9 ways to save money on cheap weekend getaway trips

Wondering how to save money on a weekend trip? Start here.

If you’re ready for some time away to decompress (bring on the R&R), or you just need a change of scenery, don’t miss the chance to save money on cheap weekend trips. Even though weekends can mean higher rates on hotels, flights, and travel packages, a little planning and extra digging for travel deals can get you on the road to a frugal adventure.

“I love to travel and have grown up being on the go so much, so I love to change up my scenery and experience new places,” says Quincy Davis, a professional surfer who travels frequently and is also the founder of a boutique shop with a store in Montauk, New York, as well as online.

If you’re looking to travel on a budget, consider these smart ways to save on cheap weekend getaway trips any time of year:

1. Snag last-minute reservations

Procrastination can actually pay off when it comes to cheap weekend trips. Waiting until the last minute to book a flight or vacation package usually means fewer choices that could come with higher than average rates. But if you’re on your A-game, you may be able to score a competitive price on your flight, hotel, or vacation package by taking advantage of last-minute deals, says Stephanie Nelson, founder of a website that provides saving tips and deals on everything from groceries to entertainment.

Nelson suggests following airlines on social media and signing up for their email newsletters to find special offers and save money on cheap weekend trips. Plan B: Call the hotel or resort directly to see if they have any last-minute cancellations or available rooms they need to fill. Many hotels will offer a discounted rate just to keep their rooms booked for the weekend.

Illustration showing an airplane, calendar, plane tickets, and a suitcase, against a backdrop of a laptop computer.

2. Take advantage of undercover and secret deals

Another way to save on cheap weekend getaway trips is to find undercover and secret deals on hotel websites and third-party sites. With this type of bargain, you often won’t know the name of the hotel until you click to make your purchase. If you can tolerate a little mystery, you can be rewarded with a deep discount on your reservation, and these offers usually include stays at brand name hotels. With some providers, you can snag a deep discount and still choose your date, location, and star rating, and then you’ll learn the hotel’s name after booking.

3. Extend your stay

By extending your cheap weekend trip, you may be able to take advantage of offers for a free night’s stay. Many hotels and resorts offer complimentary nights when you book three to five nights in a row. This usually means flying back on a Monday or Tuesday, which could also mean lower flight prices. Extra nights can bring down the average daily cost of your trip and allow you to get more rest and relaxation as you travel on a budget. This can be an even more attractive strategy when flying long hauls cross-country or even internationally and adjusting to a new time zone.

“If travelers have flexibility in travel dates, some weekends are much slower than others as seasonality and convention traffic can deeply impact rates from one weekend to the next.

Mahesh Chaddah, co-founder of an online hotel booking site

4. Travel Saturday through Monday

When you’re looking to travel on a budget, you can often get a lower-priced hotel and airfare for a cheap weekend trip if you book your travel for Saturday through Monday versus Friday through Sunday, says Mahesh Chaddah, co-founder of an online hotel booking site.

“Some hotels know that most people stay Friday through Sunday, so they often offer incentives to stay three nights as well,” Chaddah says.

If you can adjust your itinerary to travel on a Monday, or even fly back on a Tuesday, you could end up paying a lot less. Now that’s how to save money on weekend trips!

5. Stay Flexible

Some weekends may be cheaper to travel than others. Be mindful of festivals, annual celebrations, and special events happening in the area that could limit your options for a cheap weekend getaway trip. Those big events can mean higher than average hotel and resort prices.

“If travelers have flexibility in travel dates, some weekends are much slower than others as seasonality and convention traffic can deeply impact rates from one weekend to the next,” Chaddah says.

To enjoy a cheap weekend trip, you can check average fares using online search engines to see if your desired weekend is the best time to fly. Nelson recommends comparing flight prices for different cities in your travel window, making it easier to choose a less expensive weekend for that much-needed break. If you’ve got your heart set on a specific weekend and there’s no budging, you may still be able to travel on a budget. For example, there are even ways you can save money on a spring break trip.

While there are so many online tools to help you compare options and go on cheap weekend trips, don’t forget to take advantage of the local perspective.

“I like to ask a friend that I know if they happen to live where I’m going, to get the locals’ tips on where to stay, eat, and fly into,” says Davis, the professional surfer. “I always do that first.”

6. Make reservations on a Saturday

If you’ve been hunting for a great deal on cheap weekend getaway trips all week but still haven’t found something that fits your budget, postpone the search until the weekend. Nelson suggests booking travel on a Saturday, which has become a popular day to reserve flights, and more offers tend to become available. You can find cheap weekend trips by booking a few Saturdays ahead to take advantage of advance purchase rates. And as mentioned above, if you wait until the last minute—the Saturday before you hope to travel—you may sometimes find hard-to-beat deals that can make travel on a budget easy.

A group of friends, camping by a river, sitting around a campfire.

7. Keep an eye on star ratings

When you don’t know much about an accommodation and are comparing features and amenities, you might start reading reviews and looking at star ratings. Be flexible when filtering hotels by star rating. Chaddah says that a 3.5-star versus a 3-star rating is often not a significant difference in quality, but it can deeply impact the rate. You could broaden your search parameters by half a star, or even one full star, to find similar properties that provide a wide range of services and amenities for a price that works for you and could help you save on your next cheap weekend getaway trip.

8. Try bidding sites

When you want to save money on weekend trips, Nelson recommends using bidding sites to land bargains. Say you have a destination and a budget in mind for your cheap weekend trip, and you want to see what type of accommodations you can get for your money. With these types of bidding tools, you enter where you’re headed, the type of hotel you want to stay in (three-star, four-star hotel?), and your budget. The provider will then give you customized options based on the information you entered. If you like the options, you book. You can bid for other travel expenses too, such as rental cars and flights.

Three friends sitting on the grass in a park and laughing.

9. Be a road tripper (or simply stay put)

There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a staycation in your own city, or taking off on a road trip to another city or state nearby, for your cheap weekend getaway trip. You can travel on a budget by playing tourist in your own city or town, or by hitting the road for a shorter trip.

“I like road trips because they require less planning and you can just get up and go and put everything you need in the car,” Davis says. “It’s always a fun way to do a little last-minute traveling,” she adds.

Explore booking hotel rooms in a nearby city or town to take advantage of discounted resident rates. When you want to visit places that are farther away, consider camping at state parks to save on accommodation costs, or stay at a bed and breakfast for lower rates than hotels. You could also plan a cheap weekend trip by using sites that allow you to find vacation rentals available from locals.

Davis enjoys road trips because they allow her to experience so much on the journey. “The trip is more about enjoying every part of it rather than just the destination,” she says.

“I like road trips because they require less planning and you can just get up and go and put everything you need in the car.”

Quincy Davis, professional surfer and founder of a boutique shop

Start planning for the fun and cheap weekend trips ahead

If you’re on a tight budget or budgeting to help reach your financial goals, traveling on the weekend doesn’t have to be out of the question. You may still be able to enjoy a cheap weekend getaway trip by tweaking your itinerary or heading off the beaten path to find the lowest prices on airfare, hotel stays, and other travel expenses.

Looking to keep the adventure going without breaking the bank? Check out these six ideas for some budget-friendly summer fun.

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