ADVERTISEMENT

Return of the Great American Road Trip

By Sam War
January 12, 2022
Road Trip
Eric Lewis, Grand Atlas Tours
Current economic conditions will lead to the return of this American tradition.

Imagine you and your loved ones have a cooler packed of food, and clothes for a week in your car. Air conditioning on, singing to music, enjoying the open road.

Take a minute and close your eyes.

Do you feel freedom? There is sun shining on your face, COVID-19 worries in the rearview mirror, and the open road ahead of you.

The great American road trip is a pastime that took off in the 1950’s, when there was rapid growth in families owning cars after World War II.These families commonly traveled U.S. Route 66 which ran from Chicago, Illinois to Santa Monica, California. Any families taking road trips in the 50’s were doing something right. Not only did a road trip enable these families to choose who they wanted to go with, plan a trip specifically for themselves, and put money back into the economy after World War II, they also started a tradition that would revive itself time and time again.

It’s been 70 years since road trips became an American tradition and in 2020 the tradition will be back again and coming in strong. COVID-19 took away how we used to travel. The Department of Labor reported that in just 10 weeks over 40 million people applied for unemployment. The financial hardship many families find themselves in, along with COVID-19 restrictions, has severely limited travel plans in 2020. The way they may be accustomed to traveling will no longer be an option and they will look for different ways to spend their time and explore somewhere new.

If you’re looking for a cheap vacation the answer is: road trip.

AAA reported national gas prices in the month of May as an average of $1.97, almost a dollar less than this time in 2019 ($2.82). Traveling by car is cheap and convenient; whether you choose to go somewhere in state or out of state, the current gas prices will be worth the drive.

When the American economy is in shambles, we are encouraged to spend money to help rebuild our economy. Road tripping enables Americans not only to spend their money on necessities but on fun activities. Stopping by local restaurants or businesses to have a new experience raises tourism and will help money flow to small towns and businesses. Places like the Grand Canyon will open up bringing in people to see its beauty, buy souvenirs, eat at their restaurant and still have the ability to create a social distancing environment to make everyone feel safe.

Where should we be going on our road trips?

Anywhere out of the ordinary. “The key is to find a place everyone isn’t going to,” said Cindy Richards, editor-in-chief of TravelingMom.com. Now is the time to convince your loved ones to join you on that obscure trip you’ve always wanted to go to. A trip to Buena Vista, Colorado gives many outdoor recreational activities, no matter what season. Social distance as you kayak down the Arkansas River, go rock climbing, scramble up Turtle Rock, or find your own adventure. Camping at national or state parks gives you plenty of time to bond with your loved ones, explore a new area, see and experience new things.

The best part about a road trip is how the experience brings everyone closer together. Each activity you do together, every conversation you have, even the arguments you have about where to go next or what to do, allows you to learn a little bit more about the other person, how to compromise and work together as a team.

Even though you may be bummed that your flight to Brazil was canceled or that cruise you were planning on taking, COVID-19 may be a blessing in disguise. Americans now get to explore their own country, something many of us don’t do. America has some of the most beautiful and unique geologies in the world The road trip will bond us for life, create memories to last a lifetime, and an experience that will keep us planning the next one.

Are you planning a road trip? Click here to see Budget Travel’s road trip itineraries.


Sam War is a Budget Travel intern for summer 2020. She is a senior in journalism at Middle Tennessee State University.

