The Quick Report

20 Affordable Vacation Ideas

No need to travel abroad for rich history or breathtaking beaches. There are beautiful locations to see and thrilling activities to enjoy right in America’s backyard. Here are 20 affordable vacation spots in the good ol’ USA.

20. Williamsburg

brown bricked building
Photo by Christian Alvarez

This Virginia town is affordable and educational, with over 400 years of American history. If you’re looking for some great shopping, Williamsburg also features premium outlets for a discounted spree. Visit in the fall or spring to avoid summer crowds and uncomfortable temperatures. If you do visit in summer, check out the free outdoor concerts in nearby Yorktown.

19. Gettysburg

an old wooden wagon sitting in the middle of a forest
Photo by John Nupp

Gettysburg is where former President Abraham Lincoln gave his famous address and the site of the historic three-day battle in 1863. In addition to abundant Civil War history, this small Pennsylvania town offers many other attractions. There is a farmer’s market, a ghost tour, boutiques, cafés, art galleries, and more.

18. San Antonio

a large stone building with a sign in front of it
Photo by Gabriel Tovar

San Antonio is home to the legendary Alamo. But the most visited tourist attraction is the River Walk along the San Antonio River. It connects to major attractions such as Breckenridge Park and the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, which are both free to enter. Check out the Natural Bridge Caverns or Six Flags Fiesta Texas’ water park. 

17. Flagstaff

brown rock formation
Photo by Gautier Salles

This Arizona city features a wealth of fun budget-friendly activities. Outdoor types can check out Walnut Canyon National Monument and Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument. Stargazers should visit Lowell Observatory. Sample the city’s variety of cold brews on The Flagstaff Brewery Trail. Head eighty miles north to the Grand Canyon and visit two great destinations in one vacation.

16. Colorado Springs

brown rocky mountain under blue sky during daytime
Photo by Alexis Gethin

Outdoor types will love Colorado Springs, which rests on the border of the Colorado Rockies in the Great Plains. Visit the Garden of the Gods and picnic between the red rocks. Bike or hike through North Cheyenne Cañon Park or take a scenic drive. Take a stroll around downtown Colorado Springs to enjoy its amenities and unique street art.

15. Santa Fe


Nestled under the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, New Mexico’s capital city offers enjoyment at any price point. Free of charge, admire the art galleries that line Canyon Road as you stroll through Santa Fe Plaza. Take in Romanesque architecture at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi. Visit the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, visitors under 18 are free.

14. Nags Head

white and blue boat on dock during daytime
Photo by Gene Gallin

Part of the Outer Banks region of North Carolina, Nags Head, this beach town offers some of the best fishing spots along the Gulf Stream waters. Check out the sky-high sand dunes in Jockey’s Ridge State Park. Wildlife lovers can spot birds, sea turtles, and more at Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge (on Hatteras Island).

13. Gatlinburg

man on top of the mountain during daytime
Photo by Kalen Emsley

Outside of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Gatlinburg shines is one of Tennessee’s best destinations for outdoor lovers. Abundant free hiking, biking, bird washing, and fishing make Gatlinburg an excellent budget-minded vacation spot. When the weather doesn’t cooperate for outdoor activities, visit the Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community or ride the Ober Gatlinburg Aerial Tramway. Great dining is everywhere.

12. The Finger Lakes


Eleven lakes comprise the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York. It’s a playground for outdoor enthusiasts. Hike past Watkins Glen State Park’s 19 waterfalls or do some fishing at Skaneateles Lake. Check out the Harriet Tubman National Historical Park for some history. Do some wine tasting at the region’s famous wineries.

11. Asheville, North Carolina

long-exposure photo of lake with waterfall at daytime
Photo by Jeffrey Workma

Asheville lies in western North Carolina. It’s the perfect destination for nature lovers, adventure travelers, or romantic getaways. Hike to breathtaking waterfalls in Pisgah National Forest. Drive the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway. Visit the Botanical Gardens. Save even more by camping. The town hosts several free music festivals in summer.

