7 Cheap Places to Travel in the US

by Global Viewpoint
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Traveling is undeniably one of life’s most enriching experiences. The excitement of exploring new places, experiencing different cultures, and tasting unique cuisines, adds incredible value to our lives. However, a common misconception that often holds people back is that traveling is an expensive luxury exclusive to the affluent. But that’s simply not true! With this post on cheap places to travel in the US, I aim to show you that travel is possible with any budget! 

Traveling is one of my favorite things, and I wish more people could experience the joy. However, finances are a significant concern for many potential travelers – especially now. For this reason, I have made it my mission to highlight the affordable aspects of travel. Whether you’re looking for the cheapest countries to fly to or the cheapest places to fly in the fall, I’ve got you covered. 

The other misconception I hope to debunk is that cheap travel is inferior to luxury travel. Many popular destinations around the world are budget-friendly. Sometimes, the cheapest travel deals aren’t about where you go but when. 

Naturally, domestic travel will usually be cheaper than long international flights. So, if you’re looking for the most bang for your buck, consider vacations within your home country. And if you’re in the US, that leaves you with endless possibilities. From the Carolina Coast to the Mountains of Utah, plenty of unforgettable destinations won’t break the bank. 

So, what are you waiting for? Let’s journey to the best cheap places to travel in the US! 

cheap places to travel in the US text overlay above a photo of mountains
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#1 tip for finding cheap places to travel in the US

Looking for the most budget-friendly travel destinations in the US? Then you’ll want to know my secret for finding the cheapest domestic flights! This tip has saved me significant money on airfare, so I want to spill the beans before we cover locations.

For the ultimate budget-friendly trip, I recommend Scott’s Cheap Flights (now called Going). It’s free, easy to use, and will help you find cheap places to travel in the US. 

I’ve been using Scott’s for years, and it’s one of the best services I’ve found for affordable airfare. To get started, simply pop in your preferred airport, and they will send you free email alerts filled with low-cost flights to over 90 destinations across the world.

If your goal is to travel a lot more often, they also have a premium version that will get you more deals. For just $49/year, you’ll be among the first to know about amazing flight deals. Dreaming of finally making it to the west coast? With Scott’s, you can find roundtrip flights to San Francisco for under $200! 

But when it comes to sticking to a budget, no one wants to spend more money. So, with that in mind, you can use code JON20 to save 20% on any premium subscription.

Other considerations for finding cheap places to travel in the US

If your main goal with traveling is saving money, you won’t be disappointed. There are many cheap places to travel in the US that are as enjoyable as they are affordable. Whether you’re looking to explore National Parks like Yellowstone or uncover Georgia’s southern charm, I’ve got you covered. 

When choosing the best affordable places to travel in the US, I looked at three main factors: affordability, diversity of activities, and overall uniqueness. I want to provide you with options that ensure you get the most bang for your buck. These locations are light on your pocket but heavy on experience and memories. 

From untouched natural landscapes and bustling cities rich in culture to quaint towns with a story, the United States offers a spectrum of low-cost travel options. This guide will break down the top seven budget-friendly locations, diving into the unique features that make them worthy of your exploration. 

It’s important to remember that airfare fluctuates often, and the cheapest places to travel in the US can change. Prices can also vary depending on where you are departing from and the time of year. However, I specifically chose places that tend to be the most affordable year-round. And, of course, the best way to find the best flight deals is to sign up for flight alerts from sites like Scott’s Cheap Flights.   

Finding the best flight deals isn’t always easy. However, it doesn’t have to be difficult. Sometimes it just takes a little time, patience, and flexibility. Then, before you know it, you’ll be enjoying a cheap US vacation in no time!

Cheapest places to travel in the US: the most affordable domestic flights of 2023

Budget travel, contrary to what some may believe, is far more than a mere financial decision. It is a mindset, a philosophy of travel where the value of an experience isn’t dictated by the money spent to acquire it. Traveling on a budget often requires resourcefulness and creativity, pushing you to find the hidden gems that don’t come with heavy price tags.

The misconception that budget travel equals low-quality experiences is a myth we’re here to dispel. Every place has a story to tell and an experience to share. And often, these are accessible without extravagant costs. These selected destinations prove that traveling cheaply doesn’t mean skimping on the experiences.

Ready to see the benefits of budget travel for yourself? Here are my top 7 cheap places to travel in the US!

