19 Budget Vacation Ideas for Summer Travel

PHOTO: Family packing luggage for a summer road trip. (photo via monkeybusinessimages/iStock/Getty Images Plus)
Holly Johnson
by Holly Johnson
Last updated: 10:00 PM ET, Mon June 13, 2022

Vacation on a Budget This Summer

If you're already concerned about the price tag of your summer vacation, you're probably right to worry. The fact is, airfare prices were up 40% for the year as of March of 2022, and hotel prices are climbing at a similar rate. The way things are going so far this year, it will likely cost significantly more to book any type of summer getaway than it did last year or the year before.

Fortunately, you do have some power when it comes to how much you pay for your summer vacation. You'll just have to be as flexible as possible if you hope to get a good deal, and that means being as flexible with where you go as you are with your travel dates.

Saving money on summer travel is also easier if you start your search with budget vacation ideas and destinations that won't break the bank. Some of the best options include camping vacations or anything in the great outdoors, but there are also hotels and resorts that offer affordable nightly rates during the summer travel season.

To help you find a trip that fits your budget and travel style, we looked for some of the best affordable vacation ideas for the summer travel season. Whether you are interested in splashing the day away in the Wisconsin Dells, taking a cheap cruise or planning a weekend getaway in Louisville, Kentucky, read on to learn more about our top picks.

Explore Wyoming's Wind River Country

If you're dreaming of a summer road trip that won't have you draining your travel fund, consider Wyoming's Wind River Country and all it has to offer. This part of the beautiful state of Wyoming is home to small rural towns, national forests, Sinks Canyon State Park and amazing fishing opportunities on Boysen Reservoir. In the city of Dubois, travelers can even hike through the Dubois badlands to see ancient petroglyphs (rock art) that are thought to be more than 3,000 years old.

Plan a Trip to Charlottesville & Albemarle County, Virginia

If you live on the east coast and hope to stay close to home, consider packing up the car and heading to Charlottesville & Albemarle County, Virginia. This region of the country is a short and scenic 2-hour drive southwest of Washington, D.C, and it is home to the Monticello Wine Trail (with more than 40 wineries) as well as the historic pedestrian Downtown Mall in Charlottesville. Visitors can also plan a visit to the Carter Mountain Orchard, which features panoramic mountain views, peach picking and freshly made apple cider donuts.

Explore Alaska on the Alaska Railroad

The Alaska Railroad makes it easy for travelers to explore the great state of Alaska on a budget, and all the while viewing scenic mountain ranges, unbelievable wildlife and stunning glaciers through large windows next to comfortable seating. Adventure-lovers can even choose among several summer packages that bundle Alaska railroad transportation with hotel stays, excursions and transfers to and from the train.

Weekend Getaway in Louisville, Kentucky

Whether you want to stay a weekend or a week, the famous city of Louisville, Kentucky has plenty to offer families seeking a budget-friendly getaway. Some of the region's best attractions include OId Louisville with the country's largest collection of Victorian-era homes and Cave Hill Cemetery, which is the resting place of Colonel Sanders and Muhammad Ali.

Louisville's Urban Bourbon Trail even lets you use a free digital passport to check-in at different restaurants to earn a free t-shirt.

Rent an RV

Renting an RV through a website like RVShare is a great way to see the great outdoors without having to pay an arm and a leg. Not only can an RV serve as your lodging for your getaway, but you can take it out for a drive to see natural landmarks and wildlife during your summer vacation.

RVShare even offers the option to have the RV delivered to your campsite, which means you can skip filling up the gas tank to get to your destination.

Visit Zephyr Cove Resort & Marina in South Lake Tahoe, Nevada

With rates as low as $277 per night this summer, Zephyr Cove Resort of South Lake Tahoe in Nevada offers an affordable way to relax and unwind - particularly if you can skip the high cost of airfare and drive there instead. This resort has its own marina with power boats, pontoon boats, personal watercraft, jet skis and parasailing tours guests can book or rent at an added cost. The resort is also close to hiking trails that lead to the best mountain views along the legendary Rubicon Trail.

Plan a Trip to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

If you're within driving distance of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, you'll quickly find that this destination is both affordable and fun. There are all kinds of lodging options to book on a budget in Myrtle Beach, from rental condos through Airbnb to family-friendly hotels with huge pools and beach access. Affordable attractions to check out include Brookgreen Gardens, the SkyWheel, Broadway At the Beach and the area's many scenic golf courses.

Stay at Massanutten Resort in Massanutten, Virginia

Virginia's Massanutten Resort is a mountain resort that offers all kinds of family activities during all four seasons. Visitors can spend the day playing golf at one of the two 18-hole golf courses, or they can splash and play within the resort's indoor and outdoor water park complete with a FlowRider wave machine, a lazy river, several swimming pools and an arcade. The on-site family adventure park also boasts its own zipline and petting zoo. Rates at this resort start at just $110 per night this summer.

