You don’t need a big budget to enjoy a vacation across this beautiful country of ours. With some planning and creativity, you can see amazing sights and make wonderful memories without breaking the bank. In this article, we’ll explore affordable vacation destinations all over America that offer great value. From coast to coast, big cities to small towns, natural wonders to manmade marvels, there are so many thrifty trips you can take right here at home.
We’ll share insider tips to keep costs low, like scoring deals on flights and hotels or trying alternative lodging. You’ll discover places well suited for road trips where the journey is part of the fun. And we’ll point you toward free attractions and wallet-friendly local finds at many spots. So get ready to be inspired to book your next economical getaway, learn more with us!
Budget-Friendly Destinations From Maine to Florida
When planning an affordable U.S. road trip, consider heading up the East Coast. There are many budget-friendly destinations from Maine all the way down to Florida that won’t break the bank.
Explore the rugged coastline, lighthouses and lobster shacks of Maine. Acadia National Park offers stunning scenery with granite cliffs, woodlands and beaches— and admission is only $30 per vehicle. The coastal town of Bar Harbor is a popular and picturesque base camp for activities like kayaking, sailing, and whale watching tours. Indulge in Maine’s famous lobster rolls, chowders and blueberry pie without paying premium prices.
Our nation’s capital has many free attractions like the Smithsonian museums, monuments and government buildings. Take a stroll around the National Mall and soak in the history. Georgetown is a charming area to shop and dine. Just a few hours away, Shenandoah National Park in Virginia offers gorgeous foliage and hiking with no entrance fee.
Head south to the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Asheville is an artsy city in the midst of the scenic Great Smoky Mountains. It’s home to the immense Biltmore Estate as well as a thriving craft beer scene. Nearby, the Blue Ridge Parkway spans 469 miles through the mountains with stunning viewpoints, hiking trails and campgrounds. Admission to the parkway and most attractions are free.
End your trip in the Sunshine State. Orlando’s theme parks can be pricey, but city neighborhoods like Winter Park and Thornton Park have a hip, laid-back vibe with outdoor cafes, art galleries and boutiques. Head to the Florida Keys for a beach getaway among palm trees, turquoise waters and Key lime pie.
Dry Tortugas National Park is largely undeveloped with secluded beaches, snorkeling, camping and historic forts. Ferry rides to the park start around $170 per person including park admission.
Low-Cost Vacations From the Great Lakes to the Great Plains
If you want to experience the Midwest on a budget, consider visiting some of America’s Great Lakes or vast prairies. This region is filled with natural wonders and small towns with lots of charm.
The five Great Lakes offer sandy beaches, picturesque lighthouses, historic forts, and opportunities for fishing, boating, and other watersports. Head to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to explore Lake Superior’s rugged shoreline dotted with waterfalls. Check out Lake Michigan’s “sunrise side” in eastern Wisconsin, home to charming beach towns like Sheboygan and Manitowoc. Or visit Ohio’s Lake Erie islands, like laid-back Put-in-Bay. Affordable lodging options include campgrounds, cabins, B&Bs, and motels.
Prairies as far as the eye can see. Massive herds of bison. Stunning sunsets. The Great Plains remain largely unspoiled, with wide open spaces perfect for a road trip adventure. Badlands National Park in South Dakota is ideal for scenic drives, hiking, camping, and wildlife viewing. Nearby is Wall Drug, a famous roadside attraction open since 1931. Head to Kansas to see massive herds of bison at Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve.
Travel to Nebraska’s Sandhills, home to picturesque dunes, lakes, and one of the largest hand-planted forests in the world. Motels, campsites, and cabins provide budget-friendly lodging across the Plains. Whether gazing at the waters of the Great Lakes or taking in the sunset over an amber sea of prairie grass, the Midwest offers natural beauty and small-town charm without the big price tags of other destinations. Fill your itinerary with free and low-cost attractions and enjoy an affordable getaway in America’s heartland.
West Coast Getaways on a Budget
The west coast of the U.S. offers stunning natural beauty and vibrant cities, but it can be expensive to visit. Luckily, there are plenty of budget-friendly vacation options if you know where to look.
Explore the Pacific Northwest
Head to Portland, Oregon or Seattle, Washington to experience the lush forests and laid-back vibes of the Pacific Northwest without breaking the bank. In Portland, stroll through gorgeous parks, visit quirky cafes, and check out the food cart scene.
Seattle also has lots of free attractions like Pike Place Market, Chihuly Garden and Glass, and Discovery Park. Both cities offer budget-friendly transit and accommodation options.
Soak in the Desert Scenery
The deserts of California, Arizona, and Nevada are ideal for an affordable road trip. In Joshua Tree National Park, you can camp under starry skies and hike through rugged desert terrain with scenic mountain vistas for just $30 per vehicle. Nearby Palm Springs also has stylish yet affordable boutique hotels and an exciting dining scene. For a unique experience, stay in a wigwam in Wigwam Motel on Route 66 in Arizona.
Enjoy the Southern California Sunshine
Head south to Los Angeles and San Diego for an idyllic beach getaway. In L.A., walk along Venice Beach, stroll Rodeo Drive, and hike to the Hollywood sign. Accommodation and dining options for budget-conscious travelers abound. San Diego also offers lovely beaches, Balboa Park, and the San Diego Zoo. Look for hotel deals and buy multi-day passes to save on attractions.
The western U.S. is filled with stunning scenery and world-class cities that are perfect for an affordable summer escape or road trip adventure. By visiting in the shoulder seasons, using public transit, and choosing more budget-friendly destinations and accommodation, you can experience the best of the west coast without breaking the bank.