26 Proven Hacks For Taking Low-Budget Vacations Without Settling For Anything Less Than The Absolute Best

Recently, we asked the wanderlust penny pinchers in our BuzzFeed Community to tell us their secrets for taking a fun, amazing vacation at a low price point. Here’s what they had to say.

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“Plan to travel during “shoulder seasons” (ie, if summer is high season, go in May or September). Still great weather but much less expensive and crowded.

Be flexible with dates and take a day off of work if possible (ex, flying in on Tuesday out on a Monday). Book hotel, rental car, etc. well in advance. You can always cancel but usually booking far in advance will be cheaper.”



“Join a home-exchange organization, such as”



Join a [local] travel group! The owner of my group has insane contacts and usually gets us really really good deals.”



“Plan ahead. Know what you want to do. Use sites like TripAdvisor to research the area. Find out if you can do some items at low or no cost.

If you don’t have money to see a professional game or concert, you can get a tour of the stadium/theater for pretty cheap just to say you’ve been there and take tourist photos.”

—Theresa from Washington


“The major hotel chains (Wyndham, Choice, Marriott, etc.) all have amazing rewards programs. The points add up really quickly, and the more you stay, the more rewards you get.

I have used my points for free stays, upgrades to suites, free rental cars, even free stays at places I needed to use my passport to get to.”


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“Don’t sleep on national and state parks. You can often rent a cabin for the week for the cost of an Airbnb or a Vrbo for a weekend. Plus, the parks are usually close to lots of amazing nature and local culture.”



“When visiting an expensive resort town, we would find a cheap campground nearby and stay there. We then went to the large fancy resort to find a shady spot and let the kids use the really nice pool.

We would grab a Costco pizza and snacks beforehand. Never did get asked to leave.”



“It takes time, but earning hotel, airline, or travel points in general from credit cards has been super helpful for us. My husband does a lot of traveling for work. He books everything himself and gets reimbursed but keeps the points he’s earned.

We use these points to book everything. If we’re short on points, we purchase more because points are usually cheaper to buy than spending money on the left over balance without points.”



“I use points through my grocery store chain for hotel gift cards. Once I was able to use points for my entire hotel stay! Definitely kept my partner and me on budget.”


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“Travel credit cards give rewards after you spend a certain amount. Some require a fee to open (usually around $100), but the reward is higher. My husband and I both opened one to pay for our wedding expenses and got $600 each.

We paid off the cards without interest and paid for our Greek cruise that way!”



“If you see good flights, book them. Don’t wait around for friends to get their act together. If you go alone, you’ll enjoy it anyway.

Solo holidays are great, and if friends decide to come, they can get their own more expensive flight later.”



“If you have to book last minute, don’t be picky about locations. A lot of companies are desperate to fill rooms/cruises/flights and will offer a discount.”


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“The most important thing is to take groceries with you, or at least as much of it as possible rather than buying a bunch of food there or eating out the entire time. Groceries and essentials are more expensive in tourist areas.”



“I enjoy just walking around to really take in the sites. Finding free things to do is challenging and fun, you never know what you can stumble upon!”



“If driving to a location, gas up in the middle of the week if you can. Gas is typically more expensive on the weekend, as are hotel reservations.

Keep a cooler with drinks and pre-made road trip lunches with you. That saves you time, money, and your sanity (if traveling with kids)!”

—Theresa from Washington


“Research local transportation. This is especially useful when traveling around Europe. Lots of cheap trains, metro, and bus fares and travel cards available, which locals use.”



“Buy passes and combo tickets. If you’re getting a ticket that allows you to see more than one spot at a time (eg, an observatory + a museum), then it’s worth it!

Even all-day passes for trains and buses are especially useful. I just bought a rail pass that allows me to use specific train and bus networks in the region for five days, and it costs much, MUCH less than buying separate tickets for each journey.”


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“If you’re buying tickets for something (zoo, aquarium, theme park), do the cost calculations to see if it makes more sense to buy the annual passes or memberships.

For the local state aquarium, it costs only $20 more for my family to buy the family annual membership than it is to buy tickets for all of us just for one day. You go twice, and it’s already paid for itself. We do this every year with our family.”



“Start buying Visa gift cards, or adding money onto them every pay period. When it’s time to go, you have extra funds that aren’t in the accounts you use to budget/pay bills.

This is especially great if you’re vacationing with kids, because they ALWAYS want souvenirs.”



“If you plan a Disney trip, stores sell gift cards that work almost everywhere at the park. I planned our trip about a year ahead of time, and every paycheck bought at least a $25 card.

Our grocery store has a program called fuel perks where every 50 dollars you spend is a dollar of fuel at their gas station. So buying the cards helped pay for our gas (we drove Ohio to Florida).”


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“Several friends and I are animal lovers who rent a house together for a week in a small town near the nation’s largest animal sanctuary. The cost of a large, clean comfortable lodging with multiple bedrooms and bathrooms is much cheaper than local hotels and motels.

Volunteer times are available in any area of the sanctuary, cats, dogs, horses, pigs, etc., and are generally about four hours or less in duration. Tasks may include anything from dog walking, to bunny cuddling, to socializing puppies, to feeding pigs.

Evenings are spent laughing, kicking back and just enjoying each other’s company. I might add that this sanctuary is within an hour’s drive of national parks and monuments. Air fare, car rental, lodging, and food is generally less than $500 per person for four of us, and that includes treats and buffet lunches at the sanctuary.”



“Since COVID, we’ve been taking day trips to nearby sights that don’t require an overnight stay. Most places are inexpensive, and our costs are just a tank of gas, lunch, and maybe a souvenir.

We collect decorative magnets of what we’ve seen, take lots and lots of photos. It’s a great way to get out into fresh air, and explore our community!”



“My daughter, dog, and I take short road trips (one night) and car camp. You can park at rest stops overnight or in (non-Nevada) casino parking lots.”


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“Check tourist information centers when traveling abroad. The country I live in doesn’t have many international tourists coming in these days, so they’ve opened a few tourist passes to foreign residents. All you have to do is show them your passport!”



“Check your employer discounts. We recently got rained out of a camping trip and booked a hotel. The clerk noticed a company logo on my keychain and gave us 30% off the room!”



“Student discounts. You will not BELIEVE the places that have let me in for reduced cost or even free because I showed them my student ID card.

If you’re a student, you can save a ton on things like museums and galleries. My university was even on a campus partners list with a national museum, so I basically went in and explored the place TWICE for absolutely nothing. If you are a student, PLEASE take full advantage of this. Your wallet will thank you, and you’ll get to check out places you couldn’t even dream of.”


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Note: Submissions have been edited for length and clarity.

What are your low-budget vacation tips? Drop them in the comments below! 👇

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