Visit Atlantis Paradise Island On a Budget

Most people know that the Atlantis Paradise Island Resort in Nassau, Bahamas is known for offering over-the-top luxury at a significant price point. However, guests can stay at the nearby Comfort Suites Paradise Island and still access the Atlantis casino, its award-winning restaurants and the 141-acre waterscape at Aquaventure the property is known for. Comfort Suites Paradise Island is currently offering a fourth night free with three paid nights, and nightly rates start at $196 per night.

Book a Cheap, All-Inclusive Stay

If you are willing to be flexible with your destination and dates, summertime is the perfect time to find an inexpensive vacation package at an all-inclusive resort. Properties that fall into this category include your food, your drinks (including alcohol), your hotel stay and some entertainment within the nightly rate, so budgeting for your vacation is easy.

We suggest considering destinations like the Dominican Republic and Mexico for the best deals and working with a travel agent that can help you find options that fit your budget.

Plan a Fun Camping Trip with KOA's Trip Planner

Camping has long been one of the most affordable vacation options out there, and it's easy to see why. You can choose a reasonably priced camp site, borrow a tent from family and friends, pack your own ingredients for campfire meals and bring some family games and other camping essentials to keep everyone happy and entertained.

Use KOA's trip planner tool to find the most affordable campsites in your area, and you'll be enjoying the great outdoors on a budget in no time.

Explore in Orlando, Florida

Orlando, Florida is home to an array of affordable lodging options for families, from vacation condos and villas through VRBO.com and Airbnb to inexpensive family hotels. Visitors will also find all kinds of things to do and see in and around the city, from staying active at Nona Adventure Park to soaring over alligators at Gatorland. There are also myriad parks to visit that are more affordable than Disney, including SeaWorld Orlando, Fun Spot America and LEGOLAND Florida.

Splash the Day Away in the Wisconsin Dells

The Wisconsin Dells area of Wisconsin is home to everything a winning family getaway requires, including theme parks with roller coasters, water rides with dramatic slides, mini golf, museums and all kinds of family hotels. Consider a stay at a waterpark resort like the Glacier Canyon Lodge, which boasts condo units for families and a huge waterpark with slides and a lazy river.

Visit Colorado's YMCA of the Rockies

YMCA of the Rockies is a beloved Colorado resort with two popular locations in Estes Park and Granby. This collection of properties let families enjoy an affordable and "unplugged" getaway in a hotel-style lodge rooms or rustic cabin, with included activities like guided hiking, fishing, rock climbing, ziplining and archery available. Nightly rates start as low as $89 this summer, so this vacation idea is bound to fit with your budget no matter what.

Stay Overnight On a Farm

Farm Stay USA makes it easy for families to set up an affordable and educational stay on a family farm or ranch nearly anywhere in the United States. You can search options on the map or by zip code, and lodging options vary from camping and glamping to staying in a cottage or a farmhouse. Activities offered also depend on the farm booked for the stay, but they often include collecting eggs and feeding chickens, herding sheep, brushing donkeys and horses and working in the garden.

Plan a Road Trip Along the U.S. Civil Rights Trail

If you're looking for a family road trip idea that's both educational and fun, a jaunt along the U.S. Civil Rights Trail may be in order. This trip can include stops in 15 different states in the southeastern U.S. from Kansas to Florida with 135+ landmarks to see that served as battlegrounds for famous marches, activist rallies and historic demonstrations. Popular cities to visit along the trail include Birmingham, Alabama, Jackson, Mississippi and Little Rock, Arkansas.

Book a Summer Cruise Deal

Summertime is always a great time to get a stellar deal on an inexpensive cruise, and this year is no exception. For example, MSC Cruises is offering a ton of deals on their three-night and four-night itineraries to the Caribbean and the Bahamas on the MSC Divina.

These cruises start at just $129 per person, and they include all your meals, your entertainment and transportation to stunning destinations like MSC's exclusive marine reserve, Ocean Cay.

Visit Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park is located on the border of Canada and Montana, so it's best visited during summertime when the temperatures are mild. This national park features some of the most beautiful and dramatic scenery in the United States, and free activities like hiking and wildlife viewing abound.

You can even camp within the park itself, although some park campsites do require reservations. There are also wilderness camping spots within the park for those who are willing to hike to a remote location at the start of their vacation.

Plan a Theme Park Vacation

The United States is dotted with theme parks that offer family fun for everyone in your crew, and most people are within driving distance of at least a few. For example, Six Flags offers 23 different amusement parks across the United States in destinations like Atlanta, Georgia, Buffalo, New York and Chicago, Illinois.

While theme parks work best for families with kids who love roller coasters, many parks have attractions for smaller children, including kid-friendly coasters, petting zoos and splash pads.

To help you find a trip that fits your budget and travel style, we looked for some of the best affordable vacation ideas for the summer travel season.

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Helping leisure selling travel agents successfully manage their at-home business.

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Agent Specialization: Group Travel

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Laurence Pinckney

CEO of Zenbiz Travel, LLC

About Me