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Discover Cheap Summer Travel Destinations for 2023

angelawatson
Angela Mae Updated: June 29, 2023 • 8 min read
Cheap places to travel

Summer can also be an expensive time to take a vacation. Things get booked quickly, airlines and hotels tend to raise their prices, and even certain attractions cost more during this peak travel season. According to one report, the cost of domestic air travel is up roughly 52% from last year.

The good news is that there are still cheap places to travel in the US, and even in surrounding areas like Canada or Mexico. If you’re on a budget, here are some cheap places to travel in the summer.

*All prices estimates below are based on a family of four staying five nights in the city. It's important to note that prices vary on factors such as travel dates, booking in advances, personal preference and more. 

travel costs during summer

1. Detroit, Michigan

Detroit is the automobile capital of the US, but it also boasts many interesting sites, events, and museums. The city is known for its unique community art initiatives, art and history museums, and diverse cuisine. Popular events and attractions include the Detroit Jazz Festival, Comerica Park, and Detroit’s famous Eastern Market.

The average cost of a hotel in downtown Detroit starts at around $200 a night, though you can find cheaper accommodation outside the city. Domestic flights are usually around $188 to $300 a person. average, expect to spend around $3,000 for the entire trip.

2. Orlando, Florida

One of the cheapest places to travel in the US, Orlando is perhaps best known for the Universal Orlando Resort and Walt Disney World parks like Magic Kingdom and Epcot. The city also has many free attractions and parks to visit.

A one-day ticket to Disney World costs around $100-200 per person. Hotels range from $89 to $211, according to Kayak. A round-trip flight costs anywhere from $60 to $400 a person. Including food, entertainment, and transportation, expect to spend roughly $3,000.

3. Dallas, Texas

Located in the south, Dallas boasts many museums, botanical gardens, the Dallas Zoo, a 561-foot tall observation tower with views of the city, and other free or affordable attractions. For art and culture lovers, the Dallas Arts District is also a great place to check out with your family.

Dallas is also popular with food aficionados. Whether you’re looking for soul food, barbecue, or Tex-Mex, you’re sure to find something the whole family can enjoy.

Flights cost between $100 and $300, while hotels range from $100 to $200 a night. In total, prepare to spend roughly $2,000 for the full vacation.

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4. Atlanta, Georgia

Atlanta, Georgia combines the hospitality and food of deep southern living with a diverse art and cultural scene. Attractions to check out include the Georgia Aquarium, High Museum of Art, and the World of Coca-Cola. A same-day ticket to the aquarium costs $47.99 per adult, while a ticket to the World of Coca-Cola is $19.

A hotel downtown costs around $300 a night, but you can find cheaper options outside the city. Excluding flights, expect to spend around $4,000 for the trip.

5. Chicago, Illinois

From ghost and gangster tours to the architecture center river cruise, there are a myriad of activities to do and things to see in Chicago. For a free activity, you can walk along the Millennium Park or the Magnificent Mile, a strip filled with luxury stores and hotels.

Hotels range from about $100 to $300 a night, depending on where you stay. This means that, for a five-night stay, you could spend as little as $500 on accommodation. A plane ticket costs anywhere from $150 to $350 — or $600 to $1,400 for a family of four.

6. Washington, DC

Looking for other cheap places to travel in the summer? Consider Washington, D.C. The capital of the United States, D.C. offers a lot of free and cheap attractions.

You can visit the Smithsonian, which is comprised of the National Zoo and 21 museums. You can also check out the Botanic Gardens or historic buildings like the Washington Monument for free. And, if you book several weeks or months in advance, you can also take a free guided tour of the U.S. Capitol or White House.

The biggest expenses here are flights and accommodation. Hotels range from around $200 to $400 a night in the summer, though you can stay outside D.C. in a place like Silver Spring, Maryland to save money. Domestic plane tickets cost anywhere from around $150 to $630 per person. If you take advantage of the many free attractions, expect to spend $2,500 to $4,500 for the vacation.

7. Cincinnati, Ohio

Cincinnati is a beautiful city and a cheap place to travel this summer 2023. It’s home to the Cincinnati Zoo with over 1,800 animals and nearly twice as many plant species. It also has the Findlay Market, located in the Over-the-Rhine, where you can find an assortment of artisanal goods and food. Other popular attractions include the Cincinnati Art Museum and Great American Ball Park.

A night at a 2-star hotel starts at about $77 and goes up to around $156. Excluding flights, the average family will need between $3,800 and $4,800 to cover all other expenses.

8. Tampa, Florida

Another cheap place to travel in the summer is Tampa, which is located along the Gulf Coast. With Busch Gardens, the Ybor City Food Walking Tour, and the Florida Aquarium, the city has many popular attractions and sites to visit. Plus, Tampa’s unique in that it has a lot of Cuban-inspired food and culture.

A family of four can expect to spend roughly $3,500 to $4,500 for a five-night stay in Tampa. Hotels cost between $100 and $200 a night. Flights can be on the pricier side, depending on where you start.

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9. Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Fort Lauderdale is a great summer destination due to its proximity to the ocean. For a beach day, relax at the Las Olas Beach or Fort Lauderdale Beach Park. Or immerse yourself in history and nature at the Bonnet House Museum & Gardens. A ticket to the museum costs $109 per person.

The average hotel costs $100 to $300 a night, or $500 to $1,500 for the full trip. Depending on what you want to do, you might need around $4,000 for the full experience.

