5. Athens, Ga.
The college town of Athens, Ga., is known for its music scene, and it’s no wonder — this is where R.E.M., the B-52s, the Indigo Girls, Widespread Panic, and many other bands across every genre got their start. However, that’s not all this eclectic and diverse city has to offer. From wildly inexpensive food and hotels to award-winning bars and nightlife, Athens offers a nocturnal culture of its own. Visitors to Athens can also go to the State Botanical Garden of Georgia and the Georgia Museum of Art for free, making Athens a great stop for a family trip, too.
6. Southern California
Home to five of America’s top 25 beaches, including La Jolla Shores, Coronado, and Carlsbad, the eternally sunny stretch between Los Angeles and San Diego makes for a perfect getaway — and a fairly cheap one, if you avoid staying in LA or its pricier suburbs.
After all, whether you enjoy swimming, surfing, reading, or just building sand castles, the beach itself can provide hours of free entertainment and relaxation for the whole family. So let one of these beautiful sandy stretches be the focal point of your vacation, instead of the expensive tourist traps of Hollywood. (Bonus: Amtrak’s scenic Surfliner route services this area.)
Lodging options in seaside cities like Oceanside, Encinitas, or Costa Mesa, Calif., can be fairly inexpensive even near the water. And Costa Mesa, next to Newport Beach, is also running a promotion that could make your summer getaway free this year. The sweepstakes will run from April 1 to May 15, 2016 and the winner will be chosen on May 30, 2016 (you can fill out the entry form here). Winners will receive two nights at Ayres Hotel & Suites, a pair of passes to Disneyland, and a $1,000 American Express gift card, among other prizes.
7. Discount cruises
While flying is the most obvious way to get out of the country, you can also cruise away from the coast – no plane required.
“One of the most frugal ways to travel this summer for people who don’t like to fly is to embark on a dream cruise with Carnival Cruise Lines,” says John Drabkowski, founder and CEO of Red Hot Cruises. Their 24 ships “feature musical performances, casinos, comfortable stateroom accommodations, and delicious food and drink,” he adds.
And if you think you don’t live near a cruise port, think again. Carnival cruises depart from cities like Galveston, Texas, Long Beach, Calif., Mobile, Ala., Norfolk, Va., Seattle, Baltimore, and Charleston, S.C., as well as bigger and more obvious ports such as Honolulu, Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York, and many cities in Florida, making cruising a viable option for people who live nearly anywhere in the country.