As the song goes, there’s no place like home for the holidays. But, if you prefer to get away, there are plenty of cheap holiday trips that are worth taking.
To help you pinpoint where to spend your Thanksgiving or Christmas without breaking your budget, GOBankingRates chose the most popular travel destinations and examined six factors in terms of cost: flights, hotels, food, drinks, transportation and entertainment. From holiday flight deals to savings on festive entertainment, some of these cities are worth your hard-earned time off. However, there are other cities you should avoid to keep the holiday cheer from disappearing from your bank account.
Least Affordable Places to Visit During the Holidays
If you’re looking for cheap Christmas vacations or Thanksgiving getaways, cross these cities off your list of prospective destinations. GOBankingRates’ study found that visiting these places can put a big dent in your budget during the holidays.
15. Palm Springs, Calif.
- Thanksgiving trip cost: $1,123.50
- Christmas trip cost: $1,200.50
Flights to Palm Springs can bust your budget if you travel during Christmas. The average cost of round-trip flights to get to this desert retreat during the holidays is $404.50 — the fifth-highest flight cost compared to other destinations included in this study.
However, if you want to spend Christmas in Palm Springs on a regular basis, it might be worth investing in a property there. It’s one of the best places to get a vacation home.
14. Charlotte, N.C.
- Thanksgiving trip cost: $1,156.50
- Christmas trip cost: $1,346
Charlotte is especially costly to travel to during Christmas, round-trip flights from Los Angeles International Airport cost an average of $467. But, if you decide to splurge and go during the holiday season, pay a visit to the European-inspired Charlotte Christmas Village, which features shopping, food and drinks.
13. New York City
- Thanksgiving trip cost: $1,190
- Christmas trip cost: $1,332.50
At any time of the year, New York is one of the worst vacation cities for your wallet. Fortunately, there are plenty of festive, free things to do once you get there, including checking out the holiday window displays and visiting the tree at Rockefeller Center.
12. Park City, Utah
- Thanksgiving trip cost: $1,018
- Christmas trip cost: $2,196.50
Winter is peak season in this haven for skiers, who relish the city’s average annual snowfall of 340 inches. Plus, non-skiers can enjoy Park City by visiting one of America’s most charming Main Streets. However, this destination isn’t ideal for people who are looking for an affordable Christmas vacation. Hotels are the fourth-most expensive in Park City during Christmas compared to other destinations in this study.
11. Nashville, Tenn.
- Thanksgiving trip cost: $1,242
- Christmas trip cost: $1,404
There’s more to Music City than, well, just music. If you visit around Christmas, you can see the extravagant holiday display of more than 3 million twinkling lights at the Gaylord Opryland Resort. However, it’s an overall expensive place to visit, especially during Christmas. On the plus side, flights are relatively cheap during Thanksgiving, with average round-trip airfare costing just $268.
10. Myrtle Beach, S.C.
- Thanksgiving trip cost: $1,213.50
- Christmas trip cost: $1,161
During Thanksgiving, round-trip flights to Myrtle Beach are the fifth-most expensive of all the destinations in this study, with an average cost of $473.50. You’re better off visiting the beach city during the spring — it’s one of the most affordable spring break destinations in the U.S.
- Thanksgiving trip cost: $1,194.50
- Christmas trip cost: $1,479
White sandy beaches and warm temperatures might be calling your name, but with its expensive flights — especially during Thanksgiving — Miami isn’t a wise holiday vacation choice for those looking to save. The average cost for a round-trip flight from Los Angeles International Airport to Miami over Thanksgiving is a whopping $727.
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8. Savannah, Ga.
- Thanksgiving trip cost: $1,245
- Christmas trip cost: $1,310
The cost to visit Savannah during Thanksgiving and Christmas is comparable — and it’s high during both holidays. But, if you love Christmas festivities, it could be worth the splurge. The historic town goes all out during Christmas time, with holiday home tours and walking tours, festive marketplaces and multiple annual parades.
7. Los Angeles
- Thanksgiving trip cost: $1,435
- Christmas trip cost: $1,452
Hotels in Los Angeles are expensive, especially during Thanksgiving, when the average hotel cost is the third-highest of all the cities in this ranking. But, you can save money on a trip to Los Angeles by visiting free famous landmarks, such as the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the Griffith Park Observatory, the Getty Center or Venice Beach.
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6. Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.
- Thanksgiving trip cost: $1,325
- Christmas trip cost: $2,347.50
Ft. Lauderdale hotels will really cost you during Christmas, with the second-highest average hotel cost of all the cities included in this study. Prices are not much better during Thanksgiving when the Florida city has the fifth-highest average hotel cost.
