Inexpensive Vacations: Best Weekend Getaways For Couples and Families

FT Contributor  | 

Sometimes you need to plan a quick trip away, even if you haven’t made it a priority to save for a vacation. When you’re searching for a quick budget-friendly weekend getaway, you may have more destination options than you think.

Whether you’d like for a thrill-seeking weekend full of amusement parks and excitement, or a relaxing retreat with a massage and a beachfront resort, a weekend vacation doesn’t have to break the bank. Here are some of the best inexpensive vacation ideas that can help you recharge and refresh for a few days.

Best Weekend Getaways in the U.S.

Planning a quick weekend away shouldn’t mean you have to contribute a chunk of your paycheck each week to your vacation fund. These destinations are easy on your wallet but can provide you with a memorable few days of fun.

Las Vegas

Las Vegas is an adult playground because it offers plenty of entertainment, shows, casinos, restaurants, and hotels. You can usually find inexpensive packages to Vegas that include airfare, lodging, and food. Simply walking down the strip and checking out the local sights is completely free, but you may be in for a big expense if you want to see a popular show while in town.

The most inexpensive time to travel to Las Vegas is generally in January because temperatures can dip down to 50 degrees. You could also try traveling in August and October since flights are reportedly less costly during these months as well. A typical double-occupancy hotel room in Vegas costs about $260 per night, but may include perks like free breakfast, casino access, or discounts on tourist attractions.

Baltimore

Baltimore isn’t a popular tourist attraction, so it’s sometimes a forgotten weekend destination. However, if you want to experience a fun and historical city without paying an arm and a leg, consider a trip to Charm City. You can explore cultural attractions and the hustle and bustle of city life without paying the touristy prices associated with other historical destinations like Washington D.C. Enjoy old-fashioned theaters, traditional cobblestone, and award-winning restaurants.

Summer months are a popular time to visit and while you’ll experience good weather, you may pay more for accommodations. Consider planning your weekend getaway in the winter months so you can save your vacation money on airfare and lodging. Be prepared for cold temperatures and use the money you saved to enjoy the local fare and attractions. A double-occupancy hotel room costs an average of $149 per night, but you could also rent a house in one of the city’s nearby neighborhoods like Fells Point.

Philadelphia

Rich in history, Philadelphia is a popular weekend destination. You’ll need to book your flight and lodging in advance, but there are many activities in the city that are free, including museums and historical sites. Outdoor exhibits are abundant, so while you’ll pay an average of $190 a night for a hotel, you can save money on these free attractions. Take a walking tour, ride the subway, or hop on a trolley bus to cut down on transportation fees throughout your stay.

Memphis

If you don’t have the hefty vacation budget you need for Nashville, consider traveling to Memphis instead. Famous for historical rock-and-roll venues, live blues music, and barbeque joints, Memphis is a fun and exciting town to spend the weekend in. Explore the city for free and pop in and out of local establishments to enjoy the musical talent. Not only is summertime hot in this city, it can also be a crowded time to visit.

Consider traveling in October or November for the best weather and potentially the best airfare and lodging prices. You’ll spend about $90 a night on a hotel in the city, leaving you plenty of leftover vacation money to try out all the BBQ restaurants you can find.

San Antonio

The most popular tourist destinations in Texas are Houston, Dallas, and Austin, which makes San Antonio the perfect weekend getaway when you’re on a budget. This overlooked Texas city offers historical prohibition taverns, affordable shopping, and waterfront restaurants.

You can save money traveling to San Antonio if you fly in September, which may be the time of year with the least expensive airfare, depending on where you’re flying from. Avoid traveling in December, since this is generally the most expensive month for airfare. You’ll spend a little over $100 per night on a hotel, which leaves you plenty of room in the budget to explore the city’s attractions.

Best Weekend Getaways for Couples

A romantic weekend getaway can also stay within budget if you choose your destination wisely. Check out these romantic locations that allow you to travel inexpensively.

Kauai

Hawaii is usually associated with big-budget, extravagant vacations since it’s an expensive island to visit. However, you can travel to a less touristy island like Kauai for much cheaper. This affordable destination offers great lodging rates when you travel out of season, which is usually in October and November. During these months, lodging rates may be cut in half, which allows you more wiggle room in your budget to partake in local activities, such as a surfing lesson or a luau.

Joshua Tree National Park

What’s more romantic than a sky full of stars? If you opt to visit Joshua Tree National Park, you can camp in the park for $15 to $20 per night, right under the stars. Not only is lodging inexpensive, you can also keep your expenses down by enjoying free activities like hiking and exploring. For a small fee, you can rent a bike to take out on the trails or go on a horseback ride in the park.

Zion National Park

Serene and secluded views await you in Zion National Park. If you and your partner are feeling adventurous, you can camp in the park for $20 a night. Once you’ve paid your park entry fee of $35, you can explore the entire park for free.

Since Zion offers several areas and activities, including rock climbing and hiking, there’s a free shuttle service that runs during daytime hours. Check out all three visitors’ centers to learn more about the park’s history and to learn about fascinating artifacts.

Best Weekend Getaways for Families

A weekend vacation with your entire family doesn’t have to break the bank. You can find tons of locations throughout the country that offer affordable lodging, inexpensive transportation, and free activities so you can have a fun yet affordable weekend away together.

Dollywood

Dollywood is located in the heart of the Smoky Mountains and there are plenty of affordable lodging options in the area. Consider renting a cabin with your family so everyone has plenty of space. You could buy your own groceries and prepare meals for the family to save a few bucks on eating out.

For an $80 entry fee per person, you and your family members can enjoy over 40 rides and entertaining shows all day at Dollywood. Make it a vacation your kids will never forget by traveling during the summer and checking out the theme park’s water resort. If you plan your family weekend getaway in the winter months, you could experience the “Smoky Mountain Christmas” light show.

Wisconsin Dells

Wisconsin may not be the first place you think of for an affordable weekend away with the family, but the Wisconsin Dells are actually the perfect place for a fun trip that’s bound to entertain the little ones. Tons of massive water parks, a Ripley’s Believe It or Not museum, and theme parks await you and your family.

As a hidden gem, there are tons of inexpensive lodging options in Wisconsin Dells that offer even more affordable prices during the school year, specifically in the fall and winter months. You can also get deals on attraction entrance fees, as long as you skip the summer months that are “in season.”

Olympic National Park

Tap into your family’s adventurous side by enjoying the Washington coast. Olympic National Park offers 70 miles of coastline and plenty of hiking and forest to explore. You can save money by camping in the park for $15 to $22 per night. Use the money you saved on lodging to enjoy a commercial tour in a van for $75. This peaceful weekend away could be more exciting if you venture into the Pacific Ocean on a whale watching cruise or fishing excursion.

If you’ve employed as many money-saving techniques as possible in order to splurge on a weekend getaway, keep these inexpensive destinations in mind. A quick weekend away shouldn’t exhaust your annual vacation budget. Choosing your destination wisely will ensure you stay under budget, whether you’re traveling with friends, your partner, or your family.


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This post was updated December 12, 2019. It was originally published December 12, 2019.