10 Best Budget Vacations in America

Bass Harbor Lighthouse, Acadia National Park, MaineBubble Pond, Acadia National Park, MaineThe Sand Beach, Acadia National Park, MaineThe Taos, native pueblo, Taos, New MexicoThe Taos, native pueblo, St.Jerome church, New MexicoTaos, New MexicoGrand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone National Park, WyomingHot springs, Yellowstone National Park, WyomingYellowstone National Park, Wyoming, water fallMyrtle Beach, South CarolinaMyrtle Beach, South Carolina, Grand StrandMyrtle Beach, South CarolinaGreat Smoky Mountains National Park Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and Oconaluftee Valley Cherokee, North CarolinaAmusement park, Dollywood, Pidgeon Forge, TennesseeRoaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, Gatlinburg, Tennessee in the Great Smoky Mountains National ParkChicago Loop skyline, Chicago River, IllinoisChicago Bean, Millennium Park, IllinoisThe Art Institute of Chicago, Grant Park, modern wing, Renzo Piano, IllinoisMammoth Cave National Park, KentuckyMammoth Cave National Park, KentuckyMammoth Cave National Park, KentuckyMorro Rock in Morro Bay, California.Morro Bay, Hearst Castle, CaliforniaBerkshire Mountains, Deerfield, MassachusettsMass MoCA, Berkshires, MassachusettsWahconah Falls, Dalton, Massachusetts, BerkshiresMackinac Island harbor, Saint Ann's Catholic Church, MichiganArch Rock, Mackinac Island, MichiganBridge Lights, Michigan's Mackinac Bridge, Mackinaw City, Michigan
1 / 30 Photos
ACADIA NATIONAL PARK (Maine): The mountains, the ocean, the pine-scented air! You may have thought a trip to Acadia National Park was off-limits, but this popular, well-booked area is still a possibility if you're willing to book lodging a short drive away.
Acadia is for travelers who like their seaside a little rough around the edges, with cliffs, trails, cool ponds (like Bubble Pond, above), and surprisingly empty beaches.
Jon Bilous/Dreamstime
Acadia Lodging: Bar Harbor Motel (from $175, barharbormotel.com)
TAOS (New Mexico): This Southwestern town is not only a finalist for Budget Travel’s Coolest Small Town in America 2016, but thanks to its mountain setting, this art-loving town is also literally cooler than you might expect in summer, with highs in the 80s and lows in the 50s.
We love that Taos is home to Taos Pueblo, a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the oldest settlements in America. You can also raft the Rio Grande, get stunning views from the taos Ski Valley lift, drop by an allegedly haunted cantina, and indulge in natural hot springs.
Taos Lodging: The Historic Taos Inn (from $179, taosinn.com)
Chaitanyo/Dreamstime
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? Sure, lodging in the park can be pricey, but a stay in nearby West Yellowstone, Montana, won’t break the bank.
Virtualvv/Dreamstime
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.
Matt Pcion/Dreamstime
Yellowstone Lodging: Alpine Motel (from $95, alpinemotelwestyellowstone.com)
Cheryl Marx/Dreamstime
MYRTLE BEACH (South Carolina): If you want a dreamy beach vacation, there's still time to find a deal! 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.
Sure, we love the beach, but don’t forget that Myrtle Beach’s world-class eateries roll out an irresistible southern-style welcome with local micro-brews, seafood buffets, and oceanfront tables.
Ehrlif/Dreamstime
Myrtle Beach Lodging: Best Western Ocean Sands Resort (from $162, oceansands.com)  
Ehrlif/Dreamstime
GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS (Tennessee, North Carolina): Are you ready for America's most popular national park (with more than twice as many visitors than the Grand Canyon), a major nearby theme park, and miles of trails and streams?
Daveallenphoto/Dreamstime
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 (above) for authentic Tennessee music, food, and, of course, thrill rides such as the Wild Eagle and Mystery Mine.
Cynthia Mccrary/Dreamstime
Great Smoky Mountains Lodging: The Park Vista DoubleTree by Hilton Gatlinburg (from $189, parkvista.com)
Mark Vandyke/Dreamstime
CHICAGO (Illinois): A major American city that is as affordable as it is friendly, Chicago sends visitors home with bragging rights to incredible shopping, art, theater, and food.
Dibrova/Dreamstime
Chicago packs in 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, music venues such as House of Blues, and its rollicking Navy Pier along Lake Michigan. It's also home to the iconic "Bean" sculpture in Millennium Park (above).
Dejan Jovanovic/Dreamstime
Chicago Lodging: Hotel Indigo Chicago (from $144, ihg.com/hotelindigo/hotels)
Luca Petruzzi/Dreamstime
MAMMOTH CAVE NATIONAL PARK (Kentucky): If natural history with an air of mystery is your thing, this incredible system of underground caverns may be your perfect summer vacation.
Zhuxi1984/Dreamstime
The world's longest cave system, the limestone caverns in Mammoth Cave National Park 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.
Benkrut/Dreamstime
Mammoth Cave Lodging: Four Seasons Country Inn (from $119, fourseasonscountryinn.com)
Zrfphoto/Dreamstime
MORRO BAY (California): Before you cross the California coast off your to-do list for this year, know that Morro Bay, on the central coast not far from the sprawling Hearst Castle, can be a bargain for vacationers.
With a world-class natural history musem, iconic Morro Rock, a beautiful harbor, and, oh yeah, the world's largest ocean just down the street, Morro Bay remains one of the Golden State's "hidden gems."
Rick Moulton/Dreamstime
Morro Bay Lodging: No, you can't bunk down at nearby Hearst Castle (above), but we love Ascot Inn at the Rock (from $159, http://www.innattherock.com/)
Alexandre Fagundes De Fagundes/Dreamstime
BERKSHIRE MOUNTAINS (Massachusetts): If you don't want to have to decide between great museums and relaxing mountain hikes, book a week in western Massachusetts, where you can revel in both.
Americanspirit/Dreamstime
Explore one of the U.S.'s largest collections of modern art in the Berkshire Mountains, at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in North Adams; see the comprehensive collection at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown; and step back into 19th-century New England by crossing the border into Bennington, Vermont, for the Grandma Moses collection at the Bennington Museum and Grandma Moses Schoolhouse.
Peanutroaster/Dreamstime
Berkshires Lodging: The Williams Inn, Williamstown (from $185, williamsinn.com)
Jdwfoto/Dreamstime
MACKINAC ISLAND & MACKINAW CITY (Michigan): Michigan's lakeshores aren't exactly under the radar—Midwesterners have long regarded locales like the Upper Peninsula and Mackinac Island as the best places for a family vacation. But they remain underrated among travelers from farther away.
Michigannut/Dreamstime
If you're still on the fence about where to spend your summer vacation, head for Mackinaw City, a half-hour ferry ride from Mackinac Island's Victorian homes, stunning state park, and iconic Arch Rock.
Shriram Patki/Dreamstime
Mackinaw City Lodging: American Boutique Inn Lakeview (from $121, americanboutiqueinns.com)
Michigannut/Dreamstime

It's not too late to book a great summer vacation! From the beaches of New England to the mountains of Wyoming, from the Great Lakes to the California coast, America is second to none for summer fun. Here, some of our favorite places to get away from it all—at a price you can actually afford.

Related Content