25 Summer Travel Ideas for Every Budget

Summer Travel Ideas

Want to explore new destinations this summer but have a limited budget? Here are 25 underrated summer travel ideas perfect for travelers looking to make memories without breaking the bank.

Summer travel is all about soaking up the sunshine, trying new activities, and making unforgettable memories. However, the costs can quickly add up, making some popular destinations feel out of reach.

The good news? You don’t need an unlimited budget to check destinations off your wanderlust. There are plenty of underrated, budget-friendly vacation spots and hacks to experience an epic summer getaway while sticking to your funds.

Why Summer Travel is Important

Before jumping into the destination ideas, let’s look at why summer travel should be a priority. The season offers the perfect weather to enjoy outdoor adventures, seasonal festivals, and warmer beaches. Taking a summer trip also provides:

  • A mental reset from daily routines and responsibilities
  • Quality time for deeper connections with travel companions
  • Chances to step outside your comfort zone
  • Endless photo opportunities that capture the trip’s special memories
  • Exploration of new cultures, landscapes, foods, and more

Don’t let budget limitations cancel your plans. This list of underrated destinations and savvy tips makes summer travel possible for every budget!

Summer Travel Ideas
Summer Travel Ideas

Budget-Friendly Destinations in the US

Your passport doesn’t need to come out for an unforgettable summer vacation. The US offers stunning scenery, outdoor escapades, historical sites, and small town charm without the high costs.

East Coast Destinations

The east coast provides a nice mix of major cities and charming small beach towns ideal for thrifty travelers. Top affordable options include:

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina: With 60 miles of sandy shoreline, amusement park rides, awesome seafood shacks, and campgrounds, it’s perfect for road trippers.

Cape May, New Jersey: Quaint Victorian mansions, a lush state park, and pristine beaches without the crowds make Cape May a prime underrated east coast vacation spot.

Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia: Step back in time without spending a fortune! Visitors can walk the historical streets, view reenactments, and take part in colonial activities on a budget.

West Coast Destinations

The west coast also boasts plenty of budget-friendly options from north to south including:

Bend, Oregon: Known for outdoor fun, there’s gorgeous hikes, rock climbing, fishing, biking, and camping without swelling crowds and prices.

San Luis Obispo, California: Halfway between San Francisco and L.A, SLO offers a vibrant downtown, farmers markets, hiking, beaches, and various accommodation options friendly for all wallets.

Tucson, Arizona: A vibrant southwest city surrounded by five different mountain ranges with fantastic Mexican food, old west history, hiking trails, spas, and museums that go easy on your pocketbook.

Southern Destinations

Transport your summer travels down south to save while soaking up charm, history, culture, and family fun with these affordable gems:

Chattanooga, Tennessee: This scenic city has an aquarium, museums, caverns, riverboat cruises, music scene, and outdoor adventures all available on a thrifty family vacation budget.

Charleston, South Carolina: Known for its hospitality, historic downtown, and proximity to beaches, Charleston offers plenty of free activities and budget-saving vacation rental options.

Pigeon Forge, Tennessee: Families can stretch their funds further to enjoy Dollywood, dinner shows, mini golf, hiking, museums, zoos, outdoor adventures, and lodging deals.

Midwestern Destinations

The Midwest is an underrated region with small towns and cities perfect for traversing on two wheels while pinching pennies. Top penny-pinching picks include:

Traverse City, Michigan: A hidden Midwest gem on Lake Michigan’s Grand Traverse Bay. Expect lush wine country, a charming downtown, and miles ofbudget-friendly beachfront.

Madison, Wisconsin: The vibrant state capital city offers outdoor concerts, over 200 parks, hike/bike trails, museums, summertime festivals, and enough college budget eats and drinks for all.

Minneapolis, Minnesota: Known as the “City of Lakes”, visitors can enjoy the Chain of Lakes bikeway, outdoor concerts, art fairs, and morewallet-friendly fun.

woman sunflowers nature field
woman sunflowers nature field

International Destinations on a Budget

Truly underrated summer vacation spots exist beyond the US borders, too. Get your passport ready to discover sun, culture, cuisine, and adventure in these affordable international locales:


Despite what you may think from resort prices,Mexico offers distinct regions primed for thrifty travelers chasing culture, beaches, and charm.

San Cristobal de las Casas: A beautiful highland Mexican city with a historic colonial center, rich indigenous culture, and gorgeous surroundings without mass tourism prices.

Puerto Escondido: Often skipped for more popular Mexican beach resort cities, here you’ll find incredible surfing, charming seafood shacks on the sand, and beach hut accommodations without draining funds.

**Campeche:**STEPSCampeche’s walled historic center traces to the 16th century colonial era when pirates prowled the Caribbean. Beyond affordable city hotels, travelers can take day trips to Edzna Mayan ruins or wildlife reserves.

