In the United States, we are blessed with a wonderfully large and diverse country full of areas to explore. That means that planning summer vacation is always a fun activity. I love the excitement of choosing where to go next. And it doesn’t have to be expensive, either – there are plenty of options for those of us on a strict budget. These are the best affordable summer vacation destinations in the USA.
If you enjoy spending summer outdoors, you’ll love Yellowstone. Located between Wyoming, Idaho and Montana, it has 2.2 million acres of unspoiled paradise including mountains, canyons, geysers and waterfalls. At only $30 for a seven-day permit to enter, you’ll be laughing. Yellowstone does have a few restaurants, but to really save money, bring your own food and drinks in a cooler, and bring your own camping supplies instead of staying in a lodge.
Another one for lovers of nature, Yosemite isn’t so well-known for no reason. This expansive National Park is a beautiful oasis of towering waterfalls, unique rock formations, cliff faces and Sequoia trees. In terms of accommodation, to save the most money you can camp and bring your own tent, food and supplies. But there are also fairly cheap accommodation options a little further away, outside the park. Yosemite also offers a free bus service to get around the park – take advantage of it!
If you’re looking for a more cultural vacation destination with some magnificent museums, Washington D.C. is your best bet. To save money when visiting national landmarks, visit the Smithsonians – entry to this host of museums is free. So is entry to the National Zoo. You also won’t pay a cent to enter the Library of Congress’ three iconic buildings. If you’ve already ‘done’ Washington D.C.’s museums and monuments, try checking out the urban neighborhoods, farmers’ markets and art galleries. And go by metro – public transport can take you anywhere in this city.
If you love music, cuisine and a good night out, New Orleans is the place for you. And to really make the most of your New Orleans experience, you might want to leave the kids with Grandma, because this place is party central for jazz and food lovers. New Orleans is famous for its flavoursome Southern food and Cajun and Creole cuisine. Hot tip: To save on accommodation, go for a hotel outside the popular French Quarter.
For an authentic Southern experience, visit Charleston in South Carolina. You’ll feel like you’ve travelled back in time as you see horse-drawn carriages trotting down cobblestone walks, antebellum architecture, old mansions and Spanish moss-draped trees. You’ll enjoy decadent Southern food and plenty of Civil War history. Stay at one of the charming bed-and-breakfasts instead of a hotel to save money and get extra perks, like complimentary breakfasts. Remember to pack sunblock, a water bottle and a hat in summer – it gets crazy hot!
Much like Charleston, Savannah is a Southern town with an eccentric charm. You’ll recognise some spots from famous books and films when you take a trip to the hauntingly beautiful graveyards, and local attractions like the Mercer-Williams House Museum and Forsyth Park. Book a hotel near the airport to be close to downtown while saving about $100 or more. There are also no open container laws here, so you can take your own cup to a bar and take it outside whenever you want to leave.
If country music and friendly Southern hospitality is your thing, a trip to Nashville should be your next port of call. Home of plenty of country crooners past and present, you won’t be disappointed in the array of music-inspired attractions in this city – the Johnny Cash Museum, the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Grand Ole Opry, to name a few. While you’re in town, save some cash by dining at a “meat-and-three” – a buffet restaurant where you get meat and three sides for an affordable price.
Rustic charm at a reasonable price can be found if you visit San Antonio – particularly if you visit on weekends, as business travellers tend to make hotel prices surge during the week. This city is a mix of old and new, so suits those who want to learn about its unique colourful history with a side of vibrant cosmopolitan flavor. Head to the Alamo, part of San Antonio Missions National Historic Park, to begin your tour of the city. Another hot tip: Avoid restaurants around the popular River Walk area for more affordable eateries only a few blocks away.
What are your favourite places to stay that won’t break the budget?