5 Budget Friendly Destinations

Plus Tips for Saving Money While Traveling

It’s no secret that I love to travel as much as I possibly can. Traveling can be a pricey hobby, but not if you plan your trips around budget friendly destinations! I’ve compiled a list of some of our favorite budget friendly vacations and have included some tips on saving money while traveling that I hope you find helpful!

Top 5 Budget Friendly Destinations

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

The Grand Canyon – it truly is grand!

We visited The Grand Canyon for the first time a few years ago and I was utterly shocked at how little this trip cost us! Some might think that visiting one of the true wonders of the world would be expensive, but it was quite the opposite for us. National Parks are excellent destinations for budget-minded travelers since most Parks only charge a $35 entrance fee that’s good for seven days!  

South Rim Entrance

So, are you wondering how we saved money on this trip? To start, we traveled over Thanksgiving break in November. The months between November and February are considered the low season, and flights and lodging prices are typically much cheaper this time of year. We also stayed outside of the Park in the fantastic little town of Tusayan, which is also a much cheaper option. To our delight, the entire town was already decorated for Christmas which we absolutely loved!

Tusayan decorated for Christmas!

We stayed at the hotel at the Red Feather Lodge and really enjoyed this place. Since we were visiting in the low season, we paid under $100 per night for our room. Summer rates are a little higher, around $235 per night. From the hotel, it was less than a mile to the Grand Canyon’s South Rim entrance. The rooms at the hotel have refrigerators and microwaves, so we took advantage of this. We shopped at the grocery store in town and bought things for breakfast, lunch, and snacks. We are notorious for packing a picnic lunch to take with us on our hiking adventures and only spending money on dinners at night.

Views for days!

We spent two days at the Grand Canyon, which consisted of hiking, checking out the different look-outs and observation points, and exploring the Yavapai Geology Museum. Once we paid our entrance fee, we didn’t spend any money on any of the activities in the Park!

The hike back up from Ooh-Aah Point

Entrance Fee-Free Days at the Grand Canyon for 2023

  • Monday, January 16: Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
  • Saturday, April 22: First day of National Park Week.
  • Friday, August 4: Anniversary of the Great American Outdoors Act.
  • Saturday, September 23: National Public Lands Day.
  • Saturday, November 11: Veterans Day.

We did choose to fly on this trip instead of road tripping. We actually had Spirit Airline credits that we HAD to use before the end of the year. While this is not my favorite airline, we actually had no issues flying out or returning home. We found that flights to Las Vegas were cheaper than flights into any of the airports in Arizona. So, this too helped us save money and we added a new state to our growing list!

Overall, we had a fantastic trip that didn’t break the bank! Click here to read more about our trip to the Grand Canyon!

We loved our visit!

Robbers Cave State Park, Oklahoma

Inside the cave at Robbers Cave

Robbers Cave State Park in Wilburton, OK is one of our favorite summer destinations! This little gem isn’t necessarily a place we go to beat the heat, but we always have a great time here. This state park is only about 2.5 hours from us in Texas, so it doesn’t even take a full tank of gas to get there! This is a fun destination that never costs our family too much!

It’s almost like Oklahoma has its own slot canyons!

This state park offers several activities from hiking, swimming, camping, horseback riding, ATVing, canoeing, fishing, rock climbing, and more! We like to load up our bikes, pack a cooler of food for the weekend, and hit the road! Once here, we always take the hike to the infamous cave that outlaws like Jesse James hid out in, hence the name Robbers Cave! Since we mostly explore and bring our bikes, we actually aren’t spending any money on these activities.

The hike to the caves is so fun, especially for kids!

You really can’t visit Oklahoma in the summer without spending time at the lake! Right across the street from the entrance to Robbers Cave State Park is the lake which has an area designated for swimming, canoe/kayak rentals, a playground, and small museum. There’s also a swimming pool that costs $5 per person for the day. We have never purchased tickets to swim at the pool, but we have paid about $20 to rent kayaks and then we swim at the lake. The kids loved this adventure!

Kayaking fun!
These boys love the lake!

We always stay at one of the 26 cabins in the park, but these are really just a step above camping. The cabins are small, but they include a living room, bathroom, 1-2 bedrooms, and a full kitchen. Very little time is spent inside the cabin, we mainly use it for cooking and sleeping. Other than that, you’ll find us outdoors exploring, grilling, or hanging out around the fire pit! Cabin reservations cost about $88 per night, which is what we spend the most on this entire weekend.

This was the cabin we stayed in!
We loved having a kitchen and an ac!

