Budget Travel: 4 Cheap U.S. Vacations

Outer Banks

The Outer Banks are one of the most beautiful and afforable parts of the country.

Big vacations come with big price tags. I’d love to go to Europe this year, or take the little one to Disney World, but it’s not quite in the budget. If you are wondering what to do for your vacation this year and you have little money to put aside for the adventure, consider some of these options. Staying close to home can still be fun.

1. The Carolinas. Whether you go for some fresh mountain air in Asheville, North Carolina or all the golf, sand and surf you can handle in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, these states are inexpensive and welcoming. Best of all, they are family-friendly. You can find something for everyone. Take a look at where the old south meets the new south in Charleston, or relax on what feels like a private beach in the Outer Banks. You can find hotels for less than $100 a night almost anywhere in the Carolinas, and the activities are either totally free or very affordable. Get there on one or two tanks of gas if you’re setting out from somewhere on the east coast.

2. The Oregon waterfalls. Looking for a way out of L.A. or San Francisco that isn’t expensive? Check out Oregon. The coast is nice, and there is lots to do in Portland and Eugene. But the best part of the state is north, along the Washington state border. Make your way to The Dalles, which sits right on the Columbia river, and is packed with Native American history. Follow the entire Columbia River gorge, and you will see some of the most splendid waterfalls you can imagine, the most spectacular being Multnomah Falls. Keep your costs low by packing picnics for lunch. Enjoy hiking, water sports and natural sightseeing. Hotels in the area are inexpensive, and it’s a pretty drive from anywhere on the west coast.

3. The Bridges of Madison County. The first time I visited Iowa, I could not believe how much I loved it. It is green, lush, and affordable. Pack up the family and tour the famous Bridges of Madison County, even if you have not seen the movie. Enjoy some antique shopping and be sure to stop in the Amana Colonies, where you can pretend you are an early settler and even brew your own beer. Your lodging and food budget will be low. Just take a lot of pictures.

4. The Grand Canyon. Whether you approach from Utah or Arizona, you can find a basic hotel for around $65 per night, even during the busy tourist season. It will cost you $25 to drive into the Grand Canyon, but that is good for seven days, which is perfect for a family vacation. Take a guided tour, do a little hiking, and if you’re really bold, ride a mule through the canyon. There is a lot of natural beauty and history to enjoy for very little money. If you have an extra $24, travel up to Utah and check out Bryce Canyon ($12 to enter) and Zion National Park ($12 to enter) for more overwhelming beauty.

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