1. Smoky Mountains, Tennessee

Looking for cheap places to travel in the US? Your first stop should be the enchanting Smoky Mountains! This Tennessee destination is an affordable escape into the beauty of unspoiled landscapes. If you long for a refreshing retreat from the bustle of city life, you’ve found it. I recommend flying into McGee-Tyson Airport (TYS) in Alcoa, TN, to enjoy a cheap vacation to the Smokies

The Smoky Mountains are one of the cheapest places to travel in the US
The Smoky Mountains will leave you breathless on your vacation.

The Smoky Mountains are great for budget-friendly travelers because of the free and low-cost activities. The region boasts the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, one of the most visited national parks in the US. And here’s the kicker: it’s completely free. With over 800 miles of trails, it’s a paradise for hikers, wildlife enthusiasts, and outdoor lovers.

From witnessing the morning mist delicately envelop the peaks – a phenomenon that gives the Smokies their name – to exploring the diverse flora and fauna, your adventures don’t come with a hefty price tag. And when it comes to accommodations, they won’t break the bank, either. There are many reasonably priced cabins with comfortable amenities. Or if you have an adventurous spirit, camping is an excellent option.

Foodies will relish the local cuisine that offers hearty meals at affordable prices. Indulge in local favorites like country ham and biscuits or the famed Tennessee BBQ. You can find these favorites at family-run diners and restaurants throughout the region. After this trip, you may even hesitate to head back home!

Looking to save BIG on airfare? I recommend signing up for Dollar Flight Club. Thanks to DFC, I saved $5,000+ on travel in 2023…so I couldn’t recommend it more!

2. Outer Banks, North Carolina

If your dream vacation involves pristine beaches, rich history, and plentiful wildlife, the Outer Banks of North Carolina are calling your name. This 200-mile-long string of barrier islands is an oasis of natural beauty and vibrant culture. And the best part? It’s among the cheapest places to travel in the US!

Wild horses roam the beaches of Corolla in OBX.
Wild horses roam the beaches of Corolla in OBX.

Cost-efficient yet fulfilling, the Outer Banks is a paradise for beach lovers and history buffs alike. The miles of golden, sandy beaches are free to access, offering you the perfect setting for a day of sunbathing, picnicking, or splashing in the Atlantic waves. The wild horses of Corolla, a majestic sight, roam free, adding a fairytale-like charm to your beach experience.

History enthusiasts can take advantage of the wealth of historical sites. The Wright Brothers National Memorial, where aviation took flight, asks for a modest entrance fee. You can also tour the island’s famous lighthouses for reasonable costs or free in some cases.

The Outer Banks also hosts an array of budget-friendly accommodations to suit your needs. Affordable vacation rentals are available across the islands. For the more adventurous, campgrounds provide a low-cost alternative, allowing you to sleep under the stars with the soothing sounds of the sea in the background.

When it comes to dining, seafood is the star of the show, and the local catch is often priced reasonably. From delicious clam chowder to mouth-watering crab cakes, the Outer Banks offers culinary delights that satiate your seafood cravings without overfishing your budget. If flying to OBX, you’ll have the best luck finding flight deals to Norfolk International Airport (ORF) in Norfolk, VA. From there, you can rent a car and enjoy stunning views along Beach Road

3. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Yellowstone National Park, spreading across Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho, is a national and global treasure. As the world’s first national park, Yellowstone offers an experience that’s both priceless and remarkably affordable. 

A magnet for nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers alike, Yellowstone’s admission fee is relatively modest. An entrance pass covers access for a week, providing incredible value for the scale of the park’s offerings. 

Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone.
Grand Prismatic Spring is one of the most popular attractions in Yellowstone.

Yellowstone is renowned for its geothermal features, with the iconic Old Faithful geyser being a must-see. However, this park offers much more. Witness the vibrantly hued Grand Prismatic Spring, observe a variety of wildlife, or hike through the park’s extensive trail system. Each experience is a step into the wild and wonderful, an exploration of the country’s raw beauty.

Budget-friendly accommodation options are plentiful around and within Yellowstone. A variety of campgrounds within the park offer low-cost options for those eager to sleep under the expansive Western sky. Yellowstone is also a great place to try glamping. Alternatively, affordable lodges and cabins in the gateway towns cater to different budgets and comfort levels.

Ultimately, a trip to Yellowstone proves that cheap places to travel in the US offer plenty to do. You don’t need to sacrifice a thing to have a budget-conscious vacation! To get here, you can take a road trip or a flight. You can fly into several airports depending on which part of the park you’re looking to visit. The West Yellowstone Airport (WYS) is among the most popular for visiting the national park. 

4. Austin, Texas

For a unique and affordable destination, add Austin, Texas, to your list. This vibrant city sings a budget-friendly tune! Famed as the “Live Music Capital of the World,” Austin’s diverse and dynamic environment offers an array of experiences without striking a sour note with your finances.