Keep reading
Road Trips

Road trip the Rockies on a budget

Of course a tour of the Rocky Mountains is on your to-do list. Whether it’s your first or umpteenth visit to America’s definitive mountain range, there’s always more to see. With that in mind, we’ve curated essential must-sees in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming that offer red rocks, black rocks, and views for days, along with a manageable itinerary that maximizes the wow factor. Grand Junction Your Rocky Mountains road trip begins in Grand Junction, Colorado. The town’s name is a tribute to its location, west of the Grand Mesa, in the Western Slope region with its exceptional wines, and smack in the path of the Colorado River. Before you hit the road, spend some time exploring Grand Junction’s galleries and boutiques, plus one of America’s biggest outdoor sculpture displays. And save time for the Museum of Western Colorado’s history exhibits and dinosaur collection. For something a bit wilder, try rafting the river, with options ranging from gentle to class IV rapids. Grab a bite at Bin 707 Foodbar, which focuses on locally sourced meats and produce. Reliable hotel chains offer rooms starting under $150/night. One of the USA's lesser-known national parks, the Black Canyon Of The Gunnison National Park features a steep-sided canyon formed by the Gunnison River © AlexeyKamenskiy / Getty Images Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park From Grand Junction, head east on US-50 for the 80-minute drive to one of the National Park Service’s most sublime “secrets,” Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. Here, you’ll discover a world of unique black rock formations rising 2000ft over the beautiful Gunnison River. Stay a day, a week, or more exploring the canyon’s South Rim trails, opportunities for fishing and climbing, and ranger-led programs. The most affordable lodging is found at the park’s campsites; if you choose to camp, first pick up food and water in nearby Montrose. If roughing it isn’t your style, book a room at the Double G Guestranch, in Montrose, with rates starting under $150/night. Moab is an excellent jumping-off point for exploring nearby Arches National Park © JFunk / Shutterstock Moab From Montrose, head west on I-70 for the three-hour drive to Moab, Utah. In addition to its own considerable charms, Moab happens to be the gateway to two of Utah’s “Mighty Five,” Canyonlands National Park and Arches National Park. You’ll want to spend plenty of time hiking their distinctive red rocks, and you’ll also reconnect with the Colorado River in Moab. Save some time to discover nearby Dead Horse Point State Park (we promise it’s way more beautiful than its name). Grab breakfast at the Jailhouse Cafe, and unwind at the end of the day at Moab Brewery. Book a room at Expedition Lodge, starting under $150/night. Discover Salt Lake City's unique blend of cultures at Temple Square © Allison J. Hahn / Shutterstock Salt Lake City For a dose of big-city style in the midst of your mountain sojourn, head west out of Moab on US-6 for the four-hour drive to Salt Lake City. A visit here offers such a variety of experiences, you’ll want to customize your itinerary to your personal tastes. Nature lovers will want to continue with their hiking and exploring at Antelope Island State Park, Sugar House Park with its trails and lakes right within city limits, and a day trip to nearby Park City. History buffs will love strolling downtown around Temple Square and learning about the city’s unique cultural mix and stories. Foodies – and, honestly, everybody else – should get a taste of SLC’s culinary scene at Ruth’s Diner with its legendary biscuits (since 1930), and the city’s favorite Mexican eatery, Red Iguana. Great lodging is available at The Kimball at Temple Square starting under $150/night; motel options under $100/night abound near the airport. Iconic sites like the historic John Moulton Barn await you in Grand Teton National Park © Paul Brady Photography / Shutterstock Grand Teton National Park Before you leave Salt Lake City, pick up a dozen of the justly famous bagels and cream cheese at Bagels and Greens, then head north out of I-15 for the nearly five-hour drive to Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming. The distinctive Tetons will look familiar to anyone who’s seen the classic black-and-white images by photographer Ansel Adams, and capturing the stunning landscapes and wildlife for posterity (or for the ‘gram) is a must. If you want to pay tribute to Adams by attempting to imitate his work, ask rangers for directions to the marker of the exact spot where Adams shot “Tetons and the Snake River,” in 1942. Hungry? The Chuckwagon Breakfast at Dornan’s is legendary, and you can also grab deli sandwiches there. Bunk down at Targhee Lodge in nearby Alta, with rooms starting under $150/night, or book a campsite in the park well in advance of your visit. (And don’t forget you can enter adjoining Yellowstone National Park for no additional fee!) Dubois, Wyoming, is surrounded by spectacular scenery, such as the Wind River © Edwin Remsberg / The Image Bank / Getty Dubois From Grand Teton, it’s about an hour’s drive on US-26 East/US-287 South to Dubois. Here, on the Wind River, you’ll find a cool town where Friday nights in summer mean rodeo and any day is a good day to take a wildlife tour of the nearby National Bighorn Sheep Center. Grab a burger at the Cowboy Cafe, and book a room at Stagecoach Inn & Suites for under $125/night. The statue entitled "Breakin' Through" that stands in front of War Memorial Stadium at the University of Wyoming in Laramie © C5 Media / Shutterstock Laramie From Dubois, it’s about four-and-a-half hours on US-287 South and I-80 East to Laramie. The Snowy Ridge Range is one of the star attractions in this region of Wyoming, with 12,000ft Medicine Bow Peak just begging to be photographed. Spend some time at the University of Wyoming’s renowned art museum and pay a visit it its geology museum’s allosaurus (“Big Al”), which was discovered outside of Laramie. Fuel up at Coal Creek Coffee & Tap, and get a good night’s sleep (with visions of the Rockies and Tetons dancing in your head) at the Holiday Inn, starting under $125/night.

