Traveling can get expensive—but even if you’re on a budget you can still take an unforgettable vacation. Going on a trip always requires planning, but when you are trying to stretch those funds a bit it sometimes also requires a little creativity and a dash of research.
The best part is, there are plenty of budget-friendly destinations in the U.S. to choose from and they run the gamut from beautiful state parks to family-friendly destinations and everything in between. So no matter where you want to go, these destinations will give you an unforgettable experience – without breaking the bank.
The prices below are from GoBankingRates and estimate costs for a family of four unless otherwise indicated.
7 Albuquerque, New Mexico
Albuquerque makes almost every list of affordable U.S. vacation destinations—and it’s easy to see why. New Mexico’s largest city is chock full of things to do for the entire family. A city full of culture, history, and amazing scenery, Albuquerque is an eclectic mix of modern and traditional, from its tourist destinations like a bustling downtown to its historic sites in Old Town Albuquerque. It’s also the hot-air ballooning capital of the world, so you can get an eagle-eye view of this popular vacation spot all year round. If you’re looking to save even more money, be sure to book in the summer for the best travel deals on flights and hotels.
Average Hotel/Night: $49
Cost of Meals/Day: $196
Other Attractions: Albuquerque Biological Park, American International Rattlesnake Museum
6 St. Augustine, Florida
Sure going to Disney is great and Miami Beach is a hotspot for nightlife and beachy fun. But if you’re looking for a trip that’s a little easier on the wallet, consider St. Augustine. The oldest city in the continental U.S., St. Augustine is full of history and fun things to do. Plus, you can still max and relax and enjoy the ocean view as the city has over 40 miles of beaches where you can swim and tan ’til your heart’s content. Check out travel deals during the fall months, though hurricane season can sometimes affect travel.
Average Hotel/Night: $70
Cost of Meals/Day: $148
Other Attractions: Pirate & Treasure Museum, Fountain of Youth Archeological Park, Castillo de San Marcos National Monument
5 Colorado Springs, Colorado
Despite being nestled at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, Colorado Springs is still over a mile above sea level. If you’re looking for a summer trip where the temps aren’t through the roof, this might be the destination for you. With plenty of free attractions, including scenic drives, picturesque picnics, and plenty of outdoor activities like hiking and biking, Colorado Springs is the perfect combination of wilderness wonder and a charming downtown experience. Check for bargains from March to May and from September to October when tourist travel is down.
Average Hotel/Night: $200
Cost of Meals/Day: $191
Other Attractions: Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, North Cheyenne Cañon Park, Garden of the Gods
4 San Antonio, Texas
With so much history and fun things to see and do, it’s no wonder San Antonio is a favorite of travelers everywhere. And yes, it’s the home of the Alamo—so be sure to check out this major U.S. landmark. Visitors can enjoy many free activities like exploring the bustling downtown, having a picnic at Brackenridge Park, and strolling along the River Walk to get a view of the San Antonio River and check out the vibrant restaurant scene. The best time to book is between November and April when the prices (and the temperatures!) are down. If you want to explore parks like Six Flags Fiesta Water Park or Natural Bridge Caverns, you can save $$ by picking up a Go San Antonio Pass.
Average Hotel/Night: $63
Cost of Meals/Day: $167
Other Attractions: San Antonio Zoo, San Antonio Missions National Historic Park, San Fernando Cathedral
3 Williamsburg, Virginia
History buffs will love Williamsburg. Travel back in time to Colonial America and enjoy the immersive experience of being surrounded by historic reenactments, costumed performers, and a ton of museums. Nearby Yorktown and Jamestown also have plenty to do, and kids and grownups alike will have a blast at nearby Williamsburg’s Busch Gardens. To try and save a little, purchase a combo pack if you plan on visiting multiple sites throughout the city.
Average Hotel/Night: $59
Cost of Meals/Day: $204
Top Attractions: American Revolution Museum, Jamestown Ferry (free), Williamsburg Premium Outlets
State parks are great destinations for anyone looking to enjoy the outdoors on a budget. Chock full of things to do and with scenery that can’t be beaten, the U.S. has plenty of state parks that have small entrance fees and spots for camping (and RVing) if you feel like saving on hotels.
2 Glacier National Park, Montana
Hike, swim, and fish all day and stargaze at night. Be sure to check out the glaciers and crystal clear lakes. The best time to visit in July and August, though if you want to save a little the park is open all year round—just be sure to plan accordingly.
Hours: Open 24/7, 365 days/year
Fees: By Car/7-day permit: $35, By Single Entry: $20, Annual Pass: $70.00
Camping Fees: Between $10-$23/Night during the summer season
Top Attractions: Going-to-the-Sun Road, over 700 miles of hiking trails, gorgeous vistas, and plenty of wildlife.
1 Olympic National Park, Washington
A variety of vistas await as visitors can see everything from mountains to rainforests. With over 1 million (!) acres to explore, there is a plethora of outdoor activities, diverse wildlife, and scenic views a-plenty. The best time to visit is July through August when all the facilities are open and there are more options for affordable activities.
Hours: Open 24/7, 365 days/year
Fees: Per Vehicle (Non-commercial): $30.00, Per Person and Bicyclists: $15, Annual Pass $55
Camping Fees: Camping costs vary depending on the campground, but are generally anywhere from $15-$44/night.
Top Attractions: Discover the dazzling night sky with Night Sky Programs, go tide pooling and check out a variety of marine mammals, or take a day hike to check out the park’s diverse landscapes.
There are plenty of places in the U.S. to explore on a budget. With a little planning, some creativity, minimal research, and a bit of luck, you can plan an unforgettable vacation that is both fun and budget-friendly.
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