Just because you’re broke doesn’t mean you have to spend every day on your couch eating Easy Mac. A vacation is possible and what’s more, it doesn’t have to involve fancy hotel rooms or $60 steak dinners to be great.
Four in 10 people who don’t plan on traveling this winter say they can’t afford it, according to a new WalletHub survey. But that just seems unfair—and unrealistic. To help you out, we’ve compiled a list of trips that are affordable without compromising the level of awesome. While we’ve excluded the cost of getting there, these vacations take into account lodging, activities, and food, although for the latter, we’re expecting you to get thrifty and eat most of your meals at home (ahem, this writer lived off of $5 a day in NYC).
Living on a boat in San Diego: $49
Why sleep in a house when you can sleep on a boat? Especially when that boat is moored off the coast of San Diego and rentable on Airbnb. The space is small, but includes a kitchen so you can cook in. When you’re not chilling on the deck, take one of the city’s dockless bikes from the harbor to Balboa Park for a picnic and people watching or head to the nearby King and Queen Cantina during happy hour for a $4 Corona and $5 fries. And if Los Angeles is more your scene, this boat near downtown Long Beach is also bookable on Airbnb.
Lodging: $35 a night assuming you share with a friend (cleaning and service fees are extra)
Activities: $4 a day for bike rentals
Food: $10 a day for groceries and happy hours
Camping in Colorado: $27
When it comes to cheap trips, camping is hard to beat, but when you’re pinching pennies, even a $20 camping fee can bust the bank. Just one hour and 15-minutes south of Denver, free camping can be found off of Rampart Range Road in the Pike National Forest near Deckers, Colorado. Most sites have a fire pit, but you’ll need to bring your own water and firewood, and don’t expect showers or electricity. Bring your own tent, sleeping bag, and pad or you’ll have to rent a kit.( This Basic Camping Package Outdoor Geek has everything you need.) During the day, pack a PB&J and take the Devils’ Head Trail to the area’s last fire lookout tower that’s still in service.
If primitive camping isn’t for you, or you’d rather be near the water, Paul Donegan of Denver says one of his favorite spots is the nearby Platte River Campground which charges $20 a night. “We go to hang out on the river–swim, tube, kayak. We leave a shuttle car down river or hitchhike back up after tubing and kayaking. There’s also lots of rocky hills to boulder and hike on.”
Lodging: Free (or $20 if you opt for a paid campsite)
Activities: $17 a day, if you split the Basic Camping Package with a friend and take advantage of the three-day rental period
Food: $10 for day for groceries and firewood
Live music and nightlife in Austin: $50
For live music, nothing beats Austin. The Firehouse Hostel off of 6th Street puts you in the center of it all without breaking the bank. Load up at the free daily breakfast, then snack your way till dinner to save a buck. When you’re sick of making spaghetti in the communal kitchen, walk a few blocks to Casino El Camino where happy hour beers run for $2.50 and locals claim you’ll find the best burger ($8.50) and jukebox in town.
For a night out, Maggie Mae’s has a rooftop bar and live music seven days a week. Wash it all down with a stop at Voodoo Doughnut the next morning. For more music and nightlife, the only place that compares to Austin, is New Orleans. If NOLA is more your speed, check out the the Auberge NOLA hostel, which was just rated the No. 1 hostel in the U.S. on Hostelworld.
Lodging: $33 a night for a bed in a shared dorm
Activities: $10 a day for happy hours and live music
Food: $7 a day for groceries
Treehouse living in Miami: $40
We probably had you at “treehouse,” but this Airbnb gem also has a skylight, cute animals (hello goats), and a laid-back urban farm vibe. Located in Little Haiti, an up-and-coming art district, this spot is just 15 minutes from downtown Miami and South Beach. You’ll want to cook in the shared kitchen and take advantage of the fresh eggs, veggies, and honey available from time to time. Make sure to join the vegan potluck every Thursday and the volleyball game on Sunday.
When you’re not cruising the farm and petting goats, create a BYO gallery walk or pack a lunch and hit the beach. If a trip to Miami isn’t in the cards, check out this treehouse in downtown San Diego or this budget choice in Prescott, Arizona.
Lodging: $33 a night per person in a two-person treehouse (pice does not include cleaning or service fees)
Food: $7 a day for groceries
Meditation retreat in Massachusetts: Free
Pressing the “refresh” button on your life doesn’t have to involve a flight to Bali and a costly investment in yoga pants and mala beads. Across the U.S. and abroad, 10-day silent Vipassana meditation retreats are available completely free of charge. Vipassana meditation focuses on self-awareness as a tool to help face the strain of daily life in a calm way.
“In two words: life-changing. It changed everything for me,” says Hansa Devi, a yoga teacher and artist who has done three 10-day Vipassanas. She’s quick to note that you have to “roll up your sleeves to do work” as being silent and meditating for 10 days can bring up a lot.
The oldest center in North America is Dhamma Dharā, which sits on 108 acres in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts. They’ll take care of your food and lodging, but you’ll need to show up prepared to relinquish every distraction (including your phone) in order to spend time within your own mind.