When it comes to budget travel, there are numerous ways to cut costs if you have an open mind and a little creativity. Since the US isn’t exactly known to be one of the cheapest places to travel in the world, many people overlook the possibilities of doing so on a budget.
There are actually quite a few destinations in the US that are relatively cheap, and this list has some of the best ones, along with a price breakdown to help you plan your trip:
12. Glacier National Park, Montana – $105-160/day
Montana’s rugged beauty shines at Glacier National Park. You’ll find pristine alpine lakes, snow-capped mountains, plunging valleys, and much more. Scenic drives through the park will take you to breathtaking overlooks, and there are over 700 miles of hiking trails to explore.
Traveling to Glacier National Park is a great budget option, because there are many possibilities for every type of traveler. Campsites are abundant during the summer months, allowing you to reduce your accommodation costs. You can also enjoy low transportation costs by using the park’s super affordable park shuttles.
My $105/day is a ballpark calculation — you might even be able to do Glacier for even cheaper! Here’s the price breakdown, but keep in mind that prices fluctuate depending on the season:
- Accommodation: Campsites start at $16/night, with cabins ranging from $50 to 75/night through Recreation.gov. Airbnbs start around $60/night. This cabin is a great option for two people, at $100/night.
- Meals: Travelers typically spend around $25/day on food while visiting Glacier National Park. This is because restaurants in the area tend to have affordable meals, around $10-15 per meal. Plus, park visitors tend to grocery shop and bring their own snacks and on-the-go meals.
- Local transportation: Visitors typically budget around $50/day for local transportation. Shuttles are available within the park for just $1, and shuttles from local accommodations are $14-20 each way, with services like Uber and Lyft costing about the same.
- Miscellaneous expenses: The entrance fee for Glacier National Park for a seven-day individual pass is $20, or $25-35 with a private vehicle, depending on the season.
11. Salt Lake City, Utah – $100-150/day
Salt Lake City is a hub for nature lovers and makes a great launching point for some of Utah’s best national and state parks. There’s plenty to do in Utah, with some of the state’s best attractions right in the heart of Salt Lake City itself. With its wide range of accommodations, you’re sure to find something that fits your budget and liking. This is one of many destinations on this list that is practically made for budget travelers.
Here’s a price breakdown of how much it costs to visit Salt Lake City:
- Accommodation: Airbnbs start around $50/night; options like this adorable historic home are around $70/night. A great budget glamping option is this airstream on Glamping Hub for just $44/night.
- Meals: Travelers report spending around $40/day on meals in Salt Lake City.
- Local transportation: If you plan to use public transportation in Salt Lake City exclusively, you could spend as little as $5/day. If not, expect to spend around $35/day if you’ll rely on taxis or rideshares.
- Miscellaneous expenses: If you are visiting Salt Lake City mostly to check out the national and state parks nearby, you should plan on spending around $20 for a seven-day individual pass, per park.
10. Albuquerque, New Mexico – $76-130/day
You’ve probably heard all about all the wonderful things there are to do in New Mexico. Now that you’ve got all the travel inspo you need, consider heading to Albuquerque for a budget-friendly vacation. As it’s one of the most culturally diverse and artistic cities in the Southwest, you’re in for a treat.
- Accommodation: My budget pick for Albuquerque is this traditional adobe home & garden for $65/night. However, you can find Airbnbs for as low as $40/night, and there’s even a traditional tipi you can rent for $45/night.
- Meals: Plan to send around $35/day on average for meals in Albuquerque. Make sure you try the local chocolate and different chili varieties!
- Local transportation: If you plan to rely solely on Albuquerque’s public transportation, you’ll pay just $2/day. Taxis and rideshares will cost around $30/day within the city.
