The only thing better than saving money on vacation is finding free things to do on vacation. Forget spending your entire travel budget on overpriced tourist attractions, pricey admission tickets, and expensive events.
If you do a little research before your trip, there are plenty of free things every area has to offer. Here are 15 free things to do on vacation and how to find even more free things to do.
Free Things To Do on Vacation
- Take scenic photos.
Wherever you are, there’s scenery to capture for you to remember forever. Skip putting yourself or your family in the picture, and just take a picture of the scenery.
- Go for a walk.
Walking around an area is the best way to explore. Plus, if you’re walking, you’re saving money on taxis, public transportation, and parking.
- Watch the news.
I never think of turning on the television when I’m traveling, but on my last vacation when I put the news on, I’m glad I did. Listening to the news was an interesting way to get a feel for the area and completely different than the news I watch in Chicago. It’s also a great way to hear about events going on nearby, road closures, and the weather.
- Have a picnic at a park.
Find a park, scenic area, or a place for great people watching, and bring a picnic. You can pack sandwiches or inexpensive food. Better yet, if you’re staying at a hotel that serves free breakfast, take it to go for a change of scenery. Check out nearby parks for free and fun entertainment. Kids will be occupied for hours on the playground equipment. Adults can get some exercise or relax with a book.
- Snap a creative photo and replicate it on every trip.
Beautiful scenery and your family make wonderful photos but think outside the box. I take a photo of the glasses my husband and I are drinking out of at every brewery we visit, and I have them from across the country. Whatever interests you, there’s a picture you can take. Whether it’s food, old cars, flowers, birds and wildlife, even bridges or light posts, start trying to snap pictures of it. If you have kids, let them take a photo of their favorite stuffed animal with a great background.
- Write about it.
I’m a writer so it obviously comes naturally to me to document my trips. But even if writing is not on your list of fun things to do, give it a shot. Simply write what you did everyday. You’d be surprised how quickly you’ll forget all the little things that happened to you, the foods you ate, and the sites you saw that made it a great trip.
- Find a festival.
Every area offers festivals and fairs all year long. Depending on where you are, you can find festivals based around music, art, food or other outdoor activities. My hometown of Chicago has hundreds of festivals during the summer and fall including ones celebrating ethnicities like the Italian Festival and the Greek Festival.
- Relax at the beach.
Look for a nearby beach for some fun and relaxation. Kids will love playing in the sand and collecting seashells. Adults can get exercise walking the beach, swimming if the water is safe, or engaging in a game of beach volleyball. If it’s rest you’re looking for, enjoying the picturesque surroundings and people watching are also some of the many entertaining and free ways to enjoy the beach.
- Read about where you are.
No matter where you are traveling, there is a history, a story, and interesting things to learn. Visit the library to grab a book about the location or grab your computer to search to read up on the topic. Finding out what makes the place unique is a great way to appreciate it even more.
- Visit free museums.
Search for free museums in the area for a fun activity. Even popular museums offer days and times you can get in for free. But many smaller museums offer completely free entry. For example, Chicago’s famous art museum charges an entry fee, but there are several other art museums that are totally free like the Museum of Contemporary Photography and the Museum of Mexican Art.
- Go to Farmers Markets.
Visiting a Farmer’s Market is one of my favorite things to do while traveling for free entertainment. You can see the unique fruits, vegetables, and other products from the area. Best of all, most vendors offer free tastings and samples of their product. When I was in South Dakota, I got to sample local coffee, wine, and chocolate for free. To find a nearby Farmers Market, ask around and check out Local Harvest’s website.
- Talk to locals.
Simply having a conversation with a local is completely free entertainment. You can find out what it’s really like to live there. Speaking to a local is also the best way to find cheap places to eat and other inexpensive hidden gems.
- Play games.
You’re never too old to play a game while you’re traveling. If you’re on a road trip, bring along your favorite games for entertainment. Whether it’s a tennis racket, a volleyball, a baseball and bat, or a football, when you come across a place to play, you’ll be ready.
- Visit a National Park.
If you’re traveling in America, visit a National or State Park. These parks have been preserved simply for your enjoyment. For kids, it’s a good opportunity to teach them about nature, wildlife, and the environment with a first hand experience. National and State Parks have plenty of activities for everyone. Many times you can bike, hike, fish, swim, and camp. Visit the National Park’s website to find a nearby park.
How to Find More Free Things To Do
The above list is a general list for every location, but it’s a good idea to find specific things for your destination. For example, see Free Things To Do in Chicago or Free Things to Do in Las Vegas.
Start off by visiting your location’s official travel website. Many sites will offer a list of totally free things to do. You can also simply do a Google or Pinterest search to find free things to do as well. A reader suggested using Trip Advisor, which also offers a list of free attractions. Once you are there, ask locals, the hotel staff, or anyone else you come in contact with for advice on free things.
What free things do you do on vacation?