Summer break usually means long weekends, get togethers, and even a family vacation or two. However, the summer of 2020 is anything but normal given the COVID-19 crisis along with economic uncertainty.

So, how does someone make the most out of the summer of 2020 while living under COVID-19 restrictions? And how do you do this without breaking your budget?

Whether you have a long weekend or just need a break from being in quarantine lockdown, we’ve created a list of money-savings tips and ideas that you can use today and still enjoy this summer.

Summer Vacation and Long Weekends

If you have an upcoming trip or vacation that was booked prior to the rise of the COVID-19 crisis, consider all options. The coronavirus situation in the United States is constantly changing and could affect your plans.

If this is the case, pay attention to not only the number of cases in the destination you are about to visit, but also what restrictions state and local governments are doing in their area. The Washington Post offers a free resource to track coronavirus cases. Regardless of where you get your news, ask yourself, are these numbers and any public restrictions something you can live with on your vacation? How will it affect your experience and what are the risks?

If you’re fine with the restrictions, enjoy your vacation and practice safe CDC recommendations. However, if you decide to cancel, make sure you do your research first. Meaning, review any cancellation fees or penalties.

If there are penalties, talk to whomever you booked your trip(s) with and request a credit for any penalties assessed. The bottom line is you may need to pay some sort of penalty, and paying a penalty is a lot better than getting sick. By asking for a credit towards a future vacation, you are showing that you are still committed to the vacation – the timing is just wrong.

What about if you have yet to book your summer vacation or are on the fence on taking a vacation? You can still go ahead and book your trip, just consider all your options in case you need to cancel. Remember, sometimes paying a little more money for flexibility (travel insurance, etc.) is worth it given the current environment.

Also consider booking your vacation on Airbnb or VRBO in order to reserve a vacation rental with plenty of room for everyone and a place to cook meals. This last part is vital given the changing restrictions on public places like restaurants and coffee shops.

And don’t forget that a staycation is an obvious alternative to the traditional summer vacation. This can either be literally staying home and acting like a tourist or traveling to the next town or two over and securing a vacation rental there.

Food, Entertainment and Just Plain Fun

We get it, you need a break. COVID-19 has upset daily life and Americans are probably suffering from the worst case of cabin fever in quite some time. Depending on where you live, some businesses are still closed or have closed again. Given this, what low-cost or free options are available this summer?

When it comes to food, Americans love to eat out. It’s an experience and destination with friends or loved ones that’s hard to get anywhere else. Unfortunately, this may need to be put on hold for a while. So, we recommend sticking to cooking your own meals whenever possible and buying food in bulk at your local warehouse store.

And while you at it, why not learn how to cook something new? During the last 90 days, I’ve personally learned how to cook amazing pita chips, homemade banana bread, and gummy bears. =)

When it comes to entertainment, your options are endless. Again, you are probably suffering from cabin fever, but consider taking a lazy weekend and watch that movie you’ve been meaning to watch or binge a TV show. I know, it sounds like work or you’ve already done this and have moved to binging obscure sitcoms from the 1980’s but hear us out.

With the number of unemployed Americans and employees working from home, there are some amazing offers out there for low-cost or free access to top-notch entertainment via streaming services.

First off, cancel any subscriptions that you rarely use. Then, consider changing your streaming services each or every other month. Most streaming services offer month-to-month contracts and are similarly priced. Given this, one month you can have HBO and binge your programs while the next month is Netflix and you binge your programs then.

Next, don’t forget about any streaming services that offer free trials. Most trials last anywhere from 7 to 14 days. Given this, you could jump to Apple tv, take out a free trial of Showtime, and once it expires simply take out another Showtime free trial on YouTubeTV. Continue this practice until you’ve exhausted all free trials. You’d be amazed how much free content is out there.

Speaking of free, consider getting out of the house more and enjoying the outdoors this summer. We know that may be difficult during COVID-19 restrictions, but think about that last time you were stressed out and went for a walk to clear your head. If you’ve had this experience, then you know how great it feels to be outside in the fresh air and move your body.

If you’re working from home or unemployed, you probably have heightened levels of all kinds of stress. If you do, it’s even more important to leave the box you live in and get outside and enjoy nature.

Whether you’re camping, hiking or just need a place to read a book, consider using one of your local parks. Chances are, these are either free destinations or cost little money to visit.

Before you venture out to the great outdoors, make sure you double check any adjusted hours and any COVID-19 restrictions.

In doing research for this article, we noticed a number of virtual tours and webcams that are available for free on the internet. It’s not as great as being there, but it’s better than that 1980’s sitcom I mentioned before. If you’re interested in learning more about free or low-cost virtual tours, we recommend this list of museums, zoos, and theme parks by Good Housekeeping and this list of museum virtual tours from Travel and Leisure.

Take Time to Better Yourself

Recently, Microsoft announced an initiative to address unemployment and other COVID-19 effects on our economy. This is great news for those who need this type of support to prepare for a changing workplace.

This summer may be a great opportunity to skip the normal vacation and relaxation sessions and instead focus on yourself. The money you save from not taking a vacation or throwing that July 4th party could be used to either pay off debt or better yet, learn a new skill or certification.

One resource that is highly recommended and always overlooked is your local public library. We know, libraries aren’t sexy – but realize that regardless of where you live, your local library most likely has some amazing and free resources.

For example, the Orange County Public Library System here in Orlando has not only resources for job skills or learning a new language, but also offers free access to Lynda.com and all of their courses. And this is just one library system. I also took some time to review other public libraries and the vast majority have some sort of online resource center to help people learn something new.

Note that you generally have to have a library account in good standing at your local library in order to benefit from some third party resources. If you have a bad relationship with your local library – we won’t ask – then remember there are other free resources out there that also offers free educational content for bettering yourself. Examples of this include Cousera, Codecademy, and Stanford Online.

If bettering yourself isn’t of interest to you, then take some time this summer and work on some projects to “better” your house or rental. Pay attention to sales from local retailers – if someone has paint on sale for an incredible price, maybe skip that long weekend break and stay home and pain the inside of your house.

In closing, hopefully the above has helped you with some ideas of how best to enjoy the summer of 2020 while staying healthy and happily frugal. And if you already have money saved up for a summer trip but have decided to just lie low, consider putting that money in a separate savings account for next summer. =)

If we missed anything or you have a comment, let us know below. We’d love to hear from you.