5. Charleston, S.C.
- Thanksgiving trip cost: $1,520.50
- Christmas trip cost: $1,862
During Thanksgiving, hotels in Charleston cost the second-most on average compared to the other destinations in this study. And during Christmas, it has the fifth-most expensive hotels on average. You’ll probably spend a lot of money when you get there, too, because Charleston is one of the best places to shop in America.
4. Hilton Head, S.C.
- Thanksgiving trip cost: $1,633.50
- Christmas trip cost: $1,531.50
Flying round-trip to Hilton Head for Thanksgiving will set you back an average of $683.50 — the third-highest cost compared to the other places included in this study. And, it’s the second-most expensive place to fly to during Christmas, when round-trip flights cost an average of $635.50.
3. Key West, Fla.
- Thanksgiving trip cost: $1,760
- Christmas trip cost: $1,993
Expect to shell out big bucks to fly to Key West during Thanksgiving. With an average round-trip flight cost of $806, it’s the second-most expensive destination to get to of all the destinations on this list. It’s also the third-most expensive destination to fly to during Christmas, when the average round-trip flight costs $577.
2. Aspen, Colo.
- Thanksgiving trip cost: $1,676
- Christmas trip cost: $4,017
During Thanksgiving, expect to pay a lot for a hotel stay in Aspen — the average hotel cost is the fourth-highest of all the destinations included in this study. Hotels are even more expensive around Christmas — in fact, Aspen has the priciest hotels during Christmastime of all the cities in this ranking. You won’t catch a break on flights either, with the fourth-priciest round-trip flights surfacing around Thanksgiving.
- Thanksgiving trip cost: $2,262.50
- Christmas trip cost: $2,958.50
Winter in Honolulu is the peak tourist season, making it one of the least affordable places to visit during the holidays. During Thanksgiving, hotels are more expensive in Honolulu compared to any other destination included in this study — and, prices are the third-highest during Christmas. Round-trip flights are the most expensive overall during Thanksgiving, where the average cost is $1,076.50.
Most Affordable Places to Visit During the Holidays
You don’t have to spend an exorbitant amount on your Thanksgiving or Christmas vacations. If you visit these affordable destinations, you can save money on your holiday travel.
15. Tampa, Fla.
- Thanksgiving trip cost: $1,146
- Christmas trip cost: $1,301.50
Escape to warmer weather with a relatively affordable holiday trip to Tampa. During Christmas, the average round-trip flight from Atlanta costs less than $200.
- Thanksgiving trip cost: $1,163
- Christmas trip cost: $1,119.50
A trip to Seattle during the cold, rainy winter might not seem ideal. But, if you’re looking for cheap holiday vacations, you should consider Washington’s largest city. There are plenty of Christmas activities to do, including shopping at the Westlake Park Holiday Market and ice skating at the Seattle Center Winterfest.
- Thanksgiving trip cost: $1,160.50
- Christmas trip cost: $959
It’s relatively affordable to travel to Phoenix over Christmas. Round-trip flights cost an average of $257 — tied with San Francisco for the third-lowest average flight cost compared to other cities in this study. Make your visit to Phoenix merry by catching a professional ice skating performance at the Westgate Entertainment District or walking among thousands of lights at the Desert Botanical Garden.
12. Portland, Ore.
- Thanksgiving trip cost: $1,080
- Christmas trip cost: $977.50
Portland, Ore., is a cheap travel spot that’s worth visiting — especially during Christmas time. See ships decked out in Christmas lights float up and down the Columbia and Willamette, take a photo with hipster Santa, and check out the dazzling light displays at the Oregon Zoo during your visit.
11. Orlando, Fla.
- Thanksgiving trip cost: $910.50
- Christmas trip cost: $1,187
Thinking of taking the kids to Disney World for Christmas? The good news is that costs are relatively low — but flights can get expensive during Christmas. The average round-trip flight cost from Los Angeles International Airport for this holiday is $627. To keep other costs down, take advantage of inexpensive things to do just outside of Disney World.
- Thanksgiving trip cost: $1,033.50
- Christmas trip cost: $963
Although Denver is close to ski resorts, winter is the low season for tourism in the Mile High City. As a result, it’s a good place for fairly cheap Christmas trips. Lodging in Denver is less expensive compared to costs in most of the U.S. destinations in this study. And, it’s cheaper to fly from Atlanta or Los Angeles to Denver than it is to most other cities on GOBankingRates’ list.
- Thanksgiving trip cost: $1,021
- Christmas trip cost: $929
Boston gets cold in the winter, but it’s a good time to visit this city if you want to save money. As the temperature drops, so do prices — the average hotel cost is lower during Christmas than around Thanksgiving, and flight costs are lower as well. The average round-trip flight cost from Atlanta drops from $223 during Thanksgiving to $170 during Christmas.
