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After a few years of quarantine, we are all ready to get out and have a vacation. But with inflation settling in, finding cheap places to travel in 2023 is key to having a good time that you won’t regret later.
While there are plenty of cities throughout the U.S. you can visit, not all of them are the most budget-friendly. Even without taking inflation and rising costs into account, some cities can just be pricey to get to, and others, while chock full of free things to do, have insanely expensive hotels (looking at you, Boston!).
If you need some inspiration for cheap places to travel in 2023, we’ve rounded up 23 U.S. cities that offer good value across the board. With a ton of free or low-cost attractions, affordable places to stay, and either low-cost transportation or great walkability, you’ll be able to tailor your next trip to fit your budget and make it worth the trek.
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Best Cheap Places to Travel in 2023:
1. San Antonio, Texas
Alamo City is one of our top picks for cheap places to travel because of its good food and lively local culture. The best time of year to visit? Between November and April, when the weather is cooler and prices are lower.
One of the most popular destinations in San Antonio is the River Walk. This 5-mile stretch of river winds along downtown and has plenty of affordable hotels along the way, making your trip easy to manage on foot.
Cheap things to do in San Antonio:
- The San Antonio Botanical Garden
- Go Rio River Cruise
- San Antonio Zoo
- San Antonio Museum of Art
- Weekend Market at the Pearl
Free things to do in San Antonio:
- The Alamo (they also have paid tours)
- San Antonio Missions National Historical Park
- La Villita
- Hemisfair Park
- Japanese Tea Garden
Related: 17 Travel Hacks for Families
2. Savannah, Georgia
If you’re looking for a clean, quaint Southern city that is oozing with charm and dripping with southern hospitality, visit Savannah, Georgia. You may recognize its famous squares from Forrest Gump, where we learned that life is like a box of chocolates.
The best time of year to visit Savannah to save a few dollars is the month of September. You’ll avoid the worst humidity of summer and get some better hotel rates. You can enjoy the beach, take in some history, and eat plenty of good southern food!
Cheap things to do in Savannah:
- Visit The Prohibition Museum
- Take in the history at Old Fort Jackson
- Tour the Bonaventure Cemetery
- Spend an evening on one of the various ghost tours that fit your price point
Free things to do in Savannah:
- Grab a free praline along River Street
- Window shop at Savannah City Market
- Do a day at the beach at Tybee Island or Hilton Head
- Snap photos at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist and Forsyth Park
3. Washington, D.C.
While Washington, D.C. may not seem like an affordable city, there are a few factors that help keep costs down and make it a budget-friendly place to visit. Lots of affordable flights can get you to D.C., and pretty much all the museums, memorials, and attractions are completely free.
Besides the historic landmarks and free museums, it’s also a destination for food and culture, too. There are options at every price point to try cuisine from around the world without having to leave the U.S.
The cheapest time to visit D.C. is in the winter — so pack your jacket and comfy walking shoes to get to all the museums. But don’t fret, if the weather has you worried, there are still great deals in late fall and early spring to take advantage of.
Cheap things to do in Washington, D.C.:
- Most of the museums, attractions, and the zoo are completely free
Free things to do in Washington, D.C.:
- Walk The National Mall to see the Lincoln Memorial, WWII Memorial, Vietnam Memorial, and others
- Visit the plethora of FREE museums like the United States Holocaust Museum & Memorial, National Gallery of Art, and the Smithsonian’s National Zoo
Related: We did all the hard work for you — here’s a handy cheat sheet to find free museums in every state.
4. New Orleans, Louisiana
There is so much more to New Orleans than just Bourbon Street bars and Mardi Gras beads. This unique bayou city is chock full of culture and flavor and has a tempo that will make you want to stay awhile.
If partying isn’t your thing, you can avoid Bourbon Street altogether and take in some jazz, sip a Sazerac, and slow down for a spell before you return to real life. The cheapest time to visit New Orleans is between July and September — it may be a bit hot, but if you can handle the heat, it’s worth the visit!
Cheap things to do in New Orleans:
- Ride on the famous street car for just $1.25 to grab a bite in the Garden District and some beignets in the French Quarter
- Cruise the Mississippi River on the Algiers Ferry
Free things to do in New Orleans:
- Take a gander at the New Orleans Museum of Art
- Window shop along Magazine Street
- Tour the Lower 9th Ward Living Museum
5. Los Angeles, California
Los Angeles doesn’t have a reputation for being affordable, but with five airports to choose from and lots of low-cost activities, L.A. can be surprisingly budget-friendly! We even know ways to save at Six Flags’ Hurricane Harbor and Legoland.
