You don’t have to spend a lot for a memorable vacation, especially if you’re traveling within the U.S.
GOBankingRates determined the best American travel destinations for your money by looking at data provided by Hipmunk for the average costs of flights, hotels, transportation, food and drinks at 55 cities across the country to find out where you’ll get the most bang for your buck. Consider one of these cheap places to save on your next big vacation.
- Airfare cost: $258
- Hotel cost per night: $201
Known for baseball, jazz music, hot dogs and deep-dish pizzas, Chicago is becoming a more popular place to visit. In 2017, the Windy City saw a record number of domestic and overseas visitors — 55.27 million. If you partake in the culinary scene, expect to pay an average of $15 per meal and an extra $5 if you pair it with a domestic beer. And if you plan on getting around on public transit, you should budget $34 per day.
Fortunately, there are lots of free attractions in Chicago that will help you save money on your vacation, including the Lincoln Park Zoo and the Lincoln Park Conservatory & Gardens.
19. Birmingham, Ala.
- Airfare cost: $433
- Hotel cost per night: $119
Birmingham hotels are some of the cheapest of all the accommodations in the cities on this list. The Southern city offers plenty for its visitors to do, from playing a round of golf to learning about its civil rights history. It also has a vibrant culinary scene that’s affordable — the average meal costs just $12. If you want to have a drink with your meal, you can get a domestic beer for about $4.
18. New Orleans
- Airfare cost: $320
- Hotel cost per night: $204
Beer lovers can benefit from the low cost of beer in the Big Easy. At an average of $3.50 for a domestic beer, it’s tied for the third-cheapest beer price on this list. And there’s no open container law, so you can have your cheap beer while strolling through the historic and lively French Quarter. The city has lots of tasty local foods as well, from po’ boys to beignets. A meal in New Orleans will cost you an average of $12.
17. Savannah, Ga.
- Airfare cost: $370
- Hotel cost per night: $181
Savannah is where Southern charm, art, historic architecture, boutique shopping, fine dining — and ghosts — converge. The average meal here will cost $12, while a domestic beer will cost you around $4.
With airfare costs approaching $400, consider making the most of the money you’ll be spending by booking your flight with a travel rewards card, such as the Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card, so that you can earn rewards points with every purchase.
- Airfare cost: $297
- Hotel cost per night: $195
With public transportation costs averaging $14 per day, Philadelphia has some of the cheapest transportation among all of the cities analyzed in this study. Use the public transit system to get around, and visit the City of Brotherly Love’s famous historic sites like the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. And don’t forget to get a Philly cheesesteak while you’re in town. The average meal here will cost you $15, while a domestic beer will set you back $5.
15. Portland, Ore.
- Airfare cost: $301
- Hotel cost per night: $182
Shop, hike, eat and drink your way through this quirky Northwestern destination city. Expect to pay $15 for a meal and $5 for a domestic beer. And budget for about $20 a day to get around on public transit.
Although those prices are on the higher end compared to the other cities on this list, you’ll save when you go shopping at any of the local stores, as there is no sales tax in Portland.
- Airfare cost: $286
- Hotel cost per night: $131
Of all of the cities analyzed in this study, Houston has some of lowest airfare and hotel costs. Although Hurricane Harvey hurt the local tourism industry in 2017, the city is recovering. The city experienced more than 21 million visits in 2017 and is aiming to get 25 million annual visits by 2020.
There are plenty of free things to do in Houston, including catching a live performance at the Miller Outdoor Theatre, going to a movie screening at Market Square Park and visiting the unique Art Car Museum.
Click to see the admission prices for the most popular U.S. tourist attractions.
13. Austin, Texas
- Airfare cost: $322
- Hotel cost per night: $189
Once you get to Austin, it’s cheap to get around, with the average cost of public transportation per day at $8 — the lowest of any destination included on this list. While you’re there, catch a ballet, visit one of its world-class museums, go shopping or spend the day paddling around Lady Bird Lake. And be sure to savor some of the local Tex-Mex and barbecue. The average meal in Austin costs $15, and a domestic beer will cost you about $4.50.
12. Kansas City, Mo.
- Airfare cost: $311
- Hotel cost per night: $156
Kansas City has a number of free attractions, so you can save on entertainment once you get there. The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Boulevard Brewing Co., C.W. Parker Carousel Museum and City Hall Observation Deck are all free to visit. Be sure to budget for other costs though, including an average of $35 per day for public transportation and $15 per meal. If you’re a beer drinker, you should expect to spend $4 for a domestic pint.
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- Airfare cost: $242
- Hotel cost per night: $154
Denver ranks higher than other cities on this list thanks to its lower airfare and hotel costs. However, once you land in the city, transportation isn’t cheap. At $61, it has the third-highest transportation costs of any city analyzed in this study.
Denver is a beer lover’s paradise, as it’s home to 100 brewpubs, breweries and tap rooms. A domestic beer costs an average of $4.50 in the city.
- Airfare cost: $319
- Hotel cost per night: $122
Phoenix hotels are among the cheapest of all the cities on this list. The city also has some of the most affordable public transportation, with the average daily cost to get around at $16. While visiting this warm weather destination, you can explore the Sonora Desert, relax at a spa — or both.
When you dine out during your trip, you can expect to pay about $15 per meal.
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- Airfare cost: $290
- Hotel cost per night: $146
There are plenty of things to do for free in Cincinnati, including visiting the Cincinnati Art Museum, Findlay Market or the Hauck Botanical Gardens. The plethora of free attractions makes up for the high cost to get around on public transportation, which averages $50 a day. Because public transportation costs are high, it could be worth it to charge these expenses to a travel rewards card that gives you extra points for transit purchases. It’s one way to get the most out of your credit card when traveling.
