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Out of the Box Travel Tips for Planning a Cheap Vacation

If you’re looking for some out of the box travel tips for planning a cheap vacation, you’re in luck! Here are easy ways to vacation easily on a budget!” 

The view of a nearly deserted road with mountains in the background.

I’ll never forget how excited I was, years ago, to plan my first cross-country road trip with my family. My excitement was short-lived as I rattled off everything we hoped to see only to have a friend respond with, “It’s not worth traveling unless I can stay in a 5-star resort.”

I was speechless. 

Folks, at the time, my family was living in a 31-foot RV. Our campground didn’t even have a pool. Our idea of a good day was showering in the bathhouse without a wait.

A Class C RV parked outside a fence that says Pet Area with a dog outside as the sun begins to set.

Our RV was not this nice.

At that time, laying by the pool at a posh Hawaiian resort was the last thing we were likely to experience.

Our idea of fun was road-tripping from stop A to stop B and stopping along the way to hike, check out a roadside attraction and visiting cheesy tourist traps.

It’s not that her idea of fun was a bad idea, we just couldn’t afford to travel the same way and if we were ONLY willing to travel when we could afford that 5-star resort, there would be a lot of experiences that we would have missed out on over the years. 

I think you know by now that my husband and I love to travel. We will fly budget airlines, stay in hostels, cook our food in a hotel room and even van camp if it means that we’re able to travel more.

And, if you ask me, which I think you are since you’re visiting this page, travel is becoming more accessible. But only if you’re willing to forgo that posh resort. 

Nowadays, taking a vacation doesn’t mean that it has to break the bank.

A broken pink piggy bank with coins scattered around it.

With the use of technology and a little bit of patience, it is possible to plan a vacation on the cheap. I’ve been doing it for years!

Before you start dreaming about dipping your toes in the sand and soaking up the rays, you first need to understand how to prioritize what you’re hoping to accomplish on your trip.

By putting thoughts, expectations, and questions in perspective, it can really help you in planning a cheap vacation with ease. 

What is the best way to plan a vacation?

A finger pointing to Florida on a United States map.

While there are many ways to plan a vacation, one of the best ways is to narrow down exactly where you’re hoping to go. But even before doing that, you need to know exactly what your budget is. How in the world can you plan a cheap vacation if you don’t know your financial limit? 

Mind if I share a trick I’ve learned over the years? Set your budget low.

Honestly, most people set a budget but almost ALWAYS end up spending the high end of that amount.

What’s the point of even setting a budget range if you’re just going to spend all of it, regardless? Give yourself some wiggle room and really try to make an affordable and doable budget for your vacation planning.

You know I always plan fun & free roadside stops to stretch the budget when I’m traveling. You’ll find many of those here ——-> Over 50 Roadside Attractions in the U.S. to Slam on your Brakes For 

What should I do on vacation?

A hikers feet in tennis shoes as they walk along a rocky path.

The sky truly is the limit. Even when you are planning a cheap vacation, you still have so many varying options.

You need to decide what type of vacation you’re hoping for. Do you want a vacation in nature or one at a hotel, instead?

Are you more of a foodie or can you get by with picnic lunches?

Do you enjoy learning about history? You can often find historical attractions that are free or low cost.

On the other hand, if your idea of a vacation is hanging out in that luxury resort, visiting every amusement park and tourist attraction you can find and dining at all the top restaurants, there are ways to save here and there but I’d say a cheap vacation isn’t necessarily for you. 

All of these are valid questions to start with to dig deep into your vacation wants and needs.

How do I relax on vacation?

A hammock strung between two trees on the beach with a view of gorgeous turquoise water.

Relaxing is one of the best parts of taking a vacation! And the quickest and easiest way to make that happen? Stay within that budget that you’ve set for yourself!

There is nothing more stressful than overspend and know you’ll be hit with a pile of bills when you get back home. 

Next, unplug from all the outside distractions.

This means leave those emails for later and turn that phone on silent. The moment that you set sail on your vacation, the outside world and anything work-related can wait! 

Pack in some type of relaxing activity. 

Read a book. 
Go bird watching
Learn to play disc golf.
Hunt for beach glass
Ride a bike.
Take a hike.
Kayak.

I think you get the idea. 

Now that you understand the simplicity of planning a vacation, let’s focus on some tips on how to make it happen easily and affordable!

Out of the Box Travel Tips for Planning a Cheap Vacation

A pile of dollar and five dollar bills.

These travel tips can help make your vacation planning a budget breeze!

  • Coupon clip before you leave

If you’re going somewhere that you’re able to cook your own meals, stock up on coupons for groceries a few months before you leave. That way when you arrive at your vacation destination, you can use your coupons to get some major savings on your food.

Most people spend a ton of money eating out but since you’re going to be packing your own food, this is one cost that you aren’t going to have to worry about.

I’ve spent years cooking in a hotel room and my husband actually prefers that to eating out most nights. 

And since you aren’t going to be spending a ton of money on food, why would you then want to spend a ton of money on groceries? Coupons are a great way to save, even when traveling.

  • Check with your credit card for discounts and offers

Have you ever checked to see what kind of discounts you can get by using your credit card?

Rental car discounts, hotel discounts and even cash back on places that you’re going to be visiting are all possibilities through your credit card.

All you have to do is call and ask or get online for some quick searches. 

And when it comes to saving on future trips, make sure you’re using a credit card that will reward you with some type of points that you can redeem on future travels. 

  • Invite your friends to join in on the fun

Who says that you can’t extend the invitation to join to your family and friends? The more, the merrier, right? Plus, the more adults that tag along, the cheaper the cost is going to be on your end.

If you make up your mind to split all the costs evenly, it can quickly turn a vacation into one that’s truly affordable! This is a great way to save on vacation rentals, groceries, and even activities when you qualify for group pricing (like a cruise)! 

  • Check out Groupon or LivingSocial for Discounts Before you Travel 

I can’t even begin to tell you how much money I’ve saved using Groupon and Living Social over the years!  My family has saved on activities, restaurants, hotels and complete vacation packages. 

  • When choosing your lodging accommodations, consider booking a vacation rental or staying in an AirBnB

Whether you’re looking to rent a room for the night or a full house for a week, it’s worth taking a look at AirBnB to find accommodations to fit your needs.

You’ll find it’s often more comfortable than a hotel room, allows you to prepare your own meals, and depending on the amenities, may become a highlight of your trip. Plus, you can save $40 off your first booking at AirBnB

  • Pitch a tent and go camping along the route

If you’re traveling from point A to point B and need a night to rest, don’t pay hundreds of dollars for a hotel room just to sleep in. Instead, find a local campground and set up a tent instead. For as little as $10 per night, you can get some serious shut-eye and save some serious money. My husband and I have done this many times before we discovered van camping which is now our preferred way to travel. 

It’s not hard to plan a cheap vacation but you do have to be willing to do just a little bit of work. If you can plan ahead and set a few ideas in place, you can bank on the fact that your vacation will stay well within your budget! 

Road Trip with a Mountain View

Looking for more travel tips to help you save money on vacation? Check out these posts: 

5 Ways to Stretch your Travel Dollars

Practical Tips to Save Money on Your Next Road Trip

9 Tips that will Help You Save Money on Hotel Rooms

What tips do you have for saving money on vacation? 

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