How to Afford Your Summer Vacation Ideas

Some of the links in this post are from our sponsors. Read our disclosure to see how we make money.

It's getting close to spring which means that families start to think over their summer vacation ideas. With a little planning you can keep your costs down.

I have a confession to make; I am getting stir crazy and am starting to look for summer vacation ideas as we charge towards springtime. I don’t know if it’s because I am not getting out of the house as much since I am now self-employed or if it’s because we love to travel but I find myself thinking often about where we can go for summer vacation this year.

My family almost always took a summer vacation when I was growing up and I can still remember looking forward to it through the long, cold winter months. We generally drove to our vacation destinations, though that has become increasingly difficult as we have seen a rise in gas prices lately. Not all summer vacation ideas have to be expensive though and with a little homework you can plan a great vacation that will not bust your budget.

Plan Ahead if You Have A Specific Summer Vacation in Mind


If you have a growing family, like we do, planning ahead is vital when it comes to planning your summer vacation. I often start planning for our vacation during the winter, partially as a means to escape the winter blahs, but also to give me time to see what I should be expecting in terms of pricing. Last year we knew that we wanted to go to Minnesota for our summer vacation.

My Dad was going to be visiting us and was going to help with the kids. This also meant we could stop and visit our family farm which is in very north central part of Iowa.

By planning far ahead it allows you more time to choose if you do not have a specific vacation destination in mind, plus it also allows you to be more selective about prices, which helps you to see if your summer vacation ideas are realistic or not.

Be Flexible With Your Summer Vacation Ideas


Who doesn’t love to go on vacation over the weekend? It gives you something to look forward to throughout the week and you also could possibly take less vacation days off from work. However, many summer vacation destinations might have higher rates on the weekend which can put a crimp on your style and your budget.

When we went on our summer vacation last year we traveled during the week as it saved us almost $50 per night on our hotel stay. This also works if you’re looking to fly as often times flights can be significantly cheaper if you fly on specific weekdays.

If the Hilton is not in your summer vacation ideas, you can also look at possibly renting a house through VRBO or staying at a bed and breakfast or your trip. We’ve done the former several times in our family as it provides a great way to make the trip more affordable, but also allow us to have a home to go back to instead of only a hotel room to stay in.

*Related: Looking for a cheap cable alternative that offers local channels? Check out our Hulu packages guide for why they’re a great solution to cut the cord.*

I know there are other ways to be able to make your summer vacation more affordable; the key is to think outside of the box in order to make your trip a reality.

Last Minute Travel Deals Could Be A Good Option


If it’s the middle of July and you still have not planned your summer vacation, don’t fret because you can also possibly take advantage of last minute travel deals. Most readers are probably aware of all the big travel sites like and Expedia that can be very helpful with your summer vacation ideas.

They all have their pros and cons, but the nice thing is that if you know you want to go somewhere for vacation, but have not taken the time to plan it out then it is possible to find some last minute travel deals.

If you do go this route though, make sure to read the fine print so you’re aware of the terms and conditions as well as the cancellation policy. One other option I’ve found to have worked is contacting the hotel you specifically want to stay at and see if they have any rooms left for the time you’re going.

It doesn’t always work, but have had times where the front desk will give a better rate thanks to them wanting to fill the rooms.

It's getting close to spring which means that families start to think over their summer vacation ideas. With a little planning you can keep your costs down.

Stay Local if Cost is A Factor


If your summer vacation ideas are restricted by a limited budget, you can still have fun without traveling far. If you live in a big enough city then a staycation could be possible.

We have done this in the past as there are numerous things in our city that we’ve not seen or done and would like to do. From sites we’d like to go see to restaurants the kids like to go to we can easily have fun for the week while still being budget conscious.

If a staycation is not your cup of tea, you could also possibly look at day trips as an option for your summer vacation ideas. Living in the Midwest we can easily get to a number of nice places to visit within several hours of driving time. We’ve also found that we like taking day trips as it allows us to get out of town while not spending a whole lot of money to do so.

You can also use rewards points, if you have them. Here are some cards to consider if you choose to go that route.


What are your summer vacation ideas for this year? Do you have anywhere fun or exciting you’re going?


The following two tabs change content below.

John is the founder of Frugal Rules, a dad, husband and veteran of the financial services industry whose writing has been featured in Forbes, CNBC, Yahoo Finance and more.

Passionate about helping people learn from his mistakes, John shares financial tools and tips to help you enjoy the freedom that comes from living frugally. One of his favorite tools is Personal Capital , which he used to plan for retirement and keep track of his finances in less than 15 minutes each month.

Another one of John's passions is helping people save $80 per month by axing their expensive cable subscriptions and replacing them with more affordable ones, like Hulu with Live TV.


  • Margaret Polino Nicholas says:

    I hope to be going to the beach. Rather we are going to the beach, God willing!

