There’s nothing like a summer vacation, but it can also be one of the most expensive times to take a trip. Depending on where you want to go, airfares are sky high and hotels are at a premium.
I interviewed a handful of travel experts and got their favorite picks for the most affordable destinations to visit this summer, as well as some smart ways to afford more expensive places. From beach getaways to city escapes to mountain hideaways, these are spots that offer all the joys of the season without killing your wallet.
So where should you go? Read on for some amazing ideas. And if you want more advice on how to save when traveling, check out “Cheap Travel: 13 Places Where The Dollar Goes Far.”
Chosen By: Meredith Perdue, co-creator of the lifestyle travel and food website, Map & Menu
Why: The coast of Maine is a quintessential American summer getaway destination, and for good reason: Who can resist the idea of sampling overstuffed lobster rolls while exploring mile after mile of the storied rocky coastline? When planning a summer trip to Maine during the height of the season, the cost may seem a little daunting at first. We’ve found that if you’re able to venture a little further off the beaten path, good deals — even during peak travel season — are still to be had. Although destinations like Camden, Mount Desert Island and Kennebunkport should rightfully be on any Maine travel bucket list, broadening your search beyond some of these more popular tourist destinations will end up costing a lot less in the long run. Some of our favorite getaways can be found in the Midcoast region of Maine. The Lincolnville Motel is a recently updated, midcentury roadside find located just north of the much more popular Camden, while the charming Nebo Lodge is nearly 13 miles off the mainland on the island of North Haven. Both are affordable yet stylish options that still provide the perfect Maine Midcoast experience. While visiting the area, grab a quick bite to eat at Dot’s in Lincolnville or head to Rockland for hot dogs at Wasses. And make sure to keep an eye out for any of the numerous lobster pounds surrounding many of the coastal coves, where fresh-off-the-boat seafood is often available at pre-market prices.
Chosen By: Alyssa Ramos of My Life’s a Movie is a solo female travel blogger, content creator, entrepreneur and social media influencer who travels the world full time. She aims to inspire the idea of “If I can do it, you can do it,” and seeks to showcase unique destinations through her unique photography style and honest, detailed travel tips.
Why: There seems to be this thought that Croatia is expensive — especially because of the increasingly popular Yacht Week, which requires a full-on yacht rental to sail around — but I can assure you that is not the case. If island hopping on Croatia’s famous coastline is what you’re interested in, you’ll be happy to hear that you can opt for a cheap ferry to get around. Renting a car is also extremely affordable in Croatia, which means you can head to some of the lesser-known (and less expensive) coastal towns like Rovinj and up to popular attractions like Plitvice Lakes. Finding affordable accommodations is possible, as well. In Rovinj, I loved the beachfront resort, Amarin, where I recently got a last-minute room for under $100 (they’re a bit more in summer). I also loved Le Meridien in Split, where rooms start at 100 Euros. Airbnb is also popular and affordable throughout Croatia.
Where: Lake Powell, Arizona
Chosen By: Kelly Lewis specializes in women’s travel: She’s the founder of Go! Girl Guides(travel guidebooks for women), the Women’s Travel Fest and Damesly, a tour company for creative and professional women. Follow her on Instagram at @damesly.
Why: Northern Arizona is the home of red rocks and stone formations, but Lake Powell is where things start to get really interesting. It’s like visiting the Grand Canyon, if the Grand Canyon were underwater. Stretching the Utah/Arizona border, this 186-mile lake houses 96 canyons, many of which you can drive down and have all to yourself. You’ll also find Antelope Canyon and the Rainbow Bridge (the world’s largest natural bridge) on the water, as well as free-flowing waterfalls, if you’re lucky enough to catch some rain. Spend a week on the lake with your friends and family, driving through slot canyons, anchoring on deserted beaches and camping under the stars. Most houseboats come with waterslides attached to the back of them, and many have BBQs and hot tubs on the roof, too. Pick up your boat from Antelope Point Marina where the cost per person works out to roughly $100/per day, depending on the size of the boat. You’ll be saving on food, too — grocery shop before you leave and plan to cook out most nights. Don’t miss Horseshoe Bend, just outside of the town of Page, on your way in or out.
Where: Camino de Santiago, Spain
Chosen By: Sherry Ott, founder of Ottsworld.com, shows you how to take epic adventures to intriguing places as a solo traveler.
Why: For the budget-minded adventure traveler, the cheapest way to travel Europe is by walking through it on the Camino de Santiago trail across Spain this summer. This is an epic walk; an ancient pilgrimage route to the apostle St. James’ shrine in Santiago de Compostela. I completed the Camino Frances Trail (500 miles) only spending $35 a day. The trail is easy to follow, and in the summer you won’t be lonely; thousands from around the world do the pilgrimage. This slow mode of travel is the cheapest way to see Spain. All restaurants along the route offer Pilgrim Meals, a 3-course meal with bottomless wine for $10, The route is also full of budget lodging options called albergues, which offer shared dorm rooms and private rooms for only $7 to $20 a night. One of my favorites was Albergue Los Templarios in the rural province of Palencia with shared rooms starting at $9. However, you don’t always have to stay in albergues sleeping in close quarters — there is a luxurious side to the Camino, too. Rest your weary body and splurge in one of the many historic posadas along the way. I enjoyed every bit of my luxury at Casa de Tepa in Astorga, a former Earl’s residence for $100. This is the ultimate in slow, local travel and a unique way to see Northern Spain, get in shape and pinch those pennies. For more info on the Camino de Santiago, check out this Ottsworld.com guide.
Where: Oregon’s Mt. Hood Territory
Chosen By: Lanee Lee and Lindsay Taub are co-founders of the award-winning travel blogVoyageVixens.com. Both are freelance travel writers for publications such as Hemispheres, National Geographic Traveller, Robb Report, and many more.
Why: If thousands of miles of hiking trails with mountain, river, waterfall, wetland and alpine lake views is your speed, then Mt. Hood Territory is the place to visit. Summer months are especially beautiful and mild in Mt. Hood National Forest and Clackamas Wilderness. Just 50 miles outside of Portland, vacation rentals are the way to go. Families eager to learn Oregon Trail history may explore using the free Mt. Hood Territory Heritage Trail app, with stops like Philip Foster Farm where you can grind corn, build a log cabin and saw logs for $5 ($20/family). Rent a kayak or paddleboard through Clackamas River Outfitters at super reasonable rates, especially for kids under 10 ($25-35). Experience the bounty of The Territory at U-pick farms and the Oregon Farm Loops, where you can visit alpacas, learn about elk on a real elk ranch, stroll through fields of lavender (June/July) and dahlias (August/September) for free (or a minimal fee). Bakers should not miss the free daily tour at Bob’s Red Mill. Insider tip: Save on area attractions with the Gold VIP Discount Card.