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How to Plan Cheap Summer Vacations

Last Updated: March 7, 2024
3 min read

Key points about: planning cheap summer vacations

  1. Flying into a regional airport may save you money, especially if you travel in the middle of the week.

  2. Booking a private home could be cheaper than a hotel, including savings if you cook in-home instead of eating out.

  3. Planning affordable activities can be cost-effective without compromising fun, like visits to national parks, waterparks, and outdoor festivals.

The perfect summer vacation doesn’t have to drain your wallet. These strategies for planning your vacation on a budget can help you make the most of your time away, from earning rewards with a travel credit card to staying off the beaten path.

Summer vacations on a budget

While you may want your summer vacation to provide luxuries or experiences you couldn’t find at home, that doesn’t mean you have to break the bank for your memorable adventure. Planning a summer vacation on a budget is about finding big and small ways to save.

Tips for cheap summer vacations

Fly into Regional Airports

By booking tickets to and from regional airports, you can sometimes find cheaper airfare and may spend less time in check-in and security lines. But before going this route, consider related expenses—such as baggage costs, additional cab fare to get you to your destination, and airport-specific fees.

Did you know?

You can earn rewards on eligible purchases with a travel rewards credit card and redeem your rewards for travel-related expenses, such as airfare and hotel stays. A travel credit card can go a long way in helping you save on your summer getaway.

Skip the hotel and opt for a home instead

By booking a private home or apartment, you can often get more space for the same amount or less money than you would spend on a hotel room. This option can also save you money on meals if you cook at home. And if you find a home with a pool or large outside gathering area, you can enjoy free entertainment like alfresco summer dining, barbecues, yard games, and pool time.

Fly midweek

Depending on the time of year, some days in the week may be cheaper to fly than others. This can be true around holidays and over the weekend when there’s more demand. You may consider flying midweek, such as flying to or from your destination on a Tuesday instead of a Sunday.

Be aware of exchange rates

If you’re traveling internationally and booking your travel relatively close to the date you’ll be on the road, consider your destination’s exchange rate. You may get a great deal on a flight to and from Paris, but if the euro is strong against the dollar, you may end up shelling out more than you expected for food and entertainment. A better option might be another country with a currency on par with the value of the U.S. dollar.

Avoid staying in tourist destinations

In many parts of the world, there are just-as-good areas close to popular getaway destinations that are a fraction of the price but offer similar amenities and attractions. Take Santa Barbara, for example. Visitors flock to this seaside town north of Los Angeles for its tranquil beauty, walkable downtown, and access to hiking trails. But by staying just a 14-minute drive up the coast in Goleta, visitors can access the same hiking areas and enjoy the same coastline and similar amenities as its more expensive neighbor to the south.

Cheap summer vacation ideas

Visit national parks for affordable adventure

Fans of outdoor exploring may enjoy a visit to a national park. Great views and activities rival luxurious getaways, and most parks offer affordable admission. Whether Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, or one of the hundreds of other options, national parks offer a cheap summer vacation activity the whole family can enjoy.

Try water parks for budget-friendly fun

Visiting a water park can help your family enjoy an affordable vacation. They’re fun for all ages, and they give you a chance to beat the summer heat. What’s even better is adding a waterpark visit to a camping or road trip vacation.

Check local listings for free summer events

With warmer weather, many cities and organizations offer free outdoor festivals and live entertainment events. Visit city websites for activity listings and events calendars.

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