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How To Go On A Budget Friendly Holiday

Updated on September 1, 2012


Everyone needs a vacation but with the high unemployment rate and the economy in such a sad state of affairs, sometimes it may seem unwise to even think of vacation....let alone taking one. 

In many cases though, because we all believe we do deserve a vacation and come heck or high water, we’re going to take one, we simply pull out the credit cards and do what we want to do….only to pay it off year after year after year. 

Is this the most efficient way to take a vacation?  Probably not because your "relaxation" and enjoyment of your vacation will be offset by your ulcer over the escalating debt when you’re all done with it! 

Let’s look at some great ways to take budget friendly vacations.  

These ideas will definitely ease the bite of paying for your vacation for years to come!



The most important thing to do when you’re contemplating taking a vacation is to budget ahead of time, not think about how you’re going to pay for it as an afterthought! 

Set aside a certain amount of money (whatever you feel you can afford after paying your other debts and setting aside money for your savings). 

Watch this money grow by putting it into an online savings account, where you will earn 5-6 times what you would in a bricks and mortar lending institution.  Even call the account VACATION so you'll know you're on your way.


How to go on a vacation and not have to pay for it for years to come?  Here are some surefire ways you'll save money and still have a great time.

  • Share the cost.  A great way to save money on vacationing is to rent a house and then split the cost with 2, 3 even 4 couples depending on the size of the house you rent. 

    For instance, you can go to a beautiful resort community called SunRiver, Oregon and rent an executive quality (deluxe) home for $210 per night.  As an example, a house we rented there had 3 full bedroom suites....meaning each bedroom has a king-size or queen-size bed, its own deluxe bathroom (usually with spa tubs in each). 
  • The home also had 2 decks, beautiful lawn furniture, a BBQ, an outdoor hot tub, a huge dining room table, a kitchen totally decked out with every imaginable appliance and cookware, dishes, etc., TV’s in all the bedrooms, in the family room and living room, a fireplace, and entertainment systems in all the rooms.

    The cost?  $210 per night.  Doing the math, that’s $70 per night per couple!  What a steal!
  • Eat in.  One of the most staggering costs when you’re on vacation is the cost of dining out.  It’s fun, sure but when you look back on it, was it worth the exorbitant rates for breakfast, for lunch and for dinner?  Not to mention alcohol! 

    If you’re on vacation and you want to have a few drinks when you’re out, you’ve just doubled your bill.  What’s the solution?  Well, if you rent a house as above, the best way to save money is by eating in. 

    Divide up the meals if you don’t want to cook all the time; have everyone decide on some meal plans, then decide who’s going to cook what when.  Ante up for the food (say $50 per person or whatever number you feel is adequate to buy staples, snacks, any alcohol, etc), then go shopping.  Either have several people shop or all go to get what you want.  

    Or have everyone shop for their own food or meals that they are responsible for cooking!  You can make gourmet meals for next to nothing and save all that money.....and think about the money you’ll save on tips!  Most vacation homes have ample cooking equipment. 

    Go out for a special evening but for the most part, try and save money by eating in.  If you go to all the trouble of renting a vacation home, the best way to save money is to eat in and cook your own meals!
  • Travel in the off season.  Most vacation spots offer extremely low rates for folks traveling in the off season.  While the off season varies from place to place depending on the terrain and the weather, you can find out easily what the off season rates and times are.  Most places offer special deals, like stay 3 nights, get 1 free. 

    SunRiver as an example has several off in the late winter and early spring and then again after Labor Day and before the holidays.  You can get killer deals by staying during these times and there are less folks there.  It’s a beautiful way to save money and beat the crowds. 

    Even beach vacations can be fantastic (and not quite as hot) if you go a little bit past the prime season.  And saving money always makes for a happier vacation!
  • Look into package deals.  Using places like Expedia, Orbitz, Priceline, Travelocity, etc. can save you big bucks especially if there is airfare involved.  Check out multiple sites and see what the best deal is, then book it. 

    If you’re booking to a resort, check out their online rates or give a call to see if they can suggest the very best offering at the time you want to travel.  By spending some time shopping around, you’ll probably find the best deal possible and won’t be kicking yourself for  having spent too much money on buying parts of your travel plan separately. 