Because of the sheer size of L.A., you can also compare prices of hostels, Airbnbs, and hotels to find a good rate that fits your travel needs.
The cheapest months to visit are January, February, and September, when crowds are thinner and you can get competitive hotel rates to boot. If you’re not set on sunbathing on the beach, you can still enjoy the ocean without the crowds during these shoulder months.
Cheap things to do in Los Angeles:
- Eat mochi from Little Tokyo
- Tour the La Brea Tar Pits, take an iconic selfie at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art‘s lights (then tour the art inside), pay your respects to movie stars of years past at Hollywood Forever Cemetery (free!), and stay to see a concert at the cemetery after dark.
Free things to do in Los Angeles:
- Hike up to the Hollywood sign and take in the panorama from up top
- Visit the beach
- Tour the Getty Museum
- Drive around Beverly Hills to spot stars on the ground
- Or visit the Griffith Observatory to spot stars in the sky (it’s free, but parking may cost you!)
Related: Is a rental car in your future? Here’s how we use Hopper to find rental car discounts.
6. Gatlinburg, Tennessee
If the mountains are calling, Gatlinburg might be your place for scenic views that are still affordable. Gatlinburg is located around the Great Smoky Mountains and makes the perfect destination if you’d like to drive or hike your way to scenic views.
There’s also ample charm if you’d rather hit up some tourist spots. Gatlinburg has a nice small-town vibe for a mid-sized city, and it’s affordable to visit year-round. But your cheapest time of year to visit will be between January to March.
Cheap things to do in Gatlinburg:
- Make a day trip to Pigeon Forge
- Visit Dollywood
- Stop in for a drink and a tour of Sugarlands Distillery (or plenty of other local distilleries)
Free things to do in Gatlinburg:
- Drive and take in the scenic views of Cades Cove and Clingmans Dome in Great Smoky Mountains National Park
- Hike in Grotto Falls or on one of the many trails around Gatlinburg
7. Traverse City, Michigan
Love wine but can’t squeeze in a trip to Napa Valley? Or do you prefer to drink wine fireside in a snowy, cozy locale? Traverse City, Michigan may be for you! The city boasts plenty of wineries and fun outdoor activities whether you want to visit in the chill of winter or in the height of summer.
The best time to visit Traverse City for a good deal is in January to March or August to November. You’ll miss most of the lake crowds during these times, but there’s still a lot to see and do.
Cheap things to do in Traverse City:
- Stop in and visit one of over a dozen wineries and breweries
- Experience a real dog sled ride in winter
- Shop and snack on the city’s famous cherries at Cherry Republic and Cherry Public House
Free things to do in Traverse City:
- Relax a little at Harbor View Lavender Farms
- Hike and fish at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park
8. Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Milwaukee, Wisconsin is commonly known for beer — but if you’re looking for cheap places to travel in 2023, you’ll want to see what else is brewing! Milwaukee is also known as the Festival City, with cultural and musical events happening almost every weekend year-round.
Milwaukee has plenty to do no matter when you visit, but the cheapest times to visit are January to March and August to November.
Cheap things to do in Milwaukee:
- Take a brewery tour at one of Milwaukee’s 20+ breweries
- Ride through history at the Harley Davidson Museum
- Grab lunch at the Milwaukee Public Market
- Explore the city from the water by renting a kayak for the day
Free things to do in Milwaukee:
- Watch the famous giant wings that adorn the Milwaukee Art Museum (if you go in, admission will cost you around $22, but kids are free)
- Attend one of the over 100+ festivals happening each year
9. Chicago, Illinois
The Windy City can also be a cheap place to travel in 2023. After a slow few years on the hotel front, plenty of accommodations are now offering some great deals! You have two airports to choose from to compare rates, and plenty of alternative places to stay in and around downtown if you’d rather sleep at a hostel or an Airbnb.
The cheapest time of year to visit Chicago is January to March. If those Midwest winters don’t appeal to you, October through December is also a great season where you can get some fall/holiday color — and the temperatures aren’t quite as severe.