Austin, Texas, is a popular cheap place to travel in the US
The Austin city skyline reflected in Lady Bird Lake.

The city is a symphony of free and inexpensive activities. From walking along Lady Bird Lake and picnicking in Zilker Park to swimming in the natural spring-fed Barton Springs Pool, Austin’s outdoors cater to the cost-conscious traveler. 

But Austin’s magic is truly amplified when the sun sets. Most of Austin’s hundreds of live music venues offer free or very reasonably priced shows. From foot-tapping country to indie rock, the city’s music scene is a treat for your ears and wallet. 

If you’re looking to stay awhile, Austin offers a spectrum of affordable accommodations. Budget hotels, motels, and hostels are scattered across the city, providing options for different comfort levels and price points. For those who prefer a more down-home feel, Austin’s short-term vacation rentals offer competitive prices, particularly if you’re traveling in a group.

Austin’s charm lies in its unique blend of urban vibrancy and natural beauty, all wrapped in a budget-friendly package. Its rich culture, lively music scene, and tantalizing culinary offerings make it a must-visit on any budget-conscious traveler’s itinerary. Austin is a clear testament that you don’t need to splurge to enjoy a city’s rhythm and soul. Ready to keep Austin weird? You can find cheap flights to the city’s main airport, Austin-Bergstrom (AUS)

5. Savannah, Georgia

If you’re seeking an affordable yet captivating destination, look no further than Savannah, Georgia. Steeped in Southern charm and brimming with history, this picturesque city offers a wealth of budget-friendly activities, affordable accommodations, and convenient transportation options. And, of course, it’s a top-ranked cheap place to travel in the US!

Shops and restaurants on River Street in Savannah, GA
Shops and restaurants on River Street in Savannah.

Savannah is a city where some of the best experiences come without a price tag. Start by strolling through the historic district’s 22 squares, each with its unique story and charm. Wander through Forsyth Park with its iconic fountain, soak in the city’s history, and do it for free.

Another must-visit is River Street, a bustling, cobbled waterfront lined with century-old buildings converted into quaint shops, galleries, and eateries. Here, window-shopping and people-watching won’t cost you a penny. A visit to Bonaventure Cemetery, with its ethereal beauty and historical significance, is also free and worthy of your time.

Savannah offers a range of affordable accommodations, including budget hotels, guesthouses, and charming bed and breakfasts. Look for deals and discounts online or consider staying just outside the city center for more budget-friendly options. Hostels are also a great choice for budget-conscious travelers, providing an opportunity to meet fellow explorers and share expenses.

For the most budget-friendly option when flying into Savannah, the Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport (SAV) is your best bet. Located just 15 minutes from downtown, this airport is served by several major airlines, offering competitive fares and occasional deals. Consider booking your flight well in advance and be flexible with travel dates to secure the best prices!

6. Albuquerque, New Mexico

Looking for a budget-friendly mix of cultural diversity, natural beauty, and a dose of adventure? Albuquerque, New Mexico, is a perfect choice! Nestled between the Sandia Mountains and the Rio Grande, Albuquerque offers an affordable exploration of the rich tapestry of Native American, Hispanic, and Western cultures.

Albuquerque, New Mexico, is a cheap sity to visit in the US
Albuquerque is an underrated city but it is worth a visit.

Albuquerque is home to many activities that are light on the wallet yet heavy on experience. The city’s historic Old Town, dating back to 1706, offers a free walk through centuries-old adobe buildings, quaint shops, and local art galleries. Albuquerque also has many parks and bike trails that offer an enjoyable time in nature. Or, for a modest fee, you can soar above the city on the Sandia Peak Tramway, offering stunning panoramic views of the surrounding landscapes. 

Every October, Albuquerque hosts the International Balloon Fiesta, the world’s largest hot air balloon festival. While there’s a small entrance fee, the sight of the sky painted with hundreds of vibrant balloons offers a truly priceless experience.

No matter when you visit, one thing is certain: the food scene in Albuquerque is amazing. Savor the flavors of New Mexican cuisine, with dishes like enchiladas, tamales, and the city’s famed green chile, without having to splurge. Local diners and food trucks offer mouth-watering meals that are easy on your budget.

The Albuquerque International Sunport (ABQ) serves as the main airport for the city and offers reasonable airfare options. Several major airlines operate flights to and from ABQ, providing opportunities for competitive prices, especially when booking in advance.

