5 Affordable Vacation Ideas for When Money Is Tight


Everyone deserves to have a vacation. Vacations give you a chance to break from your routine, and come with a host of physical and mental benefits, including the reduction of stress, better perspective on your life and work, improved immune function, reduced risk of depression, and even a lower risk of career burnout.

Of course, few people are opposed to taking a vacation; the idea seems wonderful, but the logistics of actually taking one can be prohibitive. When you start calculating the price of a vacation, which might cost you airfare, hotel accommodations, and other travel costs for you and your entire family, it may seem impossible to go on an extended stay.

However, there are some affordable vacation options that are accessible to almost anyone.

Affordable Vacation Ideas

Try one of these affordable vacation ideas if you’re currently low on cash.

  1. Take a cruise. Cruises are underrated vacation options; they’re relatively inexpensive, they come with travel, rooms, and meals already built into the price, and you get a host of entertainment options on top of everything else. There are many cruise options available, with hundreds of potential destinations and multiple price tiers, and almost all of them are family-friendly. As long as you can stand being on the water, a cruise might be the ideal way to go.
  2. Visit a city where you know someone. You can save hundreds of dollars on accommodations and entertainment by staying with someone you know in another city. If you have a family member or close friend in a neighboring city, for instance, you can probably crash with them and ask them to show you some of the best free things to do in that city. The wider your personal network is, the better this option becomes.
  3. Take a short road trip. You don’t have to go far to have a good time. Sometimes, just the drive from one area to another is relaxing and interesting enough to qualify as a vacation. Pick out a city, a park, or a geographical feature that’s within a few hundred miles of your current location. It will probably cost you less than $100 to drive there, and if you spend your time wisely, you can make it a single-day trip, without the need to worry about overnight accommodations.
  4. Find an inexpensive country. Traveling internationally may seem expensive, but if you choose the right country—preferably one with a super low cost of living—you can stretch your dollar much further than you could in the states. Do your research and find a country where even a small investment can take you a long way.
  5. Take a staycation. Sometimes, exploring your own home city is the best vacation you could ask for. If you have a few days to yourself and not enough money to travel, consider looking up some attractions and fun things to do in your city that you haven’t gotten a chance to try yet. Splurge on a nice restaurant, or go exploring; you’ll be amazed what you can find in your own backyard.

Frugal Tips

For any or all of these vacation ideas, you can relax even more affordably by using the following tips:

  • Shop at markets rather than eating out. Restaurant meals are disproportionately expensive, especially when compared to the deals you can get at local markets. You can save a ton of money on vacation by shopping for—and cooking—your own food.
  • Avoid overpriced hotels. Hotels can cost upwards of several hundred dollars a night, but you can Airbnb, stay at a hostel, or couch surf for far less than that—maybe even for free. Don’t spend all your money on accommodations.
  • Price compare. Take your time and research different travel options and different things to do. It may take you some effort to find the best deal.
  • Ask locals for recommendations. Some of the best and most beautiful attractions are entirely free to attend, such as national parks or monuments. However, these and other free attractions that allow you to fully immerse yourself in a new city or country’s culture aren’t always at the top of the travel guide. Ask locals for their recommendations, and get a ground-level view of your destination.

Get Started

Even if you aren’t making much money right now, you can take measures to prepare for your prospective vacation. It’s possible to travel with no money whatsoever, so even if you can snag a few days off work, you can take a well-deserved vacation. The key is to commit to taking a vacation in the first place; once you have that goal in place, you can start taking baby steps to achieve it.