Published in: Credit Cards | June 3, 2019

5 Affordable Summer Vacation Ideas You'll Love

Who says traveling has to cost a fortune?

Man, woman, young boy, and young girl at the beach
Image source: Getty Images

There's perhaps no better time to get away than during the summer, when school's not in session, the weather is warm, and the living is easy. If you're on a budget, however, you may need to be more selective about the type of trip you take.

The good news? You don't have to deplete your savings account or rack up costly credit card debt to escape the daily grind. Here are a few things you can do this summer without spending a ton of money.

1. Go camping

One of the biggest expenses of traveling is lodging. Rather than spend hundreds of dollars per night on a fancy hotel, try roughing it instead. You can buy a durable tent and sleeping bag for a couple hundred dollars and bond with your family or friends in the great outdoors. The food won't cost you much (since you'll need to bring it yourself, and it largely can't be perishable), and while you might pay a modest fee to rent a campsite, activities like hiking and swimming shouldn't cost you a dime.

Not sure where to go? Look into the nearest state park or national park. Keep in mind that you may need reservations to stay overnight in a national park, and they tend to book up quickly in popular destinations.

As a couple of examples, Maine's Acadia National Park is a popular Northeast destination, and if you get tired of roughing it, nearby Bar Harbor offers plenty of shops, eateries, and amenities. You might also consider visiting Utah and making your way through some of its national parks -- the views from Bryce Canyon are breathtaking.

2. Rent a beach house

If you enjoy sun and sand, why not spend a week at the beach? Renting a house will generally be more cost-effective than paying for a hotel or bed and breakfast, especially since it will give you the option to cook your own meals. Splitting a rental home especially makes sense if you're traveling with a larger group. For example, you might pay $200 a night for a four-bedroom home that sleeps eight, as opposed to $200 a night per hotel room that only fits two.

For example, you can rent a beach house that sleeps eight in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, for $250 per night in August, which is pretty much peak season out there. And a three-bedroom condo along Alabama's Gulf Coast could be yours this summer for as little as $150 per night. And in Santa Barbara, California, a mid-sized beach home for three couples or two small families to share can be had for $400.

3. Visit friends in a new city

We've established that lodging is an expensive part of traveling. If money is tight, see if friends who live in a different city might be willing to host you for a week. As locals, they might also be privy to discounts on certain area attractions that they can pass along to you. Just be prepared to return the favor down the road, when they decide they want to vacation on the cheap.

4. Take a road trip

Flying can be a fairly unpleasant experience these days, not to mention a costly one. With most airlines charging for everything from checked baggage to food to reasonable levels of legroom, paying for airline tickets can be prohibitively expensive, especially if you're a larger family. A better bet? Pack up the car and hit the road. Not only can it save you money, but if you have a credit card that offers extra rewards on fuel purchases, you might accumulate some serious points.

5. Backpack through a foreign country

There's something to be said about seeing the world, so if you're willing to rough it a bit, backpacking through a new country could prove to be an extremely rewarding experience. Choosing hostels over hotels will save you a bundle, and if you have a rewards card that lets you accumulate air miles, you can cash them in to avoid having to pay for a flight.

Though you can backpack through many different countries, Central America tends to be pretty cheap during the summer, since it's not considered peak season for travel there. Costa Rica and Panama are loaded with affordable hostels, and you'll find gorgeous scenery throughout both.

Of course, backpacking generally means a longer trip, so you'll need to make sure you can swing the time off. If you’re self-employed or don't get paid vacation, be sure to factor the cost of missed work into the price of your trip.

Taking vacation is not only a fun thing to do, but a healthy one. If money is tight, it pays to explore your options for getting away for less. At the same time, you may want to apply for a travel rewards card before your trip if you don't have one already. Doing so might give you access to certain perks, like airport lounge access, trip delay protection, and foreign fee waivers, that you wouldn't get with a regular old credit card. Better yet, if you get a card with a generous sign-up bonus, you could end up scoring a nice amount of cash back by charging your trip. Only do so if you can afford to pay the bill by the time it comes due, though -- you don't want to rack up interest in the course of snagging free money!

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