9. Denver, Colorado – $123-245/day
The Mile-High City is a can’t-miss destination because of its neat mix of eclectic metropolitan and rugged outdoorsy vibes. With a thriving art scene and bustling downtown perfect for city lovers, plus the backdrop of the Rocky Mountains and so many nature-filled escapes close by, Denver has something for every kind of traveler. The best part is that it’s totally doable on a tight budget.
Take a look at this price breakdown:
- Accommodation: There are a variety of accommodation options in Denver: an entire house in the heart of RiNo (River North Art District) for $62/night, or this boho-chic guest suite for $70/night. These prices are pretty standard for Airbnbs. Hotels run about $100/night for a 2-3-star place.
- Meals: Denver has a stellar food scene. You can budget around $40-50/day for meals and find a ton of affordable and delicious options throughout the city.
- Local transportation: If you are relying on Denver’s public transit system, which includes both buses and rail, you can purchase a local pass (limited to a certain fare zones; find more info here) for $6/day, or a regional pass for $10.50/day, which includes service to and from the airport. If you are relying solely on taxis and rideshares, you can expect to pay around $80/day.
- Miscellaneous expenses: Since there are so many attractions just outside of Denver, such as Red Rocks Amphitheatre and Rocky Mountain National Park, you will likely want to visit at least one. Budget around $15/day at least for attractions.
8. Milwaukee, Wisconsin – $70-170/day
This quiet yet vibrant Midwestern city might have flown under your travel radar until now, but that’s about to change. As it’s located on the shores of Lake Michigan, you’ll find plenty of water-related activities in and around Milwaukee. Take a sunset cruise, go paddleboarding, or relax on one of the sandy beaches. You can also find a plethora of neat museums, delicious restaurants, and homegrown breweries throughout the city.
The best part is how affordable it is to visit Milwaukee. At as low as $70/day, you can take advantage of everything the city has to offer without spending too much of your hard-earned cash.
Here’s a breakdown of costs to visit Milwaukee:
- Accommodation: A great quality Airbnb like this vintage studio will cost $40-50/night. Boutique and chain hotels are more expensive, at around $100/night on the low end.
- Meals: Restaurants in Milwaukee are inexpensive compared to other cities in the US, at around $10-20 per meal, on average. You can budget $30-40/day for meals and enjoy the best food the gastronomic scene has to offer.
- Local transportation: Milwaukee has a free streetcar called Hop that connects some of the city’s most popular neighborhoods along a two-mile route. There’s also a bus system that only costs $4/day for an unlimited pass. However, if you prefer to rely on taxis and rideshares, budget $20-30/day to get around town.
7. Chicago, Illinois – $130-166/day
If you’re an avid BMTM reader, you might be thinking, how many times is this girl going to tell me to visit Chicago? Guilty! I’m always telling people, near and far, how much I love the Windy City. I can’t help it, what’s a Chi-town native to do?
You might associate Chicago with its towering skyscrapers and glittery downtown, known as the Loop. And you might assume that visiting is going to cost a pretty penny. But that’s where I hope to surprise you. After living in Chicago for many years, I’ve mastered the art of saving money as a resident, and I’m here to share my secrets with you.
Here are a few ideas on doing Chicago on a budget, with a price breakdown:
- Accommodation: Airbnb is your best bet for finding budget-friendly accommodation in Chi-town. Take this gorgeous apartment in the culturally rich Ukrainian Village, for example. It’s just $60/night and has two bedrooms. Another great option is this vibrant studio on the northside in Uptown for $66/night. The key is to find a place outside of the Loop (downtown) but close to an L (train) stop. You’ll pay less, and the train makes it easy to get to all of the city’s best attractions.
- Meals: Restaurants might typically be more expensive in a big city like Chicago, but striking a little balance will help you save money. A meal at a sit-down restaurant will likely run $20-30, so consider having a light breakfast (maybe even doing a grocery run for breakfast items) and having a cheaper meal once a day. There are lots of fast-casual restaurants, plus authentic Mexican taquerías throughout town. Plus, restaurants are cheaper outside of the Loop. Plan to spend $40-60/day on meals.