Cheap things to do in Chicago:
- Rent a bike and pedal down the lakefront
- Ride the Blue Line EL Train to Wicker Park for pizza and window shopping
- Grab a Chicago-style hot dog
- Take a historical tour by bus or boat
Free things to do in Chicago:
- Catch a free concert at Millenium Park (if weather permits)
- Play with the kids in Maggie Daley Park
- Go on a photo tour of all the iconic spots (like the Picasso statue, Wrigley Field, The Bean, and Calder’s Flamingo)
10. Austin, Texas
Keep it weird in Austin, Texas — but also, keep it affordable! If you’re looking for cheap places to travel in Texas, Austin should definitely be on your list. This city boasts the state’s capitol and lots of outdoor activities you can enjoy all year round.
The cheapest time of year to visit Austin is November through February for cheaper hotel rates and flights, but booking an Airbnb is always an option for additional savings.
Cheap things to do in Austin:
- Rent a kayak and tour the city by water
- Take a dip in the Barton Springs Pool (the spring-fed pool has an average temperature of 68 degrees year-round!)
- Tour the LBJ Presidential Library (50% off on Tuesdays)
- Bring a picnic to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
Free things to do in Austin:
- Watch the bats take flight at sunset along Congress Ave.
- Take a hike along the 10-mile stretch of Lady Bird Hike & Bike Trail
- Catch a free movie at Zilker Park
11. Phoenix, Arizona
Phoenix, Arizona is a desert city with a lot to offer for those of us traveling on a budget. This city has beautiful scenery and lots of flora and fauna to explore.
The cheapest time of year to visit Phoenix is in the summer — but if you’re looking for cooler hiking temperatures, they can be found in January to February. Beyond the affordable flights and cheap accommodations, Phoenix has lots of natural scenery where you can spend your time and embrace your uber-frugal status. All you’ll need is your hiking shoes and a reusable water bottle!
Cheap things to do in Phoenix:
- Tour the Desert Botanical Gardens and stop for lunch at Gertrude’s
- Learn about Native American history and culture at the Heard Museum
- Shop some major deals at Nordstrom’s Last Chance store
Free things to do in Phoenix:
- Take a day trip to Sedona to see stunning red rock panoramas
- Soak up a sunset at Hole-in-the Rock in Papago Park
- Hike at Camelback Mountains
- Take in the vistas at Piestewa Peak at dusk
12. Jacksonville, Florida
Jacksonville is one of the more affordable cities in Florida that still has a major airport. Whether you’re looking to be a snowbird for the winter or want to hit the beach when everyone else is back at work, there are a few ways to save.
Take advantage of shoulder season prices by visiting Jacksonville when the crowds have gone home; March to May and September to November are great times to visit and still enjoy the beach without throngs of people. Jacksonville also has some great deals on Airbnbs within walking distance of the water. Save by prepping picnics at home and enjoying the water — you can still have great beach weather without peak pricing.
Cheap things to do in Jacksonville:
- Support big cat rescue at Catty Shack Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary
- Meander among the flora and fauna at Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens
- Go birdwatching at Big Talbot State Park
- Spend a Saturday browsing the Riverside Arts Market for local goods
Free things to do in Jacksonville:
- Bring your beach chair and picnic at Atlantic State Beach
- Learn about Native American culture at Fort Caroline National Memorial
13. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
The City of Brotherly Love is also a budget-friendly one. On our list of cheap places to travel in 2023, this history-rich city will have you spending less, too. Trace the footsteps of our Founding Fathers and leave with plenty of memories.
The cheapest time of year to visit Philadelphia is December to February. Of course, if low hotel rates aren’t enough to warm you up to the idea of traveling when it’s frosty outside, you can also find good rates when temperatures are more moderate, in late fall and early spring. You’ll still get some great fall color or early spring blossoms without the crowds and cost of summer.
Cheap things to do in Philadelphia:
- Visit the world’s first prison at Eastern State Penitentiary
- Tour the American Revolution Museum
- Experience immersive art at the Magic Gardens
- Get lost among the flowers in the Morris Arboretum
- Take a self-guided tour at the home of Betsy Ross
Free things to do in Philadelphia:
- Step back in time at Independence Hall (some paid tickets may be required, depending on the time of year)
- Stop for a photo op at the Liberty Bell and the Rocky Statue
- Hit the trails at Wissahickon Valley Park
14. San Diego, California
San Diego is known for its great weather, but it can also be a fantastic destination if you’re looking for cheap places to travel in 2023. Since the city has a comfortable climate all year long, there isn’t a bad time to visit, though some times are cheaper than others.