7. Lake Tahoe, California/Nevada

For further proof that cheap places to travel in the US are not inferior, visit Lake Tahoe! Straddling the border of California and Nevada, this natural paradise offers year-round activities at an affordable price. Its clear blue waters, surrounded by majestic mountains, present an affordable playground for relaxation and adventure.

During the summer, Lake Tahoe’s beaches are a haven for sunbathers, swimmers, and picnickers, with many beaches offering free access. Hiking trails wind their way around the lake, providing breathtaking vistas and encounters with local flora and fauna, all at no cost. Renting a bike for a ride around the lake or a kayak for a paddle on its tranquil waters can be done without breaking the bank.

Beautiful Lake Tahoe near Sand Harbor in Nevada.
Lake Tahoe near Sand Harbor in Nevada.

When winter descends, Lake Tahoe transforms into a winter wonderland. Skiing and snowboarding may require a moderate investment, but there are more budget-friendly snow activities like tubing, snowshoeing, and even building a good old-fashioned snowman.

Accommodation in the Lake Tahoe region caters to all budgets. Economical lodges, motels, and vacation rentals are available, many of them offering stunning views of the lake or mountains. Campgrounds are also available for a closer-to-nature stay at a lower cost.

As for food, Lake Tahoe presents an array of dining options that won’t break the bank. Explore local eateries and indulge in hearty comfort food like burgers, tacos, or pizza. Many restaurants offer affordable lunch specials and happy hour deals, allowing you to savor delicious meals without stretching your budget.

When flying into Lake Tahoe, the Reno-Tahoe International Airport (RNO) in Nevada is the most cost-effective option. Several major airlines offer competitive fares to RNO, making it easier to find affordable flights. From the airport, it’s just a short drive to reach the shores of Lake Tahoe.

Frequently asked questions about cheap places to travel in the US

Looking to make some budget-friendly travel plans? Here are some popular questions and answers about cheap places to travel in the US. 

What are some of the cheapest places to travel in the US?

If you’re looking for fun on a budget, you’re in luck! There are several affordable destinations in the US that offer great value for budget-conscious travelers. Here are some cheap places to travel in the US:

Smoky Mountains, Tennessee/North Carolina: The Smoky Mountains offer a wealth of outdoor activities and stunning natural beauty. With free access to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, you can enjoy hiking trails, scenic drives, and wildlife spotting without spending a dime.

Outer Banks, North Carolina: OBX is a popular destination for beach lovers on a budget. With miles of pristine coastline and charming beach towns, you can relax and enjoy the sun without entry fees.

Yellowstone National Park: Yellowstone offers awe-inspiring geothermal wonders, breathtaking landscapes, and abundant wildlife. While there is a small entrance fee, once inside the park, there are numerous free activities, including hiking, wildlife viewing, and visiting iconic features like Old Faithful.

Austin, Texas: Austin offers a vibrant and eclectic atmosphere with a range of budget-friendly attractions. Explore the city’s lively music scene by visiting venues and attending free concerts. Discover outdoor spaces like Zilker Park or Lady Bird Lake, where you can enjoy nature and take part in activities like hiking, kayaking, or paddleboarding.

Savannah, Georgia: Savannah’s historic charm and Southern hospitality make it an excellent affordable destination. Explore the city’s historic district, stroll through picturesque squares, and enjoy free attractions like Forsyth Park.

Albuquerque, New Mexico: Albuquerque offers a mix of cultural heritage and stunning landscapes. Explore the city’s Old Town, visit the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, and enjoy the Sandia Mountains.

Lake Tahoe, California/Nevada: Lake Tahoe captivates visitors with its alpine beauty and outdoor adventures. Enjoy free activities like hiking, swimming at public beaches, and scenic drives.

What month is the cheapest to travel in US?

For the budget-conscious traveler, September is the golden month to explore the United States. As the summer travel rush subsides, airfares and accommodations often dip, offering enticing deals. With schools back in session and fewer tourists, you can enjoy reduced crowds, pleasant weather, and discounted rates for flights, hotels, and attractions.

Whether you’re chasing the autumn foliage in New England or basking in the sunshine on California’s coast, September presents an opportunity to experience the diverse landscapes and vibrant cities of the US while keeping your expenses in check.

Are there any affordable destinations for budget travelers in the US?

Absolutely! The US offers numerous affordable destinations for budget-conscious travelers. Some popular options include cities like Savannah, Georgia; Austin, Texas; and Albuquerque, New Mexico. These cities offer a vibrant atmosphere, cultural experiences, and affordable accommodations and dining options. 

For outdoor enthusiasts, there are plenty of cheap travel destinations in the US that will satisfy you with beauty and recreation. Tennessee’s Smoky Mountains, Yellowstone National Park, and Lake Tahoe are all cheap places to travel in the US. 

