cheap places to travel in summer

Where To Travel this Summer Without Breaking the Budget

BY Matt Meltzer | May 19, 2023

Summer vacations are almost upon us. If that phrase just had you clutching your wallet and frantically checking your bank account, you’re not alone. “Affordable” and “cheap” mean different things to different people, but we can all agree that top summer vacation spots are notoriously overpriced, and even something as seemingly affordable as a trip to the national parks can become prohibitively expensive fast. Fortunately, not every relaxing getaway requires a second mortgage and, lucky for us, America has plenty of gorgeous yet — dare we say — relatively cheap places to travel in the summer.

In this guide we look at nine getaways, hand-picked by our editors. These are places are where you can still take a summer trip but manage to keep costs down, certainly when compared to other classic vacation destinations.  The picks span Oregon to Puerto Rico and mountain getaways to classic beach cities, but all with go easy on your savings. Here are our picks for cheap places to travel in the summer.

Dubois, Wyo. Photo via Shutterstock.
Cheap places to travel in summer: Here's a view of the red-striped rocks of the Wind River Range near Dubois, Wyoming. Photo via Shutterstock.

Dubois, Wyo.

Dubois, WY, USA

Perhaps your first response when reading about a town of 900 people in Wyoming that you’ve never heard of is, “Of course it’s relaxing — there’s nothing there.” But think of Dubois, about an hour from Grand Teton National Park, as a cheaper, more authentic take on Jackson Hole. The little city has almost the same access to the grand nature of northwest Wyoming at a fraction the cost, and is also home to the National Bighorn Sheep Center. There, you can take a game drive through the mountains looking for sheep, elk, moose and even the occasional bear. After, reward yourself for a hard day’s work with one of the top steaks in the state at the Lone Buffalo Steakhouse.

Where to stay: Just outside town you can stay on a working cattle ranch at the Crooked Creek Guest Ranch. It has fully equipped cabins for under $200 a night and a lively bar in the main house.

Do you recommend this?

Rating: +21. From 59 votes.
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Greenville, S.C. Photo by Shutterstock.
Cheap places to travel in summer: A view of beautiful Greenville's downtown buildings. Photo by Shutterstock.

Greenville, S.C.

Greenville, S.C., USA

Greenville, an easy-living Southern city with a bustling Main Street and big-city amenities, has been one of America’s travel darlings for a while now. A recent restaurant boom has won the city fans across the country as chefs escaping more-expensive Charleston open up culinary standouts like Halls Chophouse and Tupelo Honey, among other Lowcountry favorites. But relaxing isn’t just about eating. Downtown, you can calm yourself with the tranquil sounds of a waterfall as you spread out in Falls Park. Just outside of Greenville, you can traverse Caesars Head State Park or grab a bike at Reedy Rides and explore the Swamp Rabbit Trail, stopping at Southernside Brewing for a beer in the sun. 

Where to stay: While it’s not budget by any stretch, the new Grand Bohemian Lodge is one of the coolest new hotels around, and has rooms right over the waterfall.

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Rating: +27. From 45 votes.
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Jacksonville, Florida. Photo by Shutterstock.
Crowds enjoying Jacksonville Beach on a weekend. Jacksonville Beach is 15 miles east of Jacksonville. Photo by Shutterstock.

Jacksonville, Fla.

Jacksonville, FL, USA

When you’re the biggest city in the lower 48 — by land mass, anyway — you have enough space for some serious relaxation. Jacksonville has 22 miles of wide Atlantic beaches, where surfers, yogis and families each have plenty of space to enjoy the coast. As long as you stay away from Jax Beach on a busy weekend, you’ll find the shore fairly empty most days, allowing you to pop into beachside bars like Hoptinger and Flask & Cannon without having to wait for your drink. In the city, you’ll find fantastic food to complement the less-oppressive northeast Florida weather, with breezy rooftop meals at places like Black Sheep and stellar al fresco Mexican at 904 Tacos and Tequila.

Where to stay: Jax is still a little behind in the boutique hotel game, so your best bet is to find a vacation rental in the Avondale/Riverside area. It’s the city’s most up-and-coming neighborhood and is surprisingly walkable, teeming with bars and small, local restaurants.

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Rating: +11. From 59 votes.
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Gulf coast beach in Ocean Springs, Mississippi. Photo by Shutterstock.
Gulf coast beach in Ocean Springs, Mississippi. Photo by Shutterstock.

Ocean Springs, Miss.

Ocean Springs, Miss, USA

Though people don’t generally associate Mississippi with tranquil beach vacations, just east of Biloxi you’ll find a coastal artists’ enclave set along powdery white sand. Ocean Springs was home to artist Walter Anderson, who drew a large creative community to Mississippi’s Gulf Coast. They helped create a downtown where live music pours out of the bars on Government Street and restaurants like Vestige have earned the city James Beard recognition. You can kick back on Ocean Springs’ rarely crowded beach, or head over to Biloxi for fishing trips out on the Gulf of Mexico.

Where to stay: The Roost sits less than a mile from downtown and is done up in light woods and elegant furnishings. The modern boutique also has one of Ocean Springs’ best cocktail bars in the lobby at The Wilbur.

