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How To Have Vacation Fun On A Budget

Updated on August 23, 2013

How to have an inexpensive and enjoyable vacation

Having a memorable vacation doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. If you’re willing to make some concessions along the way, these budget friendly vacation tips will keep you happy.

Know Your Vacation Budget

The first step in a successful vacation is not where to go, but how much money will you allot yourself to spend. Know who is going to be vacationing-you, you and your spouse, or the whole family. Multiply your budget for one by the number in your party. It is better to allocate each child twelve years old and older as ‘adult’. Those under age 12 can be counted at half the cost…but, far better you over calculate for the unplanned surprises, than under guess your expenses.

Decide on a destination. For vacations that exceeds your vacation allowance, forego the immediate vacation and take one later in the year after saving. Remember, the fun is often in the journey, not the destination.

Determine Your Vacation Destination

Know what you want to do. Some people don’t care where they go-they just want to visit someplace new. Other families don’t want any fuss; they just want to get to a place that meets their criteria for relaxed family fun, with plenty of activities for the kids.

Hobbies or activities of interest, like skiing or wine tasting, may be a third factor to consider. Or, perhaps there is a particular exhibit or event that you wish to attend and you’ll be travelling to that location to participate in it, such as a special art exhibit in another city or state.

Plan ahead to beat the crowd

Plane, Train or Automobile?
Plane, Train or Automobile? | Source

Travel and Transportation Bargains

Once you have decided on your vacation plans, explore your options for the best deals. If it requires air fare know which dates and times are the cheapest, such as early morning or the ‘red eye’ flight. Tuesdays and Wednesdays are often cheaper because most business people need to fly out on Monday. Likewise, know which airlines will charge hidden or additional costs, such as baggage fees and, all things being equal, go with the airlines who offer those freebies.

When planning a trip, do your own research online and through reliable recommendations. Triple A Road Service offers free trip planning services for the cost of an annual road service membership. However, don’t join for the convenience of one service. Many of the travel agent services are available at your finger tips via online searches. All it costs is time and perseverance maneuvering the websites.

When considering whether to fly, drive, or use other transportation, such as a travel bus or train, weigh everything out carefully: the amount of time you have; the cost of gas for your trip, should you drive, vs. the need for a rental car, should you fly.

Finding Cheap Motels

When you’re vacationing away from home you will need to plan a place to rest your head at night. The cheapest accommodations could be a borrowed cottage or a swapped home in another location. There are endless possibilities depending on your budget and how much you intend to spend on where you sleep vs. what you do. Here are a few other sleep accommodations: a tent and sleeping bag; a log cabin or teepee in a state park; a hostel; a Super 6 or 8 motel room; a reasonably priced room in a hotel chain; or a bed and breakfast inn. Bargain hunters who become savvy to off season dates win in two ways: discounts and crowds.

How to save money while dining out

Budgeting for meals may take some strategy in the overall planning of your vacation. If you will spend time at a motel/hotel chain, rent a suite with a kitchenette, or at least a room with a microwave and refrigerator.

Save money eating out by planning to catch a continental breakfast at your hotel; then eat your largest meal midday when the prices are cheaper; followed by a simpler, lighter supper. Investigate local ‘early bird specials’. Utilize discounts appropriate for age groups: senior specials or children’s menu prices.

Bargains for vacation activities

Before starting out on your venture, purchase discounts for theme parks through your place of employment or a local travel agent. Know what items you can bring with you, such as your own ski gear for a ski trip, which will save you the cost of rental equipment. Educate yourself about cost saving special days and times that a particular place of entertainment may have, such as midday half off specials. A well planned vacation can incorporate fun and savings.


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    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 7 years ago from North Carolina

      Hi Suzette, nice to meet you. Thanks for reading the hub and I highly recommend a vacation. There are a lot of ways to minimize the costs. Hope you get to do it. I hear there are some great hostels in the warmer states. I like hostels because they are so inexpensive and you get to meet lots of nice people.

    • suzetteboston profile image

      suzetteboston 7 years ago

      What a wonderful article, I need a vacation.

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 7 years ago from North Carolina

      Hi Amy, thanks for reading and commenting.

      Hi Prasetio-glad you found it helpful. Thanks for voting up

      Hi Gail-I am doing much better, thanks. I am happy for you that your nursing career offered a pension. I am currently and hopefully in my last place of employment, but after 26 years of nursing this is the very first job which has offered a pension. In fact, after I hired in in '07 the company eliminated that from their benefit pkg. It is quite sad that a service oriented career like nursing does not offer better retirement benefits for the ones who have taken care of others all their lives. Well, enjoy your retirement and writing. Well deserved.

    • Happyboomernurse profile image

      Gail Sobotkin 7 years ago from South Carolina

      Glad to hear you're feeling better and that your co-workers jumped in so effectively. I think psych nurses definitely have the toughest, highest risk jobs, then comes, ER and homecare.

      You're right, I don't miss the hectic, stress filled days of nursing, but at this point it's nice to look back and know that I spent 36 years of my life helping others. During my career, there were times I was the main provider for my family so I'm also grateful for the income, and now pensions, that I earned from nursing, but it's a hard way to make a living, and I think it's even harder now than it was years ago. God bless you for the work you do.

