Summer is in full swing, and the long sunny days are likely making you long for some fun time away. And there’s no better time to soak up all this world has to offer than during the warm summer months. There’s just one problem: How can you take a vacation when you’re on a budget?
That’s the burning question that demands an answer from the nearly 100 million Americans planning to take a vacation this year. Fortunately, you don’t have to spend thousands of dollars to have a good time.
Your vacation can deliver lasting memories, even if you’re low on cash or short on time. To help you make the most of your summer vacation, here are some of the most affordable getaways for you to enjoy this year.
Take a Trip to the Beach
Nothing says summer vacation quite like the beach. And with the gorgeous white sand beckoning you toward the shores of sparkling blue water, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, won’t disappoint.
Traveling to Myrtle Beach during spring or fall will open up the most discounts on hotels and rental beach houses, but plenty of affordable fun is available during the peak summer months, too.
The Oceanfront Boardwalk and Promenade is the perfect place to take in oceanfront views and hit up the shops and restaurants along the way. The boardwalk is also where you’ll find the best festivals and events in the area, such as Ocean Boulevard’s Hot Summer Nights.
If you want to splurge, consider a helicopter ride for the whole family. At just $20 per person, the sky-high excursion won’t break your budget. And don’t forget about the Family Kingdom Amusement park where an all-day pass will only set you back $28.95.
Set Sail on a Cruise
One of the most overlooked options for a summer vacation on a budget is a cruise. Because the price includes your accommodations, most of your food and beverages onboard, and entertainment galore, cruises are a great way to minimize surprise expenses.
Plus, the views of the sun setting over the endless ocean are unlike anything you’ve ever seen.
It’s crucial to note that there are plenty of ways a cruise can eat away at your budget, such as the professional photography teams that try to sell you over-priced pictures of your family and the expensive shore excursions.
If you book the off-ship activities at each port yourself, take your own snapshots, and stick to the free onboard activities, you’ll be well on your way to an affordable cruise vacation.
Check Out the City
Cities offer an enormous amount of entertainment and activities, along with some of the best dining experiences in a single location. And while you might think a budget vacation in San Diego, California, is impossible, the sunny beaches and amazing culture don’t have to drain your wallet.
One of the most expensive parts of any vacation is booking your accommodations. Rather than paying a premium for a hotel in downtown San Diego, consider a more cost-friendly stay at the Wyndham San Diego Bayside for less than $200 a night. On the flip side, consider picking up a hotel or travel credit card that can help you earn points you can redeem for free hotel stays.
The San Diego Trolley is an inexpensive way to travel around town, and families can save even more money if their vacation includes a weekend since up to two kids can ride free if they’re with an adult on Saturdays and Sundays.
And the Go San Diego Card can get you up to 55% off regular admission to places like SeaWorld, San Diego Zoo, Legoland, and more.
If you’re looking for a summer vacation that takes you away from the hustle and bustle of life, look no further than Ludington State Park in Ludington, Michigan. At around $33 a night, your campsite includes a fire pit, picnic table, and access to showers and bathroom facilities.
With 5,300 acres of land, including frontage on Lake Michigan and the local favorite Hamlin Lake, you’ll find numerous activities for everyone to enjoy.
Check out the Skyline Trail Loop, which is a 1.8-mile hike that takes you past the Big Sable River and has gorgeous views of Lake Michigan along the way. Plus, you’re not far from the soft, warm sand of Lake Michigan beaches where you can relax in the sunshine, build sand castles with the kids, or splash in the rolling waves of the water.
Make it a Road Trip
A good ol’ fashioned road trip makes an excellent summer vacation when you’re on a budget, and a drive along the historic Route 66 is sure to please.
At 2,278 miles, going the full route from Chicago to Los Angeles could be done in less than a week. However, you might want to take a few more days to check out more of the attractions and landmarks along the way.
From the Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas, and the world’s second-largest rocking chair in Fanning, Missouri, to gorgeous views and quirky gift shops, you’ll find plenty to see and do to make this a memorable trip.
If you fancy music, a summer vacation to Winter Park, Colorado, is sure to be a hit. In June, the Blues From the Top Music Festival is a two-day event with outstanding entertainment from blues bands, and the Winter Park Jazz Festival in July is a must-see concert series featuring well-known acts like Boys II Men and Kirk Whalum.
But the fun doesn’t stop with music. Your summer vacation in Winter Park, Colorado, can include horseback riding and a hike along the more than 350 miles of trails in the Rocky Mountain National park.
And for a true adrenalin rush, the 3,000 foot Alpine Slide has a 610-foot vertical drop that sends you racing down the mountainside for just $20 a person.
Go to a National Park
When planning your summer vacation, don’t rule out the more than 400 National Parks scattered throughout the U.S. They offer free admission on select days throughout the year, although regular entrance fees are budget-friendly and range from $5 to $30.
Yellowstone was the first National Park, and it features stunning views of Old Faithful and the colorful Grand Prismatic Spring surrounded by the endless bounty of nature.
If the city is more your style, visiting Biscayne National Park is right up your alley. The park is within sight of downtown Miami and offers inexpensive activities like boating, snorkeling, camping, and watching the local wildlife.
Plus, the free Junior Ranger Programs provide hours of fun for kids ages 5 to 13 as they learn about the parks and complete activities during their visit. They’re even awarded an official Junior Ranger patch and a Junior Ranger certification for completing the program.
Be a Local Tourist
If your budget is especially tight this summer or you can’t finagle the time off work, checking out the tourist sites in your own town or a nearby city could be a fantastic option.
By skipping the hotel and staying at home, you’ll save an enormous amount of money. Plus, the cost of travel will be remarkably low since the top attractions are nearby.
If cutting costs by staying local is enough to swing for a hotel, a short weekend vacation that includes an overnight stay can lead to fun-filled vacation memories. Hotels often have outdoor pools you can take advantage of for an afternoon of relaxing with a good book or an energetic game of pool volleyball.