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10 Best cheap vacation ideas: unique experiences that fit your budget

You will love these amazing cheap vacation ideas all around the world. Find out how to go on the cheapest and most remarkable trip of your life!


cheap vacation ideas

In recent years, traveling has become more expensive in most of the world. But that doesn't mean you need to keep your wanderlust on hold. With these cheap vacation ideas, you'll learn how to live amazing experiences without spending a fortune.

From the national parks of the USA, to magnificent castles in Europe, to the islands of Southeast Asia, the world is full of cheap vacation destinations. Some of them may not be the most conventional, like Paris or Rome or Tokyo or all-inclusive resorts on a Caribbean island. But they are unique and affordable!

In many of these places, you can also do a Worldpackers work exchange to further cut the costs of your vacation. Through this platform you can work in exchange for your accommodation and other benefits, such as meals and tours. That way, you’ll save money and get to have an enriching experience. 

Work exchanges are perfect for those who want to learn, grow, meet new people, and get off the beaten path during their holiday. 

10 amazing cheap vacation ideas

We made a list of 10 unique experiences we suggest for you to travel on a budget and have a lot of fun. Below you'll find more information about each of these destinations. 

Enjoy this list of cheap vacation ideas and start planning for the trip of a lifetime!

  1. Go hiking and camping in a USA national park
  2. Island-hop in Southeast Asia
  3. Visit the Sahara Desert in Morocco
  4. Volunteer with animals in Central or South America
  5. Have a staycation in your home country
  6. Visit Machu Picchu in Peru
  7. Tour castles in Transylvania Romania
  8. Volunteer with a community project in Africa
  9. Stay at an eco lodge in Costa Rica
  10. Visit beaches and surf in Southern California, USA

1. Go Hiking and Camping in a USA National Park

cheap vacation ideas

The USA is full of stunning national parks. Within all 50 states, there is so much natural beauty to explore. This is one of the best cheap family vacation ideas, as you can travel in an RV or campervan, or pack tents. There are also lots of official lodging options like cabins and guesthouses to stay in.

And if you want to turn this into an even cheaper vacation, you can do a work exchange and learn new skills while getting to enjoy nature for free! 

2. Island-hop in Southeast Asia

best cheap vacation ideas

If you are looking for cheap vacation ideas for couples, the islands of Southeast Asia are perfect. In countries like Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, or Vietnam, there are so many stunning islands to visit it will be hard to choose.

Everything is super cheap in that area of the world as well, so it’s easy to save money. You can even book nice hotels and eat at fancy restaurants for much cheaper prices than in many countries. 

Treat yourself to a relaxing tropical vacation without spending much money at all! Or consider volunteering so you can have an epic time and meet lots of other young, fun travelers. Check out some of the opportunities available:

3. Visit the Sahara Desert in Morocco

great budget vacation ideas

The Sahara Desert is one of the most mysterious and dreamlike places on this Earth. Covering most of Northern Africa, there is so much of the Sahara that humans rarely see. 

However, Morocco is a popular tourist destination located on the western edge of the desert. When traveling through Morocco, it is very easy to visit the golden sand dunes of the Sahara.

There are a few work exchange opportunities in the Sahara Desert, believe it or not. So if you are looking to save some money and get to know the Moroccan locals, you can volunteer at some places like these:

4. Volunteer with animals in Central or South America

best cheap vacation ideas

Some people may choose to have enriching vacations where they can give back to the community and feel a sense of self-fulfillment. If you’re an animal lover and you want to have a heartwarming experience helping others, consider volunteering at an animal shelter or sanctuary.

There are lots of volunteer opportunities around the world to help animals. Particularly in Central America and South America, where there is a diverse range of wildlife, there are plenty of wildlife sanctuaries that accept volunteers. 

So whether you’re visiting Peru, Mexico, Costa Rica, Ecuador, or Colombia, you can volunteer with animals and really make a difference.

5. Have a staycation in your home country

a staycation is a great idea for a budget trip

If you find yourself wondering, “what are some cheap vacation ideas near me”, don’t forget about your home country! It’s very common to desire to venture elsewhere for a vacation, but sometimes there is lots of fun to be had right in front of you.

