Many smaller towns, or hidden gems, offer affordable lodging and food compared to a well known vacation destination. Big cities are good option to do the large amount of festivals and free things to do, and a typical winter destination can offer off season packages at great prices.
Chesapeake Bay Area
The Chesapeake Bay Area of Maryland offers may family-friend costal towns with sand, light houses, fresh seafood, and calendar full of summer events. Check out Oxford, Smith Island, Rock Hall, or Chesapeake Beach.
Popular ski resorts often offer cheaper deal off-season, especially in the summer. Summer activities in a snow town include rope course, scenic gondola rides, zip lines, and alpine coasters.
Chicago's a great city with a beach (Lake Michigan). It also offers a free 35-acre zoo and a large summer festival schedule. With two major airports serving the city, there are always affordable flight options.
Instead of going with a chain hotel who prices are inflated during the summer months, try finding a local Bed and Breakfast. You can also find other local rentals by using sites such as AirBnB and Homestay. If you're feeling brave, find a local campground. Campgrounds offer great rates even at peak times.
Most airlines try to off load their undersold flights early in the week. According to NerdWallet.com, the best time to book a flight is on a Tuesday at 3pm EST when airlines try to match the prices of the other airlines. Nerd Wallet also says the cheapest days to fly are on Saturdays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays.
The internet is your friend when looking to fly! Follow airline twitter accounts for last minute deals and sites such as Skyscanner. Take advantage of any discounts (senior, military, student) and watch for any additional fees!
Making meals yourself is a no-brainer money saver. Choose lodging that includes a kitchenette (they come complete with pots, pans, and dishes), visit the local grocery store, and cook up your own meals. This can cut your food budget in half! Spend your vacation budget on experiences, not eating out.
Planning your activities before going on vacation is only good for your budget. Use the internet as your resource to find free or low cost activities. Trip Advisor in one of the top websites to use to help you plan your trip and weed out what you want to do vs. what you don't want to do. Or rather what you want to spend your money on and what you don't.