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Real Life On A Budget

4 Ways to Vacation Without Debt

Summer is here. And that can only mean one thing: Your head will soon be somewhere else, probably on a beach somewhere or maybe in the mountains or at Disney World with your kids.

Am I right?

We always talk about how expensive Christmas season can be with all the gifts, but summertime brings its own share of money challenges.

Whether you have a family with kids, or whether you are single and loving life, there’s an expectation that summertime has to include going somewhere for a week, staying in a hotel, and eating nice dinners.

There’s nothing wrong with any of that. I love a relaxing vacation as much as anyone else. But the problems start when you go on vacations that you can’t afford.

Those bills start piling up around the time you’re Christmas shopping. By January, you’ve got bills for all those Christmas gifts while you’re still trying to pay off last year’s vacation. Sounds like fun, doesn’t it?

It really doesn’t have to be that way. It’s absolutely possible to take a summer vacation without going into debt. Here’s how:

1. Plan

I’ve said this so many times, but I can’t emphasize it enough. Unless you have a tablecloth made of $100 bills, you’ll need to save for your vacation. This requires time, which might mean you need to start budgeting for your next vacation right now.

Related: 4 Reasons You Need to Start Saving

2. Stay Home

You don’t want to go into debt. So if the numbers don’t work, there’s nothing wrong with taking a year off from traveling and going on a “staycation” instead. Treat your home like a condo: no major chores or do-it-yourself projects. Just relax and explore some of the activities you can do right in your hometown.

3. Research

If you have a little money saved for vacation, you want to stretch it as far as possible. Use the Internet to look for freebies like breakfast or additional nights at hotels. Search for coupon codes or discounts if you’re going to a place like Disney World. When it comes to researching good deals, you can never be too thorough!

4. Change Your Thinking

If you can’t afford a weeklong vacation at the beach, what about a three- or four-day weekend in the mountains? How much money could you save by not eating out on vacation—or by staying in the garden-view room instead of the ocean-view room? Or, instead of going on vacation in summer, what if you planned an off-season trip, maybe during fall break, when rates aren’t as high? Be open to alternative, cheaper options.

Remember, the purpose here isn’t to spoil your fun. The purpose is to set you up financially to have even more fun later.

If you simply can’t afford a vacation without pulling out your credit card, just take a year or two off from traveling. It won’t kill you. Don’t forget that vacation is a want, not a need.

The best vacations are those that don’t follow you home.

Already have your vacation planned? Watch some of my packing tips here!


  • Iryssa

    I’m a big fan of the staycation. When we had to tighten our belts I think we actually started to have MORE fun, because we started learning so much more about our own area! Now we just tell our friends and family “we won’t be available because we have a staycation planned” and they’ve been incredibly respectful of that (well, I had to stop answering the phone for a couple people, but they got the hint and respect it now 😉 ). It’s also WAY easier to do something local when your kids are at that difficult-to-travel-with age (particularly when they’re potty training…talk about a way to make a road trip take three times as long!)

  • darth_curmudgeous

    Travel is a huge idol for a lot of people. I haven’t been able to travel for years because of the financial burdens of an illness in the family. I nonetheless consider myself fortunate (living with a sick person really teaches you how to appreciate being healthy). However I’ve learned to never talk about my lack of travel with others. I’ve been accused of everything from being an uneducated bumpkin to abusing my wife for not taking her places. Citing the desire to avoid further debt is not considered a valid excuse among the travel worshipers.

  • Laura Maria Santiago

    Some additional tips that my hubby and I have been using for at least 3 years now: 1. Check if one of your friends has a timeshare and just pay the exchange fee to use their location. It is always cheaper than renting a hotel plus most of them have kitchens which will allow you to cook your meals instead of eating out. 2. Plan in advance and look for groupons to the city you will be visiting. 3. Always, always have a vacation budget in mind and keep a tally. We have an account only for vacation with a debit card, if the money is out, oh well….pool time and beach time it will be. If any of you would like more frugal vacation tips, let me know by emailing me at

    • Dr.N.Jones

      Love it @laura any social media connects?

      • Laura Maria Santiago

        Yes, or twitter: lauriemsr