7 Budget Friendly Vacation Ideas for Summer

If you’re trying to decide where to take the family on summer vacation but are worried about your budget, don’t stress! It is possible to have an awesome trip without breaking the bank!

To find that destination that fits your family’s budget, consider places that are a little different.  By this I mean avoiding the headliner destinations like Disney, major cities like San Diego or Chicago, or the super popular beaches.  While I love all of those places, they aren’t always the most budget friendly.  Also, look for places that are either off the beaten path or have plenty of capacity in terms of lodging.  This can often mean lower prices!

While budget friendly means different things to different people, here are some ideas with enough options to fit your family’s budget.

  1. Colorado Springs, Colorado: Colorado Springs combines the best of city amenities and outdoor adventure.  Because Colorado Springs is a good size city, there are plenty of lodging options to fit your needs and budget.  There is LOTS to do in Colorado Springs much of which costs little or no money. You’ll have no problem finding plenty of activities your family will love.

    Garden of the Gods park in Colorado Springs, CO.
    Garden of the Gods park in Colorado Springs, CO
  2. Branson, Missouri: This vacation town is nestled in southern Missouri and has a variety of lodging options that won’t break the bank.  This town has family oriented shows and activities galore.  Branson even has a theme park, Silver Dollar City, which is actually pleasant as far as theme parks go. Silver Dollar City is a cozy park with much to please the kids and adults. And, a season pass is very reasonable making a multi-day visit a great bang for your buck!  Trust me, your kids won’t want to leave!

    Ride at Silver Dollar City in Branson, MO
    One of the many family friendly rides and attractions at Silver Dollar City, a theme park in Branson, MO
  3. Big Sky, Montana. Yes, I admit I am partial to summertime in the mountains! Big Sky, Montana is the nation’s largest ski resort.  That means there is a large supply of lodging available at significantly reduced rates during the off season.  Trust me, a ski in/ski out cabin is an awesome place to spend a summer vacation! Big Sky is beautiful during the summer and there are so many family friendly outdoor activities to enjoy. And, Yellowstone is only a short drive away!

    Ski Lift in Big Sky, Montana
    Ski Lift in Big Sky, Montana
  4. Northern California.  You may wonder how California could possibly be budget friendly. Northern California is home to the Redwood State and National Parks. This natural beauty is spread out over a large area, so you will find a variety of small communities along the coast which makes a great base for exploring this national treasure.

    Redwood National and State Parks located in Northern California.
    Redwood National and State Parks located in Northern California
  5. Coastal Maine. Why not consider a different kind of coastal getaway rather than a traditional beach vacation? Maine has 3,478 miles of coastline – that’s more coastline than California! There are charming communities all along the Maine coastline which means there are lots of lodging options. You can get that quintessential Maine experience in so many different places, so you aren’t limited to the more well known (and pricier) resort towns.

    East Boothbay Ocean Point near Boothbay Harbor, Maine
    East Boothbay Ocean Point near Boothbay Harbor, Maine
  6. Arkansas. The Natural State offers the best of both worlds for your summer vacation. Arkansas is a small state, so you can enjoy the amenities of a small city or town such as the Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock or Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville but still be close to nature. Opportunities for outdoor adventures are as abundant as they are diverse.  From the State’s beautiful lakes to its scenic mountains, options for outdoor fun include water sports, hiking, climbing, caving, floating, digging for diamonds, biking, birding, and much more! Visit the first National River, the Buffalo National River, or America’s first lands to be set aside for natural features, Hot Springs National Park. If you love the outdoors, you’ll find something to suit your fancy in Arkansas! And best of all, your vacation dollars will go along way in this budget friendly state!
    Float the Buffalo National River in Arkansas
    Float the Buffalo National River in Arkansas

    Bridge over the Arkansas River on the Arkansas River Trail in Little Rock.
    The Arkansas River Trail near the Clinton Presidential Center in Downtown Little Rock is a great place for cycling
  7. The 4 Corners. This area of the country where New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, and Colorado converge offers a variety of adventures! Explore Mesa Verde National Park and Hovenweep National Monument to experience the rich Native American history of the area.  Take a day trip to Monument Valley and try to name all of the movies filmed in this area of the Wild West.  Trek the mountains of the San Juan National Forest.  There is so much to do here, you’ll probably just need to plan to go more than once!

