12 Inexpensive Weekend Getaway Ideas That Will Save You Thousands
Weekend getaway idea? Check. Money? Not so much. We've got some killer tips to help you save money on that well-deserved trip.
When a full-fledged vacation doesn’t fit the budget, sometimes I turn to a shorter, less expensive option: the cheap weekend getaway.
If you’re not careful, though, these weekend trips can cost nearly as much as a longer adventure. Over the years, I’ve figured out ways to save on these quick trips – how to choose weekends, where to find affordable accommodation, and surprising strategies to find cheap flights.
1. Closer Isn’t Always Cheaper
Lots of factors influence plane ticket pricing besides distance. Use the Google Flights map feature, Kayak Explore, or Skyscanner to browse for cheap tickets out of your home city. You can even set a maximum price on your search so that you won’t be tempted by something out of your price range. You might be surprised by some of the cheapest options that come up.
2. Find Cheap Flights Using Social Media
Airfare is often the highest travel expense for any given trip. To keep flight prices in check, follow social media accounts like Secret Flying and The Points Guy.
These can help you catch sales, error fares, and hidden deals as they become available.
You can also sign up for email alerts from Scott Keyes to get deals sent straight to your inbox. These deals often don’t last, though, so be ready to book immediately with a handful of possible date ranges.
3. Declare a Long Weekend
Using one of your vacation days may not sound very appealing, but you can save hundreds by flying out from Thursday to Saturday or from Friday to Monday. If you tack a day on either end, make sure to factor in the cost of an extra night’s accommodations to calculate your net savings. This way, you can figure out if the balance makes sense.
4. Avoid Traveling on Popular Weekends
While it’s fun to get away on the Fourth of July or Labor Day weekend, flights, hotels, activities, and even food will likely be more expensive than the same trip on another weekend. Thanksgiving and Christmas are popular (and expensive) travel days, but Fridays in June, July, and August actually are the busiest travel days in the U.S. Watch out for local peak travel dates, like Mardi Gras in New Orleans or SXSW in Austin. Many beach destinations in Mexico, the Caribbean, and the southern U.S. mark up prices during college spring break season, too.
5. Visit During “Shoulder Season”
If you’re set on a destination but aren’t committed to dates yet, research its peak travel season – then avoid it. You can hit up the same spots for much less by visiting just a few weeks before or after peak season, and you’ll probably have similar weather, too.
These slightly off-peak times are known as “shoulder season,” and taking advantage of it can significantly reduce the price tag of your trip.
6. Do a Housing Swap With a Friend in a Different City
If you’re interested in visiting a friend’s city and they’re interested in visiting yours, swap houses for an inexpensive weekend getaway with free accommodations.
Or if you don’t have friends where you’re headed, check out HomeExchange to match with prospective house swappers. You can also ask family or friends if you can stay in their second home or beach house.
7. Contribute to a Separate Travel Savings Account
Start saving for your trip early – really early. Maybe even before you have a destination picked out. Make monthly contributions to a separate travel savings account so that you can snag that cheap flight when you discover one.
8. Open a Travel Rewards Credit Card
They might not be for everyone, but credit cards can be a fantastic way to go on an adventure without emptying your travel fund. Research a card with a big sign-up bonus that offers double points in your most frequent spending category (like groceries or gas). Some card companies have travel portals on their websites that offer discounted plane tickets or extra points if you purchase through the site.
9. Watch Out for Frequent Flier Miles Promotions
Sign up for emails from your rewards program’s participating airlines. You’ll get both cash ticket and award ticket sale alerts. For example, airlines have run domestic flight promotions for just 10,000 miles (as opposed to the typical 25,000 round-trip award ticket).
10. Travel With a Buddy
This won’t save you money on plane tickets, but it’ll cut down costs on nearly everything else – hotels, car rentals, gas…
11. Consider an Outdoor Adventure
If your entire travel budget will be eaten up by plane tickets alone, consider visiting one of America’s 400-plus national parks.
Many parks have cheap or free admission and camping. You’ll be able to hike, swim, rock climb, kayak, canoe, build campfires, and roast s’mores!
An annual national park pass costs $80 and covers your entrance fees, your vehicle, and all your passengers.
12. For Longer Trips, Combine Flights With On-the-Ground Transportation
A weekend might not be the best time to combine flights and over-land transport (e.g. buses and trains), but for a longer trip, consider flying to a city within train or bus distance of your final destination. A flight to Vienna combined with a train to Ljubljana might be cheaper than flying directly. Plus, you’ll get to experience an extra destination!