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  • Alexa Mason - Single Moms Income

15 Cheap Summer Vacation Ideas For You And Your Kids

My kids will be attending their last day of school on May 17th. That means in just a few short weeks I’ll have my girls home with me every day.

While I wholeheartedly look forward to them being home (and the break of driving them to and from school) I’m well prepared for them wanting to spend the summer doing at least a few extra-fun things.

I’m guessing you’ll find yourself in a similar situation.

Vacation Ideas You Can Do Close to Home

I openly admit that I am not a traveler. Traveling across the world doesn’t interest me so most of our vacation ideas are short and within a few hours of home. (For now anyway.)

One of the biggest benefits of vacationing close to home is that you can find both cost and time efficient ways to have fun. If you’re working on a strict budget or can’t take much time off from work, this could be the perfect solution for your family.

Also, while you plan your family vacation this year, you can already start budgeting for next year’s by using a Discover it® Miles Card.

Here are a list of vacation ideas that can range anywhere from one to a few days and that you can do close to home.


I know, you’ve seen this idea on every vacation list under the sun. I have to add it though because it’s one of my family’s favorite things to do!

We like to go old school and pop a tent in the middle of the woods. We look for locations that are near water so that we can fish, hike, cook our food over an open fire and sit around just enjoying being outside.

There’s nothing like it!

Road Trip

While I’m still not brave enough to take my kids on a long road trip just yet, I love the idea of getting in a car (or preferably, an RV) and going from spot to spot exploring.

Another great thing about this is that you can control just how long or short you want it to be.

Amusement Parks

As a kid, a lot of our “vacations” were visiting Kings Island once or twice per summer.

My parents owned a greenhouse business growing up so they could never leave for long periods of time. My brothers and I didn’t care though, we looked forward to our annual amusement park trip and thought it was the best thing ever.

Visiting Attractions in a Nearby City

Another thing I do with my kids each year is take them to the Aquarium and Zoo.

You can make this feel a little more vacation-y by combining the trips if you have both nearby. For instance, we have the Newport Aquarium and Cincinnati Zoo only a little over an hour away. Going to the Aquarium one day then renting a hotel room (with a pool, of course) and then visiting the Zoo the next day would be paradise for my kids.

Another great thing about doing this is that you can time your trip when tickets are on sale. (Also see if you can buy tickets online at a discount.)

You don’t have to limit the ideas to Zoos and Aquariums. You could pick any larger nearby city and find fun new things to fill up a couple days.

State Park (My Favorite!)

For two years now our family vacation has been spent in Mammoth Cave, KY. It’s not too far from us (a few hours) and is absolutely beautiful and super-affordable.

The last time we went I was able to rent a nice cabin for three nights for around $300. We would then go on guided hikes, cave tours, kayaking and just general exploring. (Plus spending a lot of time in the pool which is all my kids actually care bout. I think renting a room in a hotel that has a pool is all I have to do to please my kids!)

Going to Mammoth Cave is one my favorite summer activities and I wouldn’t be surprised if we ended up spending some time there this summer.

If you have a State Park within a few hours of you I highly suggest checking out what kind of activities they have.

Cheap Vacation Spots Across America

If you’re wanting to go far beyond your home state U.S. News and World Report has a list of sixteen of the most cost effective places to visit in the United States. These destinations have been voted up or down by people who have actually taken these trips so this list looks to be fairly accurate.

Here are the places that made the top ten:

  • Yellowstone

  • Yosemite

  • Nashville

  • Washington D.C.

  • Savannah

  • New Orleans

  • Charleston

  • Adirondacks

  • San Antonio

  • Seattle

You can access that article here to see the other cities that made the list, user comments as well as the top things to do in each of those destinations.

(If you know of other affordable vacation spots across the U.S. let me know in the comments.)

Tips for Planning an Affordable Vacation

No matter where you decide to go you can make your vacation more affordable by doing these few things:

Check Availability – First and foremost, check availability! The first time I ever went to Mammoth Cave it was a holiday weekend and I didn’t even think about the fact that all of the hotels would be booked. We went from hotel to hotel before finally finding an empty room and we were very lucky to have found one!

Before you decide to go somewhere plan it out. Going during a holiday weekend means everything will be busier and most likely, cost a lot more. If you’re going any distance plan out your vacation and book everything you want to do ahead of time.

Check for Discounts – There are several places I’ve visited (especially amusement parks and the aquarium) where I was able to get tickets cheaper if I were to buy online. Always check to see if you can get a cheaper ticket online before just showing up.

Also, if you’re a member of a discount store or get discounts through your work see what’s available to you.

Use the Rewards From Your Credit Card – If you use a rewards credit card throughout the year now would be a great time to cash those rewards in. This especially comes in handy if you’re taking a flight or booking a hotel room.

For instance, if you have the Discover it Miles card you can use your points for flights, hotels, car rentals, travel agents and more. This could be a huge savings for your family because you have been earning 1.5x Miles on all of your everyday purchases when you used this card!

Do a Photo Book Instead of Souvenirs – It’s funny that it’s this one thing that can have such a big impact on a vacation budget! On-site souvenirs are ridiculously expensive. Instead of buying a souvenir take a ton of pictures and when you get back have a photo book made.

You can get a nice photo book for less than $20 and it will be so much better than the cheap (but expensive) souvenirs you can buy.

Make Your Budget and Stick to It – It doesn’t matter what your budget is – if you get creative you can find something fun to do no matter what you’re working with. Don’t go into debt over vacation. Instead, plan something within your means and then save more for next year if that’s what you feel called to do.

If you need to borrow money for your summer family vacation, come visit us at Tri County Lending Group. We are located in Danielsville, Athens, and will be opening a new location in Hartwell in June.

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