  • Jon @ MoneySmartGuides says:

    Great tips! I don’t have any plans yet….haven’t really thought about where we’d like to go. Most likely it will be a smaller (less expensive) trip this year as we want to save to go overseas next year.

    • John says:

      Thanks Jon! We’re going to be keeping it simple this year as well with FinCon coming this year as well as wanting to take a nicer trip next year.

  • DC @ Young Adult Money says:

    When we went on our cruise recently, we booked it almost a year in advance. I’m not sure I will plan QUITE that far in advance, but it was nice having most of it paid for well in advance.

  • Laurie @thefrugalfarmer says:

    Great ideas here, John! LOVE VRBO – they are great for renting houses at a cheap price. Due to our strict budget, we will stay somewhat local. We’re also using a travel rewards credit card to rack up some bonus points with our gas and grocery purchases, and hoping that will help us achieve a small little vacation not too far from home. BTW, isn’t MN great in the summer?

    • John says:

      Thanks Laurie! We’ve yet to try out VRBO though really want to in the future. We’re using a travel rewards card as well and that should fund a big chunk of a nicer trip we want to take next year. It can be, we’ve been up there a few times during the summer. Last year though it was crazy hot and we went to the State Fair, my Dad was just absolutely miserable but it was fun nonetheless.

  • pauline says:

    I agree with not going over the weekend to save money, but since most workers only get a couple of weeks’ holiday per year, the trade off is huge. To me a day of holiday is worth more than my salary if I am employed, and with 2 days you can make a 4 day holiday over a weekend. That a big perk of being self employed to go whenever you please.

    • John says:

      That’s a great point Pauline! In former jobs I would try and take advantage of a paid holiday so I would have one less day to take off. Now, we can go whenever we want. πŸ™‚

  • Glen @ Monster Piggy Bank says:

    We always look at last minute websites for our local holidays as you can normally score between 20 and 50% off and who doesn’t like saving that kind of money.

    • John says:

      We’ve done that a few times ourselves and I imagine that’ll be easier to do so now that we can go whenever we want.

  • Michelle says:

    We have a couple of vacations planned, but we haven’t planned a vacation with just me and him yet. I’m hoping we can squeeze some time in!

    • John says:

      We haven’t planned anything really for us this year either as we’ll be taking a couple of big trips next year.

  • Johnny Moneyseed says:

    I really want to do a house swap at some point this year. There’s probably someone out there that wants to visit where you live, and you may want to vacation where they live. Why not switch houses and have FREE housing. Housing that includes a kitchen. That cuts costs like crazy. People can be skeptical about house swapping, but I feel like they’re just missing out.

    • John says:

      I would definitely agree. We have not done a swap yet but really would be open to trying it out. We may wait until the kids are a few years older, but you’re right in that it can cut costs down pretty significantly.

  • Holly@ClubThrifty says:

    We’re taking the kids to Panama City, Florida, in May. 44 days to go! I cannot wait!

    I hope that you get to do something fun, John!

    • John says:

      Sounds fun! You’re not counting down to it, are you?! πŸ˜‰

      I think our major trips will be next year, though will be paid for mainly by rewards points! πŸ™‚

  • My Financial Independence Journey says:

    I’m trying to figure out my summer vacation ideas at the moment. I’m thinking that a few days of camping might be nice. I’m also considering opting out of the vacation and just doing a lot of weekend day trips around the area. Since I’m still new here, there’s a lot left to see.

    • John says:

      Weekend day trips are always nice. We’re probably going to be opting for that this year as we plan on taking several big trips next year.

  • Girl Meets Debt says:

    Great tips John! Today is the first day of spring and after reading your post I can’t help but think of summer vacation too! I probably won’t go on a “real” vacation this year, but we have many staycations planned this summer πŸ™‚

    • John says:

      Thanks! It is the first day of spring and it’s butt cold here. πŸ™ We won’t be doing anything major this year either as we’re going on a couple of big trips next year.

  • Budget and the Beach says:

    Good tips! I have some domestic trips I plan on taking this year, but over the summer it will probably be Detroit for my friend’s wedding and maybe spending a couple weeks (instead of my usual 5) to try to spend more time with my mom and dad who are getting a lot older. My step brother is also getting married in Seattle in Sept, so I’ll get there too and hopefully visit some old friends since I used to live there. And I might try to visit Kathleen from Frugal Portland sometime as well.

    • John says:

      Thanks Tonya! Sounds like you have a busy, but fun, summer planned. I think we’re going to be pretty boring this year, but next year should be fun.

  • Kim@Eyesonthedollar says:

    We have our big trip planned to the Pacific Northwest in July. We found a great deal on a beach cottage on VRBO that was cheaper than hotels and has a full kitchen and washer/dryer. We also have a small trip to the Grand Canyon coming up the first week in April. We will be driving and camping for that one, so it won’t cost much at all. Just having something planned makes it easier to get through the cold days.

