How to Vacation Big on a Small Budget

Don’t let your budget be the reason you don’t take a vacation this year. There are plenty of vacation options tailored to families with small vacation budgets. And these can be just as much fun—or more—than lavish budget-busting trips.

Here are some ideas for taking a big vacation on a small budget.

Go Big and Stay Home

One of the most popular vacation trends for people on a budget is the staycation. A staycation is when you stay close to home and vacation to a destination in your town or region.

When planning a staycation, consider all the touristy stuff to do in your area, search out less-explored destinations, and look for any free cultural events nearby. You’ll not only have the opportunity to stay close to home, but you’ll save money on the more expensive travel costs.

The key to a successful staycation is treating it like a destination vacation.

To really immerse yourself in a staycation, travel blogger Nomadic Matt stresses the importance of getting out of your house and checking into a nearby hotel so you can create a truly vacation-like atmosphere. He argues that if you stay in your familiar environment, you will find some reason not to go out and sightsee.

So, don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone and experience your hometown in a new way. Check into local lodging to make your staycation feel more like a vacation.

Travel Off-Season

For most people, peak travel seasons are summer and holiday breaks because the kids are out of school. But, this is when travel is most expensive because of the high demand. You should consider traveling off-season. When traveling in the offseason, airline tickets and accommodations are cheaper and easier to book because of higher availability. But these aren’t the only advantages to traveling in the off-season.

If you have a flexible schedule, you can save a lot of money by traveling in the offseason. Generally, the best times to travel are early in the year, and early autumn, writes Jaqueline Curtis. Keep in mind that not all destinations have the same offseason.

According to travel blogger Reshma Narasing, destinations are less crowded during the offseason, so you can explore at your own pace. She adds that during the off-season you might be able to afford to travel to places that were previously out of your budget.

Think Beyond Hotels

Traditionally, most vacationers prefer to stay in hotels, but there are many other options available to you when searching for travel accommodations. These alternatives are often more cost-efficient than a lengthy hotel stay.

Why? Although upfront costs might be comparable, many of the alternate options offer more than just a bed and bathroom. Some alternative lodging options to consider are:

  • Vacation rentals, like VRBO, Airbnb, and HomeAway. These types of lodging are especially good for families as most have kitchens, yards and other amenities that help you save money on food and entertainment.
  • Hostels can be great choices for single people or couples. You will have to share space with other travelers, but they are significantly cheaper than hotels.
  • Home swapping is an option where you and another family swap homes for the length of the vacation. Joining a home exchange site can help you list your home and search for a vacation home, plus provide advice about legal and logistical concerns. A few of these include Home Exchange, Love Home Swap, and Intervac.

Travel in Packs

Another way to save money on your vacation is to share costs with another family. If you are planning a vacation that involves many people or families, booking as a group can save everyone money. When you travel in groups, you can often get group discounts as high as 15 percent on airfare, lodging, and attractions.

Most group rates start at 10 people, and when booking for that many you’ll likely have to call the reservation center instead of making online reservations. Still, while coordinating logistics for a large group may get complicated, the savings may be worth the extra effort. Sometimes traveling in groups can be more enjoyable than traveling alone.