Fun summer vacation ideas to try on a tight budget
By Aaron Crowe
Reviewed by Natasha Pearce
Jul 11, 2023
Read time: 3 min
Whatever vacation fantasies I have—touring Italy, chilling on a beach in Maui, or going to a few baseball parks I haven’t been to yet—reality kicks in when I realize how much it'll cost. Summer travel on a budget tends to be the theme for this family.
It can be frustrating to plan a summer vacation for a family when money is tight. And with the price of airfare and hotels increasing due to inflation, planning for a fun summer vacation can feel impossible.
So, it’s time to get creative.
Staycationing means taking time off in or near your hometown. You can save a lot of money by planning your time off close to home.
Instead of staying overnight somewhere, we like to stay in our own house and take day trips to places we haven’t been to in years or have never visited. Last year, I checked out our local city events website to get an idea of the fun activities going on in my city.
My family and I spent a day during the summer doing a walking food tour of our city. It was great because we were able to learn about the origin of the city while enjoying tasty treats from restaurants that we would have never tried.
Another option is to book a hotel and act like a tourist, but stay close enough to home that you don’t have to pay for transportation.
I’ve lived in my area for my whole life, and I still find new things to enjoy. I’m an avid hiker and in the 15 years that I have lived in my city, I realized that I was limiting my nature walks to the same parks. So, I started venturing out of my normal routine.
I’m glad that I did, because it helped me to encourage my family to make a list of local excursions we’d like to take. As a result, here are some ideas that we came up with:
An option that takes you a little farther from home is a road trip. This is a great way to enjoy America. Drive as far as your budget will allow. State and national parks, beaches, and free music festivals are just some of the places you could visit where admission is free or cheap. For lodging, you can unload the family into a budget hotel or reserve a space ahead of time at a car-friendly campground. Some roadside campgrounds offer lots of amenities like hot showers and electricity.
Here’s what I love about a roadside campground—you never know who will become a new friend.
Speaking of camping…
One of my favorite vacations as a kid was driving up the California coast with my dad and camping. We stayed at campgrounds, cooked our own meals over a fire or on a small gas-powered stove, and slept in the bed of his truck that had a homemade camper shell on top.
You can rent an RV, if that fits your budget, or buy or rent a tent and sleep outdoors. Some campgrounds also have cabin rentals.
Discount travel deals
The internet was made for shopping, and inexpensive travel deals are everywhere. Set your budget and search big travel sites like Kayak or Momondo for travel deals under your limit. You might get surprised by a destination you hadn’t even thought of.
International travel can be a cheap summer vacation option if you’re heading to off-season destinations. New Zealand and Australia, for example, are in their winter seasons during U.S. summer months, and much of Southeast Asia has its rainy season during the summer.
Save for vacations with an app
If you want to plan for future summer travel on a budget, you can get some help putting money aside for summer by using the Achieve MoLO app.
The app is free and doesn’t have ads. You can track all of your accounts in one place and automatically track your expenses and income. MoLO is a way to save money or pay down debt by estimating your expected income minus expected spending by the end of the month.
MoLO stands for “Money Left Over” and is aimed at helping you find out how much money you can have at the end of the month, based on your past income and spending trends. You’ll get personalized insights so you can choose how you can spend less and save more.
Saving for a summer vacation could be a lot easier with a plan, which can turn your vacation fantasies into reality.
Aaron Crowe is an Achieve contributor. He is a freelance journalist who specializes in writing about personal finances. He has worked as a reporter and editor at newspapers and websites for his entire career.
Natasha is Achieve’s Director of Social and Community. For over 10 years, she has built communities across social media and blogs through enriching storytelling that helps brands deepen connections with consumers.