Looking for fun, cheap vacation ideas?
You’ve come to the right place!
You shouldn’t have to worry about breaking the bank in order to take a relaxing vacation.
So, to help you have fun on a budget…
We share the 17 best cheap vacation ideas, plus 5 affordable destinations for your bucket list!
What are you waiting for? Let’s dive in!
Table of Contents
17 Best Cheap Vacation Ideas
- 1. Go Camping (or Glamping)
- 2. Subscribe to Scott’s Cheap Flights
- 3. Travel During the Off Season
- 4. Vacation on a Weekday
- 5. Go to a National Park
- 6. Road Trip!!
- 7. Stay With Friends or Family
- 8. Use Hotel Tonight to Find Last-Minute Deals
- 9. Rent a Tiny Home
- 10. Go to the Less Popular Beach
- 11. Try Out a Hostel
- 12. Go Somewhere Less Touristy
- 13. Volunteer or Work While You Travel
- 14. Take a Night Train
- 15. Go House Sitting
- 16. Use a Short-Term Rental Platform to Find a Cheap Room
- 17. Go Hiking
- Where to Go On Vacation For Cheap
- Inexpensive Vacation Facts & FAQs
- In Conclusion
17 Best Cheap Vacation Ideas
While there are tons of inexpensive trip ideas out there (and ways to travel for free), we wanted to give you a few of the more popular ones! So, without further ado, here are some of the cheapest ways to vacation:
1. Go Camping (or Glamping)
Not only is camping (or glamping) a fun way to get out of the house to enjoy nature, it’s also one of the cheapest ways to do it!
You have a few options here:
- Tent Camping
Don’t have an RV to hit the road in? Don’t worry! There are RV rental companies that allow you to travel for days, weeks, or months at a time!
Most campgrounds charge anywhere from $15 to $60 depending on where you stay and whether or not you go in the off-season ($15 being tent camping and $60 being RVing).
Glamping, on the other hand, is where you rent a cabin or a yurt. Most (if not all) glamping sites come with electricity and a refrigerator, which you won’t get while tent camping! It does come at a bit of a premium, however.
PS – You can find really cool campsites with these awesome boondocking apps!
2. Subscribe to Scott’s Cheap Flights
Want to travel the country, but don’t want to break the bank? We’ve been there!
With Scott’s Cheap Flights, you get emails straight to your inbox when round-trip flight prices drop, to ensure you don’t miss out on an amazing once-in-a-lifetime vacation!
Iceland, Scotland, Germany, Bali, Hawaii, Alaska… the world is at your fingertips!
We’ve seen flights to Sri Lanka go down from $1,200 to $675 roundtrip!
Cheap flights don’t mean cheap airlines, either. Scott’s Cheap Flights targets top-rated airlines so you can travel in comfort (and at ease).
3. Travel During the Off Season
To get the best bang for your buck, you may consider traveling during the off-season! With that said, not every destination’s off-season is the same.
You’ll need to do research where you’re going to figure out when the off season starts/ends. For example, Bali’s off season is during March, April, and May, whereas Sir Lanka’s off season is from December to March.
Some minor preparation goes into this one, but it definitely pays off.
4. Vacation on a Weekday
A lot of fun, cheap vacations are taken during the work week. Why? Less people, of course! Less traffic, too—if you go at the right time 😉
Because most hotels and campgrounds charge less during the week, this is an affordable option. If you’re able to swing it, we highly recommend it!
5. Go to a National Park
If nature is your way of unwinding, visiting some (if not all) of the National Parks may be your best bet. There are more than 400 to choose from and there are fee-free days!
To get into the National Parks for free, you have to go on any of the following days:
- January 20th
- April 18th
- August 5th
- August 25th
- September 26th
- November 11th.
Otherwise, park fees start at $5 per person and up to $35 per vehicle. You can also buy an annual National Park pass for $80 from any park.
Check out some things to do in Theodore Roosevelt National Park for some ideas!
6. Road Trip!!
You don’t have to stay in a fancy hotel or even a tent to have a good vacation!
If you’re looking for some truly inexpensive trip ideas, a road trip with friends or family may be a good option!
