Brace yourself for some cheap vacation ideas

So, you're owed some leave from your job, and you want to go on vacation. But thinking about the sheer expense of it makes you want to cry. What to do? Well, you could spend your time off work at home sighing. Or you could find a way to make your limited cash stretch far enough to get you on an awesome trip. With a bit of planning, that well-earned change of scenery could be within your grasp. If you've left it a bit late, don't panic—there's sure to be a last-minute bargain with your name on it.

Who needs a 5-star hotel when you can stay in a cabin?

OK, perhaps there is something to be said for 24-hour room service, luxury spas, and haute cuisine, but you can have a vacation that’s just as memorable without any of those things. Keep it simple and rent a retro RV near a national park, a mobile home beside the sea, or even a houseboat on a lake. Get the location right, and you’ll have a cozy pad to return to after a busy day’s hiking, sunbathing or kayaking, and all without a private butler constantly getting under your feet.

Try a groovy getaway cabin in Colorado

If you feel like heading for the Rocky Mountains but have discovered that a chalet in Aspen is a little beyond your means, don’t despair. There are plenty of simple but stylish vacation rentals in less perilously expensive Colorado locations, where you’ll be able to enjoy mountain walks, and spend your evenings curled up beside a log fire. Couples looking for quality time on a sensible budget could book a rustic cabin just for two—you may even get lucky and score a pad with a hot tub. Pick a place with a deck, and marvel at the big sky.

Rent a cottage or a condo in Tennessee

If you’re looking to combine the great outdoors with old-fashioned family fun, Tennessee is a good place to consider a vacation rental. Whether you’re heading for the roller coasters of Pigeon Forge, or the caves of Chattanooga, the landscape is dotted with vacation homes for rent at amenable prices. You can always stay away from the money-sapping attractions and hit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, where you'll find miles of hiking and biking trails. Why not rent a condo with a shared pool, and let the kids tire themselves out at no extra cost?

Have an affordable vacation beside the sea

Let’s face it, Key West is off the menu. It’s already been discovered, millions of people want to go there, and everything costs a fortune. If you steer clear of the upscale spots, though, you could find a vacation home rental that won’t have you pawning a kidney to cover the cost. Put your ear to the ground, and find a destination that’s not yet hit the big time, and you'll end up staying on a world-class beach at a fraction of the cost. Book a cozy bungalow, or join up with some like-minded friends to split the cost of a bigger pad.

Dig the dolphins at Fort Myers Beach, FL

Fort Myers Beach offers plenty of cabins, apartments, and tiny houses to choose from, and wherever you end up, you won’t be far from the seashore. With miles of white sand right on your doorstep, and the regular sight of dolphins leaping though the waves, you’ll find you don’t need to be the CEO of a Fortune 500 company to enjoy the Florida beach life; and remember, those jaw-dropping sunsets are free of charge. Visit in the fall for the best chance of scoring a cheap vacation rental while the weather's still on your side.

Watch the seabirds flying at Galveston

If you're looking for a cheap vacation by a Texas beach, Galveston has 32 miles of sand, so there’s plenty to go around. Stay downtown and get your fairground fix at the Pleasure Pier, with its roller coasters and Ferris wheel, or pick an affordable vacation home rental on a quieter stretch of shore for the more serene experience. Get hiking at Galveston Island State Park to experience protected sand dunes and wetlands, and spot some fabulous wildlife, from seabirds to armadillos.