It seems like everything costs more these days, but you don’t have to let rising inflation stop you from taking a well-deserved trip. Save a few bucks without cutting out travel by visiting these 10 cheapest vacation destinations in the US.
US News & World Report’s 2023 list of the best cheap vacations in the US took into account the number of reasonably priced activities in a destination as well as reader votes and expert analysis. Nightly hotel rates and transportation costs were also factored in.
1: Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
Boasting 500 square miles of rugged wilderness, Grand Teton National Park is an outdoor person’s dream. A single $35 entrance fee covers a carful of passengers and is valid for seven days, leaving you ample time to camp, kayak, hike, or simply drive through the Wyoming wilderness to spot bears, moose, and other amazing wildlife.
2: Moab, Utah
Quieter and far cheaper than Salt Lake City, Moab offers an otherworldly landscape at corner store prices. Camp overnight in the park to not only save money but enjoy crystal-clear skies and almost unfettered access to the area’s incredible wildlife.
3: Glacier National Park, Montana
A world-class hiking destination in the heart of Montana’s Rocky Mountains, Glacier National Park offers endless ways to explore the outdoors. Just pay the $35 entrance fee to explore all the park has to offer and partake in some free ranger-led activities like guided hikes and stargazing sessions.
4: Cannon Beach, Oregon
Nestled on the Oregon coast, Cannon Beach is a beautiful spot for nature lovers to unwind. Animal enthusiasts can explore tide pools, spot rare bird species along the shore, or watch a massive whale migration that passes through the area between winter and spring.
5: Sequoia National Park, California
Spend a day among some of the world’s tallest trees when you visit Northern California’s Sequoia National Park. A $35 entrance fee (per car, not person) grants you access to the famous sequoia groves and free ranger-led programs that can teach all about these magnificent giants.
6: Bar Harbor, Maine
A charming coastal town bordering Maine’s Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor checks all the right vacation boxes. Free seaside strolls, ultra-fresh seafood on the cheap, and access to another gorgeous national park on your doorstep for that handy $35 fee mean that you can explore to your heart’s (and wallet’s) delight.
7: Olympic National Park, Washington
From glaciers and mountains to beaches and rainforests, Olympic National Park’s one million acres offer near-endless entertainment for a wallet-friendly price. As with America’s other national parks, a single $35 entrance fee ensures you and a car full of your friends and family can see wildlife, go hiking, stargazing, and more for days.
8: Destin, Florida
Those looking for a more traditional beach getaway would be hard-pressed to find a more budget-friendly vacation destination than Destin. Perched along Florida’s Gulf Coast, the seaside town boasts white sand beaches, old-fashioned boardwalks, and fun, kitschy surprises like a free alligator show at Fudpucker’s Gator Beach.
9: St. Augustine
America’s oldest city is packed with historical sites that will occupy travelers of all ages for barely a toll on your bank account. Stroll through the charming downtown area or head a bit further afield to enjoy a day at the beach for free.
10: Grand Canyon National Park
There are few vacations quite as American as a visit to Grand Canyon National Park. Opting to camp instead of renting a hotel room saves quite a few pretty pennies, and you can’t beat waking up to the sun rising over this world-famous natural monument.
Where to Save
While all destinations on this list offer accommodations at less than $200 per night, camping is often the cheapest way to see the sights. As a bonus, you’ll enjoy the peace and quiet most tourists never experience in these destinations when you pitch a tent in the wilderness.
Far and away, national parks provide the most economical getaways in the US. Beautiful, educational, and one-of-a-kind, these treasured spots offer as downright American of an escape as you can find from sea to shining sea.
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