Road Trips

Road trip the Southeast on a budget

If you’re looking for a road trip that delivers some of the highest highlights of the Southeast, we’ve put together a peerless itinerary that takes you from the biggest city in North Carolina to the oldest city in America, with plenty of good eats, arts, and natural beauty along the way. Start your engine! Charlotte Your Southeast road trip begins with a taste of Charlotte, North Carolina. The largest city in the “First in Flight” State, Charlotte offers a menu of contemporary Southern cuisine like the exquisite BBQ at Midwood Smokehouse, several important art collections including the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, and the unique Levine Museum of the New South with its focus on events after the Civil War. A stop at the NASCAR Hall of Fame is a must for racing enthusiasts and newbies alike. The winding Blue Ridge Parkway is one of America's best drives © Pierre Leclerc Photography / Getty Images Boone & Blowing Rock From Charlotte, you’ll head north (don’t worry, we’ll get you down to South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida eventually) for about two hours on I-77 and US 421 to the scenic Boone and Blowing Rock region. The epicenter of beauty here is the stretch of the Blue Ridge Parkway that passes through the region on its way from Shenandoah National Park in Virginia to Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina and Tennessee, boasting seemingly endless hiking trails and scenic overlooks. Don’t miss the chance to witness living history with the costumed actors at Hickory Ridge Museum, and get to know the flora of the Boone area at its namesake Daniel Boone Native Gardens. In nearby Blowing Rock, spend the day at Ultimate Adventure park with zip lines and other out-of-this-world pursuits. Rest your head at reliable lodging like the Inn at Crestwood, in Boone, with rooms starting well under $100/night. The shops and restaurants in Asheville's Grove Arcade is a can't-miss experience © MilesbeforeIsleep / Shutterstock Asheville The drive from Boone to Asheville, less than two hours south on US 221, takes you into the heart of one of America’s hippest small cities, brimming over with culinary delights (including a delicious and imaginative vegan scene), craft beer, and vibrant local arts. But the great outdoors will most likely dominate your Asheville stay, including canopy tours, hot air ballooning, and zip lining. After hours, we recommend an evening at Well Played, a unique “board game cafe,” and a well-earned sleep at the Residences at Biltmore, starting at under $120/night. The illuminated Falls Park Liberty Bridge in Downtown Greenville at night © Kevin Ruck / Shutterstock Greenville About an hour and 15 minutes from Asheville on I-26 East and US-25 South, Greenville, South Carolina, beckons with an exceptionally walkable downtown that boasts cool shopping, artist studios and galleries, and great food (including the Greenville BBQ Trail Tour). Start your morning with a cup of coffee at Falls Park before you traverse the Liberty Bridge, a 345ft-long span over the Reedy River. A variety of comfy motels offer rooms at well under $100/night, and for a little over $100/night you can get a room at the Hyatt Place Greenville/Haywood. Alpharetta From Greenville, head south on I-85 for about two hours and 15 minutes and discover Alpharetta, Georgia. Explore more than 750 acres of parkland, try some of the 200+ restaurants like Cabernet Steakhouse or Chiringa with its coastal cuisine. Be sure to set aside your evening for music at one of the world’s finest jazz clubs, The Velvet Note. Savannah's Forsyth Park Fountain during the early evening © Sean Pavone / Shutterstock Savannah A four-hour drive from Alpharetta on I-75 South and I-16 East brings you to the uniquely charming city of Savannah. Take your pick of activities, including strolling along Bull Street from square to square to Forsyth’s Park discovering the city’s decidedly European flavors; visit the Savannah College of Art and Design with its exceptional SCAD Museum of Art; and for more art, both classic and new, visit the Telfair Museum, in Savannah’s Historic District, and the Jepson Center. Dining options include fresh oysters and shrimp at Bernie’s. Bunk down for a night or more at the Old Harbor Inn, with rooms under $150/night and worth every penny. Spanish Renaissance architecture at Flagler College in St Augustine © Sean Pavone / Shutterstock St Augustine Once you succeed in bidding adieu to Savannah and its charms, head south on I-95 about two hours and 45 minutes to discover the oldest city in the US. St Augustine, Florida, was founded in 1565 by Spanish settlers and delivers an experience that feels a world away from the beach towns and theme parks we associate with the Sunshine State. Explore the iconic Castillo de San Marcos, spend some time getting to know local history at the city’s exceptional museums, and enjoy a diverse menu that reflects St. Augustine’s native, colonial, and immigrant cultures (try Collage Restaurant for its international menu and romantic setting in the Historic District). Book a room at the utterly charming Villa 1565, starting under $125/night.

