You don’t have to empty your savings account to pull off a top-notch excursion. Pick the right destination, score a cheap flight, and the rest is easy. We rounded up some of our favorite low-cost places to go right now and have thrown in a few tips to save you some bucks while you’re there.
Rossland, British Columbia
Play: Many visitors come to Rossland in the winter to ski Red Mountain. But the place is dreamy in the summer, too, with guided and shuttled mountain biking, miles of hiking trails, rainbow trout and walleye fishing on the Columbia River, and even underground caving.
Stay: Located walking distance from base of the mountain is the new Nowhere Special Hostel, which opened in December and has a shared kitchen, secure storage for your bike, and basic rooms with bunks starting as low as $30 a night.
Save: From U.S. destinations, it’s cheaper to fly to Spokane, Washington, than directly into B.C. In Spokane, rent a car to drive across the international border and up to Rossland (a two-and-a-half-hour drive). Book an adventure package with Red Mountain for guided mountain biking or river rafting and you’ll get 20 percent off your lodging at the hostel or with other participating accommodations.
Fort Collins, Colorado
Play: Sixty-five miles north of Denver, Fort Collins is a college town with a serious microbrew habit. You’ll find more than 20 breweries in the area. Tour them yourself or get a guided escort by bus or bike. Run or cycle the 6.8-mile Foothills Trail across the city or take a dip in or paddle the Cache la Poudre River.
Stay: The hip, centrally located Elizabeth Hotel opened in 2017, and room prices are stellar for how nice the place is—you can score accommodation for under $200 that comes with a record player (old LPs are in the lobby and can be checked out for the night). Don’t miss Emporium Kitchen, an on-site wine bar slash coffee shop.
Save: To get around, take advantage of the city’s bike-share program, which’ll run you $1 for 15 minutes. Old Town Yoga leads a day of free, outdoor sessions in September. And if you qualify for a local library card, you can score heaps of discounts to Fort Collins museums, coffee shops, and more.
Valle de Guadalupe, Baja
Play: Dubbed the Napa of Mexico but way cheaper than Napa itself, Valle de Guadalupe, two hours south of San Diego, has some 150 wineries and produces over 70 percent of Mexico’s wine. The area hosts a food and wine festival in October, if you’d rather visit in the fall. Ride horses through a vineyard at Adobe Guadalupe, or there’s surfing on the coast, near Ensenada, less than an hour away.
Stay: At Campera Hotel Burbuja, you’ll sleep in a bubble-shaped tent with unfiltered views of the night sky, surrounded by vineyards. Rates start at $145 per night.
Save: Boca Roja arranges travel packages from the U.S. to Baja California Norte that include transportation across the border and insider deals at top wineries.
Wilmington, North Carolina
Play: There’s plenty to do outside in the seaside town of Wilmington. Wrightsville Beach is home to the O’Neill/Sweetwater Pro-Am surf contest, held in August, and Carolina Beach hosts shorefront yoga and surf lessons at Tony Silvagni Surf School. Watch for loggerhead sea turtles on Kure Beach or scuba-dive to sunken Civil War ships.
Stay: Arrive Wilmington opened in June in the historic downtown, and rooms, which start at $129, come stocked with yoga mats, foam rollers, and hand weights. The hotel’s tiny and tasty restaurant, the Dram Yard, is worth a stop for cocktails and gin-soaked olives.
Save: Downtown’s free Sundown Concerts are held on Friday nights through the summer, plus there are Thursday-night summer fireworks and concerts (also free) on the Carolina Beach Boardwalk.
San Luis Obispo, California
Play: Mountain-bike, paddleboard, or explore 80 miles of beaches in the laid-back coastal region of San Luis Obispo County, right on Highway 1 between Los Angeles and San Francisco. The town’s popular Thursday-night farmers’ market is a good spot to pick up tamales, ice cream, and fresh produce grown nearby.
Stay: The Avenue Inn Downtown San Luis Obispo has standard and recently renovated motel rooms from just $75 a night. Or stay at Paso Robles Inn (from $111), and you can book wine tours through the hotel or score discounted tickets to Field of Light at Sensorio, a walk-through art installation of thousands of solar-powered lights in nearby Paso Robles.
Save: Watch elephant seals or migrating monarch butterflies for free, or take a tour of the iconic Hearst Castle—tickets start at $25. And likely you’ve noticed that the wine industry is booming in this region. You can partake in a tasting for a little as $5.
Sullivan Catskills, New York
Play: Less than two hours from New York City, the Sullivan Catskills offer easy access to fly-fishing and rafting on the Delaware River, biking along a growing rail-to-trail network, and hiking to one of the area’s many historic fire lookout towers. The Bethel Woods Center for the Arts is where the original 1969 Woodstock festival took place, and this year, the region is celebrating its 50th anniversary with a packed lineup of music and arts events.
Stay: Foster Supply Hospitality (from $169) operates four eclectic hotel properties and several restaurants, including the Cabin at Hessinger-Lare, a classic log cabin with a popular Wednesday wing night. Book the Peace, Love and Whisky package at any of its lodges, and you’ll get tickets to visit Bethel Woods and the local Catskill Distilling Company.
Save: When you book the fly-fishing package at the 14-room DeBruce inn, you’ll score a guided outing on the Willowemoc River and rental gear. Or pitch a tent at one of several campgrounds instead to save on lodging fees; among others, the region is home to Blue Hills Farm, Kittatinny Campgrounds, and Roscoe Campsite.
Note: New Orleans has been dealing with flooding after Hurricane Barry made landfall in Louisiana on July 13. If you’re making plans to visit the area, be sure to check what’s open and available ahead of time.
Play: A lot of the sights in New Orleans—wandering around the French Quarter, checking out art and live music in the Warehouse District—don’t cost a penny. The vintage streetcar down Charles Avenue is just $1.25. Move Ya Brass offers a number of free-of-charge group runs, yoga classes, and dance workouts.
Stay: Old No. 77 Hotel (from $77) has packages billed as “adult summer camp,” which include crafting with visiting artists, cooking with award-winning chefs, and riding around the city on a guided culinary bike tour. If you want something bigger than a hotel room—but not pricier—the newly opened Domio Baronne St. in the Warehouse District has sleekly designed apartments starting at $149 per night.
Save: In August, hotel rates are typically the lowest they will be all year, making it a great (albeit, hot) time to visit. To cool off, the Country Club in Bywater has a pool (plus a bar and restaurant) for an admission fee of just $15. Book a swamp-tour package, with a choice of over 100 different hotels, and you’ll save on both the room and the gator spotting.