You don’t have to have a lot of money to have fun! Visit these affordable U.S. travel destinations that won’t break the bank.
The United States is filled with affordable travel destinations. Below, we share five vacation locations to please your inner penny-pincher.
1. Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, TN
Tennessee is one of my all-time favorite travel destinations. We had an amazing and thrifty vacation there a couple of years back that you can read about here. The Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge area has a ton of free and cheap activities, with the beautiful Great Smoky Mountains as a backdrop.
There are many wineries in the Gatlinburg area with free wine tasting. There are also distilleries with free moonshine tasting if that is more your style. Many of these are within walking distance of each other, so you can park your car and save on gas as well! Not to mention walking is a much safer idea is you are planning on doing lots of tasting ;).
Other cheap activities at this affordable travel destination include the Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum ($3 a person), and touring/hiking the Great Smoky Mountain National Park (no entrance fee!).
Hotels in the area run pretty cheap, depending on the time of year. We went in March, and were able to get a great hotel for less than $40 a night! Current prices on Orbitz for the Howard Johnson and similar hotels are around $48 a night. There are not many areas where you can find a decent hotel room for that price!
2. Flagstaff, AZ
Flagstaff, AZ is one of the more affordable travel destinations with a lot to offer. We originally visited the area to escape the southern California heat, and were pleasantly surprised to find out how many national monuments were in the area!
During our short stay, we visited Walnut Canyon National Monument, which has a fun hiking trail that takes you right up to cliff dwellings. Nearby, is the Sunset Crater National Monument. This is the site of a former volcanic eruption. You can see where the lava covered everything, and actually hike on it! If you have never hiked on cooled lava, it is definitely something to experience. Wupatki National Monument is in the area as well. This park boasts two large pueblo homes, and one has over 100 rooms! If you live near any national parks, be sure to get the annual America the Beautiful National Parks pass for $80 to see these monuments and more the cheapest way possible.
Hotels are very affordable in the Flagstaff area. For example, right now on Orbitz, a room at the Days Inn is $48 a night; the Baymont by Wyndham is only $49. With the cheap hotel rooms and wealth of activities, you may want to plan for a few days in Flagstaff! We wish we had had more time to spend in the area on our road trip.
If you need a rental car for your vacation (like we did for this trip), check out Fox, Dollar, and Thrifty car rental as they usually have the best deals.
3. The Rio GranValley, TX
As mentioned in a recent post, the Rio Grande Valley in Texas offers a wealth of cheap activities, making it a top affordable travel destination. Some of our favorites include the Dolphin Docks dolphin tour ($13 a person), the Gladys Porter Zoo during enrichment activities ($14 a person), and visiting Nuevo Progresso (free minus fee to cross border). If you are there around the holidays, be sure to check out the Hidalgo Festival of Lights ($5 a person for the train, free to walk), and the Holiday Village in Brownsville (free).
There are many affordable restaurants in the area as well. The Gulf coast is a great place to get a good deal on some huge Gulf shrimp! A plate of large shrimp and fries will run you about $10.
A decent hotel on South Padre Island can be had for as low as $55 a night. Prices are similar on the main land around the Harlingen area.
4. South Dakota
If you are looking for a family-friendly affordable travel destination, take a serious look at South Dakota. With Mount Rushmore, Badlands National Park, Wall Drug, and the Corn Palace, there is a lot to keep your family busy. Some of my favorite vacations growing up were to South Dakota. A visit to Mount Rushmore will only cost you $10 in parking fees for your whole car. Entrance to the monument itself is free.
Badlands National Park is pretty awe-inspiring if you haven’t seen it before. If you have an America the Beautiful pass, your visit will be free. Otherwise, it is $30 per private vehicle. The park offers two campgrounds, and your stay will be 50% off if you have a National Parks pass! Full price tent camping for two people is $23 a night, and RV sites are $38 a night without the discount.
The Wall Drug Store was started in 1931 and attracted visitors by offering free ice water. Today, this roadside attraction draws up to 20,000 people on a summer day. There is no admission fee, but there is plenty of shopping to do, so don’t forget your wallet!
The Corn Palace in Mitchell is free except for featured events. The building is made of corn and filled with corn murals. It sounds strange and it is, but it’s definitely worth checking out, especially given the entrance fee!
The cost of hotels in the area are very reasonable as well. For example, Orbitz lists a room at the Baymont by Wyndham at $51 a night for a mid-week room. Many other hotels in the area are similarly priced.
Kentucky is ranked in the top 20 states with the lowest cost of living, making it an affordable travel destination. We briefly traveled through Kentucky on our spring break trip a couple of years ago. Our hotel was in Louisville, which made it convenient for us to tour Churchill Downs. We were only there a day, but there were plenty of other activities if we had more time. Churchill Downs is located outside of South Louisville. A hotel room at the Red Roof in is $56 to $70 a night, which is pretty reasonable, especially for a bigger city. Join RediRewards to save up to 25% on your hotel stays at Red Roof Inns.
Our Churchill Downs tour included our museum visit and a walking historic tour of the track. It was $16 a person and took around four hours or so. It is worth the money for the tour if you are interested in seeing the track, but don’t want to shell out for the Kentucky Derby.
An hour and a half outside of Louisville is Mammoth Cave National Park. Entrance to the park is free, and cave tours start at only $4 a person for the Discovery tour. Camping is available for $20 a night, or only $10 a night with a National Parks pass.
Less than an hour down the road, you can tour the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln…for free! There is no entrance or touring fees at this park, making it a great activity to help you stick to your vacation budget. Here you can tour the birthplace of President Lincoln, as well as his boyhood home. There are hiking trails that range from 0.3 miles to 1.5 miles surrounding these sights.
What are some of your favorite affordable travel destinations? Please share below! 🙂