    • John says:

      Sounds like you have a great summer planned Kim! The beach cottage alone sounds fun. I’ve always wanted to go to the Grand Canyon some time, that’s definitely on the list for us.

  • Do or Debt says:

    Love these tips! I am getting the travel itch again too. Seeing as I’m in a lot of debt and went to Iceland in January, I think my vacation card has been played. BUT, I might have a brief staycation or go up to Seattle or something.

    • John says:

      Thanks! How long did you spend in Iceland? I’ve flown through twice but always have wanted to visit it sometime.

      • Do or Debt says:

        I was only there for 5 days! Too short, but I found a crazy deal on IcelandAir. Flight, hotel, breakfast was $600! It was worth it and Iceland is stunning.

  • Mackenzie says:

    This post is definitely making me want to take a vacation! While it’s not in our budget this year to take a big vacation, I am hoping to take my daughter to either Sea World or the WIld Animal Park, since San Diego isn’t that far from us. While not exactly a vacation, it is still getting out of our area and doing something fun! πŸ™‚

    • John says:

      Oh, I LOVE the Wild Animal Park in San Diego!! We always try to go there whenever we make it back to San Diego. I’d much rather go there as opposed to the zoo.

  • Money Bulldog says:

    That’s the great thing about being self employed, as most of my holidays tend to be spur of the minute things there’s often some great last minute deals to be had! Hope you book somewhere nice John.

    • John says:

      You’re exactly right Adam! That’s a great fringe benefit to have. πŸ™‚ Other than going to FinCon I think we’ll be taking a shorter trip this year as we’re going on a couple of bigger ones next year.

  • John @ Fearless Men says:

    Great tips John! I’ve also found that planning ahead is crucial. I’m able to find better deals along with flexible dates, and less stress in planning a vacation is greatly beneficial.

  • Grayson @ Debt RoundUp says:

    My wife and I usually make plans for a week long trip somewhere for our anniversary which is in the beginning of Summer. I am not sure if we will be able to do it this year because of the baby and we haven’t figured out traveling well with him yet.

    • John says:

      Ah, yes, travelling with little ones. That can definitely make things a little more interesting. Just wait until you have another one, then it becomes really interesting. πŸ˜‰

  • Shannon Ryan @ The Heavy Purse says:

    We have a very big vacation coming up this summer – our Disney Cruise! I normally plan our vacations a year in advance, so my husband and I can get the dates on the calendar and time off from work. We normally try to do one big trip as our family save goal. The Disney Cruise was a huge goal for us, so we actually saved for 18 months, but it’s going to be worth it! The girls are so excited and so are Mom and Dad.

    • John says:

      That’s awesome Shannon! My Mom and stepdad love going on Disney cruises and have been trying to talk us into one for a while now. I think we’ll wait until our little ones are a bit older so they can appreciate it more.

  • Chris @ Stumble Forward says:

    Great tips John I was actually planning my vacation a little the other day. We’re planning to stay more local this year since building the new house and we want to get caught up on the bills as well. On top of that we also have a vacation fund set aside at the bank which we contribute to ever month as well and that seems to work very well too.

    • John says:

      Thanks Chris! Great point about putting money away each month for vacation, we do the same exact thing. We’ll be staying local this year too as we’re going to FinCon and have a few big trips planned for next year.

  • Travis @Debtchronicles says:

    Instead of traveling away from home and spending our hard earned cash on lodging, we’re taking the approach of doing lots of super fun local activities to do. We also live about 60 minutes south of the Minneapolis / St. Paul area and have family that live there. So, we’re also looking for activities in that area that we can do with the kids, and stay with family.

    • John says:

      I think that’s a great approach to take Travis! We’ve been to Minneapolis a handful of times and know there’s a lot to do there. Not to mention the fact you can save a good chunk of dough by staying local.

  • My Money Design says:

    I’m feeling like a loser this year when it comes to vacations. Normally by now I have my plans, but this year I am struggling to find good deals.

    • John says:

      I am feeling a bit that way too MMD. We’ve not planned anything and will probably just stay local as we have a few bigger trips planned for next year plus FinCon in October.

  • Alan@escapingmydebt says:

    Great tips. We have a trip to Ukraine scheduled which will include a few days in Holland with my wife’s mom. All airfare including trip for two to Ukraine and back and three round trips to Holland for only $2,000. My wife researched the heck out of the internet to find cheap flights. I do agree with you though that sometimes last minute deals can be good. Airlines thinking they cannot fill the plane will sometimes lower the price to just cover the fixed costs of the flight plus the minimal variable costs an extra passenger would add.

