Cheap Vacation Ideas That Won’t Blow Your Entire Bank Account

Here’s where to get the biggest bang for your buck!

Houseboating on Lake Powell — Arizona and Utah
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Everyone wants to take a vacation, but traveling can really add up, especially if you're with kids. But fret not — there are always ways to save money. Traveling in the off-season is one way to travel on the cheap, not to mention visiting lesser-known areas that you may not have considered. So, pack your bags and keep your bank account intact, because here are some cheap vacation ideas to consider when planning your next trip.

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Myrtle Beach — Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
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Myrtle Beach — South Carolina

This 60-mile stretch of beach, known as the Grand Strand, offers a little something for everyone — without breaking the bank. Kids can spend all day at Broadway at the Beach amusement park, while adults will love that the area has more than 100 golf courses, as well as affordable seafood restaurants and fun bars.

Where to Stay: Myrtle Beach Marriott Resort at Grande Dunes, Marina Inn at Grande Dunes

More: These Are 5 Great Ways to Travel Around Europe on the Cheap!

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Cedar Point — Sandusky, Ohio
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Cedar Point — Sandusky, Ohio

Of course, everyone knows Disneyland — but a trip to Mickey's house can be pricey, so consider other amusement parks with cheaper rates, such as Cedar Point on Lake Erie in northern Ohio. The park has a whopping 18 roller coasters, including the new Steel Vengeance, as well as dozens of other thrill rides and rides for the little ones.

Where to Stay: Holiday Inn Express & Suites Sandusky, Cedar Point's Express Hotel

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Great Sand Dunes National Park
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National Parks — Various States

Visiting America's national parks is a vacation no-brainer, but at some of the more popular parks like the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone, food and lodging can be pricey — even in the off-season. Consider visiting lesser-known ones, such as Colorado's Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve and South Carolina's Congaree National Park.

Where to Stay: Great Sand Dunes Lodge, Aloft Columbia Downtown

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Aquatopia Indoor Waterpark — Poconos, Pennsylvania
Camelback Resort
Aquatopia Indoor Waterpark — Poconos, Pennsylvania

Located at Camelback Resort, Aquatopia is an awesome waterpark — and because it's indoors, it can stay open year-round, making a visit cheaper during non-peak times. When the weather cooperates, the resort also operates Camelbeach, an outdoor waterpark with 37 rides and slides.

Where to Stay: Camelback Lodge, Best Western Plus Poconos Hotel

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Horseshoe Canyon Ranch — Ozarks, Arkansas
Horseshoe Canyon Ranch
Horseshoe Canyon Ranch — Ozarks, Arkansas

When you think of dude ranches for the family, Montana and Wyoming come to mind, but there are also ranches in lesser-known spots, like the Ozarks in Arkansas. At Horseshoe Canyon Ranch, you can learn to ride a horse, enjoy canoeing, zip lining, and rock climbing, and stay in reasonably priced cabins.

Where to Stay: Horseshoe Canyon Ranch

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Lake George — Adironadacks, New York
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Lake George — Adirondacks, New York

Lake vacations are traditionally cheaper than beach vacations, so consider a stay at Lake George, in the foothills of the Adirondacks. The family-friendly village has numerous inns, lodges, and hotels that are affordable even in peak summer. Take a swim at the town beach, then enjoy a paddle-wheeler scenic cruise around the lake.

Where to Stay: Courtyard Lake George, Scotty's Lakeside Resort

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Lake Tahoe — Lake Tahoe, Nevada
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Lake Tahoe — Nevada

Another gorgeous lake with swimming beaches is Lake Tahoe, which straddles the border of California and Nevada. With the ski resorts closed, warm weather brings deals on hotels, especially midweek. Spend your days biking in the mountains and swimming in the lake, and head to local hotspots for good happy hour deals.

Where to Stay: 3 Peaks Resort & Beach Club, Holiday Inn Express South Lake Tahoe

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Outer Banks — Outer Banks, North Carolina
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Outer Banks — North Carolina

Mention the Outer Banks, a 130-mile-long barrier island chain with gorgeous beaches, and you might get a few blank stares. Because it's not as well-known as other beach destinations, there are good deals to be found. This laid-back area is also home to historical sites, such as Kill Devil Hills, where the Wright Brothers first took flight.

Where to Stay: Avon Cottages, Days Inn Kill Devil Hills Oceanfront

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Circus Circus — Las Vegas, Nevada
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Las Vegas — Nevada

Las Vegas is a party town year-round, though you'll find a dip in visitors during the scorching summer months. During this time of the year, you'll find cheaper rates at (air-conditioned!) hotels across the board, ranging from higher-end properties like the MGM Grand to more budget-minded spots like Circus Circus.

Where to Stay: MGM Grand, Circus Circus Hotel & Casino Las Vegas

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Gulf Shores — Gulf Shores, Alabama
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Gulf Shores — Alabama

Everyone knows that Florida has sublime stretches of sugar-soft sand to sink your toes into, but next-door neighbor Alabama also has lovely strands in the town of Gulf Shores, in the southern part of the state. In addition to pristine beaches along the Gulf of Mexico, the area also has a water park, golf courses, and dolphin cruises.

