How to Vacation on a Budget

School’s out, the weather is nice and you’ve got some vacation days coming up – it’s time to plan a fun family vacation. But when it comes to a vacation, it’s common to go over budget with your spending. For many people, this can snowball into growing credit card debt, potentially even causing your credit score to take a hit. The good news is that it’s entirely possible to take a fun, memorable vacation without breaking the bank. We’ve stockpiled some of the most affordable vacation destinations and tips to save money in this post.

Affordable Vacation Destinations

Here’s a look at some of our favorite vacation hot spots for budget-conscious travelers:

  • The Grand Canyon: The Grand Canyon isn’t just an amazing sight to see, but with campsites available for as little as $15 per night, it’s also an affordable destination for the outdoor lover.
  • Fort Myers, Florida: Florida has a lot of great beach towns, and Fort Myers is one of the best. There’s the beauty and fun of the beach itself, affordable lodging accommodations and lots of other fun things to do in town.
  • Myrtle Beach, South Carolina: This is another fun, affordable beach town. Stay in one of the reasonably priced hotels on the beach and then soak up the sun during the day. There’s lots of other things to do in Myrtle Beach, like hit up the amusement park or stroll the beach shops.
  • Bar Harbor, Maine: If you want to head east, you probably won’t find a town more picturesque and affordable than Bar Harbor, Maine. It’s nestled right on the ocean and is great for the outdoor lover.
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: The western Pennsylvania city has earned the nickname “Kidsburgh” for all of the great affordable family-friendly activities and attractions it boasts.
  • The Mississippi Gulf Coast: If the Gulf Coast is more of your thing, anywhere in Mississippi makes for a great vacation location, especially when it’s not unusual to find a hotel room for less than $150 a night.
  • St. Louis, Missouri: We’ll round out this list with St. Louis, a city that blends history, great architecture and fun. Take a ride up in the Gateway Arch for a great view of the city and enjoy all there is to do on the mighty Mississippi River – all for a great value.

Tips to Vacationing on a Budget

If you want to be even more budget-conscious, here are some tips for saving money with your vacation:

  • Cash in your rewards: Consider using airline miles toward tickets or hotel rewards toward night stays.
  • Shop around: Don’t just book hotels, airfare or rental cars with the first provider you see. Shop around and look for discounts or promotional offers. Additionally, consider traveling during the week, when hotel and airline prices are generally cheaper than on the weekends.
  • Cook yourself: While it’s always fun to go out to eat while on vacation, consider hitting up the local grocery store and buying food items for breakfasts and lunches. This can help reduce meal costs, which is often a big overhead expense on vacations.
  • Ride share instead of taking a taxi: If you’re not renting a car, you might need to use a taxi to get around town. Forget the taxi on your trip and instead utilize cheaper ride sharing services like Uber and Lyft.
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Budget – How to Build One?

Are you living on your credit cards? Do you find that your bank balance drops into double digits in the days before payday arrives? Being on the financial edge means that you are unable to save for dreams like homeownership and waste money every month paying interest on consumer debt. Most people don’t wind up in debt because of a single large purchase; it’s small ones that add up. By carefully managing what comes in and goes out, you can take control and fix your financial health.

Start with a List of Your Expenses

Add up predictable expenses like rent, electric, phone, internet and water. To find out what you typically spend in other, more flexible, categories, take a look at your credit card and bank statements. You may have to eyeball an average on expenses that fluctuate from month to month. Be sure to add a line for savings.

Take Income Into Account

Add up your and your partner’s salaries, as well as any money from investments or side jobs like eBaying or freelancing. If your income is unpredictable, look at your total earnings from last year and divide by 12 to get an average.

Where Can You Cut Back?

Many people find that, when they subtract their expenses from their earnings, they wind up with a very thin margin or even a shortfall. While few of us are in a position to consistently raise our incomes, we can all find places where we can cut back. Can you cancel a membership that you do not use? Cut back to a less expensive cell phone plan? Cancel cable TV and get by on Netflix instead? By playing with the numbers, you can often save hundreds of dollars a year and give yourself much-needed breathing room.

Also scrutinize non-necessity spending. If you eat out once a week, cut down to once every two weeks or even once a month. Watch movies at a second run theater instead of on opening night. Buy an espresso maker to brew premium coffee at home and break your Starbucks habit.

The Discipline to Stay On Track

There are a number of ways to keep yourself within your budget. Some people swear by the envelope system, where they withdraw cash from the bank and divvy it up into different categories. If you prefer using plastic over paper, you can also establish checking accounts for each type of expense.

Still others keep within their budgets by carefully tracking spending. This can be as simple as a paper notebook where you record every penny spent. There are also online budgeting tools offered by many banks or through independent services like

When you carefully adhere to a budget, you become more mindful of your spending. Over time, thinking purchases through becomes second nature, allowing you to live well within your means.