It’s tough to keep the fire in your relationship when you’re bogged down in your daily routine. A romantic weekend getaway is just the ticket to rekindle that flame – but the cost! According to Lending Tree’s ValuePenguin, the average cost of a couples weekend getaway in the Hamptons is over $2,000. When you’re on a tight budget, there’s no way you can justify spending that kind of money for just two days away from home.
Good news: You don’t have to.
Sure, a weekend spent sunbathing and sipping wine in the Hamptons sounds fabulous. But there are plenty of less expensive ways to enjoy a romantic weekend without exceeding your vacation budget. You just have to be willing to think outside the box about where you go, how you get there, and what you do while you’re away.
Weekend Getaway Ideas on a Budget
1. Go Off the Beaten Path
When you browse through upscale travel magazines or search for “best romantic getaways,” you’re bound to find tons of hot vacation spots to visit. But those trips are also wildly expensive because when everyone books tickets to the same place, prices go up.
To plan a budget-friendly getaway, start by broadening your horizons. Consider less popular locations that still have plenty to see and do. Both Jetsetter magazine and U.S. News compiled top-10 lists for romantic destinations that won’t break the bank, including:
- Sonoma County, California. For wine lovers who can’t afford a Napa Valley getaway, Sonoma offers an affordable alternative. It’s a more rustic, casual site with beautiful rolling hills and several small, friendly cities. Many Sonoma wineries allow you to save money by bringing your own food, and some offer free tastings. While you’re there, take a hike through the trails of Sonoma Coast State Park to enjoy the beautiful scenery.
- Sedona, Arizona. Sedona is home to some of the most beautiful desert scenery in the country. It boasts more than 100 hiking trails, numerous spas, and a thriving artist community.
- Glacier National Park. Hardcore outdoorsy types can navigate the challenging trails and take in the breathtaking views at Glacier National Park. Over 1 million acres of mountain scenery dotted with lakes and waterfalls makes it a favorite of hikers and campers.
- Portland, Maine. Winter or summer, Portland offers beautiful ocean views, delicious seafood, and historic sites like its Old Port. Visit an art museum, tour a brewery, or just take in the New England scenery.
- Nashville, Tennessee. For music lovers, the bustling Downtown and Midtown neighborhoods of Nashville are bursting with talent and have a party-hearty vibe enhanced by $2 beers.
- Savannah, Georgia. The “Hostess City of the South,” Savannah has a wealth of attractions: history, fine dining, bohemian culture, and vibrant nightlife. Visit historic homes, browse the City Market for souvenirs, and drink in natural scenery in Forsyth Park, Bonaventure Cemetery, and Tybee Island.
- San Juan, Puerto Rico. For Americans, Puerto Rico offers a way to visit the Caribbean without the high airfares or the hassle of a passport. Old San Juan is a beautiful spot for an evening stroll, and the downtown area boasts exquisite eateries. From surfing to scuba diving to horseback riding, there’s more to do here than you can fit into one weekend.
Pro Tip: If you’ll be traveling by plane, make sure you sign up for a free two-month trial of CLEAR. It will allow you to speed through airport security.
2. Stay Close to Home
Once you start to consider travel destinations beyond just the hot spots, you’ve got thousands of sites to choose from. So how do you narrow down the list? If you’re on a budget, the answer could be as simple as choosing someplace close to home.
Choosing a nearby location for your weekend getaway means you can drive instead of flying, which is nearly always cheaper. It also spares you all the hassles associated with airline travel, from security checks to cramped seats, which are hardly a pleasant way to start a romantic weekend. And by choosing a location that’s within a short driving distance, you can spend less of your weekend in transit and more enjoying the delights of your destination.
Thanks to the Internet and Google Maps, it’s easy to find a vacation spot within a comfortable driving range of your home. Just search “vacation destinations near me” and see what pops up. You can narrow your search still more by adding specific activities that interest you, such as “wine tour” or “historic homes.”
3. Travel in the Off-Season
If the frigid winter months have you longing for a tropical island getaway, you’ve got lots of company. During the winter, tons of tourists descend on tropical destinations – and that drives up the price. According to Frommer’s, hotels in the Caribbean charge up to twice as much during the winter season, from mid-December through mid-April, as they do during other months.
