Be aware the end is near… schools are ending faster than you can count, and families are packing their bags. Cheap summer vacations are a staple of good times, tan lines, and family memories. Today we’re going to choose our 16 favorite summer vacations spots that won’t break the bank. So, pack that suntan lotion, start those workouts and take your pick of Cheap Summer Vacations—or just try them all!
To make things a little easier to navigate we’ve broken up our picks into two sections. The first 11 picks are cheap summer vacations you can take in the USA. The remaining 5 are budget-friendly adventures around the globe. Check out Packing Tips for Travelers if you need help stuffing your suitcase for your next adventure. If you’re feeling extra generous, please shoot this post a like and a share and, as always, enjoy! One last thing before you get too far, remember to…
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Cheap Summer Vacations in the USA
Bar Harbor, Maine
Cool weather, lots of sun, and wonderful people make Bar Harbor an excellent choice for a family trip. Located right on the coastline and just miles from Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor offers postcard views around every turn. Warm and dry summer weather allow for a refreshing dip in Echo Lake. If you’re brave enough you could even wade into the Atlantic, it’ll be chilly!
Try wandering the local streets and exploring the town’s quaint shops. If you follow the “Museums in the Streets” signs you’ll be led on a self-guided tour through downtown. Plan your visit a little later and catch free movies and popcorn in Agamont Park!
Hayward and the rest of Northern Wisconsin are the Midwest’s answer to Bar Harbor. The weather, people, and incredible sunshine bring many visitors back year after year. Thousands of lakes surround the small towns like Hayward. If you’re feeling adventurous you can rent a boat for the afternoon, hop on some mountain bikes, or try out the go-karts!
At night you and the family can relax around the campfire in your own cabin on a private lake. We’re serious about that part! This Airbnb Cabin is only 20 minutes from Hayward, sits on 80 acres, and has a private 20 acre lake. Kestra and I were lucky enough to visit last fall and we loved every second!
When you book, send the promo code AGAPE2019 in your message to the host to receive 20% off. That’s right folks, that’s $50 off each night!
*Promo code is subject to availability. Discount is only available on bookings in May-June and September-November. The host reserves the right to deny any bookings.
Cobblestone walkways line the streets of Maryland’s historic capital. The city is well over 300 years old and steeped in history. Named after Queen in Anne in the early 1700’s the city is now famed for it’s charm, restaurants and gorgeous coast.
While there we recommend checking out both the Banneker-Douglas Museum and Ego Alley. Both are incredible, FREE!! spots to take in the history, culture, and beauty of Annapolis. After a day on the docks be sure to enjoy the city’s vibrant eateries and tour the historic mansions scattered around town.
Moab is an outdoor adventurer’s paradise. National Parks fill the state and Moab sits on the doorstep of Arches National Park and Canyonlands. From mountain and dirt biking, sand dune surfing, to camping and hiking, Moab is truly one of a kind.
If you’re up for a bit of a drive be sure to check out these 12 Beautiful Places in Utah! After a fun day in the sun you can retire to a nice glass of wine or local brew at one of the many restaurants in town. With all these epic adventures it’s easy to see why Moab is one of the best spots for a cheap summer vacation!
San Diego, California
San Diego is beautiful all year and somehow extra pretty in the summer months. It has tons of family-friendly activities to keep you busy all day. If you use a multi-day Go San Diego Card you can save big on museums, cruises and local theme parks. The San Diego Zoo Safari Park, Legoland, and even unlimited access to SeaWorld are included in the bundle and some attractions are 55% off! Seriously check them out, they’re a PHENOMENAL deal: Go San Diego Card 🙂
If you’re looking for more outdoors activities there are plenty to try! Hiking and swimming at Devil’s Punchbowl, ziplining at at La Jolla Reservation, off-roading at Anza Borrego State Park are just a few options!
As troves of flip-flopped families descend on Orlando, thinned crowds are the norm in Tampa. We loved it so much we actually wrote up our Favorite Family Friendly Adventures in Tampa. With plenty of public parks, more free movies, and epic deals at major attractions Tampa is an incredible find!
We’d start our day at the local Lettuce Lake Conservation Park and watch the abundance of turtles, birds, and gators. Follow that up with any one of the local beaches and then we’d check out the mini-golf scene. Play for fun, or bet on some ice cream, it’s a great way to spend a couple hours after the sun cools! After an intense 18-hole showdown be sure to try some local seafood, catch the sunset, or enjoy a free movie at the Sunset Cinema!
Similar to Annapolis, Williamsburg is a beautiful, historically-rich town. In the 1900’s the town was restored to its former glory and is a sparkling jewel of the east coast. When walking through Williamsburg and its surrounding downs you are treading the same paths as our Founding Fathers.
In our list of Cheap Summer Vacations, Williamsburg embodies everything we’d possibly want in a trip. Take a quick trip up to Jamestown, try a ghost walking tour, or just wander around town. Everything is reasonably priced, accessible, and most importantly fun!
Ok I know what you’re thinking. People go Skiing in Colorado but who goes there for a summer vacation? Well for starters, you should. As a major hub flights into the airport are consistently cheap (say $200 a person +/-). The weather is very mild and getting around the city is a breeze.
In terms of “ideal” cheap summer vacations Colorado couldn’t get much better. The CityPass allows users to book in advance and save up to 30% at places like the Downtown Aquarium, Denver Zoo, and the Air and Space Museum!
