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5 Frugal Ideas for Last-Minute Weekend Trips

Jason Vitug

The weekend isn't just for mowing lawns, doing laundry, taking care of house chores or running errands. It's also a great time to take a short trip after a long workweek. However, last minute trips can be quite expensive and even unimaginable for budget-conscious people.

The general understanding is that the closer you are to the date of a flight or hotel stay, the more you'll pay. That is not always the case, however, especially if you know a few tricks to get around paying top dollar for a last-minute getaway. If the cost has prevented you from taking such trips before, then these ideas should help you overcome that obstacle:

Visit family and friends:

Visiting family and friends can be an affordable way to catch up and explore an area without the expense of a hotel room. Staying with loved ones can even lower the cost of food with meals cooked at home. Reach out to family and friends and coordinate the weekend getaway. Bring along a board game to play at night instead of a night out in town. Research and plan the visit to coincide with local events and festivals. The benefit is that you get to have more catching up time and opportunities to create new memories.

Take a road trip:

Road trips are a great way to explore an area or attraction. My rule is to keep the driving under five hours. This keeps the travel manageable and fuel cost affordable. Choose an area you've always wanted to visit or randomly pick a direction until you find a point of interest. Even with a two-hour drive you'll discover a variety of destination options. Pack your lunch or snacks then make a pit stop at a scenic overlook and enjoy. Find last-minute discounts using the Hotels Tonight app or through Hotels.com. If you need a car, consider renting a vehicle for the weekend. Many rental companies offer discounted weekend rates.

Visit a National Park and go camping:

Grab your partner or a few friends and go on an outdoor adventure. Explore one of the hundreds of U.S. National Parks or alternatively a state park. You'll save money since entrance fees are typically per car and not per person. Use the weekend to hike, rock climb, swim or fish. Find lodging and campsites in the park or an adjoining private campground. Additionally, purchase your food and drinks for the entire weekend at the supermarket. Don't forget the marshmallows and bring along firewood. Need camping gear? You can rent a tent and sleeping bag through retailers like REI or borrow equipment from a friend.

Explore your city:

There is nothing like exploring the city you live in as if you were a tourist. So go sightseeing. You might be surprised on what you can discover from new neighborhoods, restaurants and shops. Since you're not spending money on flights or fuel, stay at a nicer hotel with a pool and book a spa package. Use apps like Groupon and Living Social for last-minute deals that can be used same day. Foursquare is also a great way to explore your city using "nearby specials" for reduce admissions and freebies. If you live in a big city, purchase an all access pass to museums, galleries and attractions. For example, a one-day pass in New York City costs $80 and you're able to access 50 attractions.

Head to the beach:

The beach is often an easy and affordable getaway and might even be a short drive from home. Beach getaways aren't just for people who live near the coast. You can enjoy the beaches in lakes, rivers and reservations, too. Staying in popular beach locations can be expensive so find alternative beach accommodations through websites like AirBNB. Many homeowners allow last-minute bookings that can be cheaper than last-minute hotel deals. You might also find unique lodging that is steps away from the beach or one with private beach access. Don't forget to bring a beach chair so you can catch up on your summer reads while listening to the crashing waves.

More ideas:

If spending money on lodging is holding you back from that much-needed getaway, consider hostels or find a host on couchsurfing.org. Also, check your credit card rewards, air miles and hotel points for possible free hotel stays. Many rewards point providers allow last minute booking using miles or points.

Jason Vitug is a speaker, author and first-time entrepreneur as founder of Phroogal, a financial education startup with a mission to help people live life richly.

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