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Rating: +19. From 35 votes.
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Summer afternoon in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. Photo by Shutterstock.
Cheap places to travel in summer: One of the old-school East Coast classic beach experiences, Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, is the perfect getaway that won't break the bank. Photo by Shutterstock.

Rehoboth Beach, Del.

Rehoboth Beach, Del, USA

While this exemplary mid-Atlantic beach town isn’t exactly a local secret, you can have a relaxing family weekend along the shore here for less than seaside destinations in neighboring states. Avoiding crowds on the main beach is easy, too; strolling Cape Henlopen State Park feels completely removed from the masses. After your exercise, kick back with a beer at famed Dogfish Head or check out some of the smaller local regional breweries at Crooked Hammock and Thompson Island. Finish with a stop in to Matt’s Fish Camp, a landmark seafood restaurant just south in Bethany Beach.

Where to stay: Both the Dogfish Inn in Lewes and Avenue Inn and Spa have bike-and-stay and paddle-and-stay packages in which your room comes with a bike or kayak rental to explore the region’s trails and waterways.

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Rating: -2. From 48 votes.
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View of downtown Reno, NV at dusk with the Sierra Nevada Mountains in the background. Photo by Shutterstock.
View of downtown Reno, NV at dusk with the Sierra Nevada Mountains in the background. Photo by Shutterstock.

Reno, Nev.

Reno, Nevada, USA

While a certain TV cop show may have given Reno a slightly undeserved rap, the Biggest Little City in the World has unparalleled access to Lake Tahoe and the surrounding mountains at a reasonable price. Stay downtown and feast at one of the casino buffets, then head less than an hour outside the city and you’re on the glimmering shores of the lake. In Reno, you can stroll in Rancho San Rafael Regional Park and take in sprawling views of the city, or meander along the Truckee River and hit the vintage shops at the Reno Riverwalk. Traffic is never much of a concern here unless Burning Man is going on, and with an abundance of hotel rooms and surrounding nature, a trip to Reno can feel altogether rejuvenating. That is, if you don’t get too crazy at the craps tables.

Where to stay: The Peppermill Resort has a lavish Roman spa perfect for detox and relaxation. For something a little more active, head to the Whitney Peak, home to the world’s tallest artificial climbing wall.

Do you recommend this?

Rating: +9. From 31 votes.
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Beautiful typical traditional vibrant street in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Photo by Shutterstock.
Cheap places to travel in summer: A look at typical, traditional street in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Photo by Shutterstock.

San Juan, Puerto Rico

San Juan, Puerto Rico

Not only is San Juan an affordable destination but it’s a Caribbean island to boot. Drinks at famed cocktail bar Factoría run half what they do in other major cities, and a tasting menu at Cocina Abierta will run as little as $75. While the city itself can sometimes feel less than relaxing, the calming beaches are never far away, and laying out at Condado or Isla Verde feels like the ultimate tropical getaway. If your idea of relaxation is disappearing into a tropical rainforest, the dense green mountains of El Yunque are less than an hour away.

Where to stay: La Concha hotel sits right in the middle of town, and offers easy access to pretty much everything. For a mid-mod beachside spot, check out the Fairmont El San Juan, which sits right on the beach near the airport and boasts one of America’s best hotel pools.

Do you recommend this?

Rating: +34. From 48 votes.
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Historic Hays County Courthouse in downtown San Marcos, Texas. Photo by Shutterstock.
Historic Hays County Courthouse in downtown San Marcos, Texas. Photo by Shutterstock.

San Marcos, Texas

San Marcos, Texas, USA

If you’ve heard great things about Austin but were immediately dismayed by the caveat, “Well, that was before all the tech people moved in,” check out nearby San Marcos. The home to Texas State University is a lot like Austin decades ago, with bumping live music venues around the city’s main square and musicians who can actually afford to live there. San Marcos is especially relaxing because it’s home to the headwaters of the San Marcos River. Grab a tube and a 12-pack and float through the shade on a hot Texas afternoon.

Where to stay: The Crystal River Inn is an 1880s historic home that’s turned into a boutique hotel and bed and breakfast. The family that runs it is the essence of Texas hospitality, and it’s walking distance to the bars and restaurants of downtown.

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Rating: +12. From 42 votes.
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View on the vines from a Wine tasting room in the Willamette Valley, Oregon. Photo by Shutterstock.
View on the vines from a Wine tasting room in the Willamette Valley, Oregon. Photo by Shutterstock.

Willamette Valley, Ore.

Willamette Valley, Ore, USA

Wine aficionados frequently flock to famous destinations like Napa Valley, then survive on grissini for a week after they realize a sandwich in Napa costs $28. But, up in Oregon, the Willamette Valley puts out some of the best pinot noirs on the planet and is still an affordable place to visit. Relax and drive through the rolling hills dotted with vineyards, stopping in for $10 tastings at spots like Remy Wines, Yamhill Valley and Christopher Bridge. The town of McMinnville is the best place to stop for a fresh northwest meal; dinner for two at The Barberry or La Rambla won’t leave your credit card screaming.

Where to stay: If you’re up for something funky, check in to The Vintages Trailer Resort, where 36 restored vintage trailers make for a comfortable wine country home. The camp is outfitted with a general store and outdoor grills, and summer rates are around $250 a night.

Do you recommend this?

Rating: +19. From 55 votes.
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