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St. Augustine, Florida
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The 7 Best Cheap Vacation Destinations in the US

SmarterTravel

Looking for an affordable getaway? There are plenty of amazing vacation destinations in the U.S. that won’t break your budget. These seven spots are so cheap, you’ll be tempted to extend your stay into a week or two… or maybe even relocate for good.

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San Antonio, Texas

River Walk in San Antonio, Texas
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Located in the heart of Texas, San Antonio is known for its historic charm. With plenty of green spaces and outdoor attractions, you could happily spend a whole day exploring outside without spending any money. Stroll the stone paths of San Antonio’s River Walk, tour The Alamo, and pick out the perfect picnic spot in the 343-acre Brackenridge Park. 

Where to Stay: You can find three-star hotels located right downtown for under $200 per night, like the spacious Home2 Suites by Hilton.

Louisville, Kentucky

Pedestrian walkway against the skyline of Louisville, Kentucky
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Louisville should be on the bucket list of any bourbon lover. It’s the official start of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, and it’s home to more bars and distilleries than you can count. Sip your way through the original Bourbon Trail and then get started on the Urban Bourbon Experience (a tour through Louisville’s micro-distilleries, craft cocktail destinations, and other attractions). 

Even if brown liquor isn’t your thing, Louisville has Churchill Downs, the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory, and the Muhammad Ali Center to keep you occupied. 

Where to Stay: Louisville ranks as the third most affordable place to live in the U.S., and with trendy hotels like the Moxy Louisville Downtown starting below $150 a night, it’s cheap to visit as well. 

Little Rock, Arkansas

Skyline of Little Rock, Arkansas
Lewis | Adobe Stock

Little Rock is the perfect blend of outdoorsy activities, food, and culture that will satisfy any group looking for a diverse vacation spot. With numerous urban parks filled with running/walking trails and bike paths, you don’t even have to venture outside the city to get active. (But if you do, nearby Pinnacle Mountain State Park offers great hiking and city views.) Then catch up on some culture and history for free with an Arkansas Civil Rights History Audio Tour, a trip to the Arkansas State Capitol, and a visit to The Little Rock Nine Monument. After, a stroll down the lively Riverfront Park will present you with plenty of choices to sample Little Rock’s dining scene.

Where to Stay: You can stay near all the action at the Hilton Garden Inn Little Rock Downtown for as little as $130 a night. 

Albuquerque, New Mexico

Albuquerque, New Mexico skyline at dusk
SeanPavonePhoto | Adobe Stock

Albuquerque is one of the best places in the U.S. for hot air ballooning. Although a ride in one doesn’t quite fall in the affordable category (it can cost around $150 per person for a scenic trip), watching these colorful flights is free. Time your visit around the annual Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta in 2022 for a truly spectacular balloon-viewing experience.

When you’re not watching the skies, there are plenty of other affordable outdoor activities awaiting in Albuquerque, including hiking, kayaking, and mountain biking. 

Where to Stay: A stay at a four-star hotel in the historic Old Town area will only cost you around $270 a night at the modern Hotel Andaluz Albuquerque. For something even more budget-friendly, travelers can book a room at The Hyatt Place Albuquerque Uptown starting at around $150 a night.

Detroit, Michigan

Aerial view of the skyline of Detroit, Michigan at dusk
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A breakfast sandwich on a house-made biscuit from The Brooklyn Street Local in Detroit’s hip Corktown neighborhood costs just $5, giving you an idea of just how affordable Detroit’s food scene is. Explore the city and visit attractions like The Henry Ford Museum, Michigan Science Center, and the Detroit Experience Factory.

Where to Stay: Be close to all the action and have scenic views of the Detroit River (and Canada, on the other side) at the Rivertown Inn & Suites for less than $100 a night.

St. Augustine, Florida

Bridge over water in St. Augustine, Florida
SeanPavonePhoto | Adobe Stock

If you want a combination of beaches, history, and charm―on a budget―you can’t do much better than St. Augustine. This quaint city, with its centuries-old buildings, historic fort, and brick-lined streets feels like a little bit of Europe in Florida. 

There are tons of free attractions in St. Augustine that make this an incredibly affordable vacation destination. Explore the 42 miles of white sand beaches, take the free ferry to Fort Matanzas, visit Fort Mose Historic State Park, or hit up one of the many distilleries/wineries for complimentary tastings.

Where to Stay: Stay right by the beach for just around $150 a night (including breakfast) at the St. Augustine Inn.

Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri

Aerial view of lake and castle ruins at Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri
Eifel Kreutz | Adobe Stock

With more than 1,100 miles of shoreline, The Lake of the Ozarks is a prime (and affordable) destination for anyone who wants to vacation by the water. In addition to waterskiing, boating, and swimming, there’s plenty to do on land here as well. Head to Ha Ha Tonka State Park or Lake of the Ozarks State Park to hike, horseback ride, or go caving. Rent a bike and explore the cute streets of downtown Lake Ozarks, popping into the independently-owned shops and eateries. 

Where to Stay: You can even sleep on the water with a houseboat rental for around $200 per night. If you prefer your accommodations firmly on land, rooms at the Camden on the Lake Resort often go for under $130.

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