Road Trips

The best Pacific Northwest road trip

Two major vacation-planning questions pop up again and again: City or country? Ocean or mountains? But there are places where the answer to both questions is, “Yes, yes, yes, and yes.” America’s Pacific Northwest may be the best example, boasting Pacific beaches and the coastal mountain range, the cities of Seattle and Portland, gorgeous rivers and forests, and the decidedly cool little city of Boise, in the foothills of the Rockies. Ready to get started? Here, a step-by-step itinerary that’ll take you across one of the US’s most rewarding regions. Seattle Kick off your Pacific Northwest road trip in Seattle, Washington, where you’ll indulge in fresh seafood, legendary coffee, sea kayaking, and more. Pike Place Market is iconic and busy but worth a visit for fresh fish and other culinary delights – strolling and shooting pics is free. Don’t miss Seattle’s cool museums, including the rotating exhibits and excellent guided tours at the Frye Art Museum, the world-class collection at the Seattle Art Museum, and the immense (and immensely impressive) works to be found in Olympic Sculpture Park. See the full list: 51 affordable discoveries across America 2020 Speaking of parks, Seattle’s ample green spaces deserve to monopolize much of your time here; from the little Waterfall Garden Park in the city’s Pioneer Square section to the 500+ acres of forests and beaches of Discovery Park, you’ll have to remind yourself you’re still in town. And for dramatic panoramic views, forgo a trip to the Space Needle and instead head to Kerry Park or Queen Anne Hill. If you plan to spend a night or more in Seattle before hitting the road, downtown’s Hotel Max has a convenient location for walking to major sights and its stylish rooms are the perfect place to rest up before hitting the road. The Hoh Rain Forest in Olympic National Park is one of the largest temperate rainforests in the US © maislam / Getty Images Olympic National Park From Seattle, you’ll hit I-5 South, then 101 North as you arc around the bottom of Puget Sound and then up the Olympic Peninsula, a two-hour drive to one of the National Park Service’s lesser known but utterly unforgettable destinations: Olympic National Park. Here, visitors can indulge in miles of Pacific coast, exploring the one of the US’s last temperate rainforests, and ogling the coastal peaks on easily accessible hiking trails. Comfortable lodging within the park includes Kalaloch Lodge, with rooms starting well under $150/night; the nearby charming town of Port Angeles also boasts an array of affordable properties. In March and April, Portland's cherry blossom trees explode in a riot of pink © EchoGolf Photography / Shutterstock Portland From the Olympic Peninsula, you’ll dip into Oregon: take I-5 South for the three-hour drive to Portland’s exceptional food scene and parks. For those who put eating at the top of their travel to-do list, Portland is an epicenter of yum. For retro-chic ambience and beef and martinis, reserve a table at Clyde’s Prime Rib; explore the city’s penchant for the artisanal at its countless craft breweries, charcuterie and cheese shops, an array of affordable and tasty food trucks. And, much like Seattle but on a smaller scale, Portland boasts