- Local transportation: The L or the bus can take you almost anywhere you need to go in Chicago. For just $10/day, you can get an unlimited pass that works for both the trains and the buses.
- Miscellaneous expenses: There are so many things to do in Chicago for free. So many, in fact, that you could plan an entire trip and not spend a dime on a single attraction. More coin for deep-dish pizza, hooray!
6. Nashville, Tennessee – $70-112/day
The Music City is on many travelers’ bucket lists because of its famous nightlife, live music, museums, and more. Nashville is the heart of the American country music scene and offers visitors a wealth of Southern hospitality. Find out why so many people flock to Nashville with a visit of your own, regardless of your budget.
Here’s an idea of how much you can budget for your Nashville trip:
- Accommodation: Although Nashville is a tourist hot spot, you might be surprised at how many affordable options there are for budget travelers. I found this charming guest suite for just $52/night and this hostel that has dorms for $40/night.
- Meals: You can definitely stretch your dollar when comes to eating in Nashville. Portions are generous and prices are low. Budget around $30-40/day for meals.
- Local transportation: If you are staying in downtown Nashville, you can get away with getting from place to place on foot. The public transportation options are slim, so plan to use taxis or rideshares to get anywhere you can’t reach on foot (about $15-20/day).
- Miscellaneous expenses: Just like Chicago, there are tons of free things to do in Nashville. From free live music to free museums, you can easily occupy yourself around town without spending too much.
5. Louisville, Kentucky – $94-120/day
A city known for its thoroughbred horses, fine whiskey, and soul food, Louisville is about to shoot to the top of your travel bucket list. Not only is this Kentucky gem full of awesome things to do, but it’s one of the most ideal destinations for budget travelers.
Here’s what you need to start planning your Louisville travel budget:
- Accommodation: Finding affordable accommodation is a breeze in Louisville. This cute loft is only $47/night, and it’s just $54/night to stay in this vintage suite. Both are examples of Airbnbs that are conveniently located in the heart of the city.
- Meals: Southern hospitality is evident in Louisville as soon as you have your first meal. Portions are huge and prices are reasonable. Plan to spend $30-40/day for meals — and don’t miss out on the insanely delicious BBQ!
- Local transportation: For just $3.50 for a one-day pass and $15 for a seven-day pass, you can have unlimited rides on Louisville’s public transportation system, TARC. If you aren’t into taking the bus, plan to spend around $15-20/day on taxis or rideshares.
- Miscellaneous expenses: Many of the things to do in Louisville are quite affordable and even free! You can spend as little as $10/day on attractions.
4. San Antonio, Texas – $86-150/day
Known for being the home of the famous Alamo, San Antonio is full of rich colonial history as well as Mexican culture. The San Antonio River is the city’s focal point and is lined with cafés, restaurants, shops, and more. Along the River Walk and throughout downtown, you can spend hours strolling about and taking in the city’s beauty.
With this budget breakdown, you can spend as little as $86/day:
- Accommodation: Enjoy San Antonio’s unique charm by booking an affordable Airbnb, like this sweet and compact rental unit for $64/night or this stylish guesthouse for $58/night.
- Meals: One of my favorite things about San Antonio is the excellent Mexican food you can find around any corner. Even better, the taquerías are super cheap! You can plan to spend $25-40/day on meals.
- Local transportation: The public transportation system in San Antonio is not only easy to use, but it’s quite affordable, at just $2.75 for a day pass. If you plan to get around mainly on taxis and rideshares, plan to spend around $20-30/day.
- Miscellaneous expenses: There are plenty of things to do in San Antonio for very cheap ($15/day) or even free. Check out the Riverwalk, San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, or the San Antonio Museum of Art, all of which are free to visit.
