Vacations are usually relaxing, fun, eventful, and spent with loved ones. When you think about taking a vacation, most people think happy, positive thoughts. If you are in debt and take a vacation using credit cards, you’ll experience these additional feelings: stress, worry, and fear!

Vacations should reduce stress, not create it!

Use this list of free vacations to relax and avoid stress while paying off your debt.

How to Vacation for FREE while paying off debt

How is the word vacation defined?

“An extended period of RECREATION, especially one spent away from home or in traveling.”

Google Dictionary

“A period of suspension of work, study, or other activity, usually used for rest, RECREATION, or travel; recess or holiday.”

“A period spent away from home or business in travel or RECREATION.”

Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Did you notice a theme? Every definition uses the word “recreation”. Synonyms of recreation include: leisure, hobby, pastime, play, amusement, restoration, and refreshment.

These definitions do mention being “away from home”, but that doesn’t mean you have to leave your city or state to go on a vacation. You can do something fun right in your hometown, for little or no cost!

In these definitions, there is no mention of spending money. All you have to do is stop working, leave your home, and do something for fun! That is the formula for a vacation.

Sounds simple, right?

Work to shift how you think about vacations, because we’re about to get a little creative.

Anyone on a low-budget or who simply wants to spend less on vacationing can use these ideas, but they are especially useful for those working to become debt-free.

FREE vacations to take while paying off debt:

NOTE: Many of these “free” vacations include a minimal cost for food. You should be planning for this in your budget already, so you won’t have to spend any extra money. However, I’ll also include low-cost food ideas.

Drinks could also cost additional money if you are unprepared. My recommendation is to bring ice water in a reusable bottle from home.

1. Picnic in the park

Picnic at the Park

Some of my most fond memories growing up involved having barbeques or picnics at a park with family. As a kid, and even now as an adult, I enjoy the people I am with more than the place we are gathering.

Grab some lawn games, a frisbee, a soccer ball, or something to feed the ducks. Make a day out of it and spend quality time with your family and friends!


Make PB&Js for your picnic, plus bring extra snack items (whatever is in your pantry). Look for snacks like chips, cookies, or fruit snacks (especially if you have kids). You could also bring fresh fruit or veggies if you have any!

2. Hike (or walk) somewhere beautiful

Some may have to travel further than others to find a beautiful hiking location. An alternative for those without many (or any) hiking options is to take a walk on a trail. Almost every city has walking trails nearby.

It can be fun to simply walk together outside, talking about dreams, goals, and passions. We don’t spend enough time these days talking to one another face-to-face. It’s less intimidating to do while you walk together, side by side, and you’re getting exercise while you do it! It’s a win-win.


Trail mix is a simple and relatively inexpensive snack option. Make your own by selecting each ingredient from the bulk section of your local grocery store, and when you get home mix them all together. This way you can be sure you’ll eat every bit of it!

3. Movies in the park

Many cities offer free programs in neighborhood parks during the summer, showing both old and new movies at dusk. Depending on how many people attend, there could be food trucks or other food vendors selling snacks and meals for the event. If you’re lucky, some events will even feature live music beforehand from local artists.

These are really fun events that get you outside and spending time together. Bring your own lawn chairs, blankets to sit on, food and drinks. Enjoy!

If your neighborhood doesn’t have an event like this yet, consider planning one with your neighbors or city workers.


Make sure to eat dinner at home before attending an event, to avoid the temptation of buying from food vendors. For snacks, make popcorn at home to bring with you and some fruit (for a healthy, but sweet snack). If you have it on hand already (or have a few dollars to spare), bring dark chocolate or other candy.

4. Have a staycation and play games

Let each person pick their favorite game and play each one once, while eating snacks you already have and listening to music. Then, end with a movie and a “sleepover” in the living room.

Depending on how much time you have off work, you could also do a puzzle!

This idea is tailored more for families with small children. Make it more grown up by adding alcohol and “adult games” to the mix, and invite friends or family!

5. Spend a day at the beach (lake, ocean, river, pond – whatever body of water is near you)

Sunset Beach Play

Playing at the beach is fun for kids and adults! Here are a few fun beach activities:

  • Bring towels, a ball, a frisbee, a kite, etc.
  • Bring buckets and shovels to play in the sand, building sandcastles or digging a hole.
  • Go for a walk or run in the sand to get some exercise!
  • Lay in the sun and enjoy the view or the sound of the waves.
  • If you are in an area where the water is warm enough, you could even go swimming.


Pack a picnic lunch with food you already have, like above at the park! Bring a cooler filled with ice and pack drinks you already have: soda, water, or juice. You can also bring some cold snacks in the cooler: boiled eggs, string cheese, fruit, cut up veggies and ranch, etc.

6. Camp in your Backyard

Put up a tent (if you already have one) or sleep under the stars with blankets and pillows. Play a game in the backyard, listen to music, or talk, tell stories, and enjoy each other’s company.

I used to have sleepovers with my friends and we didn’t even have to be doing anything to have a good time. We listened to music, sang songs, and talked for hours.

If you have a firepit, you can sit around the fire, roast marshmallows, and talk (or tell ghost stories, if you aren’t too scared).

Some fond memories of camping with family growing up include:

  • putting on skits with my cousins,
  • playing card games, and
  • sitting around the fire together.

You can make fun memories with your family, even while paying off debt!

Who says you have to pay to camp somewhere? You can have just as much fun camping at home. Plus, you get to use your own bathroom!


No need to pack full meals, since you’ll be at home. It’s fun to plan special “camping” foods so you can take in the whole experience. Bring snacks, like chips, cookies, or smores (if you have a firepit). You can also make hot dogs on the fire, if you are able to make one.


Find joy in your journey and try to make the best of this season of your life. Paying off debt is challenging, but the temporary sacrifices you make now are worth the result of being debt-free!

One day you will be able to save and pay cash to travel outside your state for a fun vacation, without guilt or stress. If you want to, you can explore the world.

Exploring other cultures often puts our life into perspective, specifically when you visit areas where real poverty exists. Seeing this first hand and understanding what real struggle is can help you feel more grateful for what you have. This type of appreciation for your life can also create a strong desire to change the lives of those less fortunate.

Travel can also show us how much everyone has in common. It can bring unity and maybe even someday world peace! (Okay, I know that sounded like a Miss America Pageant, but seriously travel can make people feel more united as humans.)

Just like with the oxygen masks on an airplane, you need to get your own life and finances in order before you can help others.

Be creative and find more fun, local activities you can do for free. Enjoy your vacations, but stay on track and keep your motivation during your debt-free journey!

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