An affordable summer vacation doesn’t necessarily entail staying at home and making do with backyard activities. Despite school breaks and warm temperatures making it a popular and costly time to travel, there are still plenty of good options depending on your budget. The key lies in selecting a destination that might be less crowded during the season or offers affordable food, accommodations at various price points, and a range of free or inexpensive activities and attractions to enjoy.
Whether you prefer destinations closer to home that you might not have previously considered or more exotic locales for those with the means to cover airfare, there’s bound to be something on this list that suits your needs.
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Seaside, located near the northern end of the Oregon coast, is an excellent choice for an affordable beach getaway, conveniently reachable with a 90-minute drive from Portland. This charming destination offers a three-mile-long stretch of powdery sands, inviting visitors to enjoy a variety of activities such as searching for sand dollars at low tide, kite-flying, castle-building, fishing, and leisurely strolls.
For those who love cycling, a two-mile-long paved promenade runs along the beach, providing an ideal route for biking enthusiasts. Many places in Seaside offer bike rentals, including traditional bikes, beach cruisers, surreys, and more.
Besides the beach, you can find affordable entertainment options like the Seaside Aquarium, featuring entertaining seals, and the carnival amusements at the Funland Arcade, ensuring a fun-filled and budget-friendly vacation experience.
The Bahamas is a popular winter destination for those seeking to escape the cold, but the summer season offers excellent opportunities for budget-friendly travel. During this time, you can find cheaper airfare and hotel bargains. Despite being a few degrees warmer than the winter months, the cooling sea breezes make it comfortable for travelers. For those concerned about hurricanes, planning a visit in June or July reduces the risk, as major storms typically occur later in August or September.
Nassau provides affordable hotel options and serves as a great starting point for exploring less-visited islands that have preserved their authentic island charm. Local inns and B&Bs on islands like Cat Island, Abaco, Andros, Inagua, and Crooked Island can be booked at budget-friendly rates, offering an opportunity to experience the genuine beauty of the Bahamas without breaking the bank.
When talking about Baja, Cabo is often the first place that comes to mind, but there are many other beautiful spots along the peninsula worth exploring, such as Loreto, a charming town along the Sea of Cortez in the Sierra de la Giganta. With a less than two-hour direct flight from Los Angeles, Loreto is an ideal destination for nature lovers and those seeking an authentic Mexican experience.
As the original capital of the Californias, Loreto boasts a rich history, evident in the historic center with its buildings, including the 17th-century Misión de Nuestra Señora de Loreto. While summer temperatures can soar into the 90s, this season brings heavily discounted room rates, making it an excellent time to visit. It’s the perfect opportunity to enjoy the crystal-clear turquoise waters of Loreto Bay National Park, relax by a pool, and consider taking a trip to explore San Javier in the mountains, where temperatures are a few degrees cooler.
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico, as a U.S. territory, offers easy access from the mainland U.S. without the need for a passport. It remains an affordable destination, particularly during the summer, which is considered the off-season. For a hurricane-free experience, plan your trip in June or July.
San Juan, the capital city, boasts a blend of Spanish colonial-style buildings and historic forts, providing a fascinating cultural experience. The city is also home to beautiful beaches, adding to its allure.
To save on accommodations, consider booking a beachfront Airbnb or a rental with a kitchen to prepare some of your own meals. Dining out is also budget-friendly, with plenty of options for casual meals at under $10 per person. Additionally, delicious and inexpensive street food is widely available, allowing you to savor the local flavors without breaking the bank.
Please note that while Puerto Rico remains a popular and affordable destination, it’s always advisable to check for updated travel information and availability before planning your trip.
If you’re dreaming of a European getaway but concerned about finances, Slovenia could be the perfect solution. Ljubljana, its capital city, is nestled in an alpine valley along the picturesque Ljubljanica River, and it’s known to be one of the most affordable European destinations during the summer.
Stroll through the charming cobblestone streets adorned with hip bars, trendy cafes, art galleries, and museums. Don’t miss the hilltop castle, where you can explore Slovenia’s history through interactive exhibits and enjoy breathtaking views of the city and beyond from the tower. While in Ljubljana, you can also easily venture to Lake Bled, a stunning destination situated in the spectacular Julian Alps.