parks, including Mt. Tabor and Forest Park, that’ll keep any visitor busy for days, and a bike-sharing program with dozens of stations makes it all the easier to explore. You’ll love Jupiter Hotel, an upscale riff on a mid-century motor lodge in the city’s Lower Burnside neighborhood, with affordable, pop-art-informed rooms. The Columbia River Gorge offers splendid vistas around every bend in the river © Zack Frank / Shutterstock Columbia River Gorge From Portland, you’ll pass in and out of Oregon and Washington along I-84 East and WA-14 for about a half-hour on your way to indulge in a journey along the Columbia River Gorge, with its ample scenic turn-offs and nearby world-class wineries. The Cascade Mountains serve as your scenic backdrop as the river cuts its way through the range on its way to the Pacific; keep an eye out for waterfalls within sight of the highway and consider pulling off for mountain biking and hiking. If you’re planning to spend a night or two, impressive nearby properties such as Westcliff Lodge and Columbia Gorge Hotel & Spa offer reliable, wallet-friendly lodging. And spending the night allows you to make time for sipping some of the region’s exceptional pinot noirs, chardonnays, and other wines. Bustling Boise features many downtown events, such as the Boise Farmers Market in late spring © Darwin Fan / Getty Images Boise Boise, Idaho, will welcome you with its array of funky downtown shops, mountain trails in the foothills of the Rockies accessible right from town, and an overall design-forward vibe. From the Columbia River Gorge, take I-84 East for the five-hour drive. (If you’re looking for a stop in between to break up your ride, consider Baker City, Oregon, which features a restored downtown, carriage rides, and the bordering Elkhorn and Wallowa mountains.) In downtown Boise, you’ll love shopping at one-of-a-kind establishments that offer vintage finds, local-themed books, and artisanal treasures such as barrel-aged vinegar and olive oil. While strolling, keep an eye out for public art, which the city has made a priority, including a tree crafted from scraps of metal and other projects that enliven the streets. If you’re visiting in April through December, stop by the Capital City Central Market for an incredible array of Idaho-made crafts and foods. And we absolutely love how the Modern Hotel and Bar offer art-inspired rooms and a restaurant that draws on diverse French and North African influences, all in an upgraded former motel with rooms starting under $150/night. The Snake River Valley is two hours from Boise and features breathtaking views © Robert Alexander / Getty Snake River Valley Cap off your road trip by discovering Idaho’s Snake River Valley – a two-hour drive from Boise along I-84 East – where a visit to the 500ft-high Perrine Bridge spanning the Snake River Canyon will take your breath away. Explore the canyon’s south rim along a paved trail, and don’t miss one of the most Instagram-worthy sights on this trip, Shoshone Falls. Bunk down in nearby Twin Falls, where there are several reliable motel chains that offer good value. Produced by Budget Travel for GEICO. All editorial views are those of Budget Travel alone and reflect our policy of editorial independence and impartiality.

