Thinking your family needs a vacation but worried about airplane travel, crowds, and cost? Then it’s time to replace the hassle, expense, and risk of traveling to a traditionally touristy destination with totally affordable road trips to these uncrowded getaway destinations.
From dramatic seaside views on the Oregon coast to boating in the Gulf of Mexico, here are affordable, low-key, and totally awesome road trips you can take right now.
Disclaimer: Each state, county, and even city has their own COVID-19 specific rules and regulations. Please practice social distancing, wear a mask, and respect each community’s wishes. Also: Not every destination is appropriate for year-round travel. Please check with local authorities (or, you know, just your weather app) to see current conditions and recommendations.
And, as always, download the Krazy Coupon Lady app to get the latest travel deals sent straight to your phone.
Affordable Road Trips to the Southwest and West Coast
1. Skip the Grand Canyon and Sedona for lesser-known Arizona gems.
Arizona is filled with small- and mid-sized towns that rival the amenities and picturesque views of more well-known vacation spots like Flagstaff and Sedona.
Payson and Prescott, two towns in the heart of the Grand Canyon State, are worthy year-round destinations. Prescott (pictured above) was the original capital of Arizona until 1889 and is just a 90-minute drive north of the modern-day state capital, Phoenix. The town of 40,000 is filled with historic buildings, quaint eateries, cute shops — all with dozens of hikes and walks just minutes from the city center (which is affectionately known as “the Square”).
Payson, also just an hour and a half from Phoenix, sits in the beautiful Tonto National Forest. The town is a 40-minute drive from the Mogollon Rim, one of the most spectacular geographical features in the southwest. It’s the south end of the 240,000 square-mile Colorado Plateau. Even if you don’t get out of the car once, a scenic drive down Forest Road 300 — known as Rim road — is a must. Trust me.
2. Head to the Oregon Coast for dramatic — and, often, secluded — coastal views.
If your family likes stunning landscapes and going off the beaten path, then a road trip to the Oregon Coast is for you. There are myriad (seriously, they seem uncountable) beaches to choose from — Arch Cape, for example, pictured above — plus, the drive along the Oregon Coast alone is arguably worth a trip. (Avoid more popular spots like Cannon Beach if you don’t want to run into crowds.)
Plus, the Oregon Coast is filled with places to stay that are just as unique and gorgeous as the surrounding scenery.
Affordable Road Trips to the American West and Midwest
3. Unplug for a trip to Colorado’s Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.
Who needs overrated Rocky Mountain National Park or luxury (read: unaffordable) Aspen when you can get the best that the Centennial State has to offer at its least visited national park? Check out Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.
The 14-mile long canyon is truly awe inspiring. And, because of its remote location, you can truly go off the grid and immerse yourself in rural Colorado’s magnificent beauty.
4. Delight in small-town living in Scottsbluff, Nebraska.
Scottsbluff, a town of about 14,000 just a three-hour drive from Denver in southeastern Nebraska, is home to Scottsbluff National Monument. The 3,000-acre landmark offers moderate hiking and easy strolls, plus some pretty interesting pioneer history that will entertain adults and kids alike.
The quiet, safe, and family-friendly town doesn’t have much in the way of fine dining or nightlife, but who needs ’em? Head to Cappuccino and Company for pastries and coffee, Flyover Brewing Company for locally made brews, and the Mixing Bowl for breakfast and lunch.
Keep in mind when looking for lodging that nearby Gering and Terrytown are great options, too; the three towns are so close, you won’t even realize you’ve left one for the other.
Affordable Road Trips to the Southeast and the Sun Belt
5. Eat, boat, and shop in Tarpon Springs, the “Sponge Capital of the World.”
Skip crowded beaches and theme parks for a trip to Tarpon Springs, a family-friendly town of about 25,000 just a 45-minute drive north of the perpetually touristy Clearwater beach.
There is a main drag in town where you can pleasantly stroll and window shop clothes, knickknacks, and of course, sea sponges galore. Also: Eat. The town has a strong presence of Greek culture and food — it has the highest percentage of Greek Americans of any U.S. city — and Hella’s Bakery and Restaurant cannot be missed. If you don’t leave with a box full of baklava and other goodies, you’re doing it wrong.
Plus, you can take a 30-minute boat ride — you might even see dolphins! — for just $12.
6. Soak it all in at Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas.
Arkansas may not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of hot springs, but it should be. Just a day trip away from Little Rock, Hot Springs National Park — and its eponymous town, Hot Springs — is the ultimate family-friendly and affordable vacation.
There’s more to explore than just thermal springs, too. Check out Bathhouse Row for its old-timey charm and history, the local science museum, and Garvan Woodland Gardens and Lake Catherine State Park if the hot springs don’t quite scratch your outdoorsy itch.
There are also some super-cool and beautiful cabins and farmhouse-style places to stay in Hot Springs.
Affordable Road Trips to the East Coast and Northeast
7. Explore the Blue Ridge Mountains and funky Asheville, North Carolina.
Located just east of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Asheville has a vibrant art scene, independent brewers and restaurateurs, and some of the most spectacular vistas in the region. The tree line is expansive and seemingly never ending, and, yes, they really do look a bit blue, because of trees that produce Eucalyptus-oil that, when mixed with the atmosphere (i.e. water, dust, etc.), produces a blue haze effect.
There are loads of waterfall hikes, in-town strolls, and river-lined walks. If you’re a fan of the outdoors and, well, locally made anything, then it’s time to pay Asheville a visit.
8. Visit scenic Stowe, Vermont during the off-season for the best deals.
In warmer times, Stowe offers outdoor recreation — think: hiking, hot air balloon rides, mountain biking, zipline, rock climbing — as well as window shopping at one of its many boutiques in town.
You can also choose to stay in Burlington (Vermont’s largest city with a population of about 43,000), which is just 45 minutes away from Stowe.