3. New Orleans, Louisiana – $94-147/day
New Orleans is easily one of the most unique places in the United States. It’s full of lively jazz music, vibrant art, and epic gastronomy. You may not have known that this incredible city is totally doable on a tight budget, so I’m here to break down how to enjoy the best of New Orleans, on as little as $94/day.
Here’s what I found:
- Accommodation: Prepared to be amazed with even more incredible budget Airbnbs! This eclectic cottage in the Garden District is a dream at $56/night, and this chic guest suite near the French Quarter is just $62/night.
- Meals: If you’ve been to NOLA, you know that the food is superb. With so many mouth-watering cafés and soul food joints, your belly will be very happy here. New Orleans is also a great spot for vegan travelers! Plan to spend $35-50/day on meals.
- Local transportation: New Orleans has a cool streetcar system that operates throughout the most touristy areas of the city. It’s super cheap, at just $3/day for an unlimited pass! Exclusively using taxis and rideshares will cost about $15-20/day.
- Miscellaneous expenses: There are plenty of ways to enjoy New Orleans for free, including checking out the Woldenberg Riverfront Park, visiting the Lower Ninth Ward Living Museum, or catching live music on the street in the French Quarter. For other paid attractions, budget $15/day.
2. Asheville, North Carolina – $75-163/day
Known as one of the quirkiest cities in the South, Asheville is bursting with cool spots to eat, drink, stroll, and hang. This hip place is nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains and is one many small cities along the famous Blue Ridge Parkway scenic drive. Not only will you enjoy Asheville’s unique vibe, but you’ll also be able to get out into nature just minutes outside town.
Here is a price breakdown for Asheville:
- Accommodation: Book a cozy cabin in Asheville’s historic Grove Park neighborhood for $76/night, or stay in this sleek apartment for the same price. Being so close to nature, there are also plenty of places to camp in and near Asheville, like this campsite for $40/night.
- Meals: Asheville has a ton of cheap and delicious eats, with tons of chill cafés and diners. You can budget $20-35/day for meals.
- Local transportation: Asheville doesn’t have a robust public transport system like other larger cities, so renting a car or relying on taxis or rideshares might be your best bet. You can rent a car for as little as $32/day or plan to pay between $15-30/day on taxis.
- Miscellaneous expenses: There are plenty of places to go for a hike or bike ride, such as the Asheville Urban Trail or Mt. Mitchell State Park. For other attractions, budget around $20/day.
For a more in-depth look at doing Asheville on a budget, check out our guide!
1. Atlanta, Georgia – $106-140/day
Atlanta’s rich history and cultural diversity make it one of the best cities to visit in the US, hands down. Between the fantastic museums, historical landmarks, and awesome outdoor spaces, you’re sure to fall in love with ATL. Even more, it’s one of the most budget-friendly cities in the country if you play your cards right.
Here’s my breakdown of keeping costs low while visiting Atlanta:
- Accommodation: My favorite pick for budget stays is this adorable tiny home near Grant Park for just $81/night. Another stellar option is this eclectic guest suite in the Cabbagetown neighborhood with lovely stained-glass details for $67/night.
- Meals: I’m getting hungry just thinking about Atlanta’s iconic food scene. This diverse city is bubbling over with ethnic restaurants from all over the globe. Budget around $30-50/day for meals and treat yo’self!
- Local transportation: You can easily get around Atlanta solely on public transportation, and at just $9 for a day pass, it’s totally worth it.
- Miscellaneous expenses: If you’ve seen our free things to do in Atlanta, you already know that this is an excellent budget destination. You could definitely enjoy this city without spending too much on attractions.
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Full disclosure; many of these budget estimates are just that: estimates. As travelers, we know that sometimes costs can change, especially with accommodations. Not only that, but extra fees can pile up (looking at you, Airbnb). Take these prices as a starting point when planning your budget vacation, and see what you can find. Who knows, you might be able to take on some of these cities for even cheaper!
Do you have any favorite cheap US destinations? Let us know which cities are your go-to for budget travel!