 million users. There are often amazing flights deals posted here, and one that was recently shared was a $400 roundtrip flight to New Zealand.
  • Frugal Travel with Holly Johnson – If you want to travel on a budget, then this is a great Facebook group to join. This group was created by my friend Holly, who is a travel and credit card rewards expert. This group is more about budget travel through credit cards bonuses.


3. Travel in the mid or off-season

Traveling during the peak season is almost always going to cost you more than if you traveled to a destination during the mid or off-season.

I like traveling in the mid-season because the weather is usually similar to the peak season, but it’s usually less crowded and cheaper.

It’s less expensive to travel in the mid or off-season because it’s a little harder for hotels, transportation companies, and so on to sell their services and products when not as many people are wanting them. To find the best budget travel deals, looking at off-season travel may be the best idea.

cheapest places to travel 

4. Make money while you travel

Yes, you can make money while you travel! This is more suited for people who want to travel for extended periods of time or even full-time.

Making money while you travel is a great way to fund your vacations so you’re not stressed about money.

You can do things such as:

  • Run a website
  • Au pair
  • Find a job in the places you are visiting
  • Freelance write or become a virtual assistant
  • Sell products
  • Earn passive income
  • Housesit
  • Work remotely

Learn more at:


5. Work for an airline to travel on a budget

My dad worked for an airline nearly his whole life, right until he passed away.

Due to that, we always had free or super cheap flights, many times they were even first-class seats. Having free or cheap flights allowed us to vacation on a budget, and it was a huge perk of his career.

This is still a benefit available to many people who work for airlines today.


6. Earn nearly free travel with credit cards

If you can trust yourself to use credit cards to their advantage while not going into credit card debt, then you can use them to earn really, REALLY cheap travel. If you don’t believe me, I recommend reading this: How To Take A 10 Day Trip To Hawaii For $22.40 – Flights & Accommodations Included.

Credit card points can be used towards many different things, such as free flights, hotel stays, cashback, and more. It’s a great way to plan budget family travel. 

Each month, I put nearly all of my expenses on credit cards, which turns into points that I can use. AND, I don’t pay a penny towards interest or credit card charges because I always pay my credit card balance in full each month. I use my credit card as though it’s cash – I do it all for the points!

Here are some of the best rewards credit cards based on the kind of offer or reward you’re interested in:

  • Best airlines credit card:  The card_name has been a favorite for years. bonus_miles_full
  • Best travel rewards credit card: The card_name is the most popular travel rewards card for those new to rewards credit cards due to its high intro bonus and low annual fee of $95. bonus_miles_full 
  • Best sign-up bonus credit card: The card_name is one of the best rewards credit cards with its high sign-up bonus. bonus_miles_full This card does have an annual fee of $95.
  • Best rewards credit card for dining and groceries: The card_name is a very popular dining rewards credit card, and it’s one of the best credit cards for points. bonus_miles_full You also can earn 4X membership rewards on restaurant and grocery store spending. The annual fee for this card is $250. Terms Apply. Rates & Fees.
  • Best rewards credit card with no annual fee: The card_name has no annual fee, and is a rewards credit card. bonus_miles_full

Please head to Best Rewards Credit Cards to learn more.


7. Fly with a budget airline

There are many people who avoid flying when they’re planning a vacation on a budget because airfare is often one of the most expensive parts of a trip.

However, there are budget airlines that offer unbelievably cheap plane tickets, like Allegiant, Frontier, and Spirit. A ticket on a normal airline might be $200+ each way, and the low-cost airlines may only cost $40.

Examples of random flights I found through budget airlines:

  • Austin, Texas to San Juan, Puerto Rico for $70 on Spirit Airlines.
  • Fort Lauderdale to Cincinnati for $48 on Allegiant Airlines.
  • Los Angeles to Las Vegas for $25 on Frontier Airlines.

Learn more at Are Budget Airlines Worth It? Here Are 6 Of The Best Tips To Cut Your Costs.


budget getaways

8. Housesit to travel on a budget

Housesitting is becoming very popular these days, and there is usually a big demand for reliable housesitters with positive past reviews.

We even know of a couple who have their house on a housesitting website, and they often have housesitters, so I know it’s a real thing!

Trustedhousitters.com is one website you can check out if you’d like to learn more.

Recommended reading: How To Stay At Hotels For Free


9. Find more affordable travel destinations

Some travel destinations will be much cheaper than others.