Slovenia offers a delightful mix of culture, natural beauty, and affordability, making it an excellent choice for a memorable and budget-friendly European adventure.
Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin
Known as “The Waterpark Capital of the World,” Wisconsin Dells is a fantastic destination for a fun-filled family getaway. The city boasts numerous waterparks, such as Noah’s Ark Waterpark, featuring two wave pools, a surfing simulator, and an impressive selection of 51 slides. In addition to waterparks, you’ll find various theme parks with thrilling roller coasters, making it an exciting destination for all ages.
Beyond water and theme parks, Wisconsin Dells offers an array of family-friendly activities, including miniature golf, museums, and a wide range of budget-friendly hotels. The area’s scenic bluffs along the rivers offer picturesque views and opportunities for affordable cruises.
For those who enjoy camping, there are plenty of options available, from tent camping to basic camping cabins, providing an opportunity to save even more while enjoying the great outdoors.
Whether you’re seeking water-based fun, theme park excitement, or natural beauty, Wisconsin Dells is a perfect spot for an enjoyable and budget-friendly family vacation.
Zakynthos Island, Greece
While Greece may not be the most budget-friendly option for a European vacation, you can still enjoy an affordable summer beach getaway on Zakynthos Island. As part of the Ionian islands, located west of the Greek mainland near Italy’s maritime border, Zakynthos offers a combination of cheap and mouthwatering food, along with reasonably priced hotels.
One of the island’s main attractions is its stunning beaches, with electric blue waters perfect for swimming and relaxation. Don’t miss the opportunity to capture a photo of the famous Shipwreck Beach, featuring the rusty skeleton of a shipwrecked vessel. The best time to visit the beach is when the sun is high in the sky, typically between 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. during the summer.
Aside from the beaches, there are plenty of free activities to enjoy on Zakynthos Island. Exploring charming villages and museums will offer insight into the island’s culture and history.
While getting to Greece might require some planning, Zakynthos Island offers an affordable and picturesque summer destination with beautiful beaches and plenty of opportunities for budget-friendly fun.
The Great Smoky Mountains, particularly in Gatlinburg, is a highly budget-friendly destination in the United States. With convenient access to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which has three entrances right downtown, visitors can explore the park without any admission fees. The park offers a multitude of hiking trails, including paths leading to magnificent waterfalls, providing plenty of opportunities for free outdoor adventures.
Additionally, the national park hosts free ranger-led programs, such as guided hikes, demonstrations, music performances, and storytelling sessions, adding to the overall experience without any extra cost.
To beat the heat, visitors can enjoy affordable and refreshing activities like riding the rapids on Little River, providing a fun way to cool off in the area. For a special splurge, consider the Gatlinburg SkyLift, an open-air chairlift ride to a 1,800-foot-high overlook, offering breathtaking views of the Smoky Mountains.
Whether you’re looking for nature exploration, outdoor activities, or simply enjoying the scenic beauty, Gatlinburg and the Great Smoky Mountains offer an excellent budget-friendly destination for travelers.
Azores Islands, Portugal
The Azores Islands, comprising nine beautiful islands located in the middle of the Atlantic, about 950 miles from mainland Portugal, offer a budget-friendly destination for travelers. Cheap airfare options are often available from Boston, making it accessible for those coming from the United States. Once you arrive, you’ll find a variety of inexpensive yet high-value hotels and vacation rentals to choose from.
Sao Miguel Island, in particular, is a hiker’s paradise with its stunning lagoons, volcano craters, streams, and waterfalls accessible only on foot. Pico Island is renowned for whale watching, with sperm whales present year-round, and it also boasts an impressive wine country, including the Criação Velha wine region, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Beyond hiking and whale watching, the Azores offer a range of exciting activities such as diving, birdwatching, cave exploring, and relaxing in hot springs. With so many possibilities, the Azores are an ideal destination for nature lovers and adventurers seeking a budget-friendly yet memorable vacation.
