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Vacation on the water

Fun Vacation Ideas When Money is Tight 

Shutting down, getting away from work and focusing on relaxation and fun reduces stress.. 

The thought of a vacation usually conjures up images of exotic far away places and for those who have recently experienced a split, it can leave us figuring out how we can afford it. Money is more likely to be an issue after a household splits up. However, it doesn’t have to be expensive,  or exotic, to provide you with much-needed benefits.

The health benefits of vacations are often the same regardless of the destination

The number one benefit is stress reduction. Shutting down, getting away from work and focusing on relaxation and fun reduces stress. Stress, especially chronic stress effects our health.  Reducing stress opens the door to better health. Specifically:

  • Breath becomes deeper
  • Our blood pressure goes down
  • Sleep is improved
  • Mental health improves
  • It strengthens our relationships with our fellow vacationers – helping us to feel better connected

The closer we stay to home, the more money we can spend on vacation activities and lodging because we can drive to our location or make it a staycation. Many of us live near water, an ocean, lake or river.  This is true for cities, because water has been essential for living, but also essential for trade. For many our motto might be “If there isn’t a body of water near by – it’s not a vacation!!“

Scientists are beginning to study and prove what we already suspected – being near water make us calmer and give us a sense of well-being. Large bodies of water often elicit a feeling of awe as it reminds of how big the world and the world of possibilities really is.

Find the water near you and figure how you want to experience it. 41% of American live on the coast. A trip to the beach for a picnic, sailing, sunbathing, or just walking and gathering seashells doesn’t cost much at all. Getting a hotel room or Airbnb on the shoulder of the busy season can save money. Back-to-back days on the beach.  Impressive vacation. For those living in the interior sections of the US, consider time at a local river or lake. A great activity with family or friends – inner tubing.

Inner Tubing in a lake

Bring the inner-tubes, your friends or family and float your way down the river. Park a car at the beginning of the float and one at the end. Bring along extra inner tubes to hold coolers full of food and drinks on ice.  You can tie the inner tubes together, with the food and drinks in the middle.  To create a party atmosphere, bring a waterproof Bluetooth speaker to give your trip a soundtrack. I always bring my phone but pack it safely in a Ziplock bag that’s taped to the inner lid of the cooler. Great fun!

Staycations are under rated. Staying in your home and taking daytrips can save a bunch of money and allows you to be tourists in your own city.

In addition to the fun water activities already mentioned, you can use the money saved for spa days, visiting local farmers markets, going out to eat or having BBQs with friends. A Filet Mignon is better if you make it yourself.  Certainly, its much cheaper! Isn’t even a BBQ Hot Dog or Hamburger somehow better than anything we can buy? Other possible activities include:

  • Touring local wineries or breweries
  • Attending nearby waterparks, or waterfront walks
  • Playing miniature golf or bowling
  • Skating or bike riding on nearby trails

Build your vacation with fun, friends, and family. It’s easy when no one needs to travel.  It’s your vacation.  You can invite who you want on the days that you want them to come. Catching up with those you care about will help you to feel better connected and less stressed. Pro tip:  If your first thought about inviting family brought you stress – don’t do it! This is about you and what you enjoy! If your “family” is kids, bring a sitter along, or have them stay with family for a few days. They will benefit from your vacation.

…in addition to the fun water activities already mentioned, you can use the money saved for spa days, visiting local farmers markets, going out to eat or having BBQs with friends! 

Camping is the ultimate way of getting out in nature. It doesn’t have to be difficult. Research state and national parks within driving distance and look at their amenities. You can learn if they have running water or showers, allow dogs, have convenient hikes and often show pictures of sample campsites.

My favorite memories as a kid and as an adult are camping. The first time I went as an adult I borrowed everything except the sleeping bag and the cooler – which was cheap Styrofoam. I cooked over an open fire and made my hot drinks with water boiled in an old pan, set on the rocks on the edge of the fire. Potatoes bake well wrapped in foil and tossed in the fire. As time went on and I began to enjoy camping on the weekends more often, I built my own camping gear little by little. Tents, lantern, camp stove – all those little items that make camping easier.

Camping can allow you to enjoy the stars, the calm of nature, not to mention the smores, and the stories around the campfire. You can bring games, music, cards – all the items that you, your friends or family love to do together.

Camping with Friends

Pro tip: Keep the camping gear in boxes stored together. Clean them when you get home and the next time you feel the need to get away it will only take minutes to pack and be on the road.

The word “vacation” can be synonymous with going somewhere new. If that’s you – we’ve got you. Here are some quick ideas to travel to new places inexpensively.

  • Travel with friends and rent a vacation home together. Typically, the spend per person is less.
  • Ensure your hotel or vacation home has a kitchen.  You can save money by eating in.  When traveling to Maui, my first stop is stocking up at Costco for the all the food and drink we need.
  • Book airfare far in advance.
  • Travel in off-peak season
  • Consider staying at a hostel
  • Fly out mid-week instead of on the weekend. Flights are often cheaper.
  • Research low cost or inexpensive things to do
  • Consider signing up with a house or pet setting service to stay for free in someone else’s home.


There are many ways to vacation. Plan the vacation around what you need. Make yourself the priority by disconnecting from work, finding time to play, time to connect with yourself or others and treat yourself to experiences that your normally don’t have the time or energy for in your busy schedule.  Let life slow down. Do it in a way that doesn’t cause you financial stress.  Please share your tips in the comments or let us know if any of these worked for you.

little bird

Written by
Robin & Heather
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Written by Robin & Heather

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