From white sand beaches to outdoor adventures to foodie cities, these are the top spots to vacation on the cheap.
Jetting out on a summer getaway might seem counter to your personal finance goals, but it doesn't have to be. There are plenty of budget-friendly destinations where you can enjoy a much-needed vacation without breaking the bank.
Whether you like to vacation in urban centers where you can try new food and sightsee or you'd rather just relax on a beach with a mai tai in hand, here are the best budget vacation destinations to visit this summer.
1. The Coastal South
An underrated region of the country, the coastline of Georgia and the Carolinas is lined with beautiful, sunny beaches that are cheaper than their Florida and California counterparts. South Carolina is home to more barrier islands than any other state outside of Florida, and Georgia has its fair share as well. And who can forget the Outer Banks in North Carolina?
Stay in Savannah, Georgia, or Charleston, South Carolina, and take day trips to neighboring islands for a good mix of city and sea. If you prefer to be in a more tranquil setting, St. Simons Island and Jekyll Island in Georgia are perfect, and Hilton Head Island in South Carolina is ideal for golfers. As for North Carolina: Kitty Hawk, Nags Head, and Corolla all offer that perfect blend of peace and quiet and plenty to do, with Corolla offering more seclusion and the other two more activities.
2. Baja California, Mexico
Mexico is one of the best budget destinations for travelers. It's easy to find affordable flights to Mexico from just about anywhere in the U.S., and once you're there, you can count on spending less than you would at home as long as you stay away from major resorts.
Baja California is one of the best places in Mexico if you want to enjoy beautiful beaches without the premium you'd pay in more bustling tourist destinations like Cancun. Plus, this peninsula sits just below California, so it's particularly easy and cheap to get there. It's also one of the safest places in the country. The famed Cabo San Lucas can be spendier, but it's possible to find budget resorts, and it's popular for good reason. La Paz, the capital of Baja California Sur, is home to Playa Balandra, which has been named the number one beach in Mexico. Guadalupe Valley wine country makes for a great day trip, and La Ventana is a good jumping off point for some remote white sand beaches overlooking the Sea of Cortez, such as Punta Arena. If you want to get off the beaten path a little, Todos Santos is one of those small beach towns that's maintained its bohemian, artsy charm.
3. Upper Peninsula, Michigan
Michigan's Upper Peninsula may be chilly and frozen over for half the year, but summer is a beautiful time to visit this little slice of paradise along the Canadian border. Surrounded by three great lakes -- Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, and Lake Huron -- and blanketed by the Hiawatha National Forest, this area is an outdoor enthusiast's dream destination.
Fly into Traverse City and check out the charming downtown before heading to Sleeping Bear Dunes, one of the most uniquely stunning landscapes in the country. Make your way up through the Upper Peninsula, stopping in wine country along the way. From there, you can hike the Porcupine Mountains, paddle board along the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, or go all the way up to Copper Harbor on the Keweenaw Peninsula -- this northernmost town in Michigan is one of the best spots for outdoor adventurers.
4. Kansas City, Missouri
This up-and-coming city that sits on the Kansas-Missouri border, straddling both Southern and Midwestern culture, is bursting with great food, live music, and unique attractions -- all at a reasonable price.
Locals will tell you Kansas City–style barbecue is superior to its Southern and Texan siblings, but don't take their word for it. Head to Joe's, Q39, SLAP's, or just about any well-reviewed BBQ joint in the city to try a plate for yourself. Pair it with a beer from one of over 50 craft breweries in KC, and then head to one of the city's many acclaimed jazz venues. Jazz aficionados will also enjoy the American Jazz Museum. And don't forget to stroll by some of this City of Fountains' famed water sculptures.
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