- Airfare cost: $228
- Hotel cost per night: $174
The average cost for round-trip airfare to Atlanta is the lowest of all the cities in this study. Once you’re there there’s no shortage of things to do, from walking through the Atlanta Botanical Garden to taking a tour of the CNN studio, or taking in the art at the High Museum and spending time with animals at the Atlanta Zoo.
If you’re budgeting out your trip, expect to pay $34 per day for public transportation and $15 per meal.
- Airfare cost: $267
- Hotel cost per night: $169
Flights to Minneapolis cost much less compared to the other destinations on this list, and once you get there, you’ll only pay an average of $10 per day to get around for public transportation — the second-lowest amount of all the destinations in this study. The Twin City is home to three professional sports stadiums, art galleries, theaters and parks. It’s a haven for foodies and beer lovers alike. Expect to pay an average of $15 per meal here and $5 for a domestic beer.
6. Chattanooga, Tenn.
- Airfare cost: $377
- Hotel cost per night: $128
The average cost to get around Chattanooga on public transportation is $12 per day. Food and drinks are relatively affordable in the Southern city as well, with the average meal costing $12, and the average domestic beer costing $4.
Local attractions include the Bluff View Arts District, the Tennessee Aquarium and the Tennessee Valley Train Museum.
5. San Antonio
- Airfare cost: $338
- Hotel cost per night: $151
San Antonio has some of the cheapest public transportation on this list, with the average daily cost at $16. It also has some of the cheapest beers, with the average cost of a domestic brew at $3.50. Food is also affordable, with the average meal costing $12. A visit to the River Walk is a must during any trip to this Texas city.
4. Orlando, Fla.
- Airfare cost: $247
- Hotel cost per night: $138
Compared to the other cities on this list, Orlando has the third-cheapest round-trip airfare. And once you get there, you can drink a domestic beer for an average of just $3.50 — among the lowest prices on this list. If you want to save money, skip Disney World — the cost for a single admission ticket is $109. However, there are some areas of the park and resort you can access for free, including Disney Springs and Disney Boardwalk.
3. Las Vegas
- Airfare cost: $248
- Hotel cost per night: $117
You can get to Las Vegas for relatively cheap — airfare costs to get there are the fourth-lowest of all the cities on this list. And hotels are cheap too — Sin City has the second-cheapest hotels on this list. Although you won’t be able to dine at one of the top Vegas restaurants like Le Cirque and Mastro’s Ocean Club for cheap, the average cost of a meal at an inexpensive restaurant in the city is $15. If you plan on getting around using public transit, be prepared to spend $36 per day.
2. Boise, Idaho
- Airfare cost: $370
- Hotel cost per night: $99
Boise is the only city in this study where the average four-star hotel costs less than $100 a night. It’s also cheap to get around, with public transportation costing an average of $12 per day.
And thanks to its mild four-season climate, it’s an ideal getaway for any time of year. The city is home to a rich arts scene, as well as a bustling downtown area where you can shop, dine and dance the night away.
1. Myrtle Beach, S.C.
- Airfare cost: $266
- Hotel cost per night: $124
Compared to the other cities on this list, Myrtle Beach has the sixth-cheapest round-trip airfare. The popular beach destination is home to 60 miles of coastline and boasts fresh coastal cuisine and plenty of family-friendly attractions. Go for a ride on the 200-foot SkyWheel, play a round of mini-golf or go for a roller coaster ride while you’re in town with the family.
The average cost of a meal in Myrtle Beach is $12, and it will be an additional $4.25 if you want to enjoy a domestic beer with it.
The Most Affordable Places to Visit in the U.S.
No matter where in the U.S. you live or what part of the country you want to explore, there’s likely an affordable destination just a drive or short flight away, as the top 20 best travel destinations for your money are pretty spread out geographically. Texas is the only state that’s home to more than one of the best budget destinations, with Houston, Austin and San Antonio making the cut.
Whatever travel destination you choose, you can save money and earn rewards by booking your trip with a travel rewards card, such as the Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card. The Propel card allows you to earn 3x points on flights, hotels and homestays, as well as transit, car rentals, rideshares and dining. You can then redeem rewards for cash back, gift cards or future travel purchases, so booking with the card can help you save on your next trip, too.
Before booking your vacation, click through to find out the best time to travel in 2019.
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Methodology: To determine the 20 best travel destinations for your money, GOBankingRates analyzed travel costs for 54 cities in the U.S. using travel data provided by Hipmunk to determine round-trip flight and hotel costs. For the cities where flight or hotel costs were not provided by Hipmunk, GOBankingRates calculated the average cost of six round-trip flights — three from Los Angeles and three from Atlanta (these two cities were chosen in order to get an average that will be representative of flights all across the U.S. Flights from Los Angeles have a lower cost point, whereas flights from Atlanta are some of the most expensive in the U.S.) and the average cost of three 4-star hotels. Google Flights and Hotels.com were used to supplement missing data. GOBankingRates also used BudgetYourTrip to determine transportation costs, which only accounts for public transportation (metro, train, bus, etc.), and Numbeo was used to find all the costs associated with food and drinks (food costs accounted for a meal at an inexpensive restaurant and drinks costs accounted for the cost of a domestic beer). Each factor was scored to produce an overall score. Airfare and hotel scores were weighted three times, and daily costs of living were unweighted.
The information related to Wells Fargo Credit Cards has been collected by GOBankingRates.com and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of this product or service.
About the Author
Gabrielle joined GOBankingRates in 2017 and brings with her a decade of experience in the journalism industry. Before joining the team, she was a staff writer-reporter for People Magazine and People.com. Her work has also appeared on E! Online, Us Weekly, Patch, Sweety High and Discover Los Angeles, and she has been featured on “Good Morning America” as a celebrity news expert.