10. Houston, Texas

Houston is known for its cultural diversity, world-class art, and unique barbecue style. It’s also home to many art, history, science, and culture museums. This includes the Space Center, Houston Museum of Natural Science, and the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston. The average ticket price for an adult is $25.

Hotels in the city cost between $100 and $200 a night, but some of the attractions and food options can be a little pricier than other destinations. On average, you’ll need around $4,500 to $5,000 saved up for this summer vacation.

11. Toronto, Canada

If you’re looking for other cheap places to travel this summer that aren’t in the United States, consider Toronto, Canada. Toronto is a major metropolitan city with diverse food, entertainment, and culture. It’s also home to Niagara Falls, the Toronto Island Park, the CN Tower, the Royal Ontario Museum, and the Hockey Hall of Fame building.

Hotels cost around $200 a night, on average. Round-trip flights from the United States to Toronto cost anywhere from $500 to $800 per person. Including transportation, entertainment, and food, expect to spend roughly $5,500 in total.

12. Mexico City, Mexico

Located in the heart of Mexico, Mexico City is a major metropolis with a deep connection to its Aztec history. The city also has a diverse culture, Colonial architecture, and a large variety of spicy cuisine. Popular attractions include the Templo Mayor Museum, Palacio de Bellas Artes (a major cultural center), and historical neighborhoods like the Xochimilco.

A five-night stay at the Gran Hotel Ciudad de México, one of the city’s most recognizable hotels, costs anywhere from $260 to $765, depending on when you book and stay. But you can find cheaper accommodation elsewhere throughout the city.

The main expense is the airline ticket, which can range from around $350 to $700 per person if you’re flying from the U.S. On the higher end, you’ll need roughly $3,500 for flights and hotels. Try to save another $1,500 to $2,500 for all other attractions, transportation, and food.

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13. San José, Costa Rica

From gorgeous architecture, like the Teatro Nacional Costa Rica, to the Jade Museum and Museo Nacional De Costa Rica, San José has a lot to offer. The city also has many tours you can take to learn more about the different sites, history, culture, and food. And, if you want to immerse yourself in nature, you don’t have to go far to see beautiful sites like the La Paz Waterfall Garden Nature Park.

Hotels cost $100 to $200 a night during the summer. Excluding flights, you’ll need roughly $4,000 to cover all other expenses.

14. Bogotá, Colombia

Another beautiful place to travel this summer 2023 is Bogotá, Colombia. There, you can visit Mount Monserrate, a 3,500-meter-high mountain. Or you can check out the Gold Museum, National Museum of Colombia, or the Salt Cathedral of Zipaquira.

With many different attractions and natural sites to visit, there’s no shortage of things to do in Bogotá. There’s also a diverse array of cuisine and culture to check out.

On average, five nights at a hotel will cost between $300 and $1,500. With flights, expect to spend roughly $5,500 in total.

15. Guatemala City, Guatemala

Last but not least, Guatemala City is another of those cheap places to travel in the summer. The city is located in Hermitage Valley, a mountain valley region, and is known for its architecture and history. Key places to visit include the La Aurora Zoo, the Palacio Nacional, and the Museo Miraflores with its many ancient artifacts and beautiful garden. You can also take the Antigua City tour to explore more of the city.

Hotels cost around $47 to $107 a night. With plane tickets, you’ll need around $4,000 to $5,000 to cover all expenses this summer vacation.

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Strategies for Traveling Cheap this Summer

Here are some strategies and tips on how to travel for cheap this summer:

  • Use credit card travel rewards: Many credit cards let you earn points or travel miles throughout the year. Some also come with specific hotel loyalty programs or airline discounts. Take advantage of these features to reduce costs.
  • Compare rates: Use aggregator websites to compare rates for hotels, car rentals, airline tickets, and more for the best deals.
  • Start saving early: The sooner you start saving up, the more money you’ll have for your trip. Plus, by saving up throughout the year, you won’t have to use a large chunk of your paycheck for your vacation.
  • Travel during off times: Save money by traveling during the week instead of the weekends. Avoid traveling during festivals or special events in your destination as well. 
  • Book last-minute deals: Sometimes, being spontaneous can help you get the best deals. Keep an eye out for last-minute discounts or deals on sites like Groupon.
  • Use public transportation: Renting a car can be expensive, so take advantage of your destination’s public transportation options. 
  • Find cheap or free activities at your destination: A lot of popular cities have free or low-cost activities like walking tours, parks, hikes, museums, or art galleries.
  • Consider a vacation loan: If you have good credit, you may be able to get a favorable rate on a personal loan for vacations. These loans can be used to cover flights, hotels, activities, and other travel expenses and don't require any collateral. 

Conclusion

Planning a summer vacation can be costly, but there are still affordable options available. US cities like Detroit, Orlando, Dallas, and Chicago offer budget-friendly accommodations, attractions, and flights. Alternatively, considering destinations like Toronto, Mexico City, or San José can provide unique experiences without breaking the bank. By utilizing credit card rewards, comparing rates, and taking advantage of off-peak times, you can enjoy a cheap summer getaway.

angelawatson
Written by Angela Mae

Angela Mae is a personal finance writer specializing in loans, debt management, investing, retirement planning, and financial literacy. She comes from a journalistic background and pulls from hands-on experience and deep-dive research to breathe life into her stories. Her goal is to help others achieve financial stability and independence. When not writing, she can be found traveling, honing her yoga skills, hiking, or exploring new means of healthy, sustainable living.