Staying at the beach for the entire day and leaving at night will save money since there’s no need to pay for a hotel room

Scrolling through Instagram or Snapchat is impossible when all people see are their friends at the beach, traveling the world and having the time of their lives. Planning a vacation can be stressful, but also expensive and unrealistic. While some people dream of seeing the Eiffel Tower or going on a gondola tour in Venice, cheaper vacation ideas can still be found closer to home. Avoid high travel expenses and plan a budget-friendly trip instead.

Visit a national park

Exploring the great outdoors is a chance to go somewhere on a budget. Camping fees in American national parks are as low as $15 per night. Taking personal supplies, equipment and food on a camping trip can prevent extra costs.

When people think of national parks, many typically bring up Yellowstone, Yosemite and the Grand Canyon, but there are 61 national parks across the U.S. Virginia is home to Shenandoah National Park.

These parks have various activities for visitors to take part in. Many of them have visitor centers, campgrounds and biking or hiking trails. If a group of friends isn’t feeling super adventurous, have a spontaneous photoshoot in front of the scenery insead.

Explore your own city

A fun-filled day trip with friends may be minutes from where one lives. Avoid paying for flights or hotels and take a tour of one’s own city.

Visit local museums, art galleries, historical sites or monuments and even have a picnic at a park nearby. Schedule the day with different activities and stop by a new restaurant in the area for dinner.  

Act as a tourist or take photos with friends. Check out local boutiques and other stores where one hasn’t been to before. Do some research ahead of time and fill the day with a variety of things to do in the area.

Take a day trip to a local beach

Being home for the summer on the east or west coasts means people can take a day trip to a beach nearby. The east coast is home to several beaches including Rehoboth Beach, Virginia Beach, Myrtle Beach, Ocean City and Nags Head.

Pack food for a picnic, swim gear, some towels and an umbrella and have a fun day at the beach. Get up early, beat the traffic and claim a spot. Lay out in the sun or hit the waves and swim in the water.

After a long day on the water, take a stroll on the boardwalk and have dinner, go to a carnival or check out different shops. Staying for the entire day and leaving at night will save money since there’s no need to pay for a hotel room or an Airbnb.

Visit a U.S. city and stay in a hostel

Instead of spending a great deal of money on a nice hotel and all the fees that come with it, consider staying in a hostel. Hostels can be found in just about any town or city in the U.S. or abroad. They also give people the chance to meet other travelers since hostels have common areas that guests can share.

Many hostels come with free Wi-Fi, a kitchen and free breakfast. Some also have boards that list different activities happening in the area and ways visitors can save money during their stay.

Hostels in Los Angeles are as low as $30 per night, hostels in San Francisco are as low as $20 and hostels in Miami are as low as $15 per night.

Go on a road trip

Summer road trips can be a fun way to explore and have a vacation without breaking the bank. Create a catchy road trip playlist and get the car ready before going off to explore new places.

Bring a group of friends, a bag of snacks and play games to stay occupied during the drive. Plan stops ahead of time and take them frequently to explore new areas. Stay overnight at a cheap Airbnb or a cute bed and breakfast nearby and plan more activities the following day.

Many people shy away from road trips because they want to avoid spending money on gas, but traveling with a group of friends can keep the trip budget-friendly since all costs can be split.

Plan a “staycation”

Not everyone can afford a vacation to a tropical destination or a big city. Sometimes, all someone needs is to stay at home, relax and avoid the stress that comes with traveling.

Try to unplug and go a few days without using a phone, have a picnic in the backyard, cook or bake something new, have an at-home spa session, have a game night or have a movie marathon with friends.

The next time someone sees pictures their friends are posting during their trips abroad, don’t be jealous. Think about everything that can be done at home and all the money that can be saved. Staycations give people a chance to wind down and avoid the time it takes to plan a trip.

Contact Vanessa Nikolic at For more on the culture, arts and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Twitter @Breeze_Culture.