There’s nothing better than getting away with your friends. If you’re looking for an excuse to take an adventure but don’t have a serious budget, that’s okay too. You don’t have to sacrifice a vacation, creating new memories and exploring more of the world because it’s just “too expensive”. It’s something I hear time and time again but there really are so many great ways to get the most out of a weekend trip and make it budget friendly.
After our trip to Cashiers, North Carolina with Toyota I was inspired to take more affordable weekend trips like this. We took the Toyota Tacoma, the most comfortable driving truck and has all the fun bells and whistles I love with these Toyotas, about 3 hours Northeast of Atlanta. I’ve never been to Cashiers, but as soon as I told people where I was headed, they assured me it was an incredible place. Based on the time of year we went we SHOULD have seen more foliage. But we had a very warm fall in the south this year and we didn’t get fall foliage until much much later.
The trip was ideal since we could pack a bunch of our things in the back, bring snacks for the road and catch up on Podcasts on the drive. When we arrived, the resort had everything we needed for a weekend getaway. A spa, hikes, dahlia picking and more. It was a great way to spend a weekend and not having to spend a ton of money since the resort was packed with activities.
How To Take An Affordable Weekend Trip
Drive, Don’t Fly
Sure you can find cheap flights (you can read my tips on doing that here) but it still usually ends up being more expensive than just driving. When you fly, you have to think about your car; do you park, do you take an Uber, and then you end up buying food at the airport and then dealing with ANOTHER Uber to your final destination.
If you’re within driving distance (my limit is 6 hours) then just drive! Embrace the road trip mindset and have some fun with it. A few great perks of a roadtrip that make for a cheap vacation is splitting the gas and bringing your own snacks and meals for travel days. This can save you quite a bit of money instead of flying. Plus, this allows you to explore your destination in a whole new way. Explore national parks, and do some sightseeing and hikes instead of spending money at fancy restaurants and experiences.
Find Hotels That Offer Activities
This obviously depends on the type of destination you’re looking at. If you’re heading to a city to explore, hotels typically don’t offer any sort of activities but maybe offering free breakfast (which will add up
These photos in today’s post are from a great little bed and breakfast in the North Carolina mountains. They had tons of great free activities from kayaking to picking dahlias from their farm to take home. Such a great way to spend an afternoon and they didn’t cost us a dime!
Go During The Off Season
Figuring out when the offseason is can be a complete game-changer that won’t break the bank. Hotel prices are much lower and so is AirBNBs. You can easily figure out off-season by just Googling your destination and then “off-season”. You may even find some interesting ideas for itineraries as well. And yes, it may not be AS amazing as going during peak season but guess what? It usually means things are less crowded and you’ll feel more like a local. Sometimes peak season really just means better weather. So just be sure to check the weather and pack accordingly.
Explore National Parks
Checking out national parks, historic sites and state parks can be a much more affordable way to spend your day. Pack a lunch and some water and check out all the affordable attractions. Spend time getting lost in parks and taking in the fresh air and scenery. This is the perfect way to spend a good part of your day on an affordable weekend trip.
Find Fun Free Activities To Do
One of my favorite things to do when I visit new places is simply walking around and getting lost in a city. But many major cities have plenty of free activities to experience the culture and people. Take even just Atlanta for example. We have an incredible park in the middle of the city that you can take a walk through and easily spend a few hours in. Pack a picnic and explore. Or there are several free festivals that happen in many neighborhoods where you can walk around and explore art, food and free live music.
Don’t be afraid of FREE activities. They can be a great way to see a city like a local with neighborhood festivals, farmers markets, parks and more. Just Google your destination and free activities. You may even plan your trip around a fun festival when you see what’s offered.
PS You can check out my Atlanta guide here that features a ton of great restaurants, coffee shops, bakeries and more. Plus a few getaways within driving distance as well!