Presented by
Road Trips

How to road trip New England on a budget

The United States start in these six rugged states. And when British explorer Captain John Smith explored New England’s shores in the early 1600s, he grasped the charm and resilience of his surroundings – and officially made it the birthplace of a nation. Of course, in addition to all its fascinating history, this northeast corner of the country is a hotbed of beautiful nature, culture and family-friendly entertainment – encompassing a spectacular culinary scene and a wide variety of affordable accommodations to discover and enjoy. Want to spend more time exploring this diverse and distinct region? Here’s a blueprint to a reasonably priced road trip in New England – from Portland, Maine, to Mystic, Connecticut. From winding trails of the Appalachian Mountains, including eight mountains over 14,000ft in elevation, to the splendor of New Hampshire’s wild coastlines, you won’t have to miss a thing. Portland, Maine Come for the lobster, stay for… well, everything else. Portland might be Maine’s largest city, but you’ll be able to appreciate the craggy shorelines and secluded beaches as well as the preservation of the historic, yet quaint, Old Port district. The stunningly well-kept Portland Head Light is the oldest lighthouse in the state and is surrounded by the 90-acre Fort Williams Park, where you can hike, bike, picnic or sit by the beach. See the full list: 51 affordable discoveries across America 2020 Ready for some culture? The Tate House Museum whisks you to Maine’s pre-revolutionary times, and the Portland Museum of Art, founded in 1882, is sprawled over three buildings – one designed by the late “starchitect” I.M. Pei. The dining scene is vibrant, and you can indulge in inventive small plates at Central Provisions, where most entrees are under $15, and $6 craft cocktails at the Portland Hunt + Alpine Club’s Happy Hour. Of course, if its seafood you’re after, don’t miss the brown butter lobster roll at Eventide Oyster Co. The Press Hotel offers fun, boutique accommodations in the same building which housed the Portland Press Herald until the newspaper moved offices in 2010. Maine's High Peaks Region is stunning at any time of year, but during the fall it really shines © Holcy / iStock / Getty Images Plus High Peaks Region, Maine Just over two hours’ drive from Portland along I-295 is this stunning, family-friendly destination with 10 mountain peaks over 4000ft. Perfect in any season, you’ll also be dazzled by its glacial lakes and clear rivers. If you want a scenic drive, take some time to tour its scenic byways, like High Peaks and Grafton Notch, which will give you a quicker way to view the spectacular surrounding mountains. Water sports include pontoon boat rides, fly fishing, kayaking and swimming – though it’s also well known for its ski resorts, Sugarloaf and Saddleback Mountain. The town of Stratton is the perfect place to refuel and relax, and you can grab some comforting yet inexpensive options at the Looney Moose Café or head for burgers at the White Wolf Inn and Restaurant. The Mountain View Motel offers cozy rooms with full kitchen, and even allows furry friends to join you on your adventures. Though there is a lack of amenities, like a pool or restaurant, this motel makes up for it by offering gorgeous views and super-low room rates. Bucolic lakes and cottages await you in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom © DenisTangneyJr / E+ / Getty Northeast Kingdom, Vermont Head westward on State Route 16 to enter this out-of-the-way, northernmost region of Vermont. Shimmied up against the Canadian border and the upper Connecticut River, it’s known for its peaceful splendor. Taking up approximately one-fifth of the land and over a quarter of The Green Mountain State, you can explore its over 200 lakes and ponds while also appreciating the accompanying dense forests and eight state parks. Bikers, hikers and backpackers flock to this region to hit the Kingdom Heritage Trail system, which includes the Bluff Mountain Community and Gore Mountain Trail, while other adventure seekers might head to gape at Troy’s Big Falls, a monstrous undammed waterfall which includes a sheer cliff face of over 80ft. Burke Mountain offers downhill and cross-country skiing with over 200 inches of annual snowfall as well as views of the geologically profound Willoughby Gap (kids ski free in March). Country cooking is on the menu at the Peacham Café, housed in a former firehouse while the more seasonal Mike’s Tiki Bar offers cocktails and 30 beers on tap under its thatched roof, with hearty grub from partner Vermont Food Truck as an accompaniment. For budget travelers, the Willoughvale Inn and Cottages offers calm, stunning landscapes and a little history, with its accommodations named after historical figures and places, like The Robert Frost suite or The Songadeewin Lakeview Cottage. New Hampshire's diminutive coastline packs many surprises © mountinez / iStock / Getty Images Plus Seacoast and Portsmouth, New Hampshire From the Northeast