10 Affordable Last-Minute Summer Vacations
Whether you’re still looking for that perfect August getaway or you’re already shopping for next summer’s stylish steals, here are 10 world-class U.S. vacations that won’t break the bank.
The shadows are slightly longer. The evenings are a little cooler. The crickets are starting to chirp their rendition of "September Song." Too late to plan a summer vacation, right? Nope. You've got an entire month of summer left and we want you to take it to the limit.
With that in mind, we've done some homework for you and come up with 10 amazing vacations right here in the U.S. that are still available and affordable over the next few weeks. That dream beach, national park, big-city blowout, or theme park adventure is within reach if you're flexible, imaginative, and savvy—a.k.a., a Budget Traveler!
Yellowstone National Park
Idaho, Montana, Wyoming
Who's up for jaw-dropping scenery, warm western hospitality, and the closest thing to a safari experience that the lower 48 can offer? Best known for the Old Faithful geyser, which won't disappoint with its spectacular display, Yellowstone is also home to 1,000 miles of hiking trails, 67 species of mammals (including bears, moose, and, thanks to a successful reintroduction in 1995, more than 300 wolves), and ranger programs such as walks, hikes, and campfire programs that can help you get the most out of this crown jewel of the national park system.
Stay: Located three miles from the west entrance to Yellowstone National Park, Yellowstone Lodge offers Wi-Fi, complimentary continental breakfast, a heated pool, and access to a business center and coin-operated laundry facilities (251 S. Electric St., West Yellowstone, Mont., yellowstonelodge.com, from $149).
If you want a dreamy beach vacation, you haven't missed the boat! Myrtle Beach's miles of sand, wildly popular boardwalk, charter fishing expeditions, and Ripley's Aquarium (where you can get nose-to-nose with sharks) will keep you busy while the sun shines, and its world-class eateries roll out an irresistible southern-style welcome with local micro-brews, seafood buffets, and oceanfront tables.
Stay: Westgate Myrtle Beach Oceanfront Resort provides beach access and ocean views, a heated outdoor pool, heated "lazy river," kids' water play area, and a "kids eat free" policy (415 South Ocean Blvd., Myrtle Beach, S.C., wgmyrtlebeach.com, from $79).
Great Smoky Mountains
America's most popular national park, a major theme park, and miles of trails and streams for under $100 per night? Yup. Head to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for fishing, hiking, and scenic drives like the six-mile Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, and don't forget to spend at least one day at 150-acre Dollywood for authentic Tennessee music, food, and, of course, thrill rides such as the Wild Eagle and Mystery Mine.
Stay: The Park Vista-a DoubleTree by Hilton Gatlinburg features two restaurants, an indoor pool, and mountain views (705 Cherokee Orchard Road, Gatlinburg, Tenn., doubletree3.hilton.com, from $89).
A major American city that is as affordable as it is friendly, Chicago welcomes visitors from every corner of the world with its second-to-none theater, improv comedy such as Second City, the unparalleled Art Institute museum (where you'll find Edward Hopper's moody diner painting, Nighthawks, and Georges Serraut's ground-breaking pointillist masterpiece, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, blues venues such as House of Blues, and its rollicking Navy Pier along Lake Michigan.
Stay: The Allerton Hotel on Magnificent Mile is smack in the middle of a shopper's mecca. This full-service hotel evokes the spirit of 1920s Chicago with its classic façade, but has earned awards for its sleek, inspiring interior design (701 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, theallertonhotel.com, from $137).
Mammoth Cave National Park
If natural history with an air of mystery is your thing, Mammoth Cave National Park may be your perfect last-minute vacation. The world's longest cave system, these limestone caverns can be navigated with the help of park rangers, and programs range from the tried-and-true, one-of-a-kind major paths (ideal for all ages and interest levels) to muddier, darker options that the more adventurous among you will revel in. This time of year, lodging near the park tends to fill up, but you can still find affordable options a short drive away.