How To Plan For A Cheap Weekend Getaway
If you try to go into a cheap weekend getaway with zero plan you may find yourself not only wasting your time but money too. Plan accordingly and prioritize what you want to see. If there’s something like an exhibit or outdoor adventure you’ve been wanting to take that’s expensive, you may want to prioritize that and then choose less expensive things to do on the other days. Or if you’re big into exhibits and museums, look into what’s feasible to accomplish and possibly purchase a museum pass if it makes sense financially. Going in with a plan is helpful for not only your itinerary but also your budget. Here’s how to plan for a more affordable weekend getaway.
Research Your Restaurants
I can be a BIG restaurant snob when it comes to traveling (okay or all the time). I just really enjoy good quality food and not getting stuck in a tourist trap. I’m totally down for casual too, big fancy meals aren’t my thing. I’ll never forget my first trip to Charleston ever and I fell for the biggest tourist trap, Hyman’s Seafood. The food is NOT GOOD and it’s super overpriced for crappy fried seafood. But it shows up #1 on Yelp. It’s a dangerous trap and such a scam in my opinion. But by taking some time to read reviews, search Instagram (just use # the city you’re going to and food and a slew of spots will pop up!) or ask your friends will result in better food experiences and sometimes really great local affordable finds.
PS If you DO want to take a weekend trip to Charleston you HAVE to check out my Charleston guide here. There are tons of great affordable spots to try and since it’s a walking or biking city, you’ll likely never have to spend money on an Uber.
Also, don’t be afraid of casual grab-and-go spots too.
They’re honestly some of my favorites. I really don’t enjoy a big fussy dinner. Grabbing a quick sandwich at a local joint will not only be cheaper but likely more delicious. I typically ask waiters or boutique salespeople where they like to go. Don’t bother asking the concierge at the hotel as they typically get a kickback from big restaurants and are always pushing the more expensive places. Ask the young locals when you grab a coffee in the morning. They usually have ALL the good info!
A few of my favorite meals in places like San Francisco and New York City have also been at really easy farmers markets, or street food and even the small neighborhood bodegas. These can be a great way to check out the local food scene and it’s super affordable. I’ll never forget the most epic breakfast sandwich I had at the San Francisco Ferry Building Farmer’s Market. It was affordable, from a local farm, and was super casual. I still think about that meal over the big fancy ones we had during that weekend trip.
Seek Out Happy Hours
My last tip on restaurants is to also seek out happy hours. This can be a really amazing way to check out a nicer restaurant on a budget. Not all cities do happy hours, but when they do I always take advantage. You can typically fill up on less expensive food and drinks and then maybe share a meal at dinner a couple of hours later. It’s not only more affordable but a wonderful way to experience more restaurants while on a budget.
Utilize Public Transportation
When exploring major cities, always see what public transportation looks like. In some cities, it’s ideal to take it like NYC, SF, Washington DC or Chicago. It can mean huge savings in Uber and sometimes it’s actually faster. For other cities that don’t have great public transportation (eh-hem talking to you Atlanta) maybe try using Uber Pool. However, keep in mind your schedule. If it’s a short trip you also don’t want to waste your time in an Uber Pool. Sometimes it makes more sense to spend the few extra dollars to get to your destination more quickly.
And if the city is bike and walking friendly, embrace it. It’s a great way to see a city and you’ll probably stumble onto some little fun gems that you wouldn’t have otherwise in a taxi.
Find Out About Parking
If you are driving to your weekend getaway, always find out about parking. Call and ask if the hotel charges for parking. And if it’s a lot, find out if there’s somewhere more affordable to park nearby. It may be best too to drive to your activities if there’s free parking so you aren’t spending money on Ubers.
Moral of the story
The moral of the story is, do your research so your wallet will thank you later! Spending a few hours planning your trip ahead of time will definitely be worth it if you’re looking to save some money on your next weekend getaway. And for more tips on planning a trip, check out this great post with some of my best travel planning tips complete with packing downloads and more!