As the largest city in the Bluegrass State, Louisville has a lot to offer visitors. Famous for its horse racing, it’s also the namesake of the official bat of Major League Baseball, and it exudes Southern charm while providing big city amenities at affordable prices.
In the neighborhood of Old Louisville, you’ll find the country’s largest collection of Victorian-era homes, offering a glimpse into the city’s rich architectural history. Baseball enthusiasts can explore the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory, where they can take a guided tour, view bats used by legends like Babe Ruth and Cal Ripken, and even try their hand at swinging a fastball.
For those interested in horses, a visit to the Kentucky Derby Museum and Churchill Downs is a must. The museum provides insights into the history of the iconic race, and tours of the legendary race track are offered.
Williamsburg is an excellent choice for budget-conscious travelers, offering a variety of affordable hotel options. One of the main highlights of the city is Colonial Williamsburg, a historic district that takes visitors back in time to the American Revolution era when it served as the capital of the Virginia colony from 1699 to 1789. Exploring this well-preserved site provides an immersive historical experience.
In addition to Colonial Williamsburg, visitors can easily access other significant historical landmarks such as the Jamestown settlement and the Yorktown Battlefield, both of which played crucial roles in early American history.
For nature enthusiasts, York River State Park offers over 30 miles of hiking, mountain biking, and horse riding trails, providing ample opportunities to explore the region’s natural beauty.
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Colorado Springs, the state’s second-largest city, offers an ideal and affordable base for exploring both historical sites and a plethora of natural attractions. It’s no surprise that Katharine Lee Bates found inspiration here to write the lyrics to “America the Beautiful,” as the city is surrounded by incredible scenery, including the majestic “purple mountains.”
Hiking enthusiasts will find joy in exploring the trails at Garden of the Gods, known for its striking red rock formations, or embarking on the challenge of trekking up Pikes Peak, one of the most famous peaks in the United States. For a unique experience, visitors can reach the peak via the Pikes Peak Cog Railway, the highest cog railway in the world.
History buffs will find plenty of fascinating sites to explore, including the Old Colorado City Historic District, the McAllister House, and the Spencer Penrose Heritage Museum, which houses an impressive collection of 31 horse-drawn carriages and 13 motorized vehicles.
If you’re longing for a summer road trip surrounded by majestic mountain scenery without breaking the bank, consider Wyoming’s Wind River Country. While Jackson Hole offers breathtaking views, it can also be quite expensive. For a more budget-friendly option, stay in the charming small town of Dubois, where you can still enjoy stunning landscapes and a wealth of outdoor activities.
In Wind River Country, you’ll have the opportunity to hike through national forests and explore the Dubois badlands, where ancient petroglyphs dating back over 3,000 years can be found, providing a glimpse into the region’s rich history.
Fishing enthusiasts will be delighted with the many outstanding fishing spots just outside Dubois, such as the East Fork Wind River, offering a chance to catch some great fish and immerse yourself in nature.
While many of Mexico’s popular destinations can be scorching hot in the summer, the city of Oaxaca offers a more comfortable average temperature in the low 80s. It’s a budget-friendly option with plenty to do both in the city and throughout the state of Oaxaca.
In Oaxaca City, you can indulge in some of the most delicious cuisine in the country, as it’s renowned as one of Mexico’s top culinary destinations. Additionally, there is a wide range of affordable accommodation options available for under $80 a night, making it an ideal choice for budget travelers.
For a hidden coastal gem, consider Puerto Escondido along the Pacific coast. This stunning destination boasts some of the most beautiful beaches in the region, attracting surfers and travelers alike. Here, you can enjoy spectacular views, immerse yourself in authentic Mexican culture, and explore a fabulous outdoor food market offering tasty and inexpensive eats.
Traveling doesn’t have to break the bank, and these 14 affordable vacation destinations for summer prove just that. From the exotic beaches of Bali to the historic streets of Prague, each destination offers a unique experience at a reasonable cost. So why wait? Start planning your budget-friendly summer vacation today and create memories that will last a lifetime.