Think about it—you can pack your car with the bare essentials, drive around all day, find a cool spot to eat, walk around for a while, then get back in your car and park it at a rest area (or anywhere with overnight parking) to get some sleep.
No one said it would be comfiest option, but it’s definitely a budget friendly option!
Bored? Try some of these fun road trip games.
7. Stay With Friends or Family
If you have friends or family that live near an area you’ve been wanting to explore, pick up the phone and see what they’re doing! Chances are, they’d be more than happy to have you stay with them for a few days.
Plus, they might know some really cool places to explore. This is a great option when you’re looking to save money!
8. Use Hotel Tonight to Find Last-Minute Deals
Are you fine with spontaneously booking a last-minute trip based on a good deal?
If so, HotelTonight has you covered! They share last-minute deals on hotels that are below capacity or had last-minute cancellations.
They also have a mobile app you can download—which is perfect for those on the go! Just make sure you’re not driving when you use it, of course 😉
9. Rent a Tiny Home
Tiny Houses are adorable. They’re super easy to rent and cheap, too! With Glamping Hub, you can find a tiny home to rent pretty much anywhere!
Most tiny houses listed on Glamping Hub are in secluded locations with plenty of privacy. Some are even near the ocean or in the middle of a mountain, with fishing spots and ski resorts nearby.
Tiny vacation rentals are a cheap way to vacation in style (and I think everyone should rent a tiny home at least once).
10. Go to the Less Popular Beach
Let’s be real—Key West and Laguna Beach are absolutely breathtaking…
But that beauty comes with a hefty entrance fee!
Just because you don’t have a suitcase full of cash, doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a beautiful beach trip, though.
Gulf beaches are less popular—and less expensive—than coastline beaches. Plus, the local beach town food and hotel rates will be less expensive, too!
So avoid Miami and instead try Sanibel Island, Florida or Galveston, Texas!
11. Try Out a Hostel
Have you seen the episode of Gilmore Girls where Lorelai and Rory talk about how they’re going to backpack across Europe while staying in hostels?
I don’t know about you, but I’ve wanted to do this ever since!
Hostels are shared rooms that you can get at really affordable prices. Some of them are amazing, others are a bit sketchy, so do your research before booking anything. Most of them have reviews online—always look at reviews before you book!
You can find Hostels (and reviews) at Hostels World.
They’re a great option if you’re looking to get out of your comfort zone (I know they’re not for everyone). Some of the best memories (and best friends) are found where you least expect them.
12. Go Somewhere Less Touristy
Let’s face it: going on vacation and seeing a ton of other tourists is rarely fun.
You can’t expect to go to the Grand Canyon or other popular places and not see hundreds (or even thousands) of people! Everyone seems to love the Grand Canyon.
Instead, why not take the road less traveled?
Places like Marshall Islands (home to some of the best scuba diving sites) and Montserrat (where you can see a modern day Pompeii) are perfect family friendly locations with barely any crowds!
13. Volunteer or Work While You Travel
Volunteering or work camping is a great way to see the area while staying somewhere at a discounted rate (in some cases, you can work and stay for free!).
A lot of places offer room & board in exchange for doing work around the area.
Campgrounds, farms, and some housekeeping opportunities are typically the most popular options, but that’s not to say that’s all there is! Third world countries are always looking for volunteers, too!
Check out some places you can work and stay for free at World Packers.
14. Take a Night Train
She took the midnight train goin’ anywhere…
Probably because it was one of those cool cheap vacation ideas! If you’re able to find a train that boards and stops at an area you want to visit, do it!
It’s affordable, less crowded at night, and a downright awesome way to travel on a budget.
15. Go House Sitting
This one may sound silly, but house sitting is a great option if you’re looking to save money while exploring new areas.
Think about it: people vacation everyday. Houses are left unattended. Plants and animals are sometimes left alone—that’s where you come in!
You can find people who will let you stay for free as a method of payment for watching over their homes or pets at HouseSitting.com!
16. Use a Short-Term Rental Platform to Find a Cheap Room
It’s no secret that sites like AirBnB and Couchsurfing are great alternatives to hotels and motels. The best part is there are so many amazing people that offer their homes to travelers all around the world!
