I recently ran across this older blog series from the NY Times, The Frugal Traveler and could not stop reading the multiple weekends the writer experienced on a mere $100.  Granted, this writer is traveling all over the world in fascinating cities, where sightseeing alone can qualify as something to do. It all sounds terribly exciting!

However, it got me thinking about planning a next-to-nothing getaway for my own family. With school looming around the corner, we’ve got to get something squeezed in quickly and (as always) inexpensively. After a little digging, I found some excellent opportunities and thought I’d share them. Here are 5 frugal trips to take this weekend, should you also be craving a little excitement on a small budget.

House swap with a friend

While I remain extremely loyal to VRBO for planning trips, another option is to eliminate a middle man altogether.  Reach out to another family who lives within 2-4 hours from you and arrange to swap houses for the weekend. Guaranteed at least one other family is looking for a frugal trip to take too. Just ask them what activities are free or nearly free in the area and you’ll get the added bonus of local insight. Plus, you’ll save loads of money by bringing plenty of groceries from home for dining in.

Road Trip


When I was in college and had no money, I would often look for concerts that were affordable, but involved a drive. I would gather up a friend or two and off we would go on our adventure. Inevitably, whomever I went with became a closer friend through the bonded experience of a long drive.

It’s something I still appreciate now, only with my family.  Find a park or monument that’s at least 3 hours away and pile everyone in the car to go visit it. The funny part about road trips is they seem to have a certain pattern: initially the kids complain and whine about being uncomfortable and how long the drive is, then something magical happens — conversations begin! And by the end our whole family is laughing and engaged. Somehow, we all become united road warriors sharing our favorite stories, jokes and philosophies with each other.

Sightsee in your own city


Head toward the closest major city (if you don’t live in one) and act like a tourist. Chances are there are loads of free museums, centers, parks, etc that you’ve never really paid that much attention to as a resident. Make a list of all the things your area is known for and see how many you can visit in the weekend. Check with your local visitor’s center for discounts and packages too.

Theme park


Granted, theme parks aren’t as cheap as they used to be, but there are deals out there if you are willing to look for them. Plus, considering that most offer an entire day of entertainment and memory-making for the whole family, theme parks are generally still a good bargain in the long run.

 Visit lesser known family members or old friends


Before you laugh out loud at this one, just know that this one came from listening to multiple friends over the past couple of years who have done this. Thanks to Facebook, families and old friends are more connected now. It’s pretty amazing what happens when you throw out a crazy idea like “can we come visit for a weekend?” It’s also an excellent opportunity for your kids to learn about their own history (with family) and your history (if visiting old friends).

Having a new experience as a family is our favorite form of spending time together and making memories. Yet, we can’t afford for each one to be a week-long vacation. These frugal trips are less time, less money, and a touch unexpected. We’ve already picked 2 of the 5 to try in the coming weekends prior to school. How about you? Any suggestions for frugal trips to add to the list?