10. Bar Harbor


Bar Harbor is known as the gateway to Acadia National Park. Located on Maine’s Mount Desert Island, this quaint seaside destination is packed with charm. Enjoy a picnic lunch at waterfront Agamont Park. Then, explore Acadia National Park’s granite cliffs and beautiful beaches. The whaling season spans from mid-April through October. Avoid summer visits to save money and avoid crowds.

9. St. Augustine

silhouette of palm trees near body of water during sunset
Photo by Denys Kostyuchenko

St. Augustine is one of the country’s and Florida’s oldest cities. It’s packed with historical landmarks. Check out Castillo de San Marcos National Monument, the Old Jail, and St. George Street. Cheap accommodations are easy to find. Drive 5 miles northwest to visit family-friendly St. Augustine Beach. You’ll find a splash park and pier fishing.

8. Destin

aerial photography of sea at daytime
Photo by Debby Hudson

Located along the Florida Panhandle, Destin features miles of white sandy coastline. It’s a perfect low-cost getaway. Soak up the sun for free at the Shores at Crystal Beach Park. For a few bucks, enjoy the pristine quartz sand at Henderson Beach State Park. Walk along the Destin Harbor Boardwalk. Take in a free alligator show at Fudpucker’s Gator Beach.

7. Olympic National Park

green pine trees on mountain under white clouds during daytime
Photo by Jordan Plihal

Located in northwestern Washington state, Olympic National Park has nearly 1 million acres to explore. You’ll find panoramic views of its glaciers, mountains, temperate rain forests, and breathtaking beaches. Hike, explore tide pools, and fish. There is abundant wildlife including elk, black bears, bald eagles, and whales. In the evening, it’s a fantastic spot to do some stargazing.

6. Grand Canyon National Park

brown mountains under white sky during daytime
Photo by Isadora Neto

Visit the Grand Canyon on the cheap by camping. The entrance fee is nominal at $35 per vehicle for seven days and covers many of the park’s attractions. The National Park Service also offers free entrance days. Watch the free 20-minute film at the visitor center, then trek the trails. See historic structures at Grand Canyon Village. Peruse the shops.

5. Cannon Beach

the sun is setting over the ocean with rocks in the water
Photo by Megan Nixon

Eighty miles northwest of Portland is Oregon’s Cannon Beach. This coastal town features abundant nature. Hike the forests of Ecola State Park. Explore the tide pools at monumental Haystack Rock. Observe the region’s rare bird species. For a thrilling experience, visit in spring or winter to spot the 18,000 gray whales during their annual migrations between Alaska and Mexico.

4. Sequoia National Park

the sun shines through the tall trees in the forest
Photo by Joshua Woroniecki

Located in central California, Sequoia National Park is world-famous for its massive namesake trees. It’s also resplendent with wildlife. Visitors might spot gray foxes, bobcats, mountain lions, bears, and numerous bird species. The fee is $35 per vehicle to enter the park. Hike on your own, or absorb the park’s rich details by signing up for a free ranger-led program.

3. Moab

brown rock formation under blue sky during daytime
Photo by Ben Stiefel

Moab, Utah is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream. Situated between Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park, Moab offers abundant hiking and biking. Thrill seekers can enjoy Whitewater rafting down the Colorado River. Save money by camping at the many campgrounds, which range from well-maintained sites with many amenities to primitive spots in remote areas.

Read More: The Best and Most Beautiful Hiking Trails in Every State

2. Glacier National Park

gray rock mountain
Photo by Daniel Crowley

Located at Montana’s northern edge and bordering Canada, Glacier National Park is a favorite destination for hikers worldwide. The entrance fee is $35, providing as much hiking, climbing, and swimming as you desire. Enrich your experience by engaging in the park’s free ranger-led activities, which include daylong hikes and stargazing at Logan Pass. Enjoy a scenic drive along Going-to-the-Sun Road.

Read More: The Most Scenic Drive in Each State

1. Grand Teton National Park

a lake with a mountain in the background
Photo by Michael Kirsh

The best way to visit Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park is by vehicle. The $35 entrance fee covers a carload for 7 days with access to hiking, climbing, and kayaking. Drive along Teton Park Road for views of the Teton Range and abundant wildlife. Stop at the Craig Thomas Discovery & Visitor Center to learn about the park’s unique history.

Read More: 10 Cheap Summer Vacation Destinations for Families on a Budget