Caribbean Islands

Sometimes called “the other Caribbean’, these island locales deliver that tropical vibe with budget airline connections and cheaper stays.

Martinique: Part of France geographically, Martinique boasts Caribbean beaches, rainforests, Creole cuisine, and historic fortress towns all at lower Euro prices.

Dominican Republic: Head to the Samana Peninsula with wallet-friendly beach bungalows, waterfalls, and humpback whale watching during the migration season from mid-January to mid-March.

Cuba: An easy flight from many American cities, Cuba promises old world architecture, classic cars, rich history and culture onpar with typical Mexico/Central America trip costs.

Central America

Narrowest part of the North and South American continents, Central America trots out jungle trekking, volcanic landscapes, Mayan sites, and lovely beaches without mass tourism rates. Top affordable picks include:

Monteverde, Costa Rica: Head into the lush cloud forest to zipline between treetops or traverse bridges for bird watching opportunities and wildlife sightings on a reasonable budget.

Little Corn Island, Nicaragua: Accessible only by boat, this tiny Caribbean island paradise offers few cars, no chain businesses, breathtaking snorkeling environment, and rustic beachy accommodation rates.

Antigua, Guatemala: With volcano backdrops, preserved Spanish Baroque architecture, and indigenous culture, Antigua ranks among the most beautiful colonial cities at pleasing price points for thrifty travelers.

Tips for Saving Money

Use these insider tricks of experienced budget travelers to keep summer trip costs in check:

Travel Off-Season

Avoid peak times when the masses flock to destinations lifting accommodation rates and crowding top sites.

Benefits: Lesser crowds, lower pricing, and often better weather in the shoulder season. Some lodging rates can drop 40-60% compared to summertime weekends!

Use Budget Airlines

Search for budget carriers offering cheap flights to domestic or international destinations. Airlines like Spirit, Frontier, and JetBlue often run sales on routes to popular summer locales.

The key is to travel light and avoid added baggage fees which is where these discount carriers make up costs. Pack just a carry-on with versatile clothing like lightweight layers to mix and match outfits. Bring compact, collapsible items that take up little space like a packable day bag for excursions.

Unless you absolutely need something, resist paying checked bag fees or additional charges since those add up quick. On the flight, you may need to pay extra for seat selection or in-flight snacks. But the base ticket price is usually far less than major domestic airlines.

Overall, the pros of cheap base fares outweigh the potential fees as long as you pack strategically. That saved money is better spent extending your trip adventures!

25 underrated summer travel ideas for every budget

#Summer Travel IdeasDescription
1Myrtle Beach, SC60 miles of sandy beaches, amusement parks, seafood shacks, campgrounds
2Cape May, NJQuaint Victorian beach town, pristine beaches without crowds
3Colonial Williamsburg, VAStep back in time, historical reenactments, activities on a budget
4Bend, OregonOutdoorsy town with gorgeous hikes, rock climbing, fishing, biking, camping
5San Luis Obispo, CAVibrant downtown, farmers markets, beaches, hiking, budget stays
6Tucson, ArizonaSurrounded by mountain ranges, old west history, museums, spas
7Chattanooga, TNAquarium, caverns, river cruises, music scene, outdoor adventures
8Charleston, SCSouthern hospitality, free activities, beaches, budget vacation rentals
9Pigeon Forge, TNDollywood, dinner shows, mini golf, hiking, zoos, lodging deals
10Traverse City, MIWine country, charming downtown, miles of affordable beachfront
11Madison, WIOutdoor concerts, 200+ parks, hike/bike trails, summer festivals
12San Cristobal, MexicoColonial city, indigenous culture, gorgeous highland surroundings
13Puerto Escondido, MexicoSurfing, seafood shacks on the sand, beach hut stays
14Campeche, MexicoWalled colonial city, Mayan ruins, wildlife reserves
15MartiniqueCaribbean beaches, rainforests, French Creole cuisine
16Samana Peninsula, DRBeach bungalows, waterfalls, humpback whale watching
17CubaArchitecture, classic cars, rich history and culture
18Monteverde, Costa RicaLush cloud forest, ziplining between treetops, wildlife
19Little Corn Island, NicaraguaCaribbean island, snorkeling, rustic beach stays
20Antigua, GuatemalaPreserved Spanish colonial city, volcano views
21Off-season travelLesser crowds, lower pricing by 40-60%
22Budget airlinesCheap base fares but pack light to avoid fees
23Public transportationBuses, trains, ferries often cheaper than taxis or rentals
24HostelsShared dorms or private rooms at low nightly rates
25CampingPitch a tent or park an RV to save on accommodation

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