The M-Network Vacation Guide: Frugal Vacation Ideas

Yurts are becoming a popular option for frugal vacations.

Today the M-Network is doing a series on vacationing. Frugal tips, ideas, experiences, personal accounts…everything. Check out the other M-Network blogs for more!

Vacation season is here, and if you’re like me, you want to make your vacation as fun, and frugal, as possible. Fortunately fun and frugality can go hand in hand. There are lots of ways to save money on your vacation, without scrimping on the fun. Here are a few ideas to get you going.

Visit Friends or Family

If you have friends or family who live in a different area, visit them on your vacation. Often friends or family will offer you a place to stay on vacation. That cuts your hotel costs out completely!

If you take this kind of vacation, make sure you’re appreciative. Pitch in for food costs, buy some flowers, and offer to take your hosts out for breakfast or dinner. Don’t forget to help with the chores, too. And if your friends are ever in your town, make sure you offer to return the favor.

For years my husband, daughter and I would take our vacation in the middle of the Nevada desert to visit my father-in-law. The Nevada desert isn’t the first place most people think to vacation, but it was great! We got away from the city, my daughter got to know her grandpa, and we didn’t spend a lot of money.

Go Camping

Camping is another inexpensive vacation idea. There are many different kinds of campgrounds available. At some, you will really be roughing it. Others have lots of amenities, including hot showers, flush toilets, and drinkable water….all musts in my book.

If tent camping scares you, try camping in a yurt. Yurts are becoming more and more popular. They include beds, electricity, and heat. Some yurts even include bathrooms, TVs, microwaves, refrigerators and kitchen areas! And they can cost a lot less than hotels.

Many campgrounds also offer cabins for rent. Like yurts, some are incredibly rustic, and some offer lots of modern amenities. There’s sure to be something that fits your comfort level and your budget!

To find a campground, yurt, cabin, or RV space, you might want to check the following resources:

Rent a Vacation Home

This is definitely a more expensive option than staying with friends or camping, but you can still make it economical and fun. If you’re not into cooking over an open fire and using community bathrooms, a vacation home might be a good option for you.

I like renting vacation homes for our vacations, because vacation homes give us more space to spread out and relax. Having a separate bedroom for the kids is great, because my husband and I get some time to ourselves after the kids are in bed.

A fully equipped kitchen helps save money on food, because you can either bring food with you or hit the grocery store when you get to your destination and do all your cooking yourself.

And if the weather doesn’t cooperate, you will stay warm and dry in your vacation rental, and you can spend the day playing board games or reading a good book.

If you’re looking for a vacation rental, you might want to check out these sites:

A Few More Money Saving Tips

Stay close to home. If you don’t drive far, you won’t use as much gas. Enough said.

Bring your own food. Even if you’re staying in a hotel, bring your own snacks and maybe some instant oatmeal. Cooking your own food is much less expensive than eating at restaurants for every meal.

Plan your vacation during the off season. No matter where you go, you are sure to find a better deal if you vacation during the off season.

Relax. You don’t have to plan every minute of your vacation. Visiting various attractions in your destination place can be fun, but it also gets expensive and stressful. Make sure you spend some time just hanging out and relaxing. It’s free, and sometimes it’s nice to take a break and do nothing.

What do you do for a frugal vacation? Do you have vacation plans this summer?

Photo by zophos.


By , on Jun 3, 2008
Lynnae McCoy I'm Lynnae, wife of one and stay-at-home mom of two. I'm committed to getting out of debt by being frugal with my choices in life.


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  1. yurt:

    Yeah – i never knew what a yurt was until a few months ago!!!!! Good frugal advice as usual!

  2. Patrick Finn:

    Living in England we are fans of the good old British caravan. Whenever we get the chance we love to take ourselves off to the West Country for a summer break. Our caravan has proved to be a real moneysaver – we don’t have accommodation overheads and we can do our own cooking as well.

    We usually visit Bath where there are good markets and Bristol where there is a very useful Shopping Centre and we can kill two birds with one stone by taking in the local landmarks like the Cathedral and the Clifton Bridge

    Not only is our Swift Challenger a home away from home we can travel at our own pace and explore the beauty of the South West in comfort.

  3. Kate:

    I have just returned from a family holiday and was worried before i went as i knew we didn’t have a lot of money to spend but desperately wanted to enjoy the holiday.
    Thank fully we had a great time and no we didn’t spend a fortune, there is so much to do that is free, like walking on the beach and exploring rock pools. Mooching round the shops or just exploring the area.