This is a great way to travel on a budget (especially abroad). You’ll be able to meet cool people that live in the area you’re visiting and maybe even hear about a few secret locations that most tourists don’t know about!
17. Go Hiking
If you’re a nature lover, this option may be the best for you.
Hiking for a day is fun, but what about hiking for a week? A month? A few months at a time? If you ask me, hiking is the best way to get in touch with nature (as well as get in touch with yourself).
Just Google “hiking trails near me” and you’ll be on your way!
No gear? No problem!
While hiking equipment can be pretty expensive, Outdoors Geek offers affordable rentals on camping essentials such as tents, backpacks, sleeping bags, cooking gear, and more! That way, you have everything you need in a pack without needing to research it all and buy it yourself. Try it out!
Where to Go On Vacation For Cheap
Now let’s talk about a few inexpensive trip ideas! There are so many incredible family friendly cheap vacation spots in the US (as well as around the world).
Some of our favorites are:
Glacier National Park
Looking for ideas for a cheap vacation in the US? Look no further than Glacier National Park.
With fee-free days (you can find them on the NPS website) and $5 tent sites, you’ll find yourself saving more money than expected.
The views are beautiful, there’s a shuttle service available from July to Labor Day, places to eat while there, and so much more!
The park is open 365 days a year, but we suggest going in July or August. The weather is perfect and you’ll experience fewer trail and road closures that may be there in the colder months.
Vietnam has tons of beautiful locations while being budget friendly. Hotels are cheap (about $10/night) and there are so many family friendly locations to visit.
Take Ha Giang for example. It’s an off-the-beaten-track way to experience Northern Vietnam on foot (or by scooter) that takes anywhere from 3-5 days depending on how fast you go.
Or Trang An! A 20-ish minute drive from Tam Coc, where you’ll be surrounded by nature and mist-shrouded peaks.
You can also visit the Golden Bridge on Ba Na Hills (the image above shows a small portion of the bridge).
We’ve gone on a lot of fun, cheap vacations in the past—but Albuquerque has made it’s way to our top 5 places we want to visit.
The Albuquerque International Balloon Festival is reason enough to go, but exploring Old Town Albuquerque sounds like heaven on earth. Cobblestone pathways, brightly colored adobe huts, restaurants, souvenir shops, and so much more… you could get lost here! It even has some cool theme parks.
There are plenty of museums to visit, too! Hotels start at $38. You can also find Albuquerque RV rentals for less than $50 per night!
Plus, Albuquerque’s desert climate means you can go there year round. Who doesn’t like a year round vacation?
With almost guaranteed sunshine and plenty of historical sites and culture, you really can’t go wrong traveling to Istanbul.
You can buy a five-day museum pass for around $18 that gets you into 12 sites, try as much street food as you desire (how does a catch of the day sandwich sound?), or visit the 1,500-year-old church Hagia Sophia.
Hotels typically start at $57/night.
Caucasus may be a popular vacation destination you hear more about in the next few years. It’s cheap, beautiful, and has plenty of places to explore.
Such as Dartlo, a small village (shown in the image above) that you could explore for a bit. You can’t go wrong with nature and cool looking buildings, right? Not to mention the stories you’ll hear from the locals about the area.
Or, visit Tbilisi—you’ll be busy for days. You can explore the deserters bazaar, an awesome outdoor market that got it’s name in the 1920s after Russian army deserters sold their weapons there.
Lake Tahoe is in both California and Nevada (it sits on the border) and provides plenty of fun activities that are either free or very low cost.
Whether you take a quick swim or rent a boat, you’re sure to have a great time here!
Check out some cool things to do in Lake Tahoe for more ideas.
Inexpensive Vacation Facts & FAQs
Have a few questions that weren’t answered above? We’ll do our best to help!
I hope you enjoyed our list of the best cheap vacation ideas! And that you’ve realized that you’re able to visit beautiful locations without breaking the bank (let’s stop going to New York, Myrtle Beach, and Los Angeles all the time, yeah?).
What inexpensive trip ideas do you have planned for the coming months? Let us know in the comments below!