This is a great destination for just a weekend or a couple of nights. Our boys love exploring and climbing all the rocks behind the cabins! The caves in the area are pretty cool, too. Click here to read more about our last visit to Robbers Cave!

Even the parents had fun on this adventure!

Colorado Springs, Colorado

I will never get tired of this view!

Colorado Springs is one of those places that we find ourselves visiting again and again. There are so many things to do in this area and we will never tire of the mountains. I will admit that even though we’ve been to Colorado Springs a countless number of times, I have never actually based an entire trip around this destination. In writing this post, I have realized that I need to change that!

Garden of the Gods Park

So, we typically stop and stay in Colorado Springs on our drive to other places. It’s always a great location because it’s easy for us to get to or home from in one day of driving. We like to stay at the My Place Hotel due to the hospitality we received there a few years ago when our Yukon broke down right near this place. They were truly life savers in this unfortunate turn of events and have our loyalty! Plus it has a full kitchen, so that makes it nice to cook breakfast in the morning.

If you have kids, they will never get tired of exploring this place!

We love the many attractions that Colorado Springs has to offer, as well. Two of our favorites besides driving up Pikes Peak is Garden of the Gods Park and the Manitou Cliff Dwellings. I could spend the entire day at Garden of the Gods and we’ve visited in several different seasons. The Manitou Cliff Dwellings only require a couple of hours! Garden of the Gods is FREE, so you definitely need to take advantage of this and add this park and visitor center to your itinerary! It costs $12 for adults and $7.50 for kids to enter the Manitou Cliff Dwellings. This allows you to explore both the dwellings and the museum.

Manitou Cliff Dwellings
The dwellings are the best part of this place!

Colorado Springs is a nice getaway and has lodging and attractions for just about any budget! It’s an ideal location to visit for the day, but I can see how we could spend an entire week here, too!

Even we enjoyed seeing and learning the history here!

Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico

The Big Room in Carlsbad Caverns National Park

We recently visited Carlsbad Caverns National Park this past winter and my mind is still blown away at the sheer size and beauty of the caverns. This was just flat out an epic adventure for our family! It’s also now one of my favorite destinations because of how little we had to spend for this adventure and how short the drive was from home.

The Chihuahuan Desert is fantastic!

We spent two nights in Carlsbad, NM and only needed one day at the caverns. I had been given some Christmas money and gift cards and decided to put it all together for a quick weekend trip. Since Carlsbad is only a seven hour drive, I knew this would be the perfect getaway over the long MLK weekend. The caverns are truly stunning and since we visited in the off season, it felt like we had them all to ourselves! All of us were mesmerized and the boys said it was one of their favorite weekend trips to date. We didn’t have to pay to enter Carlsbad Caverns National Park because my America the Beautiful pass is still valid for one more month.

Stalagmites and Stalactites galore!

We stayed at the Holiday Inn in Carlsbad, the rates were under $100 per night. And we definitely took advantage of the free breakfast each morning. We actually had lunch at the nearby Subway and got extra sandwiches to eat the next day on the drive home. We did splurge a little on dinner one night and had steak and seafood at YellowBrix in town. Totally worth it, the food was amazing!

We added a fun stop on the drive to New Mexico at Monahans Sandhills State Park in west Texas. This stop was super fun for the boys and only cost us $8 for the day! All in all, it was a wonderful weekend and I cannot recommend this National Park enough. Click here for information about our recent trip!

Monahans Sandhills State Park in TX

Orange Beach, Alabama

The beach is my happy place!

Orange Beach in the off season is truly a dream come true! This is one of those destinations that I’ve debated even sharing and letting the secret out. If you can visit in the spring, I think you will love it during this season just as much as we do!

No crowds in April!

This destination is awesome for families, friends, couples, etc.! We thoroughly enjoyed our stay at the Hampton Inn right on the beach. Overall, we saved about $400 visiting in the spring verses paying the summer rates the hotel charges. We loved those beach views and that free breakfast each morning! Usually when we travel to the beach, we spend most of our time at the beach /pool all day every day – which is always FREE. In the spring, the temperatures are not too hot and muggy to enjoy being outdoors and the water is just warm enough to keep the kiddos entertained!

I love a free breakfast that’s actually edible!

The difference in this location during the spring verses the summer is not only the price, but also the amount of tourists. Before my last visit in April, I had only traveled to Orange Beach in the summers. Don’t get me wrong, I still love it then, too! But it is really crowded, both on the beach and at restaurants and other attractions. In the spring, there’s no issues finding a great place to set up for the day at the beach. And there’s basically no wait at any of the restaurants.

Again, no crowds!
Only epic waves!

