Explore Budget-Friendly US Destinations with Friends in 2024

The United States is home to a wide range of vacation spots that offer ample activities at reasonable prices. U.S. News, with the help of expert opinions and user votes, ranked the best cheap vacations in the U.S. Whether you’re seeking a fun national park adventure, a beach escape or a small-town getaway, you’ll discover plenty of budget-friendly vacation options on this list. Use it to help pick your next affordable domestic destination, and don’t forget to vote for your choice getaway below to help shape next year’s ranking.

1. Grand Teton National Park

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#1 in Best Cheap Vacations in the U.S. for 2023-2024

Get the most bang for your buck on a vacation to Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park by traveling via car – the $35 entrance fee covers all passengers in the vehicle and is valid for seven days after purchase. Once there, you can enjoy activities like kayaking, hiking and mountain climbing, or go for a leisurely drive along Teton Park Road for prime wildlife-spotting opportunities and stunning views of the Teton Range. Be sure to stop by the Craig Thomas Discovery & Visitor Center before you leave to learn more about the park’s unique history.

Why Go To Grand Teton National Park

Towering above Jackson Hole, Wyoming, are the jagged snow-topped peaks of the majestic Teton Range, which are in high relief at Grand Teton National Park. From the 13,770-foot Grand Teton to the glittering Jenny and Jackson lakes – which can reflect the mountains in their depths – the photo-ops are endless. But the park isn’t just for mountaineers and photographers. In winter, there is cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. In the peak summer season (July and August), the park’s trails call to hikers of all abilities and reveal gems like hidden waterfalls and breathtaking views of the Tetons. Meanwhile, Snake River appeals to kayakers, rafters and those who simply fancy a float. Historic districts like Menors Ferry and Mormon Row attract history buffs interested in the 19th-century past of this piece of Western Frontier. 

The nearly 500-square-mile park also contains an array of wildlife, including black and grizzly bears, moose, antelope and bison. Plus, autumn visitors can witness the park light up with golden aspens. Travelers who want to tick off another national park on the same vacation can travel the few miles north to Yellowstone, which adjoins Grand Teton via the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway.

Best Things to Do in Grand Teton National Park

  • Teton Park Road
  • Jenny Lake
  • Craig Thomas Discovery & Visitor Center

2. Destin

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Best Cheap Vacations in the U.S. for 2023-2024

This Florida Panhandle locale boasts miles of white sandy coastline with many public access points, making it the perfect low-cost getaway. Soak up the sun at the Shores at Crystal Beach Park or shell out a few dollars to enjoy Henderson Beach State Park’s pristine Appalachian quartz sand. After a day of lounging on the beach, take a short walk along the Destin Harbor Boardwalk or enjoy a free alligator show at Fudpucker’s Gator Beach. You can snag a room at some of Destin’s best hotels for less than $200 per night, but for the cheapest rates, avoid visiting during the busy summer season.

Why Go To Destin

Nicknamed the “World’s Luckiest Fishing Village,” Destin has grown into one of the most popular vacation spots on the Florida Panhandle. Founded in the 1850s, Destin used to be a sleepy fishing town until a bridge connected the skinny peninsula with Florida’s mainland. With a baseline population of 13,000 residents (which inflates to 25,000-plus during the summer), this town retains an intimate, friendly atmosphere. Midwestern and Southern families flock to Destin’s beaches each summer for the city’s trademark bright white shores, made up of pure Appalachian quartz. This unique sand not only stays cool in the summer heat, but with the sunlight’s reflection, it also gives the waters an emerald tint. Golfers traverse seaside bunkers, while kids splash in the water parks. More adventurous visitors snorkel and scuba dive off the coast or charter a boat to try their luck at deep sea fishing. After all, casting a line is an integral part of this peninsular paradise.

Best Things to Do in Destin

  • Henderson Beach State Park
  • Crab Island
  • Destin Dolphin Cruises

3. St. Augustine

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 Best Cheap Vacations in the U.S. for 2023-2024

When travelers think of Florida, their minds might drift to Orlando’s theme parks or upscale Miami Beach’s buzzing atmosphere, but they’d be remiss to overlook the country’s oldest city. St. Augustine is packed with historical landmarks, including Castillo de San Marcos National Monument, the Old Jail and St. George Street. Cheap accommodations are easy to come by, whether you’d like to stay in a boutique hotel or a cozy vacation rental. Plus, downtown St. Augustine sits about 5 miles northwest of St. Augustine Beach, a family-friendly shoreline with a splash park and a fishing pier.

