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Cheap Vacation Activities: How to Save Money on Vacations

Updated on January 23, 2013
Vacationing Ukrainian woman in bikini.
Vacationing Ukrainian woman in bikini. | Source

The main purpose of a vacation is to do something else for a change—something that you’re not used to, haven’t done for a long time or want to do more of. Since that usually involves going somewhere, and since travel, accommodations and eating are so expensive, you’ll want to save as much as you can on amusements and attractions. But if you scrimp too much, you won’t really enjoy it. Here are some ideas to help you save money on your vacation activities, amusements and attractions.

  • Sometimes the transportation is the attraction. Take a cruise. Ride a historic railway that goes nowhere but between points A and B and back. Bus travel becomes more palatable and enjoyable when you sign onto a guided charter tour of fall leaves, spring wildflowers or historic area sites.
  • Rent or borrow an RV. That usually won’t be the cheapest of options. However, if you can be flexible and monitor websites that rent RVs, you can find specials or even free situations where the company needs to move RVs from one state to another. You'll probably need to fly home, though.

  • You don’t have to go to the most expensive amusement park just so you can say “been there done that”—unless you really do intend to try 75% of the rides. There are off-brands that provide more bang for the buck, although you might want to check before you go to make sure they have what interests you.
  • If it’s a ski holiday, you don’t need to go to Vail or Aspen unless you’re an Olympic-class skier. If you don’t intend to go near the very tallest and steepest slopes, then pay for a ski facility that is only as challenging as you need it to be. It will be a fraction of the cost. With your savings, buy a ski cap from Vail and a bumper sticker from Aspen.

The Liuhe Pagoda of Hangzhou, built in 1165 during the Chinese Song Dynasty.
The Liuhe Pagoda of Hangzhou, built in 1165 during the Chinese Song Dynasty. | Source
101 Family Vacation Games: Have Fun While Traveling, Camping, or Celebrating at Home
101 Family Vacation Games: Have Fun While Traveling, Camping, or Celebrating at Home

Useful while waiting in airports or when some in the group have more energy than others.

  • Take a pack of cards and a compact board game. At your destination, games provide inexpensive interaction when you need a quiet activity to break up the “go, go, go.” Note that these are games where you interact with the other people in your vacation, not with a computer. Make sure the cards are in your carry-on luggage if flying; a game can calm your nerves during flight delays.
  • Use discount coupons for the attractions you visit. Collect them before you leave, both online and in travel magazines. Get them at the welcoming bureau when you drive across the state line or get off the plane in the airport near a popular vacation destination. Get a AAA membership and use the discounts they offer—for attractions, food, accommodations and travel.
  • Buy a book of coupons. They cost up  to $20, but the savings can be much more than that when you’re on vacation in the area, not just for attractions, but for lodging and meals as well.

The Four Most Expensive Parts of Vacations

  • Four Vacation Expenses: The purposes of a vacation are to break the routine, get a change of pace, get a different perspective on one's life and have fun doing so. The four most expensive elements present in most vacations are: transportation, lodging, meals and activities.
  • Transportation
  • Lodging
  • Meals
  • Activities


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