    Also check into the ones you get at Costco or you can find in magazines….so many dollars off on airfare or rental cars.  Sometimes you can pay a little more, use the coupon and get a super upgrade (like on a rental car).  


  • Planes, trains and automobiles.  If you can drive to a vacation destination, it probably will cost you less money in the long run….although watch the price of fuel.  Or consider other alternatives to air travel such as trains.  Price compare and see if that won’t save you money in the long run.  A train ride can be such a relaxing experience and a great way to see the country. 

    Consider other options if you fly to a vacation destination.  Instead of car rentals, take public transportation such as ferries, buses, or rapid transit.  For instance in Portland, there is the Maxx, the public transportation can travel all over the city without a car for very little cost. 

    Places like the Puget Sound have ferries to many places.  It’s very relaxing to just take a ferry ride.  At still other places like the Oregon Coast, you can actually vacation for the entire week and except for grabbing groceries on the way in, you can leave your car parked and never miss driving around to anywhere. 
  • Take a natural vacation.  More and more people are opting for low cost vacations like camping trips or going to state and national parks instead of flying overseas or going to exotic destinations like Hawaii or the Caribbean.  The park fees are nominal and the experience of visiting a national or state park can be life-enriching in terms of wildlife and beauty. 

    Many national parks and state parks also have cabins for rent but the important thing with camping at some of the most popular destinations is to book way in advance. 

    We’ve been camping before and met up with folks who were doing bike camping tours.  They had no car and just rode the ferries in Washington State to whatever island they were going to sight-see on.  They carried all their gear in their packs and camped at all the different campsites on the islands.  They were very enthusiastic about it and said it was one of the best vacations they’d ever taken!  Not to mention great exercise! 

    Check out for reservations.
  • Hostels and Hospitality Clubs.  Especially for overseas travel, these are great ways to save money, still see places and have a great vacation.  In hostels you can sleep in dorm-style rooms for minimal amounts per night.  You can book through and find great rooms for families with many amenities.  Some have community kitchens, laundries, and some even have high-speed Internet, hot tubs or kids’ activities. 

    Hospitality clubs are setups where you stay with other families.  It’s a great way to get to know people and is like a bed-and-breakfast.  Hospitality clubs are generally free but the paid version of that would be homestays. 

    People that enjoy this type of vacation savings generally try and hook up with folks that have similar interests and hobbies that make it more interesting. 
  • Home swapping.  Remember the Jack Black movie The Holiday ?  It was about 2 women who swapped homes and then found the man of their dreams.  While there is no guarantee that you’ll meet the man (or woman) of your dreams, you’ll save a bunch of dough by house swapping for a vacation.  You just have to pick your destination, then find someone who’s interested in visiting your neck of the woods, and then swap! 

    It’s recommended that you exchange digital photos and that of course you specify from the beginning how you want your home treated while someone else is using it and vice versa.  Finding out as much as you can about the family or person swapping is essential.....habits like smoking or excessive drinking, partying, etc. It’s much better to get out of the arrangement than come home to find that your home is in a total state of disarray or worse yet, trashed. 

    Another alternative is to rent a home where you’re visiting and then rent your home out to someone local who you know or can get to know before you abandon your home to strangers. 


  • STAYCATION. This is a new and popular term that is becoming all the rage. What does staycation mean?

    It means you stay at home while you’re on vacation. You go to places and do things you’ve always wanted to do that are local....things that you never have the time (or the money) to do.

    You can include other people in your visiting family members or friends.

    Sometimes it can be just the deal and you don’t have to kennel your dogs or cats. You get to sleep in and enjoy your home....and you still get to go and do things that you love to do, all the while saving all that money on traveling from here to there.

    You can make it as over-the-top or as low-key as you want (and your pocketbook allows).


In short, there are many different ways to save money and still enjoy a vacation from work. 

Whether you go away for an exotic vacation (look for package deals), you go on a shared vacation with family or friends, or you just dig in and have a stayvacation, you can save money in some rather painless ways.

Nothing beats a carefree vacation but especially one that doesn’t put you into debt for months or years to come!  Wishing you a budget-friendly vacation!   

If you have more ideas, feel free to share them here for us all to enjoy. 


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