1. Go camping. For big families camping is the classic cheapo vacation that can be a ton of fun. Look for sites that have a water hole or river nearby, trails and other activities to keep the kids occupied. You can make reservations at federal, state and private campgrounds through ReserveAmerica.com. If you camp a LOT, consider joining PassportAmerica.com, which costs $44 a year but offers camp reservations up to 50% off. Think camping is too rustic? Most KOA’s have WiFi.
2. Go home. This works best for groups trying to pick a destination. Why not head to the house of a group member? Reader Tammy said she and her family are considering going to her sister’s house, which has a pool, for a money-saving vacation. “Fun can be had anywhere,” she said.
3. Swap houses. Cut your hotel bill down to zero by vacationing in the home of a family member, friend, or stranger while they vacation in yours. As long as you are not in your own home, it will feel like getting away! Swapping homes with a stranger sounds scary, but there are ways to ensure your safety. Ask for and check references. Arrange to meet the person face-to-face before the swap, if possible, and alert your neighbors to look out for odd behavior. Have a backup plan just in case.
I had good luck setting up a house swap in Paris via Craigslist and saved $700 over 5 nights. You can also join HomeExchange.com, which costs $99 a year and has detailed descriptions of homes being offered for swaps. Browsing the site is free. (For the vacation-starved this is like dangling paradise in front of your face).
4. Get in the car and drive. Flying is a major expense that you can cut out by staying relatively close to home. So what if a road trip is not exotic? Make the most of it because you’re on vacation! To keep costs under $1,000 for the week, stay in budget hotels or camp.
5. Go to the beach. Many beaches are free or require a low-cost pass, so your main expense is going to be lodging. If you can keep that to $500 or less for the week you should be able to come in under $1,000 for the trip.
To keep all your expenses low, check out my next post on tips to cutting corners while traveling.