Who says you’ve got to cross the globe to have the adventure of a lifetime? A domestic sojourn is just what you need to breathe fresh air into your routine without breaking the bank. From cheap trips to the next town over to affordable flights across the county, the options are endless.
It’s all too easy to fall into the trap of thinking farther is always better. The truth is that if you live in the US, you’ve got some of the most jaw-droppingly beautiful landscapes and rich urban wonderlands right in your backyard.
After exploring more than 70 countries around the globe, the United States still takes my breath away and it probably always will.
Ready to name your own adventure? Here are the best cheap vacations and budget-friendly trip ideas in the United States.
When it comes to getting out and enjoying the great outdoors, the Golden State is a top pick. Whether you want to take in the unique desert beauty of Joshua Tree National Park, trek through the towering sequoias, or lounge on the sun-soaked coast, camping in California is a perfect way to disconnect.
One of my favorite parts of camping is having a good old-fashioned cookout. From morning pancakes to late-night s’mores, I’ve got one go-to Camping Meal Plan and Packing List that I look forward to on every camping trip.
Money-Saving Tip: Keep your cheap trip from going off-budget by packing up these affordable and handy camping essentials that’ll take the “rough” out of roughing it.
RV Camping and Glamping
Sure, the cheapest travel options are always basic tents. One thing I’ve learned in my years of travel, however, is that it’s key to look at the bigger picture. When it comes to cheap trips, don’t focus all of your attention on paying rock bottom prices for transport and accommodation.
Look at the full picture. If glamping means that you’re not spending cash at restaurants and nights on the town, you might end up spending less on a luxe stay than you would in a cheap city hotel. Be realistic about your spending and what you really want to do.
Explore the amazing glamping destinations in the USA and see if there are any options that might just entice you into the great outdoors.
And, check out RVs! Grab my 10 Places to Go RV Camping in California for the best of the best options.
Trust me, when you’ve got perfect weather and a quaint little home to call your own, camping is a revitalizing and refreshing experience.
Big Sur, California
Take a Road Trip
A road trip in the USA is a true bucket list experience. From sea to shining sea, this gorgeous county is ripe for exploration.
Years ago, I started my mission to hit the wide-open road and cruise through my list of the Best Road Trips in the USA. Traveling slowly and exploring the tucked-away gems between destinations opened my eyes to the incredible beauty of this country.
Don’t have time to see it all? If you only take one road trip this year, go for either a California Coast road trip or an unforgettable Southern USA road trip. Both are dream year-round destinations thanks to the gorgeous weather, great routes for foodies, and those wanting to delve into history and nature.
Take a Hiking Trip
When it comes to cheap trips, look to the great outdoors.
Go backcountry hiking in Yosemite or plan a DIY wellness weekend in Moab, Utah. After trekking through some of the most scenic hikes in the world, I’ve fallen in love with endless excursions through nature.
There is no better way to disconnect and refresh than soak in the natural beauty of this magical planet. If you feel like you always need a vacation after your vacation, grab a pair of hiking boots and hit the road.
Just make sure they are good hiking boots! There’s nothing worse than getting out into the middle of nowhere and realizing that your feet are killing you, you’re freezing, or your water bottle is empty. But, it’s all totally preventable — run through my list of hiking essentials and hit the ground running.
Tour Your Own City & Plan a Staycation
When I first started The Blonde Abroad and was on a very tight backpacking budget, I looked to cheap destinations like Southeast Asia and Eastern Europe. I opted for discount hotels and cheap hotels where I could stretch my dollar to the max.
These days, I’ve found that I can have epic adventures (on a budget) close to home!
That’s why staycations were one of my top picks for the Travel Bucket List for 2022. Exploring your usual stomping ground with the eyes of a tourist is just what we all need in this day and age. Take the time to stop and smell the flowers. Explore the must-sees that you’ve somehow never gotten around to seeing.
Master the art of planning the perfect staycation, and it’ll pay off every day. Not only is it an affordable travel plan, but it’ll make you fall in love with your hometown all over again.
Start your day with a yoga class or get to that trendy brunch spot. Explore the hottest attractions in town or wander around that gallery you’ve always meant to check out. Whatever and wherever it is, just make sure that it’s off your usual beaten path.
Yosemite National Park
Visit the National Parks
One of the best things about traveling the United States is the incredible natural beauty of the national park system.
From the rugged splendor of Yellowstone National Park and Rocky Mountain National Park to the otherworldly beauty of the “Mighty 5” of Utah, a visit to the national park is the best way to experience the great outdoors.
There are so many national parks to visit that you’ll really need to narrow down what kind of trip do you want — do you prefer towering trees with coastal views, or would you like to be up in the mountains? Are desert landscapes your jam or is it all about the snow?
The US has 63 national parks (and even more state parks), and there’s something for everyone.
86 Cannon Historic Inn in Charleston
Stay at a Bed & Breakfast
Stay close, and stay local. Forget about chain hotels and fancy boutique hotspots. I’ve often found the best hospitality and unforgettable experiences inside of a quiet little bed and breakfast.
Don’t worry about going too far or flying anywhere — just search locally (my suggestion would be 2-4 hours driving, tops) and make a long weekend of it!
Plan a Beach Getaway
Find the perfect beachfront escape to hang your summer hat. Once you have the right accommodation, you can keep your expenses at a bare minimum. Sometimes it’s worth spending a bit of extra cash to get prime access to the best beaches. Again, it’s all about seeing the big picture.
Hip towns like Long Beach and captivating coastal escapes like Cape Cod are dreamy escapes. Once you have found a sun-soaked stretch of sand for yourself, grab your bikini and a good book for a dream destination.
I’m personally fond of San Diego as it has excellent beaches, but also city life (meaning good restaurants and tons of activities! Check out my one-week San Diego itinerary to start planning.
Plan a Seasonal Trip
Good travel is a bit like good food; your best options are seasonal and local. Whether it’s leaf-peeping in fall, smelling the spring flowers, swimming under the summer sun, or having a cozy wintry weekend, embrace the moment.
Explore some of the lesser-known destinations of the United States to find affordable options off the beaten path.
Another thing to consider when planning a seasonal trip is the food! Are there places that host food festivals or are there certain times of the year when something is in its prime? Crawfish season in Louisiana definitely comes to mind (the peak months being March, April, and May).
Here are a few seasonal trips to take in the United States:
- Spring: Visit the Carlsbad Flower Fields near San Diego, California
- Summer: Visit a number of national parks that are in their prime
- Fall: Go leaf-peeping on the East Coast (or elsewhere — you might be surprised by the other locations!)
- Winter: Have a cozy weekend in Leavenworth, Washington, and see all the Christmas lights