You may think vacations are reserved for wealthy people who have plenty of disposable income, and that certainly isn’t the case, or at least it doesn’t have to be. It’s possible to plan a vacation even on a relatively small budget, but the key word here is “plan.”

From choosing vacation packages for activities to being creative with where you stay, the following are some budget-friendly vacation tips that can help you take the trip of a lifetime even if you don’t have a lot to spend.

Know What Your Budget Is

Before you can plan a vacation on a budget, you need to know what your budget is going to be. The following are useful tips that can help you determine a specific budget, which will help your planning process quite a bit.

  • Create a shortlist of destinations you’d like to visit if you don’t already have a place in mind. Try to find at least three spots that might be an option for you, so that you can do some comparison shopping once you start getting into the specifics.
  • Once you have some possible destinations in mind, you can start thinking about the big expenses you’ll need to cover, such as the cost of plane tickets if you’re flying and lodging.
  • Then, begin factoring in smaller things, such as the activities or excursions you’d like to do.
  • Consider food, and create a budget as far as how you’ll eat.
  • Then, you can create a budget spreadsheet so that you’ll know how to plan more appropriately.

How to Plan a Vacation on a Small Budget

The budgeting won’t necessarily stop in the planning phase. You’ll want to bring your budget plans with you so you can make sure you aren’t going over the amount you allow yourself each day. A good way to keep up with your budget while you’re away is to use the envelope system, so you’re only allowing yourself to spend what’s in your envelopes.

If you prefer not to use cash, you can use a budgeting app as well.

Book Packages

This was touched on a bit above, and it’s something to think about if you’re on a budget. Use a travel website or company that offers package. Packages can include a combination of lodging and airfare, lodging and activities or some similar combination.

How to Plan a Vacation on a Small Budget

Of course, you should break it down and make sure a package is really going to save you money, but in most cases, they will. In some instances, booking vacation packages can save you a substantial amount of money.


If at all possible, try to avoid peak travel times. This can be tough if you have kids who are off school at certain times, and typically school holidays are the ultimate peak travel times. If you can swing it, however, waiting until off-season or off-peak times can save you a significant amount of money on the cost of your trip.

How to Plan a Vacation on a Small Budget

Airline tickets, lodging, and even food and activities are likely to be cheaper if you’re going to a tourist destination that tends to have peak travel times.

Even if you can travel in the middle of the week rather than the weekend, it can help your budget.


The point of going on vacation is to enjoy yourself, but if you’re on a budget, you may be worried that you have to go so no-frills that you don’t meet that goal. Think about prioritizing what’s most important to you and putting the majority of your budget toward that.

How to Plan a Vacation on a Small Budget

For example, maybe you love a great hotel room and pool, so you’re willing to spend more on your lodging but drive instead of flying to your destination. On the other end of the spectrum, you might be someone who likes to be out and about when you travel, so you can do very basic accommodations, but spend a little extra on dining or activities.

Finally, when you’re thinking about where you’ll go on your vacation, think about destinations that are lesser known or less popular, but are likely to be less expensive as well. For example, maybe you love the idea of a Caribbean island, but you don’t necessarily have the budget.

How to Plan a Vacation on a Small Budget

Consider something more budget-friendly like a trip to Mexico.

If you want to ski in Colorado, maybe you find a less expensive ski resort somewhere like Lake Tahoe. If you love the idea of a Florida beach vacation, maybe think about somewhere less expensive but similar like Myrtle Beach in South Carolina.