It's getting to be summertime, and the living should be easy. But if you've ever priced out a week-long vacation, you already know what a shocking experience it can be. Even when you're frugal, the costs that come with domestic and international travel are inescapable and really add up quickly.
Not only are you on the hook for lodging at a hotel or resort typically, but you may also have to pay for airfare, a rental car, resort fees and travel-related taxes. And if you want to have any fun or eat, your expenses won't stop there. Add in the cost of park tickets, excursions, shows, and meals and you're ponying up a great deal of cash for your relaxing getaway.
Combined, all of these costs can take a heavy toll on the average American family's pocketbook. According to a recent study from American Express, an average vacation in 2013 cost approximately $1,145 per person, or $4,580 for a family of four. That's a whole lot of money to spend for an annual trip, especially when you consider the fact that the median household income still sits at around $52,000 a year.
Choosing a vacation rental instead
Of course, thanks to the Internet, it is now far easier to find an affordable option for your family vacation. In fact, disruptive technologies and new vacation rental websites like AirBNB.com, VRBO.com, and HomeAway.com have made it much easier to find a cheap vacation rental that you can actually afford.
Fortunately, this type of vacation has the potential to create other types of vacation savings as well. Here are some of the biggest benefits that come with renting a vacation home or condo:
Vacation rentals typically have a full or partial kitchen — Renting a vacation home or condo usually means having access to a full or partial kitchen. If you are able to use that kitchen to make most of your meals at your home away from home, you could save a bundle compared to what you might spend at local eateries.
Many vacation rentals offer on-site amenities and entertainment — If you rent a vacation rental that is part of a community association or condo complex, you might gain free access to on-site pools, spas, and amenities. Lakefront rentals may also have free-to-use grilling stations or public beaches.
You can probably find a nice vacation rental within driving distance of your home — It really depends on where you live, but most people can find a vacation home or condo to rent within driving distance of their homes. If you don't live near the ocean, consider rentals on a lake, in the mountains, or in the big city.
Vacation rentals are usually roomier than traditional hotel rooms — Most typical hotel rooms have two full-size beds, a TV, and maybe a mini fridge. Vacation rentals, on the other hand, typically have multiple bedrooms, a living room, and plenty of extra room to spread out and relax.
10 waterfront rentals for less than $1,000 per week
With all of those perks in mind, we created this list of waterfront rentals for less than $1,000 per week just to show how doable this is no matter where you live in the country. By choosing a waterfront rental, you can save not only on lodging but also on entertainment. Who doesn't enjoy reading a book with the soft surf in the background while watching their kids play on the beach?
These vacation rentals can help you do just that for less than $1,000 per week:
Lake Superior, Michigan (VRBO Listing #23069)
For just $136 per night ($952 per week), you can spend a week directly on the shores of Lake Superior in a two-bedroom cottage that sleeps five.
The gradual beach is great for children to play in, and the area is home to eagles, blue herons, and many birds. Kayaking and fishing seem to be the favored summer pastimes.
Make homemade meals in the full kitchen, enjoy spectacular sunrises and moonrises over the water, and have a bonfire by the water at night.
Panama City Beach, Florida (VRBO Listing #38418)
For just $995 per week in fall and $699 per week during late fall, you can book the two-bedroom beachfront condo in this beautiful area of Florida.
In addition to a beachfront balcony, this condo also offers access to a powder-white sand beach, a beachfront pool, and a pool that is partially indoors.
The condo actually sleeps eight and is located on the quiet, west end of Panama City “known for its natural beauty and sunsets.” According to the owner, the stars at night are “to die for.”
Virginia Beach, Virginia (VRBO Listing #576557)
Here is a good example of the amenities inside one of these condos. It has two bedrooms and sleeps seven people, but it's just $840 per week or less from Labor Day throughout the end of the year.
A family could spend time enjoying the pool, swimming in the ocean, or grilling outdoors on one of the resort's high-quality community grills. But the living room area also has a nice TV and a game table for some evening family entertainment on the cheap.