Kingdom, head southbound on I-93, swinging left in Manchester, New Hampshire, to arrive at this state’s miniscule coastline. Enjoying an intoxicating mix of culture and maritime activities, this region straddles Maine and includes ownership of the Isles of Shoals and Star Islands. The entire Seacoast region covers 18 miles of the Atlantic Ocean, but head to Hampton Beach for family fun as well as a dazzling white-sand beach. Don’t want to go too far to lay your head? Room at Ashworth by the Sea, run under $150 a night, and the property features a heated pool with retractable roof to keep the kids happy as well as three different restaurants for breakfast, lunch, dinner and cocktails. Portsmouth, near the mouth of the Piscataqua River, is the country’s third oldest city and is an excellent jumping-off point for the living history of the Strawbery Banke Museum, the American Independence Museum and the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire. The dining scene is varied and abundant, and you can enjoy a more upscale, locally sourced meal at the Black Trumpet Bistro or head to Ceres Bakery for an affordable, casual selection of soup, salad, sandwiches and an array of homemade pastries. Stay at the lovingly renovated Hotel Portsmouth, a former 1881 mansion with vintage charm and free continental breakfast. Falmouth is sometimes overlooked on a trip to Cape Cod, but it's worth a stop © Kenneth Wiedemann / E+ / Getty Falmouth, Massachusetts Take I-495 southbound to loop around Boston (or stop in for a bit if you have the time) and arrive in Cape Cod and the pretty little town of Falmouth, Massachusetts. This official Preserve America community was also the residence of Katharine Lee Bates, the author of treasured tune, “America the Beautiful.” History aside, this serene corner of southwest Cape Cod is also home to over 70 miles of ocean shores, eight distinct villages and the Shining Sea Bike Path, with nearly 11 miles spanning farms, ponds, cranberry bogs and even salt marshes, spitting you into the village of Woods Hole. Here, you can not only catch the ferry to Martha’s Vineyard, but also tour the marine science facilities and aquarium at the world-famous Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Head to Old Silver Beach for swimming in the calm, blue waters and views of Buzzards Bay and stay for the summer seafood dinners and vibrant sunsets at the beachfront Sea Crest Beach Hotel. Falmouth also offers further budget accommodations at Admiralty Inn & Suites and The Red Horse Inn, both of which have rooms for under $100 per night. Even if you've had your fill of lighthouses by now, you can never get enough fiery sunsets © Shobeir Ansari © Moment / Getty Narragansett, Rhode Island Trace the coastline westbound to arrive at this quaint and quirky seaside surf destination in Rhode Island, which offers access to smaller state park beaches like Roger Wheeler and Salty Brine. There you can watch the boats and local fishers, as well as the reliably vigorous waves of Narragansett Town Beach. Take a surf lesson from Warm Winds Surf Shop or just relax on the sand – or hop on the Block Island Ferry to do a little maritime exploring, including the Point Judith Light, a working lighthouse built in 1857. Because this is New England, historical landmarks abound and you can visit the 23ft Narragansett Indian Monument, carved from a single Douglas fir tree on Kingstown Road. To fully appreciate your surroundings here, tuck into the local seafood , and Aunt Carrie’s is known for its golden fried clam cakes ($5 for a half dozen) and chowders. The Anchor Motel is a budget-friendly choice, with 15 rooms directly across from Scarborough State Beach. Mystic Seaport is a great stop for families © Photo by Brian T. Evans / Moment / Getty Mystic Seaport, Connecticut No, cult favorite coming-of-age flick Mystic Pizza wasn’t actually filmed at its namesake restaurant in this sweet, seaside hamlet less than an hour west of Narragansett on US Route 1. But if you pop in for a slice and a selfie, you won’t want to miss the rest of this village situated along the Mystic River. Bluff Point State Park is home to over 800 acres of lush land for hiking, biking and fishing, and the historic district straddling the river has something for everyone, including the still-working Bascule Bridge built in 1920. The popular Mystic Aquarium was recently certified by the American Humane Conservation and makes a welcome home to sea lions, penguins and even sharks, while the Mystic Seaport Museum concentrates more on history, with a working preservation shipyard and recreated 19th-century village to explore. Ford’s Lobster is an affordable, BYOB treasure on the water, featuring fresh lobsters as well as lobster roll and lobster bisque. Stay at The Whaler’s Inn in downtown Mystic, comprised of five different buildings, each housing rooms and suites with a nautical theme. Produced by Lonely Planet for GEICO. All editorial views are those of Lonely Planet alone and reflect our policy of editorial independence and impartiality.

Presented By