However, the Caribbean is still lovely to visit during the spring, summer, and fall. According to Frommer’s, temperatures average 75 degrees F to 85 degrees F all year long. Traveling in the off-season allows you to enjoy a fabulous vacation for as little as half the price.
And that’s only one of the ways you can save big money by scheduling your trip at the “wrong” time of year. Nearly every travel destination has a high season and an off-season during which it’s both cheaper and less crowded. For a fraction of the regular price, you can enjoy off-season trips to:
- Ski Resorts. In the winter, skiers flock to towns like Vail, Colorado, and Stowe, Vermont. However, these mountain locations are still beautiful places to visit from spring through fall. Warm-weather activities include hiking, zip-lining, fishing, boating, and in some towns, music festivals. At night, you can take in starry skies much more vivid than you’ll ever see in the city.
- Northern Beach Towns. During the cooler months, check out northern state beach towns like Montauk, New York, or Newport, Rhode Island. Sunbathing is less enjoyable from fall through spring, but walks along the beach are even more romantic when it’s not packed with tourists. You can also tour historic homes, go shopping, try a wine tasting, and enjoy fine dining without the long wait for a table.
- Cities. Big cities like New York, Chicago, and Toronto attract fewer tourists during the winter. That makes it possible to score incredible deals on hotel rooms — sometimes less than $100 per night. And the cold weather needn’t stop you from enjoying the many indoor attractions these cities have to offer, such as museums, theaters, and four-star restaurants.
- Florida. There are two high seasons for travel to Florida. Snowbirds flock to South Florida from December through April, while families with school-age children tend to visit North Florida during summer vacation. If you schedule your trip in the spring or fall, you can enjoy milder weather, shorter lines at theme parks, and easier access to shopping and dining. Just make sure to keep an eye on the weather alerts during hurricane season, which is June through November.
4. Look for Last-Minute Deals
If you and your sweetie have made a spur-of-the-moment decision to run away for the weekend, that doesn’t give you much time to research the trip and look for bargains. However, you can turn this situation to your advantage. Often, if an airline has empty seats for a particular flight, it slashes ticket prices to fill them. That makes it possible for travelers to find great airline ticket deals at the last minute.
The same goes for hotel deals. When hotels have empty rooms for a particular date, they often use bargain travel sites and apps to fill those rooms as much as a week in advance. Prices creep even lower as the date grows closer, which is excellent news for last-minute travelers.
There are several ways to find last-minute travel deals. You can search mainstream travel sites like Expedia or Kayak or blind-booking sites like Hotwire. Some sites focus specifically on last-minute deals, such as LastMinuteTravel and Hotel Tonight. Or you can simply run a search for “cheap weekend” plus the name of your destination.
If you know you want to schedule a romantic weekend getaway but haven’t decided where to go or when, you can let a great deal make the decision for you. Sign up for price alerts on sites like Kayak and Hotels.com to receive an email whenever a venue lowers its price by a certain percentage. Set the alerts for a high percentage, such as 50%, and when a deal at this rate comes in, you and your honey can start packing your bags.
5. Be Flexible About Lodgings
Even with a last-minute discount, hotel rooms in some locations can still be pretty expensive. In Boston, for instance, even the last-minute hotel deals at Hotel Tonight typically run $200 to $300 per night, with added costs for parking. For a two-night stay, you’re looking at a total of more than $500.
If that’s too rich for your blood, consider some less expensive alternatives to hotel rooms, such as:
- Hostels. If you think there’s no way to spend a romantic weekend in a hostel, think again. While many hostels are bare-bones establishments with shared, dormitory-style rooms and baths, some of them offer private rooms and even en-suite bathrooms. Search Hostels.com and Hostelworld to find hostel accommodations in the city of your choice and narrow your search by location, type of room, or price.