Bodie Island Lighthouse in the Outer Banks, NC.
Bodie Island Lighthouse in the Outer Banks, NC.

How can I find cheap flights within the US?

There are a few strategies to find cheap flights. My biggest tip is flexibility. Being flexible with your travel dates can make a significant difference in flight prices. Midweek flights are often cheaper than weekends, and flying during off-peak seasons or shoulder seasons can offer better deals. Similarly, booking in advance can help you secure lower prices. Airlines often release their tickets around 6-8 months before the departure date, so keep an eye out for sales and promotions during that time.

Sometimes you can’t be flexible with your travel plans, or something comes up at the last minute. In that case, it’s still possible to find cheap flights. Always use flight search engines like Skyscanner, Kayak, or Google Flights. These platforms allow you to compare prices across multiple airlines and provide flexible date options to help you find the best deals. Don’t forget to sign up for Scott’s Cheap Flights (Going) alerts, too! This way, you’ll receive notifications when prices drop or when there are special promotions on your desired routes.

Additionally, be open to flying into nearby airports, as they may offer cheaper fares. Flying with budget airlines can also save you money, although keep in mind some add fees for luggage and carry-on items, which can increase the prices. 

Besides travel fees, accommodations can be a big expense when it comes to traveling. Fortunately, there are many affordable accommodation options in popular tourist destinations. Look for budget hotels, hostels, or guesthouses in the area. Consider staying outside the city center or in neighboring towns, as prices are lower there. Vacation rentals like Airbnb and Vrbo can also provide cost-effective alternatives, especially for groups or longer stays.

Enjoying outdoor spaces is a great way to save money when traveling, like the Hamilton Pool near Austin, TX.
Enjoying outdoor spaces is a great way to save money when traveling, like the Hamilton Pool near Austin, TX.

What are some cheap or free things to do in major cities?

Major cities in the US often offer a range of cheap or free activities. Take advantage of public parks, botanical gardens, and outdoor spaces for picnics or leisurely walks. Explore local markets, street fairs, or festivals that showcase the city’s culture and entertainment without breaking the bank. Many cities also have free or discounted museum days, walking tours, or public art installations to enjoy.

How can I save money on food while traveling in the US?

To save money on food while traveling, consider eating at local food trucks, affordable diners, or casual eateries instead of high-end restaurants. Look for lunch specials or happy hour deals that offer discounted prices. Additionally, visit local supermarkets or farmer’s markets to grab fresh produce and snacks for budget-friendly meals.

What is the cheapest way to travel in us?

Looking for the most budget-friendly way to travel within the United States? Embrace the wonders of bus travel! Opting for buses, such as those provided by Greyhound or Megabus, offers an affordable mode of transportation. With numerous routes connecting cities nationwide, you can explore different destinations without breaking the bank.

Enjoy the scenic views, save on fuel and parking costs, and even take advantage of special deals and discounts offered by these bus operators. So, hop on board, sit back, and embark on an economical journey across the diverse landscapes of the United States.

Where is the cheapest place to vacation in us?

Looking for an affordable vacation spot within the United States? Look no further than New Orleans, Louisiana.

New Orleans, renowned for its vibrant culture, lively music scene, and delectable cuisine, offers a unique and affordable vacation experience. From strolling through the historic French Quarter to savoring mouthwatering Creole dishes, there’s something for every traveler’s taste.

Apart from its cultural allure, New Orleans provides numerous affordable accommodation options, including budget hotels, cozy guesthouses, and charming bed and breakfasts. You can also enjoy free or low-cost entertainment such as street performances, exploring picturesque parks, and indulging in the city’s renowned street food.

If you’re a nature enthusiast seeking budget-friendly adventures, the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee and North Carolina has got you covered. As the most visited national park in the United States, it offers breathtaking landscapes, scenic hiking trails, and picturesque waterfalls—all without an entrance fee. With affordable cabin rentals and campgrounds, you can immerse yourself in the beauty of the great outdoors while keeping your wallet happy.

For those seeking coastal charm on a budget, Myrtle Beach in South Carolina offers an abundance of affordable beachfront accommodations and plenty of free or low-cost activities. Enjoy long stretches of sandy beaches, explore the lively boardwalk, and indulge in fresh seafood without breaking the bank.

Lastly, don’t overlook Las Vegas, Nevada, which often surprises travelers with its affordable options. With numerous hotels offering competitive rates, inexpensive dining choices, and a multitude of free attractions and entertainment on the famous Las Vegas Strip, you can experience the glitz and glamour of the city without draining your savings.

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