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How to Have an Unforgettable Summer Vacation and not Bust Your Budget

It’s the beginning of May which means that summer vacation season is just getting started. Growing up, I remember looking forward to our family vacation every summer as it usually meant going somewhere fun. Today, as a father of three, summer vacations are still fun but they are not all fun. Before the big trip (or sometimes not so big trip) I have to find a way to skimp on costs without sacrificing the fun. While vacations can vary greatly in price, I have found a few ways to have a memorable vacation without busting my budget.

Stay Local

Since we live smack dab in the Midwest we have plenty of options for our summer vacation; many cities are within a day’s drive of us. Within 8 hours, we can be in Denver, Minneapolis, Chicago or Kansas City. We have done the staycation idea, but getting out of town makes things so much more enjoyable. I realize that some may not have the same number of options as I do, but I am sure there are options available that would allow you to keep the travel costs down and still have an enjoyable vacation. We like to stay local because it means we can drive and pack accordingly to keep some of our costs down and use that saved money for other things we may want to do while on vacation.

Think Outside the Box for Your Summer Vacation

We’re always looking for new summer vacation ideas and often it just takes a little creative thinking to find a way to enjoy the kind of vacation we want. With three children under the age of five, staying at hotels can be challenging, expensive and stressful, so we like to look for other options like renting a cabin. We’ve had good friends do it and it can allow you to feel a little more at home while also possibly being able to save some money overall. Another thing we like to do is look for things we enjoy but don’t have the time to do throughout the year. We love going to a beach or spending time in the water. Sadly, that is not really an option in Omaha. However, if we go somewhere like Minneapolis, you can definitely find us at one of that city’s many beautiful lakes. Last summer, we visited the town my wife’s grandfather grew up in and had a blast taking an inexpensive steamboat tour of Lake Minnetonka followed by a picnic lunch at a waterfront park. We pushed our kids in a tire swing just a few yards from where my father in law had played as a child. It was a priceless experience that wasn’t pricey.

Watch Your Price…Only to a Point

Who wants to be budget conscious while on summer vacation? We watch our spending all year, so we want to be able to enjoy ourselves more while on vacation. However, this does not mean we throw all common sense out the window, we just choose how we want to allocate our summer vacation budget. This means we look for possible summer vacation deals or travel during the week to help keep the lodging costs down so we can spend our hard earned money on other experiences that will make the vacation more enjoyable for all. By doing this we still stay at a nice place, but we’re not staying at the Ritz. Instead, we put as much of our money as we can towards the experiences we’ll be able to remember for years to come.

Where are you planning on going for summer vacation this year? How do you keep your summer vacation costs down?

Image by David Stanley / flickr

11 thoughts on “How to Have an Unforgettable Summer Vacation and not Bust Your Budget”

  1. It is interesting you point out experiences. That is one thing I have been okay with paying a premium for. Those are the things that you will always remember and that do not grow old and rust away.

    1. John S @ Frugal Rules

      I completely agree! Those experiences can be priceless and it’s always so fun to watch the little ones start to create them.

    1. John S @ Frugal Rules

      We camped a lot when I was growing up. However, I think we’ll wait until our little ones get a little older to try that out now. 🙂

  2. We’re doing NOTHING this year! (I’m having a baby. I hope today. We don’t do stay-away vacations with newborns.) My son’s going to Canada and China this year, though. 😛 Lucky kid!

    1. John S @ Frugal Rules

      Wow, I can understand why you would not be going any where this year! 🙂 Best wishes for a safe & healthy delivery!

  3. I always go to southern California to visit my extended family during July 4th. Airfare is ridiculous because it’s a holiday weekend and everybody wants to go to the beach. One year, we flew into Orange County airport and started our vacation with a beach day. The flight was cheaper and we were guaranteed some time at the ocean. This year, I might have to get two one-way flights to save about $40 on the trip.

    1. John S @ Frugal Rules

      That sounds great Kendal! My wife is from San Diego and we go back every couple of years to visit her parents, so I can relate to the airfare. Starting the vacation with a beach day is never a bad thing in my book. 🙂

    1. John S @ Frugal Rules

      That there is Sean. I do have to admit that I am just a bit jealous. 😉

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