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8 Frugal Summer Vacation Ideas

If you're thinking of forgoing your usual Summer travel plans due to high prices, you should consider these frugal trip ideas from Wise Bread.

The sky is brighter, the air is warming up, and the layers of clothes are getting peeled off. That can only mean one thing — summer is near.

One of the things that I love most about going on vacation is the chance to break out of my everyday routine, eat crappy foods guilt-free, and stay up blissfully late watching as much trashy reality TV as I please. Setting aside daily responsibilities, trying new things, being in a different space, and having carefree fun is refreshing. But while it’d be nice to go to Fiji or another distant tropical paradise, that just isn't reality for a lot of us.


So what do you do when money is tight, you don’t want to get further into debt, and you really need a vacation? You still take a vacation, but just a frugal one. One that your budget will love. Here are eight frugal summer vacation ideas to get you going.

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1. The All-American, Almighty Road-Trip Vacation

About 10 years ago, my husband was able to travel through 30 different states in the span of a month and a half with a friend in a $400 1982 Chevy Sprint. It’s an experience he’ll never forget, and while gas prices do get high in the summer, the road trip is still one of the cheapest options for frugal vacations. Grab a map, pack a large cooler, stop at grocery stores along the way, sing cheesy songs, tell stories you’ve never told before, watch the sun rise and set, and make yourself some memories. (This can be combined with the “I Had No Idea There Were Over 400 National Parks” vacation below, if you’re feeling adventurous.)

2. The Infamous Staycation Vacation

Set a time frame. If you can only get two to three days off from work (or less), that’s OK! This is how you do it — turn off the phones, put an auto reply on your email, turn off the computer (and really keep it off), don’t check your usual social media feeds, and really allow yourself a break from everyday life and the technology that comes along with it. Then go to the grocery store and get sundae supplies: ice cream, candy toppings, hot fudge, caramel, and whipped cream, and why not throw in some cherries too? You are on vacation after all! Rent those guilty-pleasure movies you’ve been wanting to see, and settle in for a movie marathon. Those books and magazines that have been stacking up? This is the time to read them! Those museum exhibits you’ve been dying to see but just don’t have the time for? Go check ‘em out! Hanging with friends on a patio on a random Tuesday night? Go for it! The point is to have fun, indulge in some pleasures you normally don’t get to, and get out of your normal routine.

Read on for more ideas.

3. The “I Had No Idea There Were 58 National Parks” Vacation

You can purchase an annual National Parks pass for $80. The pass provides access to 58 National Parks throughout the United States with big-name attractions like the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, the Everglades, and Yosemite. Once you’re in the parks, you can hike around and obtain a spot to set up a tent for a very low fee.

4. The Survivalist “Is This Really Considered a Vacation?” Vacation

I know some people like to be nonstop busy on vacation, and then they need a vacation after the “vacation.” If you’re one of those people, then a backpacking or biking trip might be just right for you. Borrow gear from a knowledgeable friend, talk to your local outdoor pro, and take an adventure along the Pacific Crest Trail, Great Divide Trail, or Appalachian Trail. Just make sure to take all of the necessary precautions and do the necessary training prior to attempting this one.

5. The “You Wanna Switch Houses?” Vacation

Talk to other families to see if they need a break from their daily life too. Swap houses (or apartments) with each other for the weekend to get a change of scenery. It's simple and free.

6. The Traveling Mooch Vacation

Think about who you know in other cities, and go visit them. See if your friends will let you crash at their place and show you around their town. This vacation can be combined with the next vacation on the list, "The Greyhound Bus Adventure Vacation," for added frugality.

7. The Greyhound Bus Adventure Vacation

When I was a college student, I would ride the Greyhound Bus all the time to go and visit my family. It was a rough, cheap ride, and I got to meet a bunch of people I normally wouldn’t get a chance to.

8. The "You’re Already on Vacation" Vacation

Hone your meditation skills to transport yourself to another dimension at any time. Meditating can be used to take a break from everyday life without leaving your house or taking time off from work. Bonus — it’s free, and no packing is involved.

Disconnecting, breaking out of daily ruts, and infusing life with some extra fun is all it takes to make a vacation a vacation, whether you're going near or far and being frugal or not.

Check out these smart stories from Wise Bread:

Five Best Travel Reward Credit Cards

Fifty-Plus Ways to Have Free Outdoor Fun

Forty Most Useful Travel Websites That Can Save You a Fortune

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