Why Go To St. Augustine

No matter where you go in St. Augustine, odds are you’ll stand face to face with American history. Founded by the Spaniards in 1565, this town in northeastern Florida is the oldest continuously occupied European settlement in the U.S. Alongside narrow cobblestone streets and colonial architecture, you’ll find Romanesque Revival-style buildings, many of which were designed by railroad and oil tycoon Henry Flagler, who played a key role in developing St. Augustine and the rest of Florida’s east coast. With so much history, it should come as no surprise that St. Augustine also has a penchant for the paranormal: Many of the town’s top attractions, which are believed to be haunted by Spanish settlers and original inhabitants, tout nighttime ghost tours.

Best Things to Do in St. Augustine

  • St. George Street
  • Castillo de San Marcos National Monument
  • Colonial Quarter

4. Asheville, NC

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Best Cheap Vacations in the U.S. for 2023-2024

Located in western North Carolina, Asheville appeals to nature lovers, adventure travelers and even those looking for a romantic getaway. Take a drive along scenic Blue Ridge Parkway, hike to breathtaking waterfalls in Pisgah National Forest or learn about Southern Appalachian plant species at the Botanical Gardens at Asheville. Save money on lodging by opting for a hostel or vacation rental downtown or test your wilderness skills on a camping trip. You’ll also want to time your visit for summer when the town holds several free music festivals.

Why Go To Asheville, NC

Quaint mountain town. Hipster haven. Beer City, USA. College town. Bluegrass mecca. Culinary destination. Try as you might, it’s impossible to give Asheville just one label. Located in western North Carolina just off the Blue Ridge Parkway, the city is an unexpected gem, where a vibrant arts scene intertwines with Southern traditions and beautiful scenery. It’s safe to say, no matter what your interests, Asheville has something to offer you.

Best Things to Do in Asheville, NC

  • Biltmore
  • Drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway
  • Craggy Gardens

5. Colorado Springs

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 Best Cheap Vacations in the U.S. for 2023-2024

Sitting on the border of the Colorado Rockies and the Great Plains, Colorado Springs is easily accessible from all around the country. Once you arrive in this Colorado city, you’ll be met with a bevy of free attractions. Picnic between the red rocks that make up the Garden of the Gods, hike or bike through North Cheyenne Cañon Park or enjoy a scenic drive. After spending your days in the wilderness, stroll around downtown Colorado Springs to see its unique street art.

Why Go To Colorado Springs

It’s easy to see why Katharine Lee Bates was inspired to write the lyrics to the famous patriotic ballad “America the Beautiful” from Colorado Springs. Look in one direction and you’ll see the majestic “purple mountains:” the Colorado Rockies. Shift your eyes in the other direction to find yourself gazing out at “amber waves of grain:” the Great Plains. The beautiful scenery isn’t the only reason to head to this charming town. Colorado Springs is also home institutions such as the Air Force Academy and the Olympic & Paralympic Training Center. And over the years, it’s become a cross section of personalities. Take to the streets and share the sidewalks with budding politicos, young families, art lovers and more: All stake their claim on this portion of America the Beautiful.

Best Things to Do in Colorado Springs

  • Garden of the Gods
  • Pikes Peak
  • Royal Gorge

Final Thoughts

In 2024, the excitement of traveling with friends is undiminished, yet the need for affordable destinations has never been more critical. Look no further for inspiration than our list of Affordable Beautiful Places to Travel in June 2024! and Best Family Vacations in January 2024 A cheap vacation with friends 2024 embodies the spirit of adventure, enabling groups to discover the world’s riches—be it in culture, natural wonders, or culinary delights—without straining their budgets. This guide illuminates a selection of destinations where such memorable experiences can be enjoyed at a minimal cost, offering a passport to global exploration that promises both variety and value.