How to Vacation on a Budget

by AJ Pettersen · 12 comments

The baseball season is a grueling six months. It starts with Spring Training in March, and it ends in the beginning of September. There are many games — and only a few days off. When I had two days off for the All Star Break last week, my wife and I took advantage of it.

Being that we’re on the east coast, and I played a summer in Cape Cod, we got in contact with my old host family to see what they were doing. We were able to spend some time with them, catch up, and even get a free place to stay. We managed to have an excellent vacation on a budget. Here’s how.


My wife and I lucked out, as my old host family allowed us to stay with them for free. We got to spend quality time with them during the two days we were on the Cape. Not everyone will have this option, but there are other ways to ensure you don’t spend an arm and a leg on a place to stay.

If you don’t know anyone in the area you plan to visit, is a great way to save on hotels for your trip. You can pick the quality of hotel you’d like and name your own price. This drives prices down significantly. By finding a cheap place to stay, you’ll have more in your wallet for other activities on vacation.


On our trip to the Cape, my wife and I did have to buy some of our own food. But, the great thing about staying with friends is that they even cooked dinner for us both nights! We got home-cooked meals and were able to have private dinners on their deck. This was a great way to spend time with some people we hadn’t seen in a while.

Food can be one of the more expensive parts of going on vacation. Eating out every night can get very spendy. One way to save on food is to make a trip to the grocery store. If you have a refrigerator, you’ll be able to get a lot of food and save some cash. If you do plan on eating out, look for places that offer quality food at a good rate. Remember that hotels often have complimentary breakfast; this can save one trip to a restaurant or café.


The most exciting part about vacation is going on adventures. This could be anything from sightseeing to go-carts with the family. The Cape is one of my favorite places in the country, so I knew we needed to pack a lot of activities into our time. By staying with friends, we had people who knew the area well. In just two days, we went to the beach, shopped downtown, and visited some of my favorite spots around the city.

This is an area where money will undoubtedly be spent. Plan your activities wisely and know your crowd. If you have a larger family, make sure to have something for everyone. Vacations can be great, but crabby family members can put a damper on things. Be thoughtful.

Your Vacation

Saving money while taking the vacation of a lifetime can be difficult. My wife and I lucked out by staying with friends on our recent trip to Cape Cod. By following a few tips when it comes to lodging, food, and adventures/activities, you’ll be able to save money and have a great time.

How do you plan affordable vacations?

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • Carol says:

    This article made me cringe. The author gushes shamelessly over how much money he saved by freeloading off friends. There is no guilt and no mention of even an attempt at reciprocity. Some people really do think their s*** doesn’t stink.

  • Bert says:

    There is no method more economical than to travel with the use of a recreational vehicle. If you do not own, then rent.

  • lana says:

    We planned a trip to the west coast. We used allegiant air from a small airport to a small airport. Cheap seats. We were able to use visa points for a free week’s car rental and one night hotel. I used hotwire for six nights hotel and spent about $1o0 a night. Our meals were breakfast free at hotel and reasonable restaurants. We did pick up veggie and fruit platters at grocery stores along with waters and assorted beverages. I planned a nice driving route that wouldn’t take us too far out of the way to lessen gas expenses. We saw many natural features of the state along with free things to see and do. All in all pretty cheap, the whole week for three was under $1500.

  • Property Marbella says:

    Call around to different hotels about a week before you are going to an area. You can get several great last minute deals on various maybe half-full hotel.

  • caroline says:


    I appreciate that the author only stayed with friends for a couple of days, and I’m sure they were very happy to host, but as someone who grew up in an extremely popular and very expensive tourist destination in South Africa, I can tell you that there is a very, very fine line between going for a nice weekend with friends and straight freeloading. Of COURSE the holiday was cheap because someone else picked up the lion’s share of the tab! I remember my parents having to fend off ”good friends” who felt quite comfortable coming to stay (for longer periods than a weekend, admittedly), eating in every night, never spending a cent without squeezing it several times first, all the while talking about how expensive ”everything” is and how (in one case), they could ”never” consider a domestic worker on principle… whilst being very, very happy to make full use of the lady we employed to wash and iron and clean and make their holiday comfortable… for free!

    Saying all that, if I were invited for a weekend and made welcome and cooked for, I’d be thrilled, but would make a very clear effort to reciprocate by way of a really nice lunch or dinner out or something appropriate.

  • Robin Williams says:

    Great tips shared, especially for those who are now planning for a vacation. Thanks for sharing! Quiet enjoyable to read these kinds of post.

  • Jonathan says:

    It’s a great tip to stay with friends or family as part of your vacation. It works well on so many levels. You know that you’ll be well looked after, you can get local tips on the best places to go and it’ll save you a whole heap of money. Very helpful article 🙂

  • John S @ Frugal Rules says:

    We’re always looking for ways to get value on our vacations and there is almost always ways to get coupons or discounts.

  • alicia says:

    You stayed with your friends in the Cape Cod home for free and you didn’t even take them out to dinner once or buy them any food? You couldn’t even make them a breakfast? You actually stayed there for free AND had them prepare meals for you for free?

    Remind me to never have people like you over my house. I’d term you as a ‘freeloader’. And you’re giving out vacation advice? What a friggin’ joke.

    Shame on you! And anyone else who listens to this drivel.

    • mmeagher says:

      Alicia, I am in agreement. The article reads like he only went to Cape Cod because he had a free place to stay and the possibility of free food. It would have been appropriate for him to insist on taking the family out for dinner, or going and buying top of the line food (not 85% hamburger meat), or organic chicken or how about lobster? as a special gift for the hosts. I have friends on Long Island that invite me each year to vacation, and I try very hard to be a good guest, and buy fresh seafood to grill, fresh vegetables from the market stand and quality wine. I do the cooking myself (with the hostess’ permission) and always clean up afterwards. A J Pettersen comes off as a moocher and that’s reeking of bad manners. Maybe he didn’t tell the whole story. At least I’d like to think that.

  • Michelle says:

    I always try and look for a coupon for the things that we do. If you grab a travel brochure at the hotel you are staying at, there almost always is a coupon!

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