Due to this, you may want to research the cheapest places to travel to learn what your options are. You can find ideas for places to stay in the U.S. or internationally.

10. Stay in an Airbnb

If you’re going with a big group, want a yard, want a house with a kitchen, or something else, renting a house may be a better idea for you.

And in some cases, it may be more affordable as well.

Whenever we travel, we tend to stay in an Airbnb, since we have a dog.

An Airbnb is occasionally someone’s home, but I’ve found that most of the time they are just vacation rentals that a person is renting out on the site.

I enjoy Airbnbs over normal hotels when I’m on vacation because there is usually much more room, a backyard for pets, a kitchen, they are great for when traveling on a budget, and more. An Airbnb is usually very beneficial if you’re traveling with a big group. You can split the cost of a larger space with numerous people, which really helps you vacation on a budget.


11. Couch surf

I’ve never couch surfed, but I know a few people who have couch surfed in order to travel on a budget, including my sister and my mom.

Couch surfing is great because you can get a free place to stay while meeting cool and friendly locals.

With couch surfing, sometimes you’ll sleep on a couch, perhaps in a separate bedroom, or some other arrangement that you’ll know about beforehand.


12. Sign up for a hotel’s loyalty card

No matter where we stay, we always sign up for a hotel’s loyalty card so that we can earn free hotel stays for the future.

The loyalty programs are typically 100% free, and you can accrue points with your membership card and possibly your credit card too (remember to only use credit cards for travel if you can use them responsibly!). I have earned free hotel stays this way, and it’s always nice to earn double the points.

There are also other benefits to signing up for these cards. Sometimes you can score free hotel room upgrades, early check-ins, late checkouts, additional discounts, and more.


13. Be flexible with the dates for your stay

Having a flexible schedule can help you vacation on a budget. You may save on airfare and lodging. Traveling over the weekends will usually be more expensive, and choosing a destination’s high season will most likely cost you more money as well.

If you can, you may want to do some research and see what the accommodation rate is when just changing the date by a day, a week, or more. This is an important money-saving tip and can possibly save you hundreds of dollars on your vacation.

I recently looked at a hotel that charged over $1,000 a night for a room, and just a few weeks later they had the same room for less than $200 a night. That is a huge difference for the same exact room.


best family vacations on a budget

14. Ask for a discount to travel on a budget

When you are looking at hotels, motels, short-term rentals, and more, simply ask if there are any discounts available. I usually book my trips at the last moment, and asking for a discount often works for me because places are trying to fill up any remaining rooms.

Sometimes asking for a discount will work, other times it does not. It’s just a simple “Are there any available discounts that I can receive?”

The worst that can happen is that they say no. The best is that they’ll say yes!


15. Find cheaper ways to get around your destination

Depending on where you go, there may be many different ways to get around.

There may be a shuttle, bus, taxi, Uber, train, and so on.

And, in many touristy areas, you may be able to travel around the area for free on a shuttle or bus, you just may need to do a little research to see if the town offers it. They often do this as a nice benefit to their tourists, as well as to cut down on traffic in their busy areas so that areas aren’t crowded with too many cars.

Many years ago, we were in a beach town that only charged a quarter to get from the beach to the airport, with all of your luggage in tow. The taxi ride would have been well over $50. We were already doing our vacation on a budget, and we learned that the bus picked you up right near the Airbnb we were staying at. So, we took the nearly free bus and saved a lot of money.

And, I still see this in towns all the time! Free or nearly free shuttles and busses are all over the place.


16. Hitchhike (but be safe)

Okay, so this may be frowned upon in some areas and by some people, but this can be a way to get around if you’re safe and know what you’re doing.

Hitchhiking is somewhat common in popular hiking areas and in some parts of the world.

When my husband and his friend hiked the Colorado Trail in Colorado, they hitchhiked because there were no taxis. The person who picked them up was on the cell phone the whole time, and when he finally got off the phone he told them that many people hitchhiked in Colorado to get from a hiking spot back to their car.


budget family travel

17. Use your student ID to travel on a budget

If you have a student ID, then you should definitely use it while traveling!

This can get you discounts on many different things, such as attractions, transportation, food, clothing, and more.


18. Eat like a local to vacation on a budget

Eating like a local is the best way to dine while traveling, as you can save money most of the time and have a more authentic vacation experience.

