A cheap Cape Cod family vacation? Is there such a thing? Absolutely!
With just $500 (or less!) in your vacation budget, your family can easily have a fantastic week-long getaway on Cape Cod MA. Let me show you how.
For this sample itinerary, I've chosen the scenic, centrally-located town of Brewster as your vacation home base.
Note: As you'll see below, you can have an amazingly wallet-friendly vacation in other Cape Cod towns, too. And you can do it on less than $500/week without sacrificing any comfort or fun!
*This sample budget is for a family of four (2 adults and 2 children) vacationing in peak season. Activity costs are estimated based on 4 adult admissions, and food costs on adult meals for 4.
For a super-affordable place to stay, you can't beat camping at Nickerson State Park.
Covering more than 1900 acres of woodlands, fields, and freshwater ponds, Nickerson is (in my humble opinion) the premier state park in Massachusetts - and perhaps in all of New England.
At Nickerson, it's all right there for you. Swimming, boating, fishing, miles of walking and bike trails, plus lots of free family activities. All in one of the prettiest settings you can imagine.
A Summer Day at Cliff Pond
For under $30 a night, you can pitch your tent or set up your camper on one of 400 wooded or pond-view sites.
If you're able to up your lodging budget somewhat, Nickerson also has furnished yurts that rent for $45-50 a night for a 4-person yurt and $55-60 a night for a 6-person yurt.
TIP: Prime campsites sell out quickly. You can sometimes find a vacancy at the last minute, but I wouldn't count on it. (Yurt vacancies are even tougher to get - they're often snapped up a year or more in advance.)
To be sure you don't miss out, it's a good idea to make reservations as soon as you decide on your vacation dates!
No spots available at Nickerson for your vacation dates?
Try one of the other state parks on Cape Cod:
"Self catering", as our British friends so delicately refer to cooking your own meals, definitely keeps vacation food expenses down.
But come on - this is a vacation, after all. In my humble opinion, vacation isn't vacation without a few special meals to sample the local fare.
I've included the cost of a lobster feast for the whole family in your Cape Cod vacation budget.
From Nickerson State Park, several supermarkets are only a few minutes away. Call or stop by, order your lobsters, and they'll cook 'em up for you to take out.
Grab a few sides like corn on the cob, potato or macaroni salad, and crusty bread. You'll be all set for an extra-special Cape Cod picnic dinner!
Seafood prices vary from week to week, depending on catch conditions and market rates. I usually get four nice-sized lobsters for around $60. That's much less than you'll pay in most restaurants ;-)
With a $175 food budget, you'll also be able to have a few restaurant meals ... like lunch at Cobie's, my favorite lunch stop on the bike trail near Nickerson State Park.
Try Cobie's fresh fish sandwich. It's lightly breaded and fried, served on a soft roll. Soooo good!
The sweet potato fries are to die for, too.
If you're driving instead of biking there, you'll find Cobie's on Main Street (Rt. 6A) in Brewster.
In many other popular summer vacation destinations, the cost of entertainment takes a big whack out of the family vacation budget. But not on Cape Cod!
Around here, a fantastic family vacation can easily be built around the many free and low-cost activities and attractions our area offers. And the beauty of it is ... the kids will be so busy having the time of their lives, they'll never realize that you're going cheap :-)
Here are some cool things to do that're well within your $100 entertainment budget:
Just a short bikeride from Nickerson State Park are some gorgeous Cape Cod Bay beaches, including the one in this photo - Linnell Landing.
As you can see, Linnell Landing is more than just a lovely stretch of sand - it's a handicap accessible beach, too.
During the summer months, non-residents need a special sticker to park at the saltwater beaches in Brewster. There's no fee to walk or bike in.
Family Programs & Activities at the Park
Nickerson has a full lineup of free summer family vacation programs, including birdwatching, guided hikes, geocaching, and lots more.
If your family isn't all that keen on "organized" vacation activities, you'll still find plenty to keep you busy around the park, at absolutely no charge.
Are you into fishing? I've heard that the park's Cliff Pond is a good spot to wet a line for smallmouth bass. I can't vouch for that personally, as I'm a saltwater fishing girl. But I'll take the freshwater guys' word for it!
For family fun on wheels, Nickerson has 8 miles of bike trails in the park that connect to the 22-mile long Cape Cod Rail Trail bikeway. The Rail Trail runs all the way out to Wellfleet on the National Seashore. Ride as far as you'd like, stop along the way for a picnic, and explore the area!
Bring Your Own Kayak
Catch a Rising Star
Trivia time ...
Question: What do these famous Major League baseball players all have in common?
Answer: Before they became famous, they all played in the Cape Cod Baseball League - the premier amateur summer league in the country.
Catch a Brewster Whitecaps home game at Stony Brook Field, and who knows ... you might be lucky enough to see a future MLB Hall of Famer in action!
Best of all, there's no admission charge to attend the games. Donations are appreciated. We usually give $10 when they pass the hat, but you can certainly feel free to give more or less. It's entirely voluntary.
Visit an Atlantic Ocean Beach
Brewster's Cape Cod Bay coastline is gorgeous, no doubt about it. But there's nothing quite as spectacular as our Atlantic Ocean coastline with it's huge expanses of dune-backed beaches and crashing surf.
It's only about a 15-minute drive from Nickerson State Park to Nauset Beach - a big, beautiful Atlantic Ocean beach the neighboring town of Orleans MA.
Whether you take a spin down to have a quick peek and dip your toes in the water, or you decide to spend a whole day there, a visit to Nauset Beach should be at the top of your Cape Cod family vacation "must do" list"!
Liam's, the snack bar at Nauset Beach, serves up the best onion rings known to mankind. And on Monday and Thursday evenings in July and August, there are free family-friendly concerts at the beach gazebo.
Factor a bite to eat at Liam's and a $20 daily Nauset Beach parking fee into your food and entertainment budget. You'll be glad you did!
Believe it or not, you can actually slash your lodging budget to $75 a week and stay right on the shoreline - if you have a self-contained camper that's equipped to travel oversand. Find out more, here.
For Cape Cod seafood extravaganzas "on the cheap", don't buy it - catch it!
Bring your fishing rods and go surfcasting. Take the family on a clam digging adventure. For the very modest cost of a saltwater fishing license and a shellfishing permit, the whole family can have tons of fun catching a delicious meals!
Have a wonderful Cape Cod family vacation!