Planes, Trains, Automobiles and Coupons: Saving Money on Summer Vacation

Getting a good vacation in before the end of summer is a priority for many American families about to get back into the school cycle. However, the price of travel is enough to convince many people that getting away isn’t in the cards for them this year.

It’s true that taking a vacation can be expensive. But that doesn’t mean it has to break your bank or your budget.

The Business of Budgeting

The first thing you must do if you want to take a financially sound vacation is to seriously look at your budget. You may need to cut some expenses in certain areas of your budget to be able to pay for this one. This will likely be from your entertainment or miscellaneous section. Look at it this way: You’ll be foregoing some fun activities, like going to coffee shops or movies in favor of spending it on a much larger, more enjoyable experience.

“The United States is filled with great parks, monuments, cities and forests.”

The key to going on vacation while on a budget is ensuring that your vacation funds don’t detract from your essential financial obligations, like rent, utilities or loan payments.

Location, Location, Location

Once you’ve gotten your finances figured out, you can start planning your vacation. First, consider where you want to go. There are countless beautiful and fun places you can visit, but not all of them are very cost-effective. You may think you need to cross country lines to find a unique experience, but this is hardly the case. The United States is filled with great parks, monuments, cities and forests that offer a wide variety of experiences.

According to U.S. News & World Report, the top five most budget-friendly stateside destinations include:

  • Yellowstone National Park
  • Yosemite National Park
  • District of Columbia
  • New Orleans
  • Charleston, South Carolina

Tripping Out

You have several options for getting to your vacation spot: plane, train, bus, boat or car. The most expensive cost depends on your city of origin and destination.

There are other considerations you should make in addition to cost. For instance, if you only have four days and want to go to the opposite end of the country, bus or train might not be the best option. Flying might be the best way for you to maximize your vacation time in instances like this.

If you choose to drive to your destination, ValuePenguin noted that you’ll have to calculate all the costs associated with it, such as:

  • Gas
  • Unexpected repairs
  • Tolls
  • Parking


If you have friends or family in the area you are visiting, don’t be afraid to ask to sleep on their couch or in the guest bedroom. Chances are, they’ll love the company and the opportunity to catch up with you.

However, if you don’t have this option, there are plenty of other cost-effective options you can go with. Camping might be one of the least expensive options, and depending on where you are traveling to, this could take your vacation experience to new heights. Tent camping isn’t very expensive, but can be uncomfortable for some people. ValuePenguin pointed out that camping in an RV is also affordable, and provides a little bit more comfort.

Another idea is to find a home-sharing plan, such as Airbnb or VRBO. These are typically less expensive than a hotel, but it’s important to compare rates just to be sure.

Shopping Sprees

Bringing back a small gift or souvenir for loved ones is a tradition for many travelers, but that doesn’t mean you have to spend all of your money on gifts. Before you leave home, make a list of people you want to bring a gift back for, then stick to it.

Another way to limit your spending is to create a daily budget for yourself. Don’t allow yourself to spend more than your allotted amount in a day.

Budgeting for a vacation can be tricky because there are so many different aspects to a trip. But by carefully planning it out, you can go on vacation without worrying about going into debt.

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