If you’re really low on funds, you don’t have to travel far to have an incredible vacation. You can get a nice Airbnb near your hometown, stay at a friend’s house in a different town, or just visit a different area of your own country. 

A staycation is convenient and affordable, and with an open mind, you can still experience new things. 

Staycations are also perfect cheap family vacation ideas, as you don’t have to worry about the logistics and planning of traveling across the world with kids.

6. Visit Machu Picchu in Peru

visit machu picchu on a budget

One of the best cheap vacation ideas is visiting Peru and Machu Picchu. This historic Incan village which sits atop a majestic mountain is world-famous, and it’s actually very cheap to visit.

You can choose to either complete a multi-day trek to the mountain or take the train. Either way, Machu Picchu is a fascinating wonder of the world that is accessible for travelers of all budgets.

Peru is also an affordable country to visit overall. You can combine Machu Picchu with a stay in Cusco, and visit other nearby historic sights and mountains. 

To further save money, consider doing a work exchange in Cusco or Machu Picchu, such as these:

7. Tour castles in Transylvania Romania

cheap vacation ideas

Another one of our best cheap vacation ideas is visiting Transylvania, a beautiful and historic region of Central Romania. It is known for being the home of “Dracula’s Castle”, though it has so much more than that. 

This region surrounded by mountains and forests is full of charming, colorful villages and super friendly locals!

Romania isn’t a super touristy European country like France or Italy, so locals are generally very welcoming towards travelers. Explore castles, eat hearty Romanian food, and enjoy a unique cultural experience. 

You might also enjoy volunteering in a hostel for an extra fun time. There are Worldpackers work exchanges available in these Transylvanian towns:

8. Volunteer with a community project in Africa

volunteer in Africa

Africa is a vast continent that is full of diverse landscapes, amazing wildlife, and welcoming people. 

Visiting many countries in Africa can be done on a budget, although airfare is generally expensive. Large parts of Africa are unexplored as well, so the tourism industry isn’t as expensive as other places in the world.

If you’re interested in visiting Africa beyond the stereotypes, a work exchange is a great way to do so. Worldpackers can help you get in touch with locals who are willing to put you up in exchange for some volunteer work. 

You can read reviews from other travelers and ask your hosts any questions. This is also an amazing budget vacation idea for couples, because you can expand your life experiences together. 

Worldpackers has over 500 work exchanges in Africa, in countries such as Kenya, Tanzania, Namibia, Algeria, Benin, Egypt, Ethiopia, Rwanda, South Africa, Ghana, and more. Here's some examples:

9. Stay at an eco lodge in Costa Rica

stay in costa rica for cheap

One of the best things to see in Costa Rica is the unique nature and the wildlife. In order to get up close and personal with the natural world, lots of travelers choose to stay at eco-lodges. There are so many local businesses in the country that combine tourism with sustainability. 

If you’re looking to save money on your vacation, you can do a work exchange at one of these places.  You can work for your accommodation in Costa Rica and have a magical experience!

  • Help, enjoy and learn in an organic farm in Costa Rica
  • Join a beautiful eco lodge and learn about greenhouse and cultivations

10. Visit beaches and surf in Southern California

cheap vacation ideas in the USA

The last thing on this list of cheap vacation ideas is to enjoy the beaches of Southern California. With iconic beach towns like Malibu, San Diego, Laguna Beach, and Santa Monica, paradise can be found without even leaving mainland USA. 

Surf, swim, snorkel, hike, and explore the bustling, lively towns of Southern California. This is also one of the best budget family vacation ideas if you live in the USA. 

You don’t have to travel internationally, and you can book budget motels for the whole family. Or, once again, you can choose to volunteer in the area. Worldpackers was actually created in San Diego, so there are many great opportunities around there, such as these:

See how many cheap vacation ideas are there, for all types of travelers? 

Don’t waste time, sign up to Worldpackers and apply to as many hosts as you want!

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