Pleasant temperatures, longer days, and breaks from school all make summer the perfect time to take a family vacation, but planning a summer vacation on a budget can be tricky. Summer is often one of the most expensive times to travel since so many people want to vacation during these months. This doesn’t mean a cheap summer vacation is impossible; it just means you might need to get creative.

Here are 10 ideas to help you plan a summer vacation on a budget for you and your military family:

1. Head to the Beach

Going to the beach for a day or quick weekend trip is an easy and affordable way to spend time as a family. If you’re lucky enough to live within driving distance of a beach, you can easily swing a beach trip for little to no money. You may need to pay to park, but you can save extra money by packing your own food and drinks. From swimming to sunbathing to building sandcastles, there are so many beach activities both kids and adults can enjoy — and they’re free. Just don’t forget the sunscreen!

2. Vacation in Your Hometown

You don’t need to travel far away from home to have a great vacation. When was the last time you took your kids to all the local parks? Have you explored the nearby hikes, nature walks, waterfalls, and swimming pools? If you’re hoping for a cheap summer vacation, then try taking a staycation in your hometown. Plan picnics, cookouts, park games, and even backyard camping with your kids.

3. Bar Harbor

Did you know that Bar Harbor, Maine, is one of the most budget-friendly vacation spots? With the Frenchman Bay on one side and Acadia National Park on the other, this is the perfect place for any outdoor lovers to go on a cheap summer vacation. Plenty of water sports, free activities, and beautiful nature spots to explore, make for the ideal summer vacation on a budget.

4. Winter Park

While it may sound like a destination best suited for snowy weather, Winter Park, Colorado, actually offers a lot of summer discounts and deals for a cheap summer vacation. Check out the Winter Park Resort where you and your whole family can enjoy rafting, hiking, horseback riding, and even zip lining, all by Colorado’s longest alpine slide.

5. Pittsburgh

Often referred to as “Kidsburgh,” this Pennsylvania city has tons of family-friendly activities that won’t break the bank. If you’re looking for a city to vacation in, Pittsburgh could be perfect for your family and budget. From walking tours of the city to the Pittsburgh Zoo to the free rides offered along the Golden Triangle, it’s a beautiful city to explore. Bonus: You can ride the Duquesne Incline to the top for a stunning, scenic view of the cityscape.

6. Stay at Another Base

Vacations don’t always have to be in fancy. Sometimes all you need is a change of scenery with new museums, parks, restaurants, or nature spots to explore. If you’re stationed somewhere that has another base within driving distance, contact them for details about their visitor housing and then book a few nights.

7. Visit a Theme Park

Did you know there are many theme parks that offer free admission to active military members, as well as some free admission tickets for their dependents? Some of these theme parks include SeaWorld(R), Sesame Place(R), and Busch Gardens(R) — but many other theme parks offer great military discounts to both active and retired military personnel. Always ask for military discounts when booking your hotel stay as well.

8. Active Heroes Military Family Retreat

This Retreat Center, located in Shepherdsville, KY, was created by military families to help serve military families. It is open to active military members and their families free of charge. The retreat includes a cabin vacation, archery, hiking trails, a playground for the kids, as well as plenty of camping with cookouts. Contact the Retreat Center to learn more.

9. The Armed Forces Vacation Club

If your military family hasn’t taken advantage of this club yet, this summer may be a great time to start. The Armed Forces Vacation Club is free for any active-duty military members, as well as reserve guard and retired Armed Forces members. It gives you access to amazing deals on resorts all over the world.

10. Pick a National Park

There are over 400 national parks in the United States, and all of them offer something worth seeing. Pick a National Park that you haven’t been to yet (or perhaps one you’ve been to and loved) and take the whole family. Do some camping, pack your own food, and explore nature. Yosemite Falls, Glacier National Park, and Acadia National park are just a few of the prettiest (and budget-friendly) options.

Planning a summer vacation on a budget can be difficult, but it isn’t impossible. You and your military family deserve to enjoy a fun, affordable summer vacation this year. Check out AAFMAA’s wealth management solutions* for help with budgeting that can impact your financial picture as you come up with your summer plans.

More Summer Travel Adventures for MilFams

*Financial Planning, Investment Management, and Trust Services provided by AAFMAA Wealth Management & Trust, a North Carolina Limited Liability Company wholly owned by AAFMAA. Physical address: 639 Executive Place, Suite 200, Fayetteville, NC 28305. Information provided by AAFMAA Wealth Management & Trust LLC is not intended to be tax or legal advice and we encourage you to seek guidance from your tax  and legal advisors. Past performance does not guarantee future results. Investments are not FDIC or SIPC insured, are not deposits, nor are they insured by, issued by, or guaranteed by obligations of any government agency or any bank, and they involve risk including possible loss of principal.

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