Where to Stay: Best Western on the Beach, Staybridge Suites Gulf Shores

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Panama City Beach — Panama City, Florida
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Panama City Beach — Florida

If you have your heart set on putting your towel down on Florida sand, you can still find a relatively cheap beach vacation by choosing towns like Panama City, which are more affordable than, say, Miami or Sarasota. The area has 27 miles of beaches, including lesser-developed strands like Shell Island, accessible only by boat.

Where to Stay: Edgewater Beach and Golf Resort, Holiday Inn Express & Suites Panama City Beach

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Zion National Park - Southern Utah
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Camping Amid Red Rocks — Southern Utah

Get back to your Boy or Girl Scout days by camping out. Of course, there are hundreds of scenic campsites around the country, but Utah, with jaw-dropping red rock scenery, is one of America's prime spots to sleep outdoors. In addition to campgrounds in Zion National Park (be sure to book well ahead), there are less-visited spots like Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park.

Where to Stay: Zion National Park, Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park

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Rockport - Cape Ann — Cape Ann, Massachusetts
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Cape Ann — Cape Ann, Massachusetts

Cape Cod can be pricey, but you can find deals on its other cape — Cape Ann, less than an hour north of Boston and home to the charming village of Rockport and the fishing community of Gloucester. Like Cape Cod, you'll find historic lighthouses, lobster shacks, and strands like Long Beach — but it's all a bit more mellow.

Where to Stay: Atlantis Oceanfront Inn, Bearskin Neck Motor Lodge

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Houseboating on Lake Powell — Arizona and Utah
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Houseboating on Lake Powell — Arizona and Utah

If you're looking for a cheap vacation idea that's a little outside the box, consider a stay aboard a houseboat, where you have the comforts of home (kitchen, bedrooms, bathroom) in super scenic lake, river, and reservoir settings. One of the most popular houseboating destinations is Lake Powell, where you can gaze at sandstone canyons while water skiing or simply relaxing.

Where to Rent: Antelope Point Marina

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Colonial Williamsburg — Williamsburg, Virginia
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Colonial Williamsburg — Williamsburg, Virginia

As an alternative to a Disney park or Universal Studios, head to Williamsburg, Virginia, which not only has a Busch Gardens, but attractions like Colonial Williamsburg, a living history museum with actors in period costume. Stop in to the tavern or blacksmith shop to hear "colonists" discussing independence, and catch a talk by one of the founding fathers.

Where to Stay: Hilton Garden Inn, Governor's Inn

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Fair Hills Resort
Fair Hills Resort — Detroit Lakes, Minnesota

All-inclusive resorts are always good deals, especially for families. At Fair Hills, a lakefront all-inclusive resort in Detroit Lakes, you'll feel like you're back at summer camp. Expect rustic cabins, plenty of scheduled activities, and three meals, including local dishes like Minnesota walleye for dinner.

Where to Stay: Fair Hills Resort

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cheap vacation ideas
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Leavenworth — Washington

For a little slice of Germany in the Pacific Northwest, spend a weekend in Leavenworth in the Cascades Mountains (2.5 hours east of Seattle). This Bavarian-themed town has half-timbered houses, beer gardens, and an annual Oktoberfest. Stroll Waterfront Park, visit the Nutcracker Museum, have a tasting at nearby wineries, and, in snowy weather, ski at the affordable Leavenworth Ski Hill.

Where to Stay: Linderhof Inn, Hampton Inn & Suites Leavenworth

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Bardstown — Kentucky

Located 40 miles south of Louisville, Bardstown is known as one of Kentucky's most charming towns. Stroll around historic Court Square, visit the Civil War Museum, and dine on a Hot Brown sandwich in Talbott Tavern. You can also sample small-batch bourbon at Willett Distillery. Plus, several distilleries on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail — including Jim Beam — are nearby.

Where to Stay: Old Bardstown Inn, Hampton Inn Bardstown

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cheap vacation ideas
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Washington, D.C.

If you're a fan of museums, you can tour to your heart's content in our nation's capital, as D.C.'s Smithsonian museums are all free! Marvel at spaceships in the National Air and Space Museum, check out George Washington's uniform at the American Museum of Natural History, and say hi to the pandas at the National Zoo. You can also visit Arlington Cemetery (where JFK is buried).

Where to Stay: Hilton Garden Inn Washington DC Downtown, Hampton Inn & Suites Washington DC/Navy Yard Area

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Stylish Hostels — Los Angeles and Other Cities

Forget about the notion of a drab hostel. Freehand offers stylish, reasonably priced hostels in major U.S. markets like Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, and Miami. Its LA property has shared rooms (for groups of four, six, or eight) with custom cedar bunk beds and a rooftop space with a pool and a tiki-style bar.

Where to Stay: Freehand Los Angeles

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