  4. Bonnie:

    I decided this year to do a stay home vacation, so we made the house look company ready, then took a week off, and did local stuff like hiking on free trails in the santa monica mountains and going to the beach. We got a netflix account and watched 8 movies that week, and ordered food in and took picnics of food I made the week before, and at the end of the week, had a maid come in so that it was like we were coming back from a vacation to a clean house. It was the best vacation ever.

  5. Kathy:

    We love to go to Schlitterbaun, it is one of the few theme parks that allow you to bring in a cooler packed with your own food. It is the best water park I believe. It is fairly close, but if not the hotels are not expensive if you stay close by.

  6. I prefer more rustic camp sites without electricity, for example – because otherwise you have RVs & the sound of generators all night!

    We have also gotten lots of frugal fun from our boat, which is big enough to sleep in, and serves as our seaside “cabin”! We can always get away on weekends to the boat, which feels like a vacation!
    Remember boats depreciate like mad – so used ones are very affordable & fiberglass hulls are lasting a LONG time.

  7. PT:

    Great post, Lynnae. A good reminder of all the fun things you can do without spending so much. We’re actually doing an all-inclusive resort vacation this summer. It will be our first try at that. Definitely wasn’t the most frugal trip we could have taken….but we can afford to because all our other trips are usually very frugal…camping, with friends, etc…

  8. Catherine:

    My boyfriend and I are taking a week off of work together and we are going to stay home! We don’t get to see each other often, so spending all that time on the road seemed silly. Instead, we are planning to hit all the local attractions that are only open during the days that we don’t usually get to check out. We live in a major tourist area (Hershey, PA! Come visit!) and there are a lot of things to do that we haven’t done!

  9. DJ FuzzyK:

    Rather than getting ‘away’ for vacations, we’ve had in-town vacations that we’ve really enjoyed. We take several days off from work and spend it just like vacation; no chores, no alarm clocks. We spend the days exploring local attractions, shopping areas, beaches, parks, etc. like we would in another town. We take lots of pictures, enjoy long walks and have a great time. We save on gas, hotels and food because we’re coming home at the end of the day. I know this doesn’t work for everyone, but it’s a simple escape that gives us a break without breaking the bank!

  10. marci:

    Yurts – Here in Oregon, most of the state parks have yurts available now thru the reservation system. I haven’t tried them, but friends have said they are wonderful :)

  11. marci:

    Saving on Meals out – Ever notice how dinner out is so much more expensive than lunch out? If you can manage to eat your big meal of the day at lunch time when restaurants cost less, and then just make sandwiches out of the cooler for dinner with fruit etc for dessert, plus eating cereal or breakfast bars etc for breakfast, you will only be spending money “out” on lunch….and that will be much less than eating “out” for dinner.

    Plus you’re usually tired out in the evening – the kids will do better with an easy at the motel or campground sandwich dinner. Easier on you, too.

  12. Dawn:

    Thanks for this great article. I am going to be trying to rent out my cabin in the woods this summer, hoping many people think the way you do and want a little getaway that isn’t too far from home. I’ve never rented it out before, so this will be a new thing for me.

  13. I never want to go camping, but the idea of yurting appeals to me. Not with all the fancy stuff, per se, but a real bed and room. I don’t like sleeping on cold or bumpy ground, which is how my 3 or 4 camping experiences turned out.

  14. Watch those camping fees. They can get really pricey when you start adding in “modern” conveniences.

    Here’s the Michigan State Park campground fee schedule:,.....1;,00.html

  15. We also always try to bring as much of our own food as we can – we bought a plug-in cooler that works in the car lighter and in a regular socket – for $80, and we bring along juice, yogurt, cheese, p&b sandwiches, veggies, etc, and they stay cold all week. Saves us a lot of money!

  16. Rob in Madrid:

    Here’s one I picked up from No Budget Travel )or Less than Shoe String as it’s better known)

    Reducing Accommodation Costs

    I have family coming over on a very very limited budget so I told them to check out here blog, she’s an expert at cheap travel.

  17. Great frugal vacation tips!
    Oh, I know KOAs! Used to camp there as a girl. A train would usually go by at 3 inthe morning and blow it’s whistle-without fail.
    If not a train, then cyotes, owls,or peacocks (oh yes, it’s true) would fill the otherwise peaceful night with incredible noise!
    Good times. Good times.

  18. I agree. . .rental vacation homes are a great way to go. It usually doesn’t cost that much more than two hotel rooms, so for a family you do come out ahead if you cook some.

    Last year, we got burned renting a yurt. The campground (in Canada) looked rustic and charming online, but when we got there it was right by the highway! That wasn’t the best “camping” experience. If you’re booking online, try to find some reviews or ratings of the the campground before you reserve it.

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