The 10 Best Places in the U.S. to Travel on a Budget

The 10 Best Places in the U.S. to Travel on a Budget
A family loading bags into a car in their driveway in preparation for a road trip.

Image source: Getty Images

You don’t have to spend a lot to have a great time on your next trip.

Key points

  • Americans are spending more on travel due to increased demand from the pandemic, but you don’t have to bust your budget to enjoy a vacation.
  • San Antonio, Oklahoma City, and Albuquerque are just a few surprising places where you can have a great time without spending a ton of cash.
  • Many outdoor activities are free, and a lot of cities offer interesting neighborhoods where you can take in the sights without spending a lot of money.

Americans are spending big on travel these days. With pent-up demand from the pandemic, some of the big personal spending increases this year have been for travel and recreation. But you don’t have to shell out all your hard-earned savings to enjoy your next vacation. To find the best places to travel on a budget, we used Numbeo’s Cost of Living Index, Restaurants Index, and Local Purchasing Power Index for each city on our list below.

These ratings are relative to New York City, which means that for New York City, each index is 100%. For example, if a given city has a Restaurants Index of 120, it means that on average the costs in that city are 20% more expensive than in New York.

Now that the technical aspects are out of the way, here are the 10 best spots to travel on a budget.

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1. San Antonio, Texas

San Antonio is a major city in south-central Texas with a rich heritage. The city is known for the Alamo, the miles-long River Walk with a promenade of cafes and shops, a Japanese tea garden, and much more. Plus, San Antonio has plenty of other museums, places to eat, and sightseeing activities.

Cost of living index: 61.33

Restaurant price index: 62.69

Local purchasing power index: 180.99

Average hotel room (October 2022, per Priceline): $123

2. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Oklahoma City is known for its cowboy culture, entertainment district, and museums. It has historic places to visit and even a place to go whitewater rafting. Plus, you can ride a water taxi and visit the restaurants, stores, and tourist attractions on the city’s waterfront.

Cost of living index: 64.25

Restaurant price index: 50.27

Local purchasing power index: 128.80

Average hotel room (October 2022, per Priceline): $98

3. Albuquerque, New Mexico

Albuquerque is New Mexico’s largest city. Founded in 1706 as a Spanish colony, it’s rich with history. Old Town Albuquerque is known for its historic adobe buildings, such as San Felipe de Neri Church, museums, and Native American shops. What’s more, Albuquerque is also the hot air ballooning capital of the world, hosting the International Balloon Fiesta ever year in October.

Cost of living index: 64.99

Restaurant price index: 66.18

Local purchasing power index: 162.53

Average hotel room (October 2022, per Priceline): $167

4. Salt Lake City, Utah

Salt Lake City is the capital of Utah, known for sites such as the historic Temple Square and the headquarters of the Mormon Church, the Great Salt Lake, zoos, gardens, and other attractions. The city has a robust arts and culture scene as well as plenty of outdoor activities, like skiing and golf. The area also offers year-round adventures with alpine mountains, lakes for fishing, and rivers for rafting. And there are numerous state and national parks nearby, as well as places to shop and enjoy the nightlife.

Cost of living index: 65.66

Restaurant price index: 75.59

Local purchasing power index: 140.73

Average hotel room (October 2022, per Priceline): $154

5. Louisville, Kentucky

Louisville is Kentucky’s largest city, sitting on the Ohio River along the Indiana border. It’s best known for the Kentucky Derby and is also home to the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory, where Major League bats are produced. The city is also known for its bourbon and offers the Urban Bourbon Experience, where visitors can take part in distillery tours and tastings.

Cost of living index: 65.76

Restaurant price index: 65.83

Local purchasing power index: 146.41

Average hotel room (October 2022, per Priceline): $147

6. Austin, Texas

Capital city Austin is known for its live music scene. Musicians play outdoors at seasonal events as well as at world-famous festivals. Austin is home to the University of Texas and has plenty of museums and historic sites to visit. The area boasts over 300 days of sunshine with an average temperature of 68 degrees, according to Visit Austin, making it an ideal place to enjoy outdoor activities.

Cost of living index: 68.44

Restaurant price index: 74.22

Local purchasing power index: 154.36

Average hotel room (October 2022, per Priceline): $274

7. Orlando, Florida

Yes, Disney World and Universal Studios Florida aren’t cheap, but there are plenty of other things to do in Orlando. In addition to its well-known theme parks, Orlando has many water parks, the Tibet-Butler Nature Preserve, farmers markets, museums, and other fun activities. And there are many free activities too, such as the open-air Disney Springs, Disney’s Boardwalk, the Universal Citywalk, and Orlando’s Old Town and Celebration Town Center.

Cost of living index: 69.70

Restaurant price index: 77.62

Local purchasing power index: 140.53

Average hotel room (October 2022, per Priceline): $155

8. Las Vegas, Nevada

As long as you don’t lose your shirt gambling, you can enjoy tons of free things by walking the infamous Las Vegas strip. You can even get a decent hotel in Las Vegas this fall for around $70, according to Priceline. And many of the top hotels tend to keep prices reasonable so they can draw in people to spend money at the casinos. Las Vegas is also home to the Mob Museum and a bunch of outdoor activities. What’s more, it’s close to the Grand Canyon.

Cost of living index: 70.28

Restaurant price index: 72.08

Local purchasing power index: 116.43

Average hotel room (October 2022, per Priceline): $204

9. Colorado Springs, Colorado

Colorado Springs is well known for its outdoor activities. The town lies at the eastern foot of the Rocky Mountains near the glacier-carved Pikes Peak. And the Pikes Peak Region offers many attractions, including trains, museums, parks, and a zoo. Plus, there are a number of hiking trails and a railway leading to the mountain’s summit. Colorado Springs also has a bustling downtown perfect for city lovers, especially those on a budget.

Cost of living index: 71.70

Restaurant price index: 79.77

Local purchasing power index: 167.21

Average hotel room (October 2022, per Priceline): $141

10. Tampa, Florida

Tampa is located along Florida’s Gulf Coast and offers a wide array of activities for those on a budget. The area burgeons with outdoor water activities, a bustling downtown area, and lots of interesting architecture. You can also explore zoos, an aquarium, a riverwalk, and a host of restaurants and shops in Tampa.

Cost of living index: 73.94

Restaurant price index: 80.41

Local purchasing power index: 135.97

Average hotel room (October 2022, per Priceline): $167

Families may be cutting back on big-ticket items due to inflation, but there is no sign that spending on travel will decrease in the near future. These 10 places are perfect for a quick trip to enjoy the sights and sounds while keeping expenses low.

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