There’s a big world out there, and a lot of people want to see as much of it as possible through travel. Unfortunately, most people can only spend so much of their savings on jet-setting. As a result, finding places to take a vacation on a budget is important. To that end, SmartAsset researched the most affordable vacation destinations in America. We found places that were economical not only for traveling with a family of four but also as an individual. Below, we rank the most affordable travel destinations in the U.S.
To find the cities on our list, we looked at 48 of the largest cities in the country and considered them across four metrics: the costs of hotels, rental cars, air travel and meals – for both a family of four and individuals.
This is SmartAsset’s fifth annual look at the most affordable travel destinations in the U.S. Read our 2018 study here.
- Follow the sun. Many of the top cities on our list are in states where there is warm weather and sunshine. States like Florida, Nevada, Texas and New Mexico all make appearances. If escaping winters in the Northeast is what your vacation is about, you are in luck.
- Consistency over several years. SmartAsset has done this for five years, and a lot of cities keep appearing on our lists. This year’s list of the most affordable destinations for a family of four includes six cities that were on the same list last year. There are eight repeats on the list of most affordable destinations for individuals.
The Most Affordable U.S. Travel Destinations for a Family of Four
1. Orlando, FL
Orlando, Florida, the theme park capital of the U.S., is once again the most affordable vacation destination in America. A family of four can expect to pay approximately $2,373 for a three-day, three-night vacation, including the cost of round-trip air travel and nightly hotel rooms. An individual could take a trip to Orlando for a total of around $853.
Renting a car is especially cheap in Orlando – just $36 a day on average. That means you won’t be paying a lot for a car to get around to all of the theme parks you and your family will want to see, from Disney World to Gatorland. If you need help figuring out how much you can spend on your vacation, check out SmartAsset’s budget calculator.
2. Las Vegas, NV
There’s plenty to do in Las Vegas, Nevada whether you’re traveling by yourself and enjoying the slots and night clubs or traveling with your family and taking advantage of the restaurants and shows.
A trip for the family will average around $2,409. A trip for one will come in at a little more than $891. Las Vegas has the lowest average air travel costs on our list at around $231 per person.
3. Fort Lauderdale, FL
Fort Lauderdale, Florida, a city on the state’s eastern coast, is a good choice for travelers looking for surf and sand. The average trip will run a family of four approximately $2,658. Individuals would be looking at an average price tag of around $991.
Fort Lauderdale is tied with Las Vegas for the third-cheapest rental car prices at $45 per day.
4. San Antonio, TX
In San Antonio, Texas you can visit the Alamo and stroll along the River Walk all for a reasonable price. A trip to this Texan town will cost approximately $2,683 for a family of four and $952 for an individual.
Food is especially cheap in San Antonio, with restaurant meals averaging out to just around $18 per person. That’s the lowest rate in our study. And rental car prices are the second-lowest rate on our list, at just $41 per day.
5. Albuquerque, NM
Albuquerque, New Mexico is another cost-effective destination. The average three-day, three-night vacation to Albuquerque will run around $2,771 for a family of four and $1,011 for an individual.
The rental car costs are the second highest in the top 10 at $78 per day, but hotel prices are the lowest in the entire study, at just $95 per night.
If you’re strategizing how to find room in your budget for a vacation, make sure you try the 50/30/20 budget plan.
6. Cincinnati, OH
Cincinnati, Ohio has plenty to do and see, including a museum full of uniquely American signs. And you’ll be able to enjoy a trip here for a relatively small price tag. A trip to the Queen City for a family of four averages $2,793, and an individual can vacation in Cincinnati for $1,046.
A restaurant meal averages just $20 in Cincinnati, the second-lowest price in our entire study.
7. Reno, NV
Reno, Nevada, the Biggest Little City in the World, is another option for those who want to vacation in the desert. A trip for a family of four will average around $2,797. A trip for an individual will cost about $974 on average.
A trip to Reno has the second-lowest hotel rates in our top 10, at just $101 per night. It has the second-highest average airfare cost in the top 10, though, coming in at around $356 per ticket.
