Inflation is on the rise, which means traveling will be more expensive in the coming months. Even so, about six in 10 Americans are planning to take at least one trip this summer, according to data from the U.S. Travel Association.
The will to travel is even stronger for some. Even with astronomical gas prices looming, 35% are planning to travel more this summer than they did in 2021. And after over two years of living under the gloomy haze of a pandemic, it’s understandable that, for many, a staycation this year is permanently off the table.
However, as prices rise on everything from airline fares to vacation rentals, choosing an enjoyable trip destination that won’t break the bank will require some forethought. To make it easier and give you some inspiration, here are 10 affordable places to consider traveling in the U.S. this summer.
“Walk in the footsteps of the Founding Fathers, take in a baseball game, eat some amazing food, and enjoy the culture of Philadelphia,” said Jen Allen travel agent for Ear To There Travel.
“The Philadelphia Museum of Art has some of the best pieces in the world (think Renoir, Picasso, and more). The historian in all of us can visit the National Constitution Center, the Liberty Bell, and Rittenhouse Square. Affordable food is easy to find, and outdoor activities are plentiful, even if it is simply enjoying the Magic Gardens or the University of Pennsylvania’s green spaces. Hotels are plentiful in Philadelphia, and there are several at $200 and under per night that won’t break the bank.”
New Orleans, Louisiana
“The Big Easy is not hard on the budget when you visit,” advised Allen. “New Orleans has culture, music, food, and history to attract all travelers. Visit the banks of the Mississippi, wander around Jackson Square and the side streets to window shop antiques, party in the French Quarter, or find live music in the Marigny. Visitors can eat constantly, including beignets at Café du Monde and the blue cheese oyster Po’Boy at Maspero’s. There is something for everyone.”
She added, “Accommodations are vast in New Orleans, and travelers can stay in chain hotels or boutique hotels without spending big money.”
You can easily find accommodations in NOLA for $150-$200 per night, according to Expedia.
San Antonio, Texas
“From the Alamo to the Riverwalk, San Antonio is economical and fun,” said Allen.
“Stroll along the Riverwalk, where you can stop to eat, shop, and listen to some live entertainment. The Alamo is not far from the Riverwalk and there is no fee to visit. Visit San Pedro Creek Culture Park for a walk or to update your Instagram feed. The Japanese Tea Garden is both free and peaceful for all travelers. This city blends American and Mexican culture perfectly for all who visit. Expect to pay anywhere from $50-150 for a hotel.”
Panama City, Florida
According to Bryn Culbert, communications coordinator for Wanderu, a recent study the travel company published found that Panama City, Florida is one of the cheapest cities to visit.
“Choosing a beach destination means there’s no need to spend a fortune on activities or attractions, when the best attraction — the beach — is free to enjoy,” Culbert said. “The average flight to Panama City hovers around $150, while the nightly hotel rate is under $200 on average. Even better, drinks are cheap! Cocktails go for an average of $9.00 in Panama City and a pint of beer goes for $3.50.”
Besides Panama City, Culbert also recommended Sarasota as an affordable and beautiful place to travel. “Both are stellar beach destinations, whose coastlines will rival any beach selfie influencers snap in Bali or the Maldives,” she said.
And if you’re in the mood for bar hopping, this is the place. “Sarasota is home to 219 cheap, high-quality bars where pints of beer go for $4.50 on average,” said Culbert.
There are plenty of hotels in Sarasota that you can book for under $150 per night. Plus, round-trip flights to Sarasota start at $118, according to Expedia.
“Niagara Falls is one of the world’s wonders,” said Axel Hernborg, CEO of travel website Tripplo. “The view of the misty fog created by the rivers is jaw-dropping. If you avoid casinos in the area, you will find the place affordable for your summer vacation. You can also save money by purchasing the region’s bundled passes and advanced booking. The accommodations are also very reasonable.”
According to Expedia, you can find several hotels in the area for under $100 per night.
“The Grand Canyon is a lot about camping, which obviously saves a lot of money,” said Hernborg. “The 277-mile-long river, up to 18 miles wide and a mile deep chasm, is beautiful and wondrous. If you aren’t up for camping, the hotels are also very reasonable.”
According to the National Parks Service, a seven-day entrance pass to the Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona is $35. Family campsites located on the South Rim of the park are $18. If hotel accommodations are more your style, you can find one easily for under $150 per night.
Lake Tahoe/Reno, Nevada
According to a rep for Decker Royal, Reno Tahoe offers an affordable vacation filled with outdoor adventure, city charm, and arts & culture.
“Located amongst the Sierra Nevada mountains, the summer brings warm weather, perfect for exploring the endless outdoors in Lake Tahoe and cooling indoor activities in Downtown Reno. Travelers can connect with nature for a free leisurely walk at Rancho San Rafael Park with breathtaking views of Downtown Reno or head out on the Monkey Rock Trail in Incline Village at North Lake Tahoe for an unbeatable point of view of the bright blue water. Check into the European-inspired, Circus Circus at The Row in the heart of Reno, featuring carnival games, great restaurant options, and rates starting as low as $49/night.”
“Within the Smoky Mountains park — entry is completely free, by the way — you can enjoy camping, hiking, horseback riding, zip-lining and nature photography, along with historic homesteads and mountain geology,” said Larry Snider, VP of operations of Casago Vacation Rentals.
“There are a number of free tours and cheaper attractions in the area, as well. If you’re close to the area, driving might be your cheapest bet, but taking a flight from farther away won’t set you back too much. Cabins and camping tend to be the cheapest options for lodging, and most of the rest of your money can be spent on food and other attractions.”
A quick search on Vrbo for condos and cabins in Gatlinburg yielded several options under $150 per night.
“Richmond, Virginia offers travelers a glance at U.S. history in every corner of the city alongside a rich, diverse culture found in their restaurants, attractions and local businesses. Offering the same type of experiences found in major cities at a much more affordable price, visitors can enjoy a memorable, but budget-friendly summer vacation,” said Alexis Mucci with Eleven Six PR.
“Some of Richmond’s affordable experiences include the Riverfront Canal Walk, Maggie L. Walker National Historical Site, Glendale/Malvern Hill Battlefields and Hatch Local Food Hall.”
You can find hotel accommodations for under $120 per night in Richmond, according to Expedia.
More From GOBankingRates