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Cut Vacation Costs Without Cutting Fun

After being stuck at home for over a year, many families are ready for a break. This break often comes in the form of a summer vacation. However, 2021 vacations look a little different. While some families flourished during the pandemic, most did not. Here are some cost-saving ideas while on vacation that may allow you to allocate more money to fun:

Opt to drive instead of fly.

Air travel is among the most expensive ways of traveling, but driving is less costly, and you will see more along the way. You can stop to see the world’s biggest ball of yarn, tour a meteorite crater, see a candle from Honest Abe’s funeral, and more. Websites like or will help you make getting there an enjoyable part of the trip.

Use a gas app to find the least expensive gas.

When out of town, it can be hard to know where to buy gas, and seldom is the least expensive gas in the most convenient location. However, by veering off course just a little, you can save enough money to add more fun to your travels. Apps like Gas Buddy, Gas Guru, and Waze will help you find your preferred octane for the best price.

Plan your packing.

Have you ever arrived at your destination to find you forgot to pack your toothbrush, deodorant or needed clothing? Making a list and checking it twice helps more than just Santa. Also, adding snacks and drinks to your list can save considerable money on roadside vending.

Camping along the way.

Hotels can be expensive, but most campsites are inexpensive (sometimes free) to use. Camping can be a fun way to bond as a family by hiking, foraging for food, and picnicking. Apps and websites like Dyrt, (national parks only), (state parks only), and Tentrr make finding campsites and planning your trip easier.

Consider Airbnb instead of hotels.

If camping is not your thing, finding an Airbnb can be a less expensive alternative to hotels. You can also customize your search by location, amenities, and type of dwelling. Look for extra cost savings at sites with free laundry, breakfast included, and free parking.

Make meals in your room instead of eating out.

Meals away from home can be a strain on a vacation budget. Choosing to eat breakfast in your room or taking a sandwich to the park for lunch could be a fun and healthy alternative to eating out.

Pro Travel Tip: Ensure where you are staying provides a refrigerator for perishable items.

Purchase a park pass before you leave home.

If a state, national, or theme park is on your list to visit, research and purchase tickets in advance. Not only could this save you serious money, but you will also discover if the park is operating at reduced capacity and any required accommodations.

Pro Tip: While you are researching, don’t forget to see if parking passes are needed and if outside food and drinks are allowed.

Use public transportation.

If you are traveling in a city that offers public transportation, you can save money by making it a preferred way to travel.

Pro Tip: Use this opportunity to mix with the locals and ask for recommendations.

Ask locals for recommendations, then share the meal.

Many locals are happy to share a bit of their culture with out-of-town guests, and they know the best places. Also, for added savings, choose to visit for lunch or to share your meal.

Pro Tip: If you choose to share a meal, ensure it is allowed, and there is no additional charge.

Don’t forget to ask for discounts.

At every leg of your journey, it pays to look for bargains. Many restaurants, theme parks, and hotels give senior, veterans, or affiliation discounts.

Pro Tip: It never hurts to be extra polite when you ask for these discounts.

Whether you are using a few or all of these cost-cutting strategies, every penny saved leaves room for more fun. It is a good idea to have a trip budget that is allocated daily. Budgeting will help avoid overspending and making payments on your vacation for the rest of the year—or longer. One great way to increase your budget for next year is to regularly contribute to a vacation fund (preferably monthly) until you reach your savings goal. Then, visit your local financial institution to strategize the best way to store your savings.

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