Douglas Lake, Tennessee (Roberts Retreat from Lakefront Cabin Rentals)
Sitting directly on Douglas Lake, this one-bedroom cabin sleeps six and features a full kitchen with a loft — and, at only $125 per night for up to four guests, it's a steal.
Apparently, there is a lot to do in this area of Tennessee, from whitewater rafting to visiting Dollywood. Of course, there's fishing on the lake, and the screened-in porch on this unit has a queen-sized swinging bed that sounds perfect for curling up and reading a book or telling tall tales at sunset.
Lake Tahoe, California (VRBO Listing #479512)
It could be hard to pass on the chance to experience the beauty that is Lake Tahoe. But this two-bedroom Lake Tahoe respite could be the reason you get to explore everything Tahoe has to offer.
This rental features a full kitchen, with plenty of room to sleep six, and has killer views, all for just $875 per week.
It is close to South Lake Tahoe and has plenty of sporting activities within reach — such as, hiking, jet-skiing, mountain climbing, biking, and golf for starters.
Crane Lake, Minnesota (VRBO Listing #165014)
Four hours north of Minneapolis/St. Paul is a four-bedroom home that sleeps nine and features everything that lakefront living in Minnesota has to offer.
For just $800 per week, you can relax with a good book, swim in the crisp water, or fish off your private dock or small beach. There are boat rentals and a golf course nearby, and the fishing is close to legendary.
It might also be a good idea to pack your passports since it is so close to the Canadian border.
Donner Lake, California (VRBO Listing #67310)
Just north of the Lake Tahoe area is Donner Lake where, for just $975 per week, you can enjoy beautiful views, plenty of space, and your own waterfront wilderness. It looks like meals on the deck would be amazing in this spot.
With two bedrooms, the house sleeps six people and is close to the public beach. You can also rent kayaks and paddleboats — or even bring your own boat! Donner Lake is pretty accessible from Highway 80. So you wouldn't be far from a show in Reno if you just had to add some pizazz to your vacation.
Orange Beach, Alabama (VRBO Listing #64360)
For around $1,000 during summer and only $805 this fall, you can book this ground-floor two-bedroom condo that sits directly on the Gulf of Mexico.
With the ocean and beachfront pool just outdoors, you might never run out of things to do because the area is also popular for all sorts of watersports and activities from boating to snorkeling. But it also seems like the perfect place to unwind with a good book and your toes in the sand.
Corea Harbor, Maine (VRBO Listing #457699)
This one-bedroom cottage/boat house in Maine sleeps five and offers something for everyone.
This is one of the more economical rentals at just $730 per week. Enjoy the view of the harbor, relax on the sunny beach, go rockwalking at low tide, or pick wild blueberries.
Once here, you are close to famed Acadia National Park. And oh, by the way, you can buy lobster right off the boat in this quaint, little fishing village.
Little Bitterroot Lake, Montana (VRBO Listing #489182)
This one-bedroom house sleeps four and features a wide stretch of lakefront footage, plenty of sunshine, and close proximity to Glacier National Park.
You can swim with the fish, grill out on your private patio, or just enjoy the mountain views for around $850 per week. But there is golf, sky diving, hiking, fishing, and rock climbing nearby as well.
Stretching your vacation dollar
If you have been saving all year (or longer) for a vacation, a rental is often a more economical choice given how many other ways you can save. You may actually find that you are able to afford more activities than you would have otherwise, making your vacation memories even better.
Most of these rentals were found on VRBO.com, but vacation rentals can easily be found on the other sites mentioned. (The listing number is given in case you want to search for it in Google and read more about each unit.)
Have you ever rented a waterfront vacation rental? What are your best tips for saving on a week-long vacation?
Author: Holly Johnson
Holly Johnson is a credit card expert, award-winning writer, and mother of two who is obsessed with frugality, budgeting, and travel. In addition to serving as contributing editor for The Simple Dollar and writing for publications such as Bankrate, U.S. News and World Report Travel, and Travel Pulse, Johnson owns Club Thrifty and is the co-author of Zero Down Your Debt: Reclaim Your Income and Build a Life You’ll Love.