Orange Beach is a gorgeous beach destination, no matter what time of the year you choose to visit. Click here to check out more about our spring getaway to Orange Beach.

Yep, we all got sunburned!

More Tips for Traveling on a Budget

Driving vs. Flying – For us, driving is always the cheaper option when we travel. We don’t use credit cards, so this might not be the case for you if you like to use those points to book flights. But, we prefer to drive when we can. It’s much more budget friendly than paying for a flight, paying for seats & luggage, and then having to rent a car. Driving also allows us to bring more things with us, like food and snacks which also helps us save money!

I can even travel with just a shoe bag when we drive ha!

Food Options – When I look at our travel budget, it seems like the majority of our funds go to feeding our family of four. I have found that if we book a hotel that includes free breakfast, this saves us about $30+ per day. This is a savings of at least $150 if we stay for a week! I also prefer to book rooms that have a refrigerator and microwave. This allows us to grab items to make sandwiches for lunches, especially if our trip involves hiking or other outdoor adventures.

Picnic lunches are amazing when the landscape looks like this!

Off Season Travel – Traveling in the off season is my favorite time to travel! The prices are always cheaper and the crowds can be nonexistent. If you can handle cooler weather, since the off season is usually in the winter, then I highly recommend giving this a try! You might just find that the off season is your favorite time to travel, too.

If you prepare for the weather, off season travel can be a blast!

Staycation/CityPASSes – My boys and I just recently did a staycation in Dallas, TX and had the most fantastic time! We basically had a 45 minute drive to our hotel and saved a total of $115 by using the Dallas CityPASS to visit four popular attractions in the area. I cannot recommend traveling to your nearest city and spending a couple days exploring all that it has to offer. Several locations have a CityPASS or something very similar. We look forward to visiting different cities in Texas in the future!

We enjoyed our Dallas staycation this past summer!

Weekend/Day Trips – Not every trip has to be something grand! Weekend trips and day trips are a fun way to get out there and make memories with your family. You can still have a wonderful trip, even if you only have a couple days available in your budget. Day trips are also a great way to explore a local area or attraction without breaking the bank. For us, we have driven 2-3 hours to a location and just spent the day there and then drove back home. When you don’t have to pay for lodging, this can save you hundreds of dollars!

This was a fun day trip to Glen Rose, which is about 2 hours away!

National & State Park Trips – National Parks are great places to visit because the most you will pay is typically $35 for your entrance fee and this is usually good for seven days. There are also several different passes available that might offer you even more savings. We have visited several Parks for free using the Every Kid Outdoors Pass when our oldest was in fourth grade. We also saved about $75 this past year using my America the Beautiful Pass. This pass costs $80, but once you visit two Parks, it’s paid for itself! State Parks cost even less to enter. We just recently visited a State Park in TX and it only cost my whole family a total of $8 for the day.

The Every Kid Outdoors Pass got us into so many Parks for FREE!

National Park Entrance Fee-Free Days for 2023

  • Monday, January 16: Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
  • Saturday, April 22: First day of National Park Week.
  • Friday, August 4: Anniversary of the Great American Outdoors Act.
  • Saturday, September 23: National Public Lands Day.
  • Saturday, November 11: Veterans Day.  

Travel Buddy – Finding a travel buddy is another fun way to save money! I love traveling with my best friend and her two boys. It’s so nice to split the cost of gas, lodging, parking, and more. If you have a friend that also loves to travel, you should plan a trip together! Girls/guys trips are also a way to travel together and split costs.

My best friend is my favorite travel buddy!

Rewards Programs – If you travel a lot, you should look into different rewards programs. Most of the time when I book a hotel, I use Expedia. Since I have attained Gold Status, I get really nice hotel discounts. These discounts have saved us a lot of money over the years. For instance, I once paid $20 per night for a room at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. I really like booking our hotel stays through Expedia because there’s an option to reserve now/pay later and you can usually cancel most hotel bookings 24 hours before your check in date. This has been extremely helpful in the past few years with the changing health protocols and travel restrictions.

It’s only January and I already have over $100 in credits to use!

I hope you have found these destinations and travel tips helpful! It truly is my passion to share all things travel with you. I haven’t done it all, but we sure have had a lot of fun over the years! Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you need any help planning your next adventure! I’d also love for you to share any of your favorite budget friendly destinations. Leave a comment if you have a place that we need to add to our list!

2 Comments

  1. I love the way you guide me as a reader. Amazing photos and you have a great adventure to the beautiful places. Thank you for sharing. This is what you meant by adventure, but getting there is the best part of the trip.

    Like

    1. Thank you so much! And I agree, travel days are my favorite! Well, maybe not those travel days back home ha!

      Like

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