You don’t need to go out to fancy restaurants or touristy spots that raise the prices to have a great vacation.


19. Buy groceries and eat out less

Yes, it can be fun and even a little more relaxing to eat out when traveling to a new place.

However, you can save a little bit of money by eating in at least once a day, especially if you’re not going to get something local or special anyways.

You can easily save money by eating out one less time each day on your vacation by just  buying groceries and making a meal where you’re staying.

20. Plan a staycation

The most expensive parts of going on vacation are usually travel expenses, like airfare or gas, and where you’re staying. You can cut those expenses out by taking a staycation.

Staycations are vacations where you stay at home and visit nearby attractions. This is one of the best family vacations on a budget, and you can visit places near you that you’ve always been wanting to go to.

21. Pack light

If you’re flying, packing light can help you save money because you won’t have to pay for checked bags. Checking a bag can sometimes cost $30 or more for the first bag, and it’s even more if you want to check a second bag.

Packing light can also reduce your travel stress because there are fewer things to worry about losing. 

22. Search for free things to do

Before you travel, do a little research to find free things to do at your chosen destination. There may be free concerts, festivals, tours, and more. 

This can be a great way to see the city you’re visiting while taking a vacation on a budget.

23. Buy travel insurance

If you are traveling internationally, you should seriously consider travel insurance. This is an extra expense that can save you a lot of money if you were to get hurt or sick in a foreign country.

My sister-in-law broke her leg and needed emergency surgery in the Dominican Republic, and travel insurance saved her more than $10,000 in medical expenses her health insurance company wouldn’t cover because she was out of the country.

You can read about her experience and learn more about travel insurance in My True Travel Insurance Story.

low budget vacation ideas
This is a free campsite in Colorado!

24. Plan a trip in the great outdoors

There are so many wonderful and cheap vacation plans you can make if you focus your trip around the outdoors. Things like hiking, biking, and camping are some of the cheapest forms of entertainment.

You can visit national parks or forests, state parks, and so on. They are normally in some of the most beautiful spots in the country, too!

You can even camp for free in beautiful places! You can learn more at How To Camp For Free, Even In Beautiful and Desirable Places.

If you plan on visiting multiple national parks in the same year, you may be able to save even more by purchasing an annual pass. 

If you have a fourth-grader in your house, you can actually get a free national parks pass through the Every Kid Outdoors program.

How do I vacation on a tight budget?

As you can see, there are many ways to take a vacation on a budget. Even if you have a tight budget, you may be able to find a way to make it work.

As a recap, the ways to vacation on a budget include:

  • Stay in hostels
  • Join Facebook travel groups to find the best deals
  • Travel in the mid or off season
  • Make money while you travel
  • Work for an airline to travel on a budget
  • Earn nearly free travel with credit cards
  • Fly with a budget airline
  • Housesit
  • Find more affordable travel destinations
  • Stay in an Airbnb
  • Couch surf
  • Sign up for a hotel’s loyalty card
  • Be flexible with the dates for your stay
  • Ask for discounts
  • Find cheaper ways to get around locally
  • Hitchhike
  • Use your student ID
  • Eat like a local
  • Buy groceries and eat out less
  • Plan a staycation
  • Pack light
  • Search for free things to do
  • Buy travel insurance
  • Plan a trip in the great outdoors

What’s your favorite way to vacation on a budget?

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Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Author: Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Hey! I’m Michelle Schroeder-Gardner and I am the founder of Making Sense of Cents. I’m passionate about all things personal finance, side hustles, making extra money, and online businesses. I have been featured in major publications such as Forbes, CNBC, Time, and Business Insider. Learn more here.

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  1. Couch durfing just reminded me of a toolbar internet users used to install at the bottom of their PC screens in the late 1990s that supposedly paid them when they ran the toolbar and surfed the web. lol

  2. And, vacationing is also good when employees experience burnout on the job.

  3. My last few trips have all been on AMEX points. I highly recommend taking advantage of credit card points if you can.

  4. Thanks a lot for sharing, Michelle.

    You are absolutely right with all the ideas you shared here.

    Making money traveling makes it extremely easy for my wife and I to go on a vacation from time to time.

    While on our trip, I could make back the entire money I invested to make the travel happen.

    I pretty doubt I would have been able to do these things if I wasn’t earning while traveling.

    This is a golden advice and I love it.


    – Emenike