Saving money on your travel allows you to sock away more money in your retirement plan.
8. Jacksonville, FL
This Sunshine State destination has its own culture – and an NFL team, if you’re visiting during the season and want to catch a game. A family of four can travel here for around $2,869. An individual will spend $1,055.
Jacksonville’s hotels are relatively inexpensive at just $107 per night, while plane tickets are on the pricier end at $347 each.
9. Sacramento, CA
Sacramento, California is another good option for a vacation on a budget. A family of four can travel there for just $2,880 over three days and three nights while an individual can get by for around $1,029 (a top-10 rate for this metric in our study).
Rental car prices are approximately $52 per day. Round-trip plane tickets are $339.
10. Tucson, AZ
Rounding out our list is another desert town, Tucson, Arizona. You’ll be paying around $2,894 for a family of four or $985 for an individual trip.
Tucson’s rental car prices are the third-lowest in our top 10, at just $44. Plane tickets, though, are the priciest in our top 10 and the third-most expensive in our study overall, at approximately $394 round-trip.
The Most Affordable U.S. Travel Destinations for Individuals
Eight cities on the list of most affordable travel destinations for individuals are also on the above list of most affordable destinations for a family of four. The two that aren’t are as follows:
- Phoenix, AZ
Phoenix, Arizona is the state’s capital as well as its largest city. Phoenix is the seventh-most affordable travel destination in the U.S. for individuals and the 12th-most for families. It’s home to myriad cultural and tourist attractions, and it will run an individual just around $1,008 on average.
Rental cars in Phoenix are cheap, averaging just $47 per day, but round-trip plane tickets are on the more expensive side, averaging around $342.
- Salt Lake City, UT
You can go to Temple Square and learn more about American history in Salt Lake City, Utah, not to mention going to see Great Salt Lake itself. A trip will cost an individual $1,025 on average.
Salt Lake City is the ninth-most affordable travel destination in our study for individuals and comes in just shy of our top-10 list for families (at 11th, to be exact). Hotel rooms in Salt Lake City average around $125, while a restaurant meal comes in at about $25.
Data and Methodology
SmartAsset analyzed the data from 48 of the largest cities in America to find the most affordable travel destinations in the country. We specifically considered the cost of a three-day, three-night trip, both for an individual and a family of four. We considered the following four metrics:
- Average round-trip airfare cost: Data for this metric comes from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics and is for the third quarter of 2018.
- Average hotel room price: We assume that a family of four will book two hotel rooms while an individual will book only one. The data comes from Hotels.com Hotel Price Index for 2016, the most recent data available.
- Average daily car rental cost: We assume that both a family of four and an individual will rent one car for three days. Data comes from cheapcarrental.com.
- Average cost of a meal at a restaurant: We assume travelers will have two meals per day at a mid-range restaurant, meaning an individual will buy two meals per day and a family of four will buy eight. Data comes from Numbeo.com
We used the following formula to calculate the total price of a three-day trip for a family of four:
(avg hotel room rate x 2 rooms x 3 nights) + (avg car rental rate x 3 days) + (avg flight cost x 4 tickets) + (avg cost of a meal x 4 people x 2 meals x 3 days)
We used the following formula for an individual traveler:
(avg hotel room rate x 1 room x 3 nights) + (avg car rental rate x 3 days) + (avg flight cost x 1 ticket) + (avg cost of meal x 1 person x 2 meals x 3 days)
Using these calculations we ranked the cities from most affordable to least affordable.
Tips for Making the Most of Your Savings
- Get expert help. To plan for a big trip or any other major expense, consider finding a financial advisor using SmartAsset’s free financial advisor matching service. You answer a few questions and we match you with up to three financial advisors in your area. We fully vet our advisors and they are free of disclosures. You talk to each advisor and make a choice about how to move forward.
- Sage splurging. The key to affording splurges like vacation? Setting a budget and sticking to it. See what yours should look like with SmartAsset’s free budget calculator.
Questions about our study? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
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