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Exploring on a Budget: Wallet-Friendly Destinations for the Savvy Traveler in the U.S.

April 17, 2024

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Are you a savvy traveler looking for new and thrifty adventures? You don’t have to hold back on exploring the U.S. because we have handpicked the most affordable vacations in America. Our guide will reveal the best places to explore the country’s beauty without compromising your budget, from hidden gems to famous landmarks.

1. Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Affordable Vacations in America - Sioux Falls

Sioux Falls is one of the cheap vacation spots in the U.S., with various activities and attractions. Falls Park is a must-visit, which boasts beautiful waterfalls and scenic walking trails. Downtown offers a unique outdoor experience with the SculptureWalk, showcasing captivating sculptures. History enthusiasts can delve into the past at the Old Courthouse Museum.


Families can go to the Great Plains Zoo and the Washington Pavilion, housing a science center, art gallery, and theater. The average accommodation cost ranges from $10 to $15 per person.


Budget-friendly restaurants typically range from $10 to $15 per meal. If you’re into fast food or cooking for yourself, you can cut that down even more. Budget hotels and motels go from $55 to $171 per night. Sioux Falls is easy to get around, thanks to its spot at the crossroads of I-90 and I-29. Its I-229 loop skips the busy business district.


For the cheapest vacation, consider traveling during the winter months of December to February. It’s chilly, but fewer people around means potential savings on everything.

2. Albuquerque, New Mexico

Affordable Vacations in America - Albuquerque NM

Albuquerque, New Mexico, is often considered a budget-friendly destination because of its wealth of free and affordable attractions. From exploring the historic Old Town to visiting the Petroglyph National Monument, there are plenty of activities that won’t strain your wallet. 


Accommodation costs in Albuquerque start at $48. However, on average, a night in a budget hotel can cost around $60 to $80, while a more upscale hotel might cost around $120 to $150 per night.


With a budget of $100 per day, you can enjoy places like the Albuquerque Museum for $6, Rio Grande Nature Center State Park for $3, or the Sandia Peak Tramway for $25. You could also enjoy local cuisine at affordable prices, with New Mexican dishes like enchiladas, tamales, and chiles rellenos typically available for under $15.


The best time for a budget trip to Albuquerque is November to March. Santa Fe nearby is perfect for family-friendly ski adventures at Ski Santa Fe, boasting 86 powdery trails.


Albuquerque has more to offer. For science buffs, don’t miss the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History. Additionally, Albuquerque is famous for its annual International Balloon Fiesta, where colorful hot air balloons light up the sky yearly.

3. Augusta, Georgia

Affordable Vacations in America - Augusta GA

Augusta, Georgia, isn’t just a charming Southern city; it’s your ticket to an affordable and fantastic getaway! With a daily budget of $100, you can visit the local restaurant to eat, visit some attractions, and spend a night in a budget-friendly hotel. 


Grab a bite for about $12, or go with a mid-range restaurant at $59 for two. Accommodation costs start at $39, while a more upscale hotel costs around $113 to $150 per night. The cheapest time to visit Augusta is in November. It might get hot, peaking at 90.4°F (32.4°C), but that’s also when prices chill out, making hotels more affordable.


You can explore downtown, dive into Augusta’s history at the Museum, or stroll the Riverwalk for sweet views of the Savannah River. 


Outdoor lovers can hike or bike along the Augusta Canal National Heritage Area. For golf fans, Augusta hosts The Masters at the National Golf Club. Don’t miss the parks and gardens, like the Phinizy Swamp Nature Park and the Sacred Heart Cultural Center Garden.

4. Memphis, Tennessee

Affordable Vacations in America - Memphis TN

Memphis, Tennessee, is a budget-friendly spot because it is often listed as an affordable destination, attracting visitors who want to make the most of their budget. 


Whether exploring the musical history at Sun Studio or enjoying the scenic Mississippi River views, Memphis provides a range of activities that are both culturally significant and economically accessible. With a budget of $100 per day, tacos, burgers, and BBQs under $15 are a tasty steal. You can crash in a budget hotel starting at $39.


The cheapest time to visit Memphis is during winter when temperatures and hotel prices are low. January, (followed closely by November) scores you rock-bottom flights and sweet hotel deals, excluding Elvis’ birthday celebrations.


