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Summer is here, and it’s time to embark on exciting vacation adventures. However, you don’t have to spend a fortune to create memorable experiences. Budget-savvy campers and RVers know that there are plenty of economical travel options available, especially during the summer when attractions are fully open across the country. Instead of visiting expensive and iconic destinations like theme parks, major cities, and national park lodges, you can save money by going on a scenic road trip and exploring places that cost little to nothing to visit. In this article, we will explore seven budget-friendly adventures you can take this summer.
1. Explore the Black Hills
The Black Hills of South Dakota are famous for attractions like Mount Rushmore, but you might be surprised to learn how budget-friendly this region can be. Nestled in western South Dakota, surrounded by mountains and shimmering lakes, the Black Hills offer breathtaking scenery and affordable or even free sights to explore. Take a drive along the Needles Highway, visit Custer State Park and Sylvan Lake, explore charming Hill City, and visit Wind Cave National Park (which is free to visit, aside from cave tour fees). Downtown Rapid City is filled with free presidential statues, and you can watch old-west shootout reenactments in Deadwood. Don’t forget to take a dip in Horse Thief Lake. The Black Hills also offer a wide range of affordable campgrounds and RV parks for lodging options.
KOAs in the Black Hills:
– Custer / Mount Rushmore / Black Hills KOA Holiday
– Deadwood / Black Hills KOA Holiday
– Hot Springs SD / Black Hills KOA Holiday
– Mount Rushmore KOA Resort at Palmer Gulch
– Rapid City / Black Hills KOA Holiday
– Spearfish / Black Hills KOA Holiday
2. Visit Free National Parks
National parks vary in terms of atmosphere, wildlife, and terrain, as well as price. While some national parks require significant travel expenses or charge hefty entry fees, there are others that you can visit for free. These parks offer hiking trails and natural wonders that won’t cost you a cent. Some examples of free parks throughout the country include Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio, Redwood National and State Parks in northern California, Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas, and Great Basin National Park in remote eastern Nevada.
3. Eat Your Way Through Texas Hill Country
Texas Hill Country, located in south-central Texas, is a scenic region that combines leisurely hiking trails, scenic drives, waterfall-chasing opportunities, and mouth-watering barbecue. The area is known for its breweries and distilleries set amidst lush farmland, and parks like Pedernales Falls State Park offer ample outdoor recreation. One of the highlights of Texas Hill Country is the town of Lockhart, nicknamed the “Barbecue Capital of Texas.” Here, you can indulge in mouthwatering smoked meats and traditional sides at legendary establishments like Smitty’s Market and Kreuz Market. Other barbecue destinations in the area include Salt Lick in Driftwood, City Market in Luling, and Alice’s Restaurant at Treaty Oak Distilling in Dripping Springs. Don’t forget to visit Austin for some top-notch barbecue at places like Franklin Barbecue, Le Barbecue, and Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ.
KOAs near Texas Hill Country:
– Kerrville KOA Journey
– San Antonio / Alamo KOA Holiday
– Austin East KOA Holiday
– Leander / NW Austin KOA Holiday
4. Go on an Americana Road Trip
Road trips are a great way to travel on a budget, as they usually only require gas money. One of the best road trips you can take in the United States is the iconic Route 66, also known as the “Mother Road.” Stretching from Chicago to Los Angeles, this route takes you through vintage Americana in states like Missouri, Oklahoma, and Arizona. Along the way, you’ll encounter famous attractions like St. Louis’ Gateway Arch National Park and the artistic city of Santa Fe. You’ll also discover quirky and charming roadside attractions such as the Blue Whale of Catoosa in Oklahoma, The Big Texan steakhouse in Amarillo, and the crystalized conifers of Petrified Forest National Park in Holbrook, Arizona (the only national park bisected by Route 66). This route also allows you to explore affordable and lesser-known cities like Tulsa, Oklahoma City, and Albuquerque.
5. Get Beachy on a Budget
No summer vacation is complete without some beach time, but you don’t have to break the bank to enjoy a coastal getaway. While popular destinations like South Beach, Malibu, and Daytona Beach can be expensive, there are plenty of off-the-beaten-path alternatives that offer a less crowded beach experience and more affordable prices for lodging, campgrounds, food, and entry fees. Capitola Beach in California is a pastel-hued seaside town with a Mediterranean feel, lined with quaint cottages, charming boutiques and restaurants, and a small sandy beach nestled in a quiet cove. In Maine, you can explore the “Vacationland” and visit well-known summer destinations like Bar Harbor and Portland, or opt for a quieter, more residential ambience in places like York Beach, with its lighthouse and beachside inns. Florida also offers more affordable and less crowded beaches like Cocoa Beach on the east coast and Pensacola Beach on the panhandle. Port Aransas in Texas is another peaceful Gulf Coast destination on a barrier island.
6. Brave the Desert Heat During the Off-Season
One of the best ways to save money while traveling is to book trips during the off-season. While winter destinations might be cold, summer is the perfect time to explore sweltering desert environments like Tucson and Death Valley National Park. Prices in regions like Arizona and Southern California will be at their cheapest during the summer to attract tourists. You can find bargains on campgrounds, hotels, attractions, and restaurant specials. With the right preparation, such as sunscreen and shade, you can enjoy the unique and marvelous experiences that the desert has to offer. Wake up early to catch the sunrise in Arizona’s Saguaro National Park or find a shady spot by the pool in Palm Springs.
7. Go Museum-Hopping in D.C.
When it comes to free attractions that are also at the pinnacle of any Americana bucket list, The Smithsonian in Washington D.C. is a must-visit destination. Unlike the White House, which requires a tour, all the museums that make up The Smithsonian are completely free to visit. You can spend the entire day or even the entire week exploring the 21 museums and galleries on the National Mall. Some of the top museums include the National History Museum, the African American Museum, the Air and Space Museum, the American Indian Museum, and the Portrait Gallery.
KOAs near Washington DC:
– Washington DC / Capitol KOA Holiday
– Fredericksburg / Washington DC South KOA Holiday
In conclusion, you don’t have to spend a fortune to have a memorable summer vacation. By choosing budget-friendly adventures like exploring the Black Hills, visiting free national parks, eating your way through Texas Hill Country, going on an Americana road trip, enjoying affordable beaches, braving the desert heat during the off-season, and museum-hopping in Washington D.C., you can create amazing experiences without breaking the bank. So gas up, pack your bags, and get ready for an exciting summer of budget travel outdoor activities!
Written by https://travellosa.com/ – Matt Kirouac