Cheap Weekend Getaway Ideas

Megan Mattingly-Arthur
Green luggage

Cheap Weekend Vacations

Getting away for a fun-filled weekend vacation doesn't have to break the bank. From budget cruises to low-cost Vegas vacations, there are plenty of great options for a quick and affordable trip.

Couple camping

Camping

A weekend camping trip is a great way to relax and reconnect with nature. It's also one of the easiest weekend vacations to do on the cheap - particularly if you already have a bunch of camping equipment laying around. If not, consider borrowing camping gear from a friend or renting it from a sporting goods store like Sport Chalet or REI.

Staying at low-cost campsites is another great way to keep camping costs down. Recreation.gov can help you find, price, and reserve campsites on Army Corps of Engineers, Forest Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, and Fish and Wildlife Service lands throughout the United States. If roughing it isn't really your style, consider splitting the cost of a cabin rental with friends.

Sunny Las Vegas

Vegas Vacation

Stories of people losing their shirts in Vegas abound, so it may not be the first city that comes to mind when considering cheap weekend vacation options. However, with budget airlines offering cheap flights to Vegas and the competition for customers keeping lodging and dining costs reasonable, it's possible to make it home with money in your pocket - even if you don't win big at the casinos.

Rooms at some of the older hotels on The Strip are often available for less than $50 per night; for even deeper discounts, consider staying at a hotel a few blocks from The Strip. In addition to affordable lodging and dining options, Las Vegas also boasts numerous free attractions, including the Bellagio Conservatory & Botanical Gardens.

Quaint, small-town street

Regional Sightseeing

You don't have to travel long distances to live the footloose and fancy-free life of a tourist. Consider saving time and money by planning a weekend vacation in your own town or one nearby instead.

Book an inexpensive room at a local motel, hotel, or bed and breakfast, and spend a couple of days looking at your region with new eyes. Visit the local museums, shop at unique mom-and-pop boutiques, and try new restaurants and eateries.

Do anything and everything you've always wanted to do, but never had the time for - but be sure to stay away from your usual haunts or places that remind you of work and home so that your adventure truly feels like a vacation.

Cruise ship

Budget Cruise

For travelers living in or near port cities, budget cruises provide an excellent opportunity to hit the ocean in high style, without going broke in the process.

Most major cruise lines offer low-cost cruises to nowhere, which are typically two- to three-day cruises that take the ship out on the open ocean, but stop at zero ports of call - giving you plenty of time to take advantage of the ship's shopping, dining, and entertainment options. For example, a two-night Cruise to Nowhere from New York starts at $180 per person for the round-trip experience.

Repositioning cruises are another way to save big on ocean travel. Most common in the spring and fall, these one-way cruises relocate cruise ships from one port to another, often stopping at unique ports of call along the way. A four-night Pacific coastal repositioning cruise starts at $180 per person. Be sure to include the cost of getting back home in your budget if you go this route.

Couple on a Wine tour

Winery Tours

Spending a relaxing weekend touring rustic wineries and vineyards makes for an ideal getaway for people who love all things vino. Fortunately, you don't have to travel all the way to France, Italy, or Spain to see expert wine-making in action.

Wineries are popping up all over the United States - from California's famous Napa Valley to New York's lesser-known Finger Lakes region - and many offer low-cost tours and tastings. Sign up for a tour and then book an inexpensive room at a nearby motel, or invite some friends and split the cost of a luxurious hotel suite.

Luray Caverns, Luray, Va.

Spelunking Expedition

If you're the kind of person who craves a healthy dose of adventure with your cheap weekend vacations, a spelunking, or caving, expedition may just fit the bill. Caves and caverns that are both safe and open to the public can be found throughout the United States, from Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park in Montana to Luray Caverns (pictured) in Virginia.

Though most cave or cavern tours follow paved and lighted walkways, some offer more strenuous tours for those who don't mind getting their hands - or the rest of them - dirty.

Cavern tours are comparable to the cost of seeing a movie. Keep the overall trip costs down by sleeping out under the stars or checking into an inexpensive motel or bed and breakfast.

Couple window shopping for antiques

Antiques Road Trip

People who enjoy watching television shows like Antiques Roadshow can take their favorite show on the road with an antiques-themed weekend road trip. Choose a destination a few hours away and make a point to stop and shop - or even just browse - at all the antique stores along the way. You can even take a different route back and stop at more antiques shops on your way home.

The U.S. Department of Energy's Fuel Economy Trip Calculator can help you figure out what you'll spend in gas. To keep lodging costs down, book an inexpensive room at a motel or bed and breakfast, or choose a destination where you can arrange to stay with a friend.

The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado

Haunted Holiday

If spine-tingling chills and spooky thrills are more up your alley, consider going on a haunted holiday. There are numerous haunted locations in the United States you can visit. Depending on your timeframe and budget, you can choose to make a beeline for one specific haunted location or go on a road trip stopping at haunted hot spots along the way.

Some haunted locations are working hotels. While a room in a haunted hotel can be expensive, you don't have to spend the night to have a great experience. If the cost of a room doesn't fit your budget, stop by the hotel gift shop for a souvenir or have a drink in the hotel bar, but choose more affordable accommodations for the night.

Millarckee Farm Tour

Agritourism Adventure

Take a break from the bustling, big-city life and get back to basics with an agritourism vacation. Spend a weekend on a working farm or ranch doing everything from milking cows to learning about the pros and cons of conventional versus organic agriculture.

Agritourism is an excellent cheap weekend vacation option, with workshops or day camps available at some locations for less than $100. Many agritourism farms also offer affordable bed and breakfast-style accommodations. Search Agritourism World to find about options near you.

Touring Historic Scotty's Castle | Photo by Randy Knauf

Historic Places Excursion

American history buffs searching for cheap weekend vacation ideas may find just what they're looking for in an exciting excursion to some of the nation's historic buildings, sites, districts, and structures. The National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places lists more than 80,000 properties deemed historically significant and worthy of preservation.

With at least one historic property in nearly every county in the United States, there are sure to be at least a few within driving distance of your home. Hop in the car for an enjoyable and educational adventure. Save money by booking a motel room with a kitchenette so that you can cook your own meals.

Northern California Pirates Festival

Festival Weekend

If the sheer number of festivals is any indication, America has a lot to celebrate. Budget-conscious travelers can join the fun and keep vacation costs down by planning a weekend vacation around one of the many free or low-cost festivals, carnivals, street fairs, parades, and other celebrations hosted each year in communities across the country. From Avon, Ohio's Avon Heritage Duct Tape Festival to Vallejo, Calif.'s Northern California Pirate Festival, there's a festival that caters to nearly any interest or budget.

Keys, wallet, and money

Weekend Vacations on a Budget

All too often, people avoid taking vacation time for fear that they can't afford the trip. With a little ingenuity and careful planning, it's possible to get away for the weekend and have a wonderful time - even on a shoestring budget.

Megan Mattingly-Arthur
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Cheap Weekend Getaway Ideas