Taking a vacation doesn’t need to break the bank, especially if you skip the flight. Here some frugal vacation ideas to get you started.


National parks, state parks, your own backyard… the options are for your frugal vacation are endless! Whether the Tetons beckon or if local Lake Red Rock is the furthest away you can get… who cares? Either way, you’re still away from it all, and you’ll be able to channel your inner outdoorsy persona to boot.

Family/group reservations for Yosemite National Park, for example, are a reasonable $26-$50 for family/group camping reservations. First-come, first served available campsites are $6-$18.

State parks are also an awesome option. California state parks, for example, are $30/site.

And, hey, if you’re really strapped for cash, what about actually camping under the maple tree in your own backyard? Your kids will love it!


Not a fan of twigs in your hair or ticks in your clothes? Look no further than your own town for a weekend “getaway.”

So what if the exterior of the downtown Marriott is as familiar to you as the exterior of your own house? Dress up, check out a new restaurant and live it up. If you bump into people you know, oh, well, all the better. A “staycation” is often times the easiest frugal vacation.

Volunteer / Mission Trip

Use your trip for good. Okay, this may not seem like a true vacation (it’s not exactly sipping Mai Tais on a beach), but why not take some time to give back?

Many times, you can raise money through your community or your church for a volunteer or mission trip, so your investment is minimal.

Spend a week building houses in Mexico, and believe me, you’ll have an instant “in” with the locals. Plus, you’ll still get away and your heart will be fulfilled, all at the same time.

Stay With Friends or Family

Make a list of people in your life who live in really cool places. This sounds overly simple, but it sure works!

For example, I have a high school friend who lives in San Diego, my aunt lives in Chicago and my best friend’s brother’s mother-in-law (hey, it doesn’t hurt to stretch the list!) lives in Orlando. I also happen to know that none of these individuals would ever dream of allowing me to stay in a hotel if I ever found myself wandering their respective cities.

Bonus: If you don’t need to pay for a hotel, maybe you won’t have to skip the flight to have that frugal vacation, after all!

House Sit / Pet Sit

I have a friend who, during college, spent her whole summer house sitting for two traveling professors. She found herself in really cool digs for free. Lucky duck.

That could be you! Use your connections for house-sitting and/or your love of all things furry (or scaly!) for pet-sitting to score an awesome vacation spot.

A couple of websites could also help you out:

Additional Tips and tricks

  • Go for the road trip – they make for great frugal vacation. You’d be amazed how far you can get by folding the top down and driving for 8-10 hours in any given direction.
  • Credit card points are a vacationer’s best friend. It’s like finding money under the couch cushions—only better. You can even apply points directly to hotel stays.
  • Be creative! Think outside the box. A frugal vacation is totally within your grasp.