- Home Rentals. Another cheap alternative is to rent a room in someone else’s home – or perhaps even the entire house. The best-known site for home rentals is Airbnb, but it’s not the only one. You can also find rooms or whole homes through HomeAway or compare listings across multiple sites on HomeToGo. These listings are often less than half the price of a hotel room. Plus, they come with access to a kitchen, which can save you money on meals, and the experience of being part of the life of a real neighborhood.
- House Swaps. You can save even more by spending your weekend in someone else’s home while giving that person access to yours. Platforms like HomeExchange connect you with other travelers looking for a place to stay and help you work out swapping deals with them. If you can’t find someone who wants to travel to your city at the same time you’re going to theirs, that’s OK. You can earn points by hosting guests in your home and spend them on visits to other people’s. All you pay in cash is a membership fee, which is typically less for a full year than the cost of one night at an upscale hotel.
- Dorms. During the summer, colleges have lots of dorm rooms sitting empty. Some schools rent these unused rooms out to travelers as a source of extra cash. This practice is most common in Europe and Australia, but some North American universities also take part. Check out University Rooms to look for available dorm rooms at your destination.
6. Fix Your Own Food
Aside from transportation and lodging, the highest cost of a weekend trip is food. Every time you eat a meal in a restaurant, you pay more than you would to prepare the same meal at home – around five times as much, according to Priceonomics. So, the more meals you eat out while you’re on vacation, the more you pay for food.
The easiest way to cut this cost is to do as much of your own cooking as possible. Cooking your own meals may not sound like a very romantic way to spend the weekend. But with a little imagination, a home-cooked meal can be even more romantic than a candlelit dinner at a fancy restaurant. Here are a few ideas for saving on vacation food:
- Pack a Picnic. For a romantic meal on the road, pack a picnic basket. You can splurge on delicacies like good bread, fresh fruit, smoked salmon, gourmet cheese, and fancy chocolate and still pay less than you would for a restaurant meal. To make it a gourmet experience, pack real plates, silverware, and cloth napkins instead of disposable ones. Then lay out a blanket in a beautiful outdoor spot, unpack your picnic, and take turns feeding each other tidbits.
- Bring Your Own Bottle. The markup on drinks at a bar is even higher than the markup on food at a restaurant. At many resorts, you can expect to pay $10 or more for a single cocktail. To avoid this cost, stow a bottle of good, inexpensive wine and a couple of glasses in your luggage. The Transportation Security Administration allows bottles up to 5 liters in checked baggage and up to 100 milliliters in a carry-ons; corkscrews are allowed only in checked bags. After dinner, uncork your bottle and enjoy a nightcap in your room or out on the balcony under the stars.
- Hit the Supermarket. If you’ve chosen a hotel room or apartment with a kitchen, you can hit the market and pick up ingredients for a simple meal to cook together. Cooking as a couple helps you bond and build intimacy. If you don’t have access to a kitchen, you can still save a good chunk of the cost of a restaurant meal by picking up prepared foods like sushi or rotisserie chicken from the supermarket. Then you can dine in by candlelight and move straight to the bedroom if things get steamy – no need to wait for the check.
7. Take a Road Trip
For an unconventional, inexpensive vacation, try a weekend road trip. With this kind of travel, getting there isn’t just half the fun – it’s the whole point. You can cruise along scenic byways, stopping to explore any interesting spot you happen to pass through. Instead of heading for a destination and looking for ways to entertain yourself there, you make the trip itself the entertainment.
If you’ve only got two days for a road trip, you can’t wander too far from home. To get ideas, do an Internet search for “weekend road trip” plus the name of your hometown. Pick a destination that appeals to you, map out a route, pack your bags, and hit the road. You can plan out places to stay and places to eat ahead of time or make looking for them part of the adventure.
8. Go Camping
Another unconventional alternative to a traditional weekend getaway is a camping trip. Admittedly, sleeping in a tent and cooking over an open fire isn’t everyone’s idea of a romantic way to spend the weekend. But if you’re both outdoorsy types, you can get away from it all by spending a weekend in the woods. What could be more romantic than sharing time in a beautiful outdoor setting by day or under the stars?
Public campgrounds in national or state parks are just about the cheapest places you can stay on vacation. According to TripSavvy, most of them charge no more than $20 per night for a site with fire rings, running water, and clean restrooms. You can even find some completely free campsites, though these usually have no amenities.