With beautiful beaches, free exhibits, and a famous zoo nestled in a historical park with plenty to do, you can have a great vacation and only pay for a few key attractions. December through January (avoiding major holiday weeks) is the cheapest time to visit, and the weather is still mild in sunny Southern California.
Cheap things to do in San Diego:
- Enjoy a day at the San Diego Zoo
- Grab a bite to eat and window shop at Old Town San Diego
- Take in views of the harbor at Seaport Village
Free things to do in San Diego:
- Spend a day walking around Balboa Park in the free gardens (the carousel & Japanese Friendship Garden do cost money, but are worth it!)
- Spend a day at the La Jolla Tide Pools
- Drive to Coronado Island
- Take a walk along Mission Beach to watch the surfers
15. Las Vegas, Nevada
One of the most underrated cheap places to travel is Las Vegas. While it’s most notorious to help you lose your money, if done right, it can be quite a cheap place to visit!
Not only can you take advantage of extremely competitive pricing among the many hotels in Vegas, but with a short drive out of the city, you can find scenic hikes and stunning vistas to round out your trip. The cheapest time to visit Vegas is in the summer, but with great rates in September-November and January-April, you can avoid the peak heat!
Cheap things to do in Las Vegas:
- Get your game on at the Pinball Hall of Fame
- Spend the day at the Neon Museum (it’s cheaper during the day than at night!)
- Catch a silent movie at the Springs Preserve
Free things to do in Las Vegas:
- Spend a day hiking in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area
- Watch the fountains at the Bellagio that go off every 30 minutes outside
- Tour the free Conservatory and Botanical Garden
- Catch a free light show on Fremont Street
- Spend a day in nature at Mount Charleston
16. St. Petersburg, Florida
As another affordable city in Florida, St. Pete gives you the chance to skip the Orlando and Miami crowds for a more relaxing time in the Sunshine State. St. Petersburg is laid back and friendly, with lots of outdoor preserves and natural areas to check out.
If you’re into camping or just want a weekend to hike and explore, St. Pete is a must-see. June to November is the most affordable time to visit, but beware — you may run the risk of a hurricane. If some iffy weather doesn’t scare you off, pack your swimsuit and your walking shoes and go for it.
Cheap things to do in St. Petersburg:
- Explore 50,000+ varieties of plants and a flock of flamingos at the Sunken Gardens
- Take a break from the beach and explore downtown
- Look at art at the Imagine Museum
- Camp for a night at the Boyd Hill Nature Reserve
- Stop by the Saturday Morning Market and pick up local produce for a homecooked meal at your Airbnb
Free things to do in St. Petersburg:
- Hike along the boardwalk and nature trail at Sawgrass Lake Park
- Learn about the pioneers of Florida at the Pinellas Pioneer Settlement
- Look for shells along the beach
17. Salt Lake City, Utah
There’s a lot of natural beauty to be had in Utah! From the lake of salt that gives the city its name to the iconic red rocks surrounding it, Salt Lake City, is one of our recommended cheap places to travel in 2023. If nature is calling, you’ll want to visit in the fall. Crowds and rates go down in autumn, and the best time to visit Salt Lake City on a budget is September to October.
Cheap things to do in Salt Lake City:
- Spend the day seeing the iconic arches of Moab National Park
- Spot some bison at Great Salt Lake State Park
- Take a step back in history at the Pioneer Memorial Museum or the Natural History Museum
Free things to do in Salt Lake City:
- Take a scenic drive through Big Cottonwood Canyon
- Hike the countless trails in and around Salt Lake (Liberty Park is a favorite)
Related: Did you know you can find cheap RV rentals for as low as $1 a day?
18. Albuquerque, New Mexico
If you’re wanting an affordable desert vacation with some good food to boot, don’t pass on Albuquerque, New Mexico. Enjoy a little heat from their famous Hatch chiles and cool off with a margarita in between hikes. After that, finish your day window shopping in this beautiful desert oasis of a city.
The cheapest time of year to visit Albuquerque is January to May, when rates for hotels and flights are the cheapest. But, festival season and the famous balloons take flight in September to November — so if you can find ways to cut costs and enjoy the balloons and prime weather, go for it!
