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Travel and Leisure

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Many people hope to take an exciting, memorable vacation, but are limited by a financial budget. However, abundant inexpensive vacation destinations are available for the savvy traveler. Planning ahead, shopping for discounted destination rentals and hunting for free activities can contribute to an unforgettable vacation that won’t break the bank.

Stay Local

Inexpensive Vacation IdeasA popular budget vacation trend is the staycation, a new term that references staying local and exploring the area. Without the responsibilities of work and constraints of social engagements, vacationers can discover their own city and nearby towns in as if they, themselves, were tourists. Because staycations free up money generally geared for lodging, flights, gas or pet boarding, more money can be devoted towards bills (without skimping on entertainment and exciting local activities). Consider coordinating a staycation with popular local events, such as Savannah’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival or Washington D.C.’s Cherry Blossom Festival. Sift through online media and local newspapers for free activities held locally, including author readings, concert events or dance classes. Evaluate the top tourist destinations in your city–from aquariums to art museums to major sports teams–and schedule at least two experiences during your staycation. Splurge on a discounted hotel downtown to get away for a night and live it up like a city tourist. Plan a day trip to a nearby town for wine tasting, horseback riding or berry-picking. Additionally, discover the great outdoors in your region through a day hike or overnight camping trip. Learn about the nearby topography and native animals and plants through kayaking or bicycling adventures. Remember to catch up on sleep, finish at least one home project and put your vacation savings towards any outstanding debt to make a staycation a worthwhile experience.

Discounted Destination Rentals

Inexpensive Vacation IdeasDuring a struggling housing market, vacation homeowners often slash rental prices to solidify an occupant in a competitive market. Recently, the Columbia State Newspaper reported that South Carolina coastal homes had reduced rental rates from 10 to 25 percent (see Resources). For those traveling on a budget, look for last-minute destination rental deals. Additionally, shop around the market to achieve the best rate, vacation during an off-peak time and look for beach-access homes (versus waterfront) for deeper savings. For beach home rentals, consider spots less-plagued by tourists–such as Cape Hatteras, Biloxi or Tybee Island–to keep more money in your pocket. Additionally, mountain cabin rentals offer a unique vacation experience coupled with financial savings. Consider traveling to Dahlonega (Georgia), Durango (Colorado), Missoula (Montana), Chattanooga (Tennessee) or Asheville (North Carolina) during the off-peak months to discover charming cities, outdoor adventures and magnificent scenery. For travelers who appreciate extremely rustic conditions and hope to reduce any extra vacation costs should contemplate ChillBilly Acres in Canada. At $15/night, travelers can visit Ontario and Toronto (without the glitzy hotels and hefty price tags) and experience the natural wonders surrounding the cabin.

Discover Camping

Inexpensive Vacation IdeasOftentimes, the best vacations are ones that allow for personal discovery, an outdoor experience and financial savings. Plentiful camping opportunities abound throughout the country; Consider the season to help assist in choosing the best camping experience. Warm, summer weather allows for enjoyable camping in Montana, Washington, Oregon, Minnesota and Colorado. Cooler, winter months should warrant a visit to the Southern states, from Arizona to Florida. Evaluate your ownership of camping supplies to determine any vacation-related costs, and purchase any needed equipment at discounted rates. Discover America’s Parks for inexpensive camping and hiking opportunities that offer magnificent encounters with nature, such as Big Basin Redwoods State Park in California or Zion National Park in Utah (make sure you get a permit before camping, if required). Consider Manzanita Campground in Sedona, Arizona for easy access to downtown Sedona and multi-function trails that wind through the Red Rocks. At $18/night, campers can reserve a spot, pitch a tent, make s’mores and enjoy a relaxing evening. Don’t have outdoor supplies and not up for sleeping beneath the stars? Many state parks offer onsite lodging (sometimes as low as $35/night) that provide an inexpensive opportunity to discover America’s great outdoors.