Oops! It’s already summer, and you have yet to save for a summer vacation. No worries. There are many ways you can still enjoy a family getaway on the cheap. If you get creative, adjust your expectations, and put in a little extra effort, you can get some much needed rest and relaxation without going into debt.
1. Gather last-minute funds
Maybe you haven’t done your big spring clean-out. You can host a yard sale this weekend and get some cash for your old treasures. Check out local resale shops for clothing, children’s items, and more. I’ve made a couple hundred dollars after a big clear out of toys and baby clothes to put toward time away. My husband is a teacher and has taken on summer gigs (like being a camp counselor) to make money to put toward travel.
Sit down and write up a list of any and all the ways you think you might be able to make some quick cash. Other ideas include selling clothing on sites like Poshmark, finally rolling all that loose change, selling your unwanted event tickets on StubHub, and more. (See also: 25 Ways to Make Money Today)
2. Adjust your expectations
Consider approaching your usual vacation in a new way. Why not skip going out to eat and save a ton by trying to cook your way through each day? If you reserve a room or suite with a kitchen, this will be much easier. Try spending no more than you would on a normal week of groceries at home. Also, don’t get sucked in by high-priced tourist attractions — many beaches and parks you’ll find at your destination are free.
There are many ways to cut dollars along your journey. If your hotel offers a free breakfast, take advantage. Call ahead to see if there are any perks included in your reservation, like free transportation, reduced ticket prices to local attractions, or special nightly events. If you have yet to secure your room, try staying a little farther away from the most alluring towns and attractions. Even driving 10 to 15 minutes can save you hundreds.
3. Check out your state
I recently researched everything the great state of New York has to offer in the way of travel. And I found plenty. Fresh water beaches on Lake Ontario. Majestic lake and mountain views in the Adirondacks. Romantic castles in the Thousand Islands region. Wineries and waterfalls in the Finger Lakes. There’s so much to do within a couple hours of my front door, and I didn’t even know it.
Skip the pricey plane ticket and check out your state. You could plan a road trip visiting different regions, spending just a day or so in each area. Or you could choose the coolest thing you find and spend a couple days there. If you’re not going to the more traditional vacation hot spots — the beach, for example — you may save a good chunk on hotels and eats.
4. Scope out campgrounds
If you have yet to try camping, you’re missing out on an extremely inexpensive way to see the world. Try camping out at some of our country’s National Parks. In fact, you can stay for an entire week at some of them for less than $200. Can’t afford to go far? Check out state or even county parks. One of my favorites is in the Finger Lakes. Camping is dirt cheap, yet the setting gives you million dollar views and free swimming to boot.
If you’re not the outdoorsy type, some campgrounds offer glamping, aka glamorous camping, in cabins, yurts, and other accommodations that will feel more indoors than tent camping. (See also: 5 Ways to Save on Your Next Glamping Trip)
5. Go in with a friend (or two)
My family is actually taking a trip with another family this summer. We’re both on a limited budget. Our kids are the same ages, and we like doing a lot of the same things. So, we hunted around to find a house rental to split in the Catskills. One of our shared interests is cooking, so we’ve already planned our homemade meals for the week. The house is close to the municipal pool, so that will be great for cooling off and it only costs a few dollars for a weekly pass.
What do we plan to do for entertainment? Mostly just hang out. If you are close enough to certain friends or even family, sharing space can be a huge money-saver. And you’ll have so much fun being together that you won’t need to spend money to find things to do. If you’re really strapped, your friends may even offer to let you come visit them for free. We’ve also done that in the past, and it was so much fun.
6. Consider day tripping
Who says you have to spend the night to get away? There are tons of places you can pack up and go for the day and get some much-needed R&R. I like to go the old fashioned way and look at a physical map of my area. I have drawn a radius that gets us places in two or three hours (or less). In my circle, I can hit up gorgeous gorges and wineries in Ithaca, NY. Spend the day trekking around Philadelphia or New York City. We can even jaunt down to the Crayola Factory or Hershey Park for the kids.
One of my close friends cannot afford to go on a full vacation in the summer. So, she takes her family on an incredible day trip most weekends. She packs lunch and snacks, too. Her kids absolutely love the adventures they find, and it keeps the fun going all summer long.
7. Research housesitting
Another friend of mine recently offered us her apartment near the Flatiron district of NYC because she needs a house- and cat-sitter while she backpacks around Europe. Unfortunately, we’re not able to go. But seriously! What an amazing opportunity to spend a week in the heart of the City for basically nothing.
Did you know that people post house-sitting gigs online? It’s a great way to get a super awesome vacation, and fast. Try searching around on Craigslist or targeted sites like House Sitting America or Care.com. You can even put out a call on your Facebook to see if any friends are in need of this service. Gigs vary from place to place, but many will let you bring your pets and family. Some even pay you for your caretaking services. (See also: 10 Tips for Landing the Perfect House-Sitting Gig)