For many couples, weekend getaways seem impossible. Even if you figure out childcare, who can afford accommodation, food, and entertainment? I can’t help you with the childcare part, but I can help you realize that a fun weekend getaway for two can be had on a shoestring budget.
How To Plan A Fun Weekend Getaway On A Shoestring
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My husband and I have made weekend getaways a monthly tradition for the past two years. It does help that our children are now fully grown, but I still think couples with younger children could pull off a weekend away at least a few times a year. Perhaps once a season would be a good goal?
We budget $300 a month for our weekend getaways except for May (our anniversary month) and December (we consider our date weekend part of our Christmas gift to each other). These two times a year, we lift the budget high enough to include an Airbnb apartment and a few more meals out.
Our weekend getaways generally last three nights and two full days and often we spend less than our $300 maximum budget. For accommodations, we use our travel trailer in summer and our truck camper in winter to stay at state parks, private campgrounds, and the odd free site now and then. We eat out at least once during the weekend, plus we usually indulge in a local coffee house coffee for me and a sweet treat for the both of us.
For entertainment we visit free and low-cost museums, art galleries, hike, bike, play disc golf, take in the local architecture, and spend time relaxing side by side, usually with a good book in our hands, or watching a movie. We also play games and nap (naps are required for it to be an awesome weekend getaway).
How To Find Free Or Low-Cost Accommodations
Accommodations can eat up a significant amount of your budget, but they don’t have to. Of our $300 a weekend budget, we spend roughly $100 on accommodations and sometimes we pay less.
How we spend $100 or less on three nights’ accommodations
If you can’t afford an RV, you can still enjoy a few of the luxuries of an RV by merely looking at your vehicle in a new way. Before we had our slide-in truck camper, we converted my husband’s old truck and topper into a camper with a double bed and running water. And before we did that conversion, we turned our family minivan into a camper with a double bed and a trunk kitchen.
Both self-made camper builds allowed us to safely sleep at free campsites that we found using the All-Stays app (this app is worth the $10 purchase price. It is sadly only available in iOS format).
And of course, you can camp with a tent (this one is tall enough to stand up in) and a cot built for two and still have a great weekend away together. If you do go this route, splurge on a thick inflatable mattress pad like this one that can go on top of the cot so that you have a super comfy bed.
How to save money on accommodations if you don’t like to camp
If you don’t like to camp, there are still ways to keep the costs of accommodations affordable, although you are probably going to have to spend more.
My top two suggestions are to use Hotels.com and Airbnb, but there are dozens of additional ways to save money on overnight stays; here is an article I wrote that shares 33 different ways.
How To Find Free Or Low-Cost Activities
You don’t have to jump out of an airplane or go on a hot air balloon ride to have a memorable weekend away. Neither do you have to pay for pricey concert tickets or admission fees to local attractions.
There are plenty of free or low-cost, top-notch activities in just about any location you and your spouse might visit. Rarely do my husband and I pay more than $10 per person to attend any event and yet we end pretty much every one of our monthly getaways with stuff on our “could explore” list because there were too many things to do in our price range.
I find the best place to find low and no-cost activities in the area is to head to TripAdvisor, but I also have a few other tricks up my sleeve for creating lists of fun things we can get up to each weekend we get away–you can read that list here.
How To Keep Your Food Costs Low
Set a budget for trying local foods
I am a huge foodie and my husband likes his food too (although not quite as much as me). My foodie nature means that a weekend getaway is not complete without trying at least a dish or two of the local food. To curb my foodie ways, we set aside a certain amount of money for eating out each trip and stick to it.
Depending on where we are at and what I want to try in that area, sometimes the eat-out portion of our weekend getaway budget goes as far as one meal–other times we get a meal, a snack, and a local coffee or two.
I do try and save money on the restaurant purchases I want to make by checking to see if Living Social or Groupon has a local deal or if the lunch menu is cheaper than the dinner menu. Another way we save money is by splitting a meal or a dessert–which is also better for our waistlines.
One last thrifty foodie tip for trying out local food is to head to the grocery store in the area you are visiting. Here in the USA, we find that as soon as you cross a state line, new food appears at the grocery store. Usually the smaller local grocery chains are better at carrying these regional foods and visiting them is a way to experience the day to day life of the locals.
Bring some food from home–especially these items
The rest of the weekend, we eat the food we packed from home. Our campers have refrigerators, but even if we are staying at a hotel or Airbnb, I pack our cooler (we have this one that plugs into the vehicle’s 12 volt and holds enough food for two for a weekend).
I also pack this cooler full of water, pop, and snacks for the road and it stays in the vehicle for the duration of the trip. These are the items that I recommend that everyone pack as they are expensive to purchase at a gas station convenience store. You don’t have to go all thrifty ninja and bring only homemade goodies and insist that you both drink nothing but the water you brought along in reusable gallon containers from home. Get a few road trip snacks you like, just buy them from the grocery store in your hometown instead of the convenience store along the way and the savings will be significant.
How To Decide Where To Splurge And Where To Skimp
I enjoy watching travel vloggers on YouTube, and I am surprised by how many RVers and van travelers who won’t spend a dime to camp.
Jack and I enjoy the amenities at paid campsites, such as fire pits and close proximity to trails. And when we camp in our truck camper, we like having access to a real toilet (our truck camper only has a port-a-potty) and a hot shower.
Our other splurge is our food budget, which is almost as high as our accommodation budget. We would rather spend money on local food from a farmers market than admission tickets to a local concert–we are foodies.
What are you and your spouse? Are you foodies too? Or do you enjoy live concerts? Are you thrill-seekers? Adventurers? Do you love trying new things? Spend money on what is important to you and be frugal in the areas where it is not. Be financially wise, of course, and find ways to save money on these activities, but do not walk away from what matters most to you just because you can’t find a discount code–save the money elsewhere.
This might mean you sleep at rest areas in the back of your minivan and eat out of a cooler all weekend so that you have room in your budget to ride roller coasters all day. But trust me, it will be worth it if you are genuinely doing what you both love. And the memories of your crazy minivan adventures will be with you for years to come.
How To Find Money So You Can Have More Weekend Getaways
We have several streams of income beyond my husband’s full-time job as an RN. These different streams of income combined with living frugally have allowed us to fit our monthly date weekend within our budget.
I write about saving money over at my other blog: Snail Pace Transformations.
Here are three popular money-saving posts from that blog:
- 52 Thrifty Tools That Will Help You Spend Less This Year
- Live BIG On Little Cash With These 100 Ways To Save Money
- How To Nickel And Dime Yourself To A Debt-Free Life: Stretch Your Income To Its Max With These Tips
I hope these posts will help you trim your budget so that you can make room to get away together more often.
Jack and I have so much fun on our weekend getaways. We also find them essential for letting the stress of day-to-day life melt away. We are not great at relaxing at home. I don’t know about you and your significant other, but whenever my husband and I try to relax at home, we get hit with a wave of guilt over all the things we “should” be doing–the laundry, the dishes, the yard work, and the list never ends.
Through this blog, we desire to inspire and equip other couples to take more weekend getaways together. I hope this post helped you figure out how to make getting away fit into your budget.
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