Cheap things to do in Albuquerque:
- Pique your curiosity at the American International Rattlesnake Museum
- Get acquainted with hot air balloons (even if you’re afraid of heights) at the Anderson Abruzzo International Balloon Museum
Free things to do in Albuquerque:
- Attend the twice-monthly ARTScrawl gallery tour
- See thousands of images etched in stone at Petroglyph National Monument (parking is $1)
- Hike up the Sandia Mountains along the La Luz Trail
19. Virginia Beach, Virginia
Need a good mix of being on a beach but also saving money? Virginia Beach is a great spot to enjoy the Atlantic if you’re looking for cheap places to travel in 2023. Namely, this location has a lot of camping and outdoor activities to choose from that can help you comparison-shop and tailor your trip to your budget.
The cheapest time of year to visit Virginia Beach is from March to mid-May, or into autumn between mid- to late September and November.
Cheap things to do in Virginia Beach:
- See the animals at the Virginia Aquarium
- Pet goats and other creatures at the Hunt Club Farm
- Buy a day pass to the Ocean Breeze Waterpark
- Visit the Military Aviation Museum
Free things to do in Virginia Beach:
- Take a stroll along the Virginia Beach Boardwalk
- Pitch a tent on the beach to try some camping
- Hit the trails at First Landing State Park
Related: Want more ideas for cheap beach vacations? We got you!
20. Charleston, South Carolina
Located just a few hours from Savannah (another destination on our list of cheap places to travel) is a gem of the southern coast: Charleston, South Carolina. This city has a coastal vibe, with colonial touches and colorful houses. The city prides itself on hospitality, but it can also boast some great rates on hotels and free things for the family to do.
Cheap things to do in Charleston:
- Pay your respects at the Old Slave Mart Museum
- Learn the history of our colonial past at Fort Sumter National Monument
- Take a tour of the Firefly Distillery for some moonshine
Free things to do in Charleston:
- Window shop and try free samples at the Charleston City Market
- Take an iconic photo at the city’s famous Pineapple Fountain
- Stroll on over to Rainbow Row to look at some beautiful beach houses
21. Raleigh, North Carolina
This city is family-friendly with lots of low-cost and free things to do, making Raleigh a great choice for cheap places to travel in 2023. Whether you like craft breweries, hiking, or learning about the local wildlife, Raleigh is an affordable city with plenty to keep you busy.
January to March is the cheapest time of year to visit Raleigh, but even if you inch your vacation a bit closer to peak season in summer, there are still deals on hotels that will make it worth a trip.
Cheap things to do in Raleigh:
- Take your family to the Marbles Kids Museum
- Stop in for some suds at the Crank Arm Brewing Co.
- Test your wits at Tic Toc Escapes
Free things to do in Raleigh:
- Pose for pictures at Pullen Park
- Spend an afternoon at the Museum of Natural Sciences or the NC Museum of Art
- Take in the color and views at Umstead State Park
- Stop and smell the flowers at JC Raulston Arboretum
22. Tulsa, Oklahoma
Tulsa is as Midwest as it gets! Smack dab in the middle of the country, this city also has some great middle-of-the-road prices. With affordable hotels and low-cost attractions like the Tulsa Zoo, even a larger group can have fun without breaking the bank.
The cheapest time to visit Tulsa is around October, when you can grab a cheap flight and temperatures are just starting to cool down. Enjoy fall with some falling airfare prices to boot. Since Tulsa has a decently sized airport, you can usually find a great deal on direct flights pretty regularly.
Cheap things to do in Tulsa:
- Explore S.T.E.M. activities at the Tulsa Discovery Labs
- Visit the animals at the Tulsa Zoo
- Enjoy some art at the Philbrook Museum or the Decopolis Art Deco Museum
Free things to do in Tulsa:
- Experience the acoustic phenomenon of the Center of the Universe
- Catch a festival
- Meander the woods of Turkey Mountain Wilderness Area
23. Orlando, Florida
While Orlando may not strike you as one of the best cheap places to travel overall, if you can avoid the big theme parks (mainly Disney World), you can take advantage of all the smaller attractions that cater to tourists.
With a major airport and competitive hotel scene, you can easily find a good deal on travel to Orlando. If you’re looking to avoid crowds and the muggy summer climate, your cheapest time to visit Orlando will be January to February.
Cheap things to do in Orlando:
- Take a spin on some go-karts at the Orlando Kart Center
- Eat a Happy Meal and play at McDonald’s biggest Playplace
- Traverse an obstacle course on the water at Nona Adventure Park
Free things to do in Orlando:
- Learn about local ecology at the Tibet-Butler Preserve
- Take a walk around the lake at Disney’s first and only livable community in Celebration, Florida
Related: If you do plan to visit Mickey Mouse’s house, read our Disney World hacks first!