    • prasetio30 profile image

      prasetio30 7 years ago from malang-indonesia

      This is great hub. Well done. I learn much from you. Thanks for writing this. We need to control our budget while vocation. Vote up. Have a good day!

      Love and peace,

    • amybradley77 profile image

      amybradley77 7 years ago

      Thanks for the good advise here, I'm always trying to think of a cost saving way that us adult kids can vacation with our parents now. Great ideas here!! A.B.

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 7 years ago from North Carolina

      Hi Gail-it goes with the territory, doesn't it? I have a bruised arm, but that's about it. Hurting much less today than I anticipated. As a psychiatric nurse our working conditions are much more hazardous due to the unpredictablility of patients acting out. As for policies, the ironic thing is that we just had a workshop reviewing the policy for seclusion and restraints. This 'assault' occurred the next day, and the instructor facilitating told me it was like putting the workshop into action. We received praise and kudos for the great job we did, blah blah blah, but sometimes it just gets old.

      It was a tough day all around starting with 6 discharges in the morning all before 12 noon and 2 admissions. Whew. Then, this young woman started up at 1:30 in the afternoon. I worked with a GREAT team of co-workers who really pulled together and hussled. It could have been much worse. No one was really injured and we all got out on time. As a thank you, I bought them pizza for lunch. I was so grateful for the great team work.

      Thanks for your comments and prayers. I'll mend. :) Bet you don't miss those days do you?

    • Happyboomernurse profile image

      Gail Sobotkin 7 years ago from South Carolina

      Sorry to hear you were assaulted. I'll keep you in my thoughts and prayers, especially for psychological recovery. Unfortunately, assault is a hazard in our profession that most people don't realize.

      You probably could turn your experience into a hub as long as the patient isn't identifiable.

      Also, are the policies in your facility conducive to worker safety?

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 7 years ago from North Carolina

      Hi Gail-thanks for reading the hub and commenting. I totally agree. Vacation fun isn't 'fun' when you come home and spend 6 months paying off a bill. :) I forgot to add to my previous comment that EVERYONE deserves to take at least one memorable vacation. When you plan ahead it is an achievable goal.

      Thanks for your ongoing encouragement. Today was an especially rough day at work. We have a very explosive patient who ended up getting physically assaultive to me. Tomorrow I get checked out at the employee health office.

      I'm actually considering a hub...Glad I'm off tomorrow and that she didn't hurt my 'writing' hand, LOL

    • Happyboomernurse profile image

      Gail Sobotkin 7 years ago from South Carolina

      Great hub. Staying within budget when planning family vacations keeps it fun for Mom and Dad as well as the kids. Nothing spoils a vacation faster than a parent worried about having to pay a large credit card bill when they get home.

      I loved what you wrote about encouraging kids to be part of the planning and to also have them give up some of their own daily luxuries for future vacation fun. It's a great way to teach values and long term financial planning skills.

      Congratulations on finishing hub #50, and hub #17 in the 30 day challenge. That's an awesome achievement given your work schedule.

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 7 years ago from North Carolina

      Hi Stephanie-I know you understand the cost of travelling around. Thanks for your comments.

      Papernotes-It took my husband and I almost a full year of saving to go to Disney World with my kids...that will be a hub for another day. I would encourage you to make it a family goal to save and cut costs 'together'. Let the kids participate in reaching for a long term goal and learning that sometimes it takes giving something else up (i.e. immediate treats or foregoing an activity)to save for that special event. When my oldest daughter was finishing college she c/o'd that I wasn't giving her 'extra's' for her dorm like her roommates had. What she did not realize then, which I finally shared with her, is that I was saving to give her a special graduation gift-a trip to Europe. When I finally had to get her 'off my back' and shared the surprise with her, she was blown away and got right with the program. It can be a fun family venture for all of you. Good luck with that.

      Hello Darski-thank you so much for your ongoing support. It is always a tough time during my work schedule! 12 hrs of work gets me home around 8 pm and I am too pooped to write. This was #17 for me. I am hopeful I will make it with good friends like you encouraging me. :)

      B-thank you for your comments. I hope my 'tips' are helpful. Most of them come from experience and are quite effective.

    • b. Malin profile image

      b. Malin 7 years ago

      Very well researched and written, Denise. Today now more than ever it pays to be on a budget. You have pointed out how to do so, in simple terms. Thanks for sharing.

    • Darlene Sabella profile image

      Darlene Sabella 7 years ago from Hello, my name is Toast and Jam, I live in the forest with my dog named Sam ...

      Hello my friend Denise, how many days do you have to go. I remember doing this and I was so sick of it about 3/4 of the way through. This is a great hub, thanks for your advise and great ideas. rate up love & peace darski

    • PaperNotes profile image

      PaperNotes 7 years ago

      A vacation is what my family really needs yet when we consider our budget, we are shied off and just settle for a movie marathon at home. I think we should save more and use these tips you have provided in case we ever get the chance to get away.

    • Stephanie Henkel profile image

      Stephanie Henkel 7 years ago from USA

      Vacationing with a family can be very expensive and you offer some great tips to keep costs down. Very useful and well written hub, Denise!