Summer Vacation Ideas For Families On A Budget

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Summer vacation ideas are easy to come up with, but not always when you're on a budget. Here is a great list of vacation options that won't break the bank!

Summer Vacation Ideas For Families On A Budget

When it comes to planning a fun family vacation, there are lots of options to choose from. Whether you only have a few days or a few weeks, there are ways to go on vacation without breaking the bank. Here are some ideas for how to take your family on vacation while minding your budget.

Backyard Camping Trip

Depending on where you live, consider having a camping trip right in your own backyard! Get tents, sleeping bags, bug repellent and a camping grill, and be sure not to enter the house unless someone needs to use the bathroom.

If you are not in an area where it’s as safe to camp outside all night, do it throughout the day and evening. Only go back inside when it is time for lights out. Spend the day eating from the grill or eat items that you would take camping. See if there is a place to hike, bike ride and/or fish to make the experience more authentic. You don’t need to pay for a campsite to enjoy summertime camping when you can do it right in your own backyard.

State/National Parks

There are approximately 59 national parks in the U.S. and over 10,000 state parks across the 50 states. Each of these parks will allow your family to connect with the natural beauty of your state. Do a little research! Chances are, there’s a beautiful park near your home that’s convenient to visit without planning an extended trip.

Many of the U.S. parks are free to visit or offer free days throughout the year, so entrance costs may not be an issue. Some parks also offer events like animal exhibits or guided hikes which add a bit of the unique to your visit. Check out the park department website to learn more about upcoming events and activities. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by the wide variety of options offered, many of which are totally free.

Weekend Road Trip

A great way to get out of town is to go on a road trip. Pick a destination that is only a few hours away or just start driving and see where you end up. Keep in mind that you will be paying for gas, so you won’t want to journey out too far – you do have to drive back!

Once you decide on your destination (or get close to it), check Trip Advisor to see where you can find a discount on a hotel. Pack some food for picnic lunches and bring snacks with you (like my Funfetti Cake Truffles or Nutella Peanut Butter Muddy Buddies!). No need to stop at a restaurant for every meal when you can cut that number in half.

To keep everyone entertained in the car, play the license plate game (if you get really into it, make sure to drive around the rest stops to collect some bonus states!), I-Spy, 20 Questions and make sure to have a sing along. To make things a little more personal, think about having everyone take turns telling a story about something that happened at school, at work, when the kids were little or when you were little.

Friends and Family Hop

Are there friends and family members that you’ve been meaning to spend time with, but just never seem to be able to find the time? See if you can have a friends and family hop! Ask your nearest and dearest if you can spend a night at their house or camp in the backyard. Offer to make dinner for both families and spend a little time together. The next day, it’s time to move on to the next person’s house!

If you can find a few people that you’d like to spend time with (while maybe cushioning the trip with a night or two at a hotel if there are gaps), you can have an excellent vacation on a budget while having a fantastic time with those people you never get to see. Take advantage of playgrounds, nature trails, local sights, and board games to keep you all entertained.

Beach-Hopping Mini-Vacations

Taking a trip to the beach is virtually free, but heading back to the same beach many times over the summer can get a bit stale. Instead of returning to the same beach, make a list of a few popular nearby beaches and visit a different one every couple of weeks. If there aren’t a lot of beaches in your area, consider including water parks or public pools. You can search to try to find discounts on those as well.

When thinking of beaches, don’t just consider those that are right down the road from each other. Try to see if there are any dunes in your area. If there is a beach destination a few hours away, consider going there and staying overnight. Make the most of one or two day vacations that you can take as often as you can get the time off.

House-Sitting Adventures

There will always be a need for reliable house-sitters, so why not turn the opportunity into a fun family vacation? Find an area that you would like to visit and hunt for house-sitting jobs in the vicinity. You will likely be required to take care of some animals (this should be disclosed in the listing) and you will also be given free housing with the possibility of extra pay. If you are an animal lover, this would be a great way to get free housing while going on vacation!


Sometimes the best way to go on vacation is to explore your own area. If you live in a big city, have a staycation and pretend you’re a tourist. Go to some of the attractions that you never get around to. Check the library or park districts to see if they offer free passes for city residents or take advantage of a CityPass to get some savings on museums and destinations.

If you are from a smaller town, see what you can find in the larger areas around you. Don’t want to go too far? Check Trip Advisor to see if you can find a hotel with a pool for under $100 per night. If you search a few days before the visit, you should be able to find something with no problem. Go to the pool, play some board games, enjoy the room, and just relax. Sometimes just being in a hotel (where you aren’t cooking, cleaning or answering the phone) is vacation enough!

These are just a few ideas for an affordable family vacation. Typically, the further you start to plan ahead and the more research you put into it, the more money you’ll save. That said, if you are looking last minute, be sure to check a site like Priceline. The hotels want to rent their rooms, even if it’s for less than they typically book for. They will likely make the price more appealing the closer you get to the date. Be sure to also read more about how to save on summer travel to make the most of your trip!

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