Shannyn Allan | 

23 Cheap Places to Travel in 2023 — With 70+ Free Things to Do!

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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

go rio river cruise in 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:

Free things to do in San Antonio:

Related: 17 Travel Hacks for Families


2. Savannah, Georgia

person riding bicycle around forsyth park fountain in 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:

Free things to do in Savannah:


3. Washington, D.C.

washington dc national gallery of art rooster

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.:

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

new orleans parade during french quarter festival

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:

Free things to do in New Orleans:



5. Los Angeles, California

back of hollywood sign overlooking los angeles california at dusk

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:

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

dollywood train and grist mill in 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:

Free things to do in Gatlinburg:


7. Traverse City, Michigan

sleeping bear dunes national park at sunset

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:

Free things to do in Traverse City:


8. Milwaukee, Wisconsin

people kayaking on river in downtown 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:

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

cloud gate sculpture in millenium park in 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

barton springs pool in 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:

Free things to do in Austin:


11. Phoenix, Arizona

people hiking in sedona national park in 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:

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

beach at big talbot state park in 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:

Free things to do in Jacksonville:


13. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

tourists outside the museium of the american revolution in 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:

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

giraffe at san diego zoo in 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:

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

springs preserve in 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:

Free things to do in Las Vegas:


16. St. Petersburg, Florida

sailboat near st petersburg florida coast

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:

Free things to do in St. Petersburg:


17. Salt Lake City, Utah

canyonlands national park in 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:

Free things to do in Salt Lake City:

Related: Did you know you can find cheap RV rentals for as low as $1 a day?


18. Albuquerque, New Mexico

gila cliff dwellings national monument in albuquerque new mexico at dusk

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:

Free things to do in Albuquerque:


19. Virginia Beach, Virginia

whale spotted from virginia beach aquarium boat tour

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:

Free things to do in Virginia Beach:

Related: Want more ideas for cheap beach vacations? We got you!


20. Charleston, South Carolina

old south carriage company in 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:

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

mural in downtown 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:

Free things to do in Raleigh:


22. Tulsa, Oklahoma

tulsa botanic garden in 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:

Free things to do in Tulsa:


23. Orlando, Florida

person at nona adventure climbing tower in 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:

Free things to do in Orlando:

Related: If you do plan to visit Mickey Mouse’s house, read our Disney World hacks first!

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