At the foot of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Gatlinburg is a perfect mix of natural wonders and modern conveniences. We actually loved Gatlinburg and the surrounding Smokies so much they made our list of Family Friendly National Parks! The park is home to over 5,000 plant species, 100’s of different animals, and an extensive trail system stretching over 800 miles.
After a day spent hiking through and above the clouds retire to local Pigeon Forge or Gatlinburg for some family fun. Dinner theaters, amusement parks, novelty shops, you name it, think of It as the Wisconsin Dells of Tennessee. If you’re looking for something a little more upscale don’t worry, Gatlinburg still offers fine dining and resort living!
St. Louis, Missouri
As budget travelers few things perk us up more than the word free. Luckily for us, and anyone looking into cheap summer vacations, that word is plastered around St. Louis. Free tours of local Purina Farms spoil visitors with dog show and much more. The St. Louis Art Museum includes free admission, and on Sunday afternoon’s hands-on activities and a 30-minute tour
Additionally, the local City Museum houses a 10-story slide, Ferris wheel, and numerous more family adventures. It’s low cost of admission (around $15 for ages 3 and up) make it a must for any trip to St. Louis. If you’re hoping to catch a more local vibe, try catching a baseball game or sampling the world-famous Bar-B-Que!
Jacob’s Lake, Arizona
Located snuggly between Las Vegas and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon sits Jacob’s Lake. Strikingly, different from its neighbors, Jacob’s Lake is enveloped in the Kaibab National Forest. A retreat to the area can be spent on endless hiking trails, mountain biking, horseback riding, or even stargazing at night. Picture this as the perfect camping trip you always dreamed of as a child.
In the morning you can check out the local Jacob Lake Inn for a steaming pile of pancakes and fresh orange juice. If roughing it is more of your style, sit around the fire and get to cooking! Just be sure none of the endless deer in the area make off with your breakfast. At night you can enjoy your time at the Inn or try out the local Kaibab Camper Village, both are incredible!
Cheap Summer Vacations around the World
Hear us out here. You can easily do Iceland on a budget and add to your list of favorite cheap summer vacations if you’re willing to sacrifice a few things. Avoiding the really nice downtown hotels, eating in some nights, and not splurging on super cool Icelandic wool sweatshirts all help. Additionally, you can use WOW air to consistently find amazing rates to fly to The Land of Fire and Ice.
As for the capital itself, Reykjavik is a beautiful city with tons of incredible activities all around. From free hot pools, to stunning architecture, and incredible natural wonders, Reykjavik is truly a one-of-a-kind city. If you’re really trying to save some money and get to know the city check out Five FREE Things to do in Reykjavik!
San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua
Nicaragua’s San Juan del Sur is a dreamy tropical getaway located on the Pacific coast. Given its proximity to the US (3 hours from Atlanta) flights are often budget friendly. Kestra and I have managed to compound these savings by using 15 Tips to Finding Cheap Flights every time we search for airfare.
We’d spend our days enjoying the beautiful Playa San Juan del Sur, that’s the beach 😉 White sand lines the coast and turquoise waters cascade end over end for miles in either direction. The local resorts also offer incredible summer discounts so prices all around are low. Sounds pretty sweet, right?
If you are able to find a cheap flight, Lisbon is a budget-traveler’s heaven. The city sits on the edge of the Atlantic and is as architecturally stunning as anywhere on earth. Steep hills climb out of the city affording beautiful views around every corner. Tile work from the 1400’s still lines many walkways throughout the city.
If you’re tired of walking the hills, try hopping on the gorgeous, gravity-defying, 1930’s tram. For only a few bucks you can enjoy a low-cost, scenic tour of town. If you’re feeling adventurous, visit a local winery, tour the terraces and sample the local selection. It is almost the same price of the water after all!
San Jose, Costa Rica
Another quick flight from Atlanta could have you exploring Costa Rica’s Volcanoes or Costa Rica’s Best Waterfalls. San Jose is a beautiful Latin-American city steeped in culture and history. The local plaza and its museums, shops, and theaters are well worth a day of your time.
If you manage to escape the city for a day endless waterfalls, jungles, and volcanoes wait to be explored. Local soda’s serve fresh meals for just a couple dollars. Beaches abound within a few hours drive. In terms of cheap summer vacations, Costa Rica offers a taste of luxury.
Budapest is actually two separate cities, Buda and Pest. They are separated by the Danube river and each sport their own distinct vibe. This cultural hub has exploded in popularity in recent years and airfare prices have accordingly plummeted. It’s very easy to find flights in the summer for only $600-$700.
While there, we’d recommend taking a Danube River cruise. You can often find one that includes a meal and a 2.5 hour cruise for around $20. As you float down the Danube you’ll see the Parliament, the Szechenyi Chain Bridge, among the myriad of beautiful, historic buildings. The next day, try out either the Gellert Spa or Szechenyi Spa and enjoy a refreshing dip. Both opened in the early 1900’s and have been pleasing visitors ever since.
Whoever decided cheap summer vacations were a thing of the past, were boring, or were just plain impossible was wrong. Finding budget friendly destinations may be a little tougher now, but as you can see there’s no shortage of good options. So start saving, pack your bags, and start exploring!