If you want to enjoy the outdoors without having to give up the comfort of a roof and a bed, try cabin camping. Cabin and yurt rentals offer basic shelter and access to indoor plumbing for much less than the price of a hotel. On Reserve America, you can find campsites with cabin rentals across the U.S. and Canada. You can also try searching the website of your state park system.
If cabin camping still doesn’t seem romantic enough for your weekend getaway, maybe “glamping,” or glamorous camping, is more your style. This type of camping lets you get close to nature while still enjoying luxuries like a comfortable bed, clean sheets, fine food, and even on-site spas. Though some glamping destinations cost as much as a luxury hotel, others charge less than $150 per night. Check out Glamping.com or Glamping Hub to find glamping sites in your area. You can also rent an RV through Outdoorsy.com.
9. Have a Fabulous Staycation
A staycation is a vacation without the travel. You stay in your own home and sleep in your own bed, but you skip the daily routine of work and chores and spend your time resting and amusing yourself. It’s a way to get away from it all without having to go anywhere.
If your own home doesn’t sound like the best setting for a romantic weekend, know that with a luxury staycation, you can bring the romance to you. Because you don’t have to pay travel or lodging expenses, you can blow your entire vacation budget on dining and entertainment. You can even invest in little luxuries to turn your home into a lavish setting:
- High-thread-count sheets and plush pillows to make your bed feel like one in a luxury hotel
- A new showerhead, fluffy towels, and fancy toiletries to turn your morning shower into a spa experience
- Fresh flowers
- Little mints to put on your pillow before bedtime
- Cleaning or yard services to make your house and yard look fabulous
- Multiple higher-end restaurant meals
- Daily outings to nearby attractions like museums, historic sites, state parks, local beaches, shopping districts, or theaters.
As a bonus, you get to keep enjoying many of these treats after your vacation is over.
Planning a staycation lets you avoid all the hassles of travel. You don’t need to buy tickets, find someone to take in the mail or look after your pets, pack a bag, rush to catch a plane or train, or wait in security lines. You can simply come home from work on Friday and start your vacation immediately.
To make your staycation a true “getaway,” make sure to unplug completely from your everyday routine. Get all your chores done ahead of time, set your email on auto-reply, and turn off your phones. Act just like you’re away from home. When you’re off from the hassles of work and family life, you can concentrate on each other.
10. Don’t Overplan
You definitely want your vacation to include some special activities. One of the biggest reasons to take a trip is to see and do things you can’t see or do at home. That could mean hiking the Grand Canyon, taking in a Broadway show, touring a winery in California, antiquing in New England, or listening to hot jazz in New Orleans.
But it’s not a good idea to schedule every minute of your vacation. Having your entire day planned isn’t romantic – it’s just like being at work. It leaves no room for spur-of-the-moment adventures.
To strike the right balance, schedule just one or two activities for each day of your trip. Unless you’re both morning people, don’t plan anything too early in the day. Sleeping in is part of the pleasure of being on vacation. Give yourself at least until midmorning to wake up, get dressed, and eat breakfast before your first planned activity.
Then leave the rest of the day free to follow your whims. Maybe you’ll decide to go exploring in town, go for a long walk in the woods, take a ride on a ferryboat – or just stay in your room and get frisky. The freedom to do exactly what you’re in the mood for is the key to a truly romantic vacation.
What really makes a weekend getaway romantic is casting your routine aside and focusing on each other for a couple of days. There’s no need to spend lots of money on a luxury resort or a whirlwind trip to Paris. What matters most is spending quality time together.
In some ways, planning your trip on a budget can make it even more romantic. It puts less emphasis on the vacation experience itself – the four-star hotel, the white-sand beach, the bright city lights – and more on the time you spend together. When you’re really in love, it’s not the setting that creates romance. It’s the chance to spend a couple of days enjoying each other’s company.
And anytime you want to save money on vacation — romantic or otherwise — there’s no shortage of ideas.
What was the most romantic trip you’ve ever taken with your significant other? What made it special?