If you’re strapped for cash and sure that there’s no way you can actually go on an enjoyable vacation, you might be surprised to learn that it’s absolutely possible to get away from it all without spending a fortune. The key? Find the cheapest travel destinations that provide you with endless options for activity and exploration without sacrificing a thing in the process. If you’re wondering where to go on a budget, here are a few ideas.
Offering a combination of history, scenery, and fun all in one spot, Williamsburg is among the most enjoyable and educational places to visit in Virginia. The center of the American Revolution, Williamsburg is the place to walk in the footsteps of the country’s Founding Fathers. You can tour Colonial Williamsburg for free, enjoy an affordable meal in one of the old-world taverns, and listen to the informative costumed interpreters share details about the area’s storied past. You can also take in spectacular views during a free 15-minute ride on the Jamestown-Scotland Ferry.
If you’re especially intrigued by the area’s history, explore the Native American, Revolutionary, and Colonial artifacts at the York County Historical Museum — all without paying a penny. And if you’re all about exploring the area on foot, take some time during your summer schedule to head to Merchants Square for the complimentary Summer Breeze Concert Series. For outdoor enthusiasts, it’s also worth a visit to the Williamsburg Botanical Garden situated in Freedom Park. It’s packed with vibrant native plants, and there’s also a picnic space where you can relax and enjoy the scenery. There are several reasonable lodging options in town, ranging from family-friendly hotels to historic inns.
Grand Canyon, AZ
It may surprise some to learn that the Grand Canyon is one of the cheapest travel destinations in the country. This national park in Arizona provides plenty of opportunities to have a great time on the cheap. Note that the National Park Service allows free admission on select days of the year, usually to coincide with a national holiday like Veterans Day weekend or Presidents’ Day. There are also plenty of affordable hotel rooms in Flagstaff, which is roughly 90 miles from the South Rim and home to the closest bus connections, too — always check dates and rates well in advance of your journey so that you can get the best possible rate for the season.
Another cheaper option is to camp out in your tent; there are several campgrounds in the vicinity, many of which provide beautiful views and outstanding rates. It’s busiest during summer, so keep that in mind when planning your itinerary. If you can’t avoid a warm-weather getaway, consider visiting the less-congested North Rim instead. There are free shuttle buses in the park to transport you to museums, restaurants, hotels, or wherever you’re headed.
Portland is largely known for its incredible restaurants and natural beauty. But this Oregon destination is also a great place to travel on a budget! It’s easiest to get around town using the TriMet light rail system or rent a bike — both are just a few dollars a day. Hotels here run the gamut from low-end to luxury; among the most inexpensive are those situated near Portland International Airport. There are even a few beloved, quirky hostels in the area that are well worth it if you’re determined to keep spending to a minimum.
Don’t miss the Portland Aerial Tram, which is free if you’re riding down one way or a few dollars if you’re going round trip. It takes you on a four-minute journey over Marquam Hill and provides spectacular mountain views. Or catch a movie at the circa-1923 Laurelhurst Theater and enjoy a classic with the family. If you’re just wandering around, make your way to Pioneer Courthouse Square downtown; there are countless free events that occur year-round. Hoyt Arboretum, Tom McCall Waterfront Park, and the International Rose Test Garden are also free to enter, as well as being a great way to make the most of your time in this dynamic city.
Finger Lakes, NY
Napa isn’t in the cards for everyone. If you’re a wine-drinking enthusiast, though, a trip to Finger Lakes, New York, is a sensible alternative that’s also relatively easy on the wallet. The key is to plan in advance to make the most of your getaway. There’s a lot to do at this upstate destination that resembles something from a postcard. It’s the perfect place to go if you want to escape the chaos of the city, reconnect with nature, and enjoy mouthwatering meals and wine. There are several affordable attractions in the area, including the Finger Lakes Boating Museum, Skaneateles Lake, Watkins Glen State Park, and the Seneca Lake Wine Trail.
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