    The 4 Corners
    The 4 Corners marker, Hovenweep National Monument, and Mesa Verde National Park near Cortez, CO

Don’t let a limited budget keep you from enjoying a family vacation. For tips on stretching your budget, check out 7 Secrets to Stretch Your Vacation Budget Without Sacrificing Fun!

There are so many awesome places to visit in this great country! So, hop in the car and explore someplace new!

4 Corners: 4 Different Experiences

If you want to have a variety of experiences on your next vacation, head to Four Corners area. The Four Corners, as it is often called, is the only spot where you can stand in 4 states (Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico) at the same time. In my book, that’s pretty cool!

After standing in 4 states, what’s next? Plenty. In fact, there is so much to see and do in this region that it would be impossible to do it all in a week long vacation.  So don’t wear yourself out trying.  Instead, just know that you’re going to want to go back!

Using Cortez, Colorado as a home base, here are 4 experiences each with its own flavor.

  1. Hovenweep National Monument  – About an hour from Cortez, Hovenweep includes groups of structures built over 800 years ago by the ancestral Puebloans. The visitor center is located by the most notable group of referred to as the Square Tower Unit.  A nice hiking trail meanders along a small canyon with structures dotting the rim.  It seems quite solitary and it is hard to envision as many as 2500 people living in these communities.hovenweep-castle-trip

    Hovenweep National Monument
    Hovenweep National Monument
  2. Mesa Verde National Park – Visiting Mesa Verde’s dwellings, also constructed by the ancestral Puebloans, is a very different experience than visiting Hovenweep.  This area, located only 15 minutes from Cortez, is quite vast with expansive scenic vistas and over 600 cliff dwellings.  These  structures are quite sophisticated in their design and location within the cliffs.  You might even see some wildlife (mule deer, foxes, horses, etc.). I recommend taking one of the ranger led tours of the sites (for an extra fee) to get an up close and personal view, but be prepared for some climbing! Practically speaking, the fact that the inhabitants scaled these cliffs on a daily basis carrying out their activities is simply amazing!mesa-verde-3-trip

    Mesa Verde National Park cliff dwellings
    Mesa Verde National Park
  3. San Juan National Forest – The San Juan National Forest is huge – over 1.8 million acres! This national forest offers a wealth of outdoor recreational activities including hiking, fishing, climbing, horseback riding, and more.  A quick 20 minute drive from Cortez thru Dolores will yield beautiful mountain scenery.  If you are traveling with children, be sure to make time for the Dolores playground – it is probably one of the most amazing playgrounds I’ve seen!san-juan-national-forest-2-trip

    San Juan National Forest
    San Juan National Forest
  4. Monument ValleyMonument Valley is one of those places that you must visit intentionally as it is a bit out there, geographically speaking.  (Consider the fact that the nearest Walmart is 2 hours away!)  From Cortez, you can reach Monument Valley in about 2 hour and 15 minutes.  And trust me, it is well worth it!  If you have ever seen a western, then you’ve likely seen Monument Valley.  It is probably the most iconic location in the Wild West and as such, it attracts a lot of international visitors!  Monument Valley is on Navajo Tribal Lands, so you must be accompanied by a Navajo guide.  Plan ahead, and use a site like TripAdvisor to book your tour.monument-valley-2-trip

    Monument Valley
    Monument Valley

The 4 Corners is a culturally rich and beautiful area with so much to see and do.  When you post your photos, your friends will wonder just how far you traveled on one vacation!  The good news is that you can see so many different sites without changing hotels!