Explore the birthplace of rock ‘n’ roll at Sun Studio for $20, dive into Civil Rights history at the National Civil Rights Museum for $20, or groove at the Stax Museum of American Soul Music for $15. For outdoor lovers, Shelby Farms Park has trails galore for hiking and horseback riding

5. Daytona Beach, Florida

Affordable Vacations in America - Daytona Beach FL

Daytona Beach, Florida, is one of the cheap places to vacation known for its great prices, stunning beaches, and fun attractions. Whether you’re into beach vibes, motorsports, or culture, Daytona’s something for you!


Accommodations in Daytona Beach offer beachfront resorts, kid-friendly hotels, budget motels, and vacation rentals. Prices start at $66 per night. When dining, expect to spend about $80 a day on delicious Daytona eats. If you feel like cooking, grocery prices here are 9% cheaper than the national average, allowing you to save some bucks on home-cooked meals.


Daytona’s attractions won’t break the bank either. Check out cool spots like the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse & Museum for $6.95, or the Museum of Arts & Sciences for $12.95. The city is also home to the famous Daytona Beach Boardwalk – it’s got restaurants, shops, and amusement park rides for a fun day out.

The cheapest time to visit Daytona on a budget is from March to May. It’s got nice weather and post-race season deals. However, if you’re a NASCAR fan, the NASCAR Speedweeks in February are worth catching!  

6. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Affordable Vacations in America - Oklahoma City OK

If you are looking for cheap places to vacation, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma has affordable hotels, tasty food, and many experiences from culture and history to outdoor fun and sports events.


Hotels start from $38 per night, and if you’re feeling fancy, upscale hotels start at $88.


When dining, OKC has everything from BBQ to vegan options under $15. Dive into a traditional Pakistani breakfast for $13.99 or grab delicious tacos and burritos for $12 to 14 at Alfredo’s. If Moroccan flavors are your favorite, Cous Cous has sandwiches and salads for about $8 to 10.


Explore the OKC Museum of Art for $12 (kids 17 and under are always free!), catch an exciting OKC Dodgers baseball game starting at $15, or hop on the OKC Streetcar for free on the third Friday of the month.


For the most budget-friendly trip, visit Oklahoma City from January 8th to March 4th, April 16th to April 29th, or August 13th to November 25th. If you want the absolute cheapest time, plan for early to mid-September.


Oklahoma City has endless top attractions, including the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, the lively Bricktown, and the fascinating SKELETONS: Museum of Osteology. 


Enjoy outdoor vibes at Scissortail Park, cruise on the Bricktown Water Taxi, or get artsy at Factory Obscura’s Mix-Tape. If you’re a sports fan, catching a Thunder game is a must!

7. El Paso, Texas

Affordable Vacations in America - EL Paso TX

El Paso, Texas, is an affordable vacation spot with diverse attractions often at little to no cost. Explore the Franklin Mountains or dive into history at places like the El Paso Mission Trail without breaking the bank. Hotel accommodations start for as low as $38 per night.


For budget-friendly dining, check out Tacos Chinampa for a 6-pack of tacos at $11.50 or a Tripita Taco Plate from $12.50 to $15.00. Good Luck Cafe offers affordable eats like Nachos with Bean for $7.20, Nachos with Chorizo or Ground Beef for $9.60, and Nachos with Desebrada for $12.00.


El Paso’s attractions cater to various interests, including the free National Border Patrol Museum, El Paso Zoo for $12, and Franklin Mountains State Park with a day-use fee of $5 per person. The cheapest time to visit is winter, especially in January, when hotel accommodations are 24% lower.


Enjoy exciting activities like exploring the historic Mission Trail or homestyle Texan cooking. El Paso hosts events yearly, such as the El Paso Downtown Street Festival and the Neon Desert Music Festival.


Exploring the U.S. on a budget doesn’t mean you have to compromise on the quality of your travel experience. Albuquerque, Augusta, Daytona Beach, and El Paso are some of the cheapest travel destinations offering many activities and sights to enjoy. By planning smartly, booking cheap flights with OneAir, and staying flexible, you can significantly cut travel costs without missing out on the fun.


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