8. San Diego
- Thanksgiving trip cost: $943
- Christmas trip cost: $957
Here’s something to be thankful for, Hotel costs in San Diego are the fifth-lowest on average during Thanksgiving compared to the other cities in this ranking. Although it’s an affordable place to vacation, San Diego is one of the worst places to live if you’re trying to save money.
7. New Orleans
- Thanksgiving trip cost: $953.50
- Christmas trip cost: $846.50
New Orleans is known for its Mardi Gras parties in March, but you should consider visiting the city during December. The crowds are smaller, and you can find cheap Christmas flights to New Orleans. Fly round-trip from Atlanta to New Orleans for just $229, making it the ultimate affordable holiday flight.
6. San Francisco
- Thanksgiving trip cost: $920.50
- Christmas trip cost: $969
With its reputation for being expensive, San Francisco might not seem like it would be near the top of a list for cheap Christmas trips. However, it can be a bargain in the winter. You can find cheap round-trip Thanksgiving flights to San Francisco, with an average cost of $254.50 — the third lowest of all the destinations in this study. It’s also the third-cheapest to get to during Christmas when round-trip flights cost an average of $257.
5. Austin, Texas
- Thanksgiving trip cost: $944.50
- Christmas trip cost: $825
You can save big if you travel to Austin over Christmas, the city has the fifth-cheapest average hotel costs and the second-cheapest average flight costs of all the destinations included in this study.
4. Washington, D.C.
- Thanksgiving trip cost: $826.50
- Christmas trip cost: $812
A trip to the nation’s capital can be an affordable Thanksgiving or Christmas vacation. During both holidays, hotels in Washington, D.C., are the third-cheapest compared to the other destinations included in this study. While you’re there, you can visit holiday markets and see the National Christmas Tree near the White House, the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree and the National Menorah.
- Thanksgiving trip cost: $822.50
- Christmas trip cost: $829.50
Hotels in Houston are especially affordable during both Thanksgiving and Christmas, it boasts the fourth-lowest average hotel costs of all the destinations in this ranking. It’s also the second-cheapest place to fly to for Thanksgiving — with round-trip flights averaging $244.50 — and the fifth-cheapest place to fly to during Christmas, with round-trip flights averaging $265.50.
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- Thanksgiving trip cost: $722
- Christmas trip cost: $776.50
Chicago offers an affordable holiday getaway, but be prepared to bundle up in the Windy City if you go during the cold months of November or December. After braving the chilly temperatures, you’ll be rewarded with the second-lowest nightly hotel rates during Thanksgiving and Christmas. Flights are also cheap, with the fourth-least expensive flights on average during Thanksgiving.
1. Las Vegas
- Thanksgiving trip cost: $502
- Christmas trip cost: $490.50
Cheap hotels make Las Vegas a safe bet for any holiday trip: The city has the least expensive hotels on average during both Thanksgiving and Christmas. It’s also the cheapest place to fly to for Thanksgiving, with an average round-trip flight cost of $214.
Click through to discover the most expensive tourist destinations in the U.S.
More on Saving Money on Travel
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Gabrielle Olya contributed to the reporting for this article.
Methodology: GOBankingRates sourced a list of popular travel destinations for the holiday season and looked at six main factors: hotels, flights, transportation, entertainment, food and drinks. Average hotel prices were determined using the three lowest nightly rates for four- to five-star hotels during Thanksgiving week (Nov. 18-24, 2018) and Christmas week (Dec. 23-29, 2018). Hotel costs were sourced from Hotels.com on Sept. 11, 2018. Flight prices were sourced from Expedia on Sept. 11, 2018. For each city, GOBankingRates chose the cheapest round-trip fare for each destination from the two largest airports in America: Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) and Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). GOBankingRates pulled flight prices for both Thanksgiving week and Christmas week. Each factor was given a score of 0 to 1 (with 0 being the cheapest) and weighted equally against each other for a total combined score.
About the Author
Cameron Huddleston is an award-winning journalist with more than 18 years of experience writing about personal finance. Her work has appeared in Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, Business Insider, Chicago Tribune, Fortune, MSN, USA Today and many more print and online publications. She also is the author of Mom and Dad, We Need to Talk: How to Have Essential Conversations With Your Parents About Their Finances.
U.S. News & World Report named her one of the top personal finance experts to follow on Twitter, and AOL Daily Finance named her one of the top 20 personal finance influencers to follow on Twitter. She has appeared on CNBC, CNN, MSNBC and “Fox & Friends” and has been a guest on ABC News Radio, Wall Street Journal Radio, NPR, WTOP in Washington, D.C., KGO in San Francisco and other personal finance radio shows nationwide. She also has been interviewed and quoted as an expert in The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Forbes, MarketWatch and more.
She has an MA in economic journalism from American University and BA in journalism and Russian studies from Washington & Lee University.