Vacations might have a reputation as being self-indulgent, but—just like weekends and federally mandated lunch breaks—they are genuinely necessary for your health and happiness. Taking time away from the stress and exertion of your work and day-to-day life is restorative and rejuvenating for the human spirit.
And after the year that we have all been through, it is no surprise that many families are ready for a real vacation this summer. It is also no surprise that those vacations might have a tight budget.
To help you find a way to get packed up and out the door this summer season, here are our top 6 budget-friendly vacation ideas for summertime.
1. Go on a camping trip and rough it
You could consider camping to be a “bring your own amenities” type of vacation. You provide the shelter, the cooking tools, meals, and the responsibility of cleaning up after yourself (respectfully ascribe to the “leave no trace” guidelines).
If you already have essential camping equipment such as a tent, sleeping bags, flashlights, and other outdoor gear, then there is a minimal upfront cost for this type of vacation. You might need to pay for a permit or reserve a campsite, but other than that, packing enough food and water for your adventure is the only necessary expense. When compared to eating out two to three times a day for a week on a traditional vacation, cost of food is not so bad.
(On a practical note: If you do not already have the gear that you need in order to go camping, you should start looking as soon as possible, as there has been a shortage in outdoor equipment both due to increased demand and interruptions to manufacturing during the pandemic.)
2. Search vacation rental sites for a sweet deal
If camping just isn’t for you, you can also consider a glamping trip or go anywhere with all the comforts of home by booking a cabin in the woods or other style of personal home rental through a vacation rental from a private owner on a site like Airbnb or Vrbo.
The advantages of this style of accommodation are manifold. Compared to major hotel chains, they are often much more budget-friendly, especially for what you get along with a place to stay.
Vacationing in a home compared to a hotel means that you will have more space and a full kitchen (with a full-sized fridge; again, easing the financial pressure of eating out for every meal). Staying in a local’s spot also means that your host might offer their insider knowledge of your vacation destination. Consider asking them to give you some suggestions for where to go, what to do, and where to eat. You will often find that their suggestions turn you in the best direction to make memories on your trip.
Instead of blindly choosing a restaurant or looking for a familiar chain, an awesome host can point you in the right direction for the best hole-in-the-wall places and ones that are small community businesses.
3. Travel on the day of the holiday
As noted by the holiday movie “Christmas with the Kranks”, it is much cheaper to travel on the day of the holiday itself than on the days surrounding the holiday.
If you are open to celebrating a holiday before or after its official day (and perhaps watching the fireworks go off from a plane window), you should definitely consider booking your flight for the day-of; if your summer plans fall near a holiday. With fewer crowds than usual at the airport and the sweet, sweet knowledge that you got a great deal on your tickets, traveling on the day of a holiday can actually be rather nice.
In general, if you are flexible about the day of the week that you leave and come back that will help as you are searching for a flight. Helping you to minimize the travel portion of the vacation budget to leave a cushion for other areas.
4. Escape to the beach to relax
In addition to finding a sweet deal on a place to stay and an economical way to get there, choosing a destination that is conducive to a low-cost experience is essential to sticking to a tight vacation budget.
Certain types of vacations have a cost investment built-in. If your idea of taking a vacation is to go to Mount Everest, you can bet that the cost of gear to accommodate a trip like that might far outweigh the money you save on essentials such as lodging and food in Nepal.
The perfect thing about a beach vacation is that you don’t need expensive climbing gear or much to keep you entertained while you’re there. With sun, sand, and a refreshing beverage in your hand, you can be content to listen to the waves roll in and the sunset on a glorious, beautiful
5. Ask for what you actually want
When it comes to gift-giving, unfortunately, many people still receive things that they do not really want or actually need.
But one of the best hacks for a budget-friendly vacation is to ask friends and family for birthday and holiday gifts that can complement your vacation plans. Anything from scuba gear to restaurant gift cards can make a great gift that you will gladly take with you on your next vacation to help ease the financial pressure.
6. If all else fails, the ultimate budget friendly vacation idea…
This is probably not what you want to hear right now, but possibly one of the most restorative ways to take time off of work is to skip the headache of actual travel and stay right where you’re at.
While we have all had too much time at home over the past year, as the world begins to open back up there will be more and more options to explore your local area like you never have before. You might book a hotel close to your house just to create that new mental space; you will unconsciously feel like it is a vacation just because you are out of your element.
You can make a point to finally visit all of those tourist attractions right in your backyard or check out restaurants you’ve never been to.
In the end, it doesn’t really matter where you go or what you do on your budget-friendly vacation this summer, it’s all about the people who go with you and the memories made.