How to Plan a Fun Cheap Weekend Getaway

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I love getting out of town and exploring new places. If you want to get out of your house to explore more, here's how you can plan a cheap weekend getaway.I love to travel.

After a while, if my family hasn’t gone on a cheap weekend getaway, I start to get that travel itch.

Our weekend getaway doesn’t even have to be somewhere particularly exciting. I just like to get out of the house, get away from our normal routine for a weekend, and have the chance to regroup and reconnect with my husband and my kids somewhere new.

We love to have a weekend away at least every few months, so we have learned how keep our trips as inexpensive as possible.

If you want to get out there and explore more too, here’s how to plan a cheap weekend getaway.

Bring Your Food

Every weekend getaway we go on, I always pack non-perishable foods for breakfast and snacks. If I happen to have somewhere to cook that weekend (i.e. microwave, open fire, etc.), I will pack a cooler with foods for lunch and dinner as well.

Packing food from home really helps us save money on our weekend trips away because we’re not wasting money on eating out for each meal. We would have had to eat at home anyway, so bringing food from home helps us negate that cost of traveling.

The following are my favorite money-saving items to bring for each meal:

Breakfast

  • Instant oatmeal (you can get hot water instead of coffee at most drive-thrus)
  • Fruit (apples, grapes, bananas)
  • Cheerios

Snacks

  • Clark bars
  • Goldfish crackers
  • Jerky

Lunch

  • Peanut butter
  • Loaf of bread
  • Canned soup

Dinner  

  • Hot dogs, sausage, or chicken (most hotels and campgrounds have charcoal grills available)
  • Canned vegetables
  • Package of dinner rolls

Not only does packing food save money, but you can also eat pretty healthy while you’re away, too. I don’t always like to eat canned vegetables, but it’s a better alternative than fast food and french fries.

Stay with friends or family

Do you have friends and family who live in cool places? Use them for their home (and be sure to open yours up to them as well). Why spend hundreds of dollars a night on hotel stays if you have friends and family who are willing to host you?

Save that money you would have spent on fun outings instead. Most people love having visitors. I have always opened up my home to wayward travelers, family or otherwise, and it’s great fun to show people around our area. It’s even more fun to have those same traveler friends reciprocate by hosting us when we travel.

Sometimes the best destinations are the regular towns of friends and family because they can show you all of their daily haunts and their favorite free local places to have fun.

Be willing to travel

What do I mean be willing to travel? I mean that the city center and prime spot hotels are going to cost way more than hotels or campgrounds a little bit further outside of your destination area.

Even if you have to spend a bit more on gas for travel, you will still end up saving more money by staying in the less popular areas of town.

For example, for Easter weekend, my family and I drove to meet my in-laws (who live in Florida) half-way in North Carolina so that we could spend the holiday together. We could have easily spent $200+ on a hotel room on the boardwalk with easy access to downtown fun and the pier. However, we chose to book a hotel about 20 minutes away from the most popular area, and we only spent $90+ per night for our hotel stay.

A hotel is just a place to rest your head, right? So save that money on more valuable things, like cool experiences. If parking is an issue, you could always consider calling Uber or taking public transport to where you want to visit during the day.

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Consider Roughing it

You know what’s even cheaper than a hotel a short distance away from the fun? Camping! Roughing it for a few nights can be even more fun than a stuffy hotel stay.

Some state parks let you camp for free, while others have a small booking fee (usually $20-$40 per night). Check out the local, state, and federal parks for the area you’ll be visiting and see if camping is a realistic option to save money.

As a disclaimer, you would have to make certain one-time purchases to make camping a long-term money-saving option. The following items are all things that we have bought for our camping kit to make travel affordable and fun while staying in the great outdoors:

  • Tent
  • Tarps
  • Hammock
  • Sleeping bags
  • Cooler
  • Cast iron griddle for cooking over open fires
  • Roasting skewers for kabobs, hot dogs, or marshmallows
  • Camping cooking set (plates, cutlery, cups, etc.)

Those purchases were worth the investment for our family because they have given us the freedom to travel almost anywhere within driving distance, and we don’t have to worry about paying hundreds of dollars each night on hotel stays.

My kids already have a love for camping, exploring new towns and places, and  getting away for fun, inexpensive weekends out of town.

Look for Groupon Deals

Always look for coupons on Groupon or other popular coupon sites before spending full price on fun outings. You can usually get cheap tickets to fun things like mini-golf, the zoo, aquariums, and parks. Sometimes, these coupons are even offered at rest stops or grocery stores nearby.

Go Where the Locals go

When visiting new places, especially if you’re going out to eat, try to go where the locals go. If you’re willing to walk several blocks away from the beaten path, you can find amazing (usually much cheaper) mom and pop restaurants.

Don’t get sucked into spending premium prices in the tourist district. Look for places you’ve never heard of before instead of just plunking down to eat at the nearest national chain restaurant. You’ll get a better experience by trekking further away, and you’ll save money in the process.

A weekend getaway doesn’t have to break the bank

If you’re willing to stay outside of prime tourist spots, bring your own food, stay with friends, or rough it for a few nights instead of staying at a hotel, weekend getaways can be surprisingly affordable.

Once you start looking at your weekend getaway as an extension of how you live your life at home (using coupons, eating in, sharing with friends), it becomes surprisingly easy to save money, and you still get to see and explore new places.

How do you help keep a weekend getaway inexpensive? What are some of your favorite weekend getaway ideas?