    • John says:

      Wow, that sounds like an awesome trip Alan! It sounds like the research paid off very well. My Mom and stepdad went to Holland a few years ago and they loved it!

  • Tony@WeOnlyDoThisOnce says:

    Totally true, John, especially about last minute travel (if you can find a great deal). Great post.

  • Lance at Money Life and More says:

    I live in an awesome place for a staycation but Panama city just isn’t as fun if you aren’t staying in a condo on the beach. Plus you kinda get sick of your year round home…

  • Nick @ says:

    I think if you can plan your vacation out far enough in advance it is pretty easy to get a good deal. All you need to do is watch prices for plane tickets so you know their price range and snatch them up when they are low. The internet makes it really easy!

    • John says:

      I agree Nick, the web makes planning much easier than it used to be. I have several Kayak alerts set up and it’s an immense help in vacation planning.

  • Edward Antrobus says:

    We’ve only had 2 summer “vacations.” Last year was a weekend in Vegas for our anniversary and the year before we went back to NJ to visit family, specifically a wedding and a funeral. This year, we are going back to NJ again for another wedding, although the date is actually the first day of fall. But in any case, we are date and destination limited and just have to work around those restrictions.

    • John says:

      We’re actually planning a trip to Vegas for early next year for my birthday. The best thing about it is that the airfare and majority of hotel cost will be taken care of with rewards points.

  • K.K. @ Living Debt Free Rocks! says:

    We are hoping to actual take our honeymoon trip this year and perhaps another trip to Florida to scout out some home properties. We are currently looking for travel deals with regard to our honeymoon but we have yet to lock down a week to actual go yet…

  • K.K. @ Living Debt Free Rocks! says:

    We are hoping to actually take our honeymoon trip this year and perhaps another trip to Florida to scout out some home properties. We are currently looking for travel deals with regard to our honeymoon but we have yet to lock down a week to actual go yet…

  • Canadianbudgetbinder says:

    We really need a summer vacation as we haven’t done anything since I’ve been in school. Now that I’m done we are hoping to plan some small trips around Ontario this year. Next year we plan to go to the UK visit our family for a few days then jet off to Spain, Italy and France and a few other places to hang out with some friends. We’d even like to head to Japan to meet up with some mates if we can or Guatemala to check out Pauline’s little house!! (haha)

    • John says:

      It sounds like you have a great year planned next year Mr. CBB! It’s been too long since we’ve been to Europe, I definitely want to go back soon.

  • Catherine says:

    We haven’t been on a vacation in YEARS. This summer we’re attending a family reunion which is going to a be a lot of fun. It helped that it’s been planning for two years giving everyone a lot of notice.

    • John says:

      We’ve had spans of time where we did not go on a vacation and it always made me stir crazy. Family reunions can always be fun.

  • CollegeMom says:

    Excellent Ideas. My daughter (sophomore in college) and several friends were able to get a room at a nice beach resort for spring break a couple of weeks ago at the spur of the moment. I think they used Hotwire. If you have the freedom and flexibility to take those chances it is a great way to afford spur of the moment vacation getaways.

    I included the post in our Friday Finds roundup this week. I haven’t been in the mood to talk about vacations, so I let you do it for me!

    • John says:

      Thanks! I agree that having that flexibility can really allow you to take advantage of some deals from time to time.

  • Paul @ The Frugal Toad says:

    I have used Priceline and saved some decent money. The only issue is that you may not get the prime locations and will probably need to drive to your destination. It is a good way to save some money if you are flexible on your location.

    • John says:

      That’s a great point Paul. We’ve had times where the location is just fine but others where it has been a good drive to get anywhere. That said, you usually can get some good savings.

  • Boris says:

    Priceline, Expedia and Travelocity are great. Another tip is to look for online coupons to sites like these. or are some sites to try. Sometimes these coupons can also take even more money off. Also, when you search for fare compare sites like kayak remember that they don’t offer all airlines for example, southwest. One final tip is that if you can’t find a good round trip flight fare with the conditions that you need, try booking two one-way tickets with different airlines.

  • Jerry says:

    Your tip about planning is even more essential if you are divorced. Not all exes are willing to switch weekends or extend a visit to accommodate your vacation plans. I actually have two funds for vacation. One for this summer and another for a trip I am planning to Ecuador. Planning is so vital. Thanks for including that tip.

  • KC @ genxfinance says:

    Planning ahead can get you huge discounts. We got a plan to travel this summer and we got our plane ticket for 60% off.

  • Michael @ The Student Loan Sherpa says:

    I’m a huge fan of the stay-cation. It hardly costs anything and can be more relaxing than travel.

  • Robert Main says:

    I’m going to go to Northern Thailand. The trip may be quite expensive, but one there you may have a couple of weeks of relax for much less than anyplace you can go in Europe or North America. It’s a good deal!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *