Summer, by and large, is overpriced. If you’re planning a long-awaited trip during the calendar’s busiest vacation months in 2022, do yourself and your wallet a favor and organize those plans around a place that gives you more for less.
There are plenty of awesome and affordable spots to choose from.
From the white-sand beaches of Florida and the rocky coasts of New England to the mountains of Central Colorado and the mountains of Eastern Tennessee, there are plenty of places that let you stretch your budget without suffocating your itinerary.
In fact, some of the least expensive summer hot spots are packed with more to do, see and experience than many of the swankiest and most exclusive destinations. You just have to know where to look.
Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada
Everyone knows that Niagara Falls is better to visit from the Canadian side — and summer is peak season, with high temperatures in the low 80s and misty breezes blowing off the falls to keep you cool. Although you’re technically traveling internationally, you’ll spend your vacation just across the Rainbow Bridge from the U.S.
The tourist town of Niagara Falls can be as affordable as the views are unforgettable, and there’s something for everyone, whether you’re into the active outdoors, romantic wine tours or family fun. Budget Your Trip estimates you’ll spend $105 per person per day, and Niagara Falls Tourism is currently advertising special packages that include food, drinks and accommodations, including:
- Ultimate Couples Package: $89
- Wine and Dine Package: $89
- Casino Package: $126
Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
Great Smoky Mountain National Park might just be the most majestic wilderness in America — and the entrance fee is exactly zero dollars. The gateway to the mountains from the Tennessee side is Gatlinburg, which you can visit for $152 per day, according to Budget Your Trip.
The next town over — about 15 minutes by car to the north — is the weird and wonderful town of Pigeon Forge. The home of the Dollywood theme park, it’s not far from where the park’s namesake, Dolly Parton, was born in a one-room cabin.
Home to an impossibly eclectic blend of food, drinks, entertainment and attractions on a budget, the two towns were built for summer fun. Tickets to Dollywood — which is kind of like the Disneyland of Eastern Tennessee — start at $84.
Bar Harbor, Maine
If idyllic but rugged coastline is more your speed than soaring mountains, you can summer in Bar Harbor for roughly the same per-day price as Gatlinburg — about $161, according to Budget Your Trip.
Like Gatlinburg, Bar Harbor serves as the entrance to one of the country’s most impressive natural preserves, Acadia National Park. In this case, however, there’s a $15 per-person cover charge.
Even without the majestic woodland park it borders, Bar Harbor is a destination in its own right. Nestled on Mount Desert Island in Frenchman’s Bay, the family-friendly town is known for an abundance of outdoor recreation, stellar restaurants, a great atmosphere, world-class golf and plenty of free and fun stuff to do. The Art in the Park Festival in June, for example, is open to the public at no cost.
Winter Park, Colorado
Even in a state known for mountain playgrounds, Winter Park stands out as an affordable outdoor paradise. Although it’s most famous as a global skiing destination, it’s bursting with things to do all summer long — and many of those things are free or close to it.
There are miles of free biking and hiking trails, as well as endless hours of angling that can be yours for just the cost of a fishing license. The Grand Park Recreation Center — complete with aquatics, trampolines, a gym, foam pit, loop slide, a track and a whirlpool — costs just $11 for adults and $9 for kids. Right now, Winter Park Resort is offering 20% off lodging plus free gondola day passes.
(Pictured: Rocky Mountains National Park)
Fort Myers, Florida
Located on the Southern Gulf Coast of Florida, Fort Myers consistently ranks as one of the best and least expensive cities in the Sunshine State. Situated in a tropical paradise that’s postcard-perfect even by the standards of South Florida — but without the Miami prices — it’s known for fishing, boating, seafood, nightlife and a laid-back beach culture.
Summer is “value season” in Southwest Florida, according to the Fort Myers News-Press, but Fort Myers consistently outranks Naples, Marco Island and the region’s neighboring hot spots.
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