Our 5 Favorite Destinations for Affordable Road Trips

Now that you’ve got some money-saving tips, let’s look at some of the best cheap road trip destinations in America:

National Park Road Trips
We’d be remiss to exclude National Parks from any budget road trip list. Compared to other popular destinations, National Parks offer the best bang for your buck — the most beautiful nature our country has to offer for $35 per car or less (here’s a list of the entrance fees for all U.S. National Parks.) National Parks typically feature campsites inside the park or nearby, so accommodation can be taken care of if you book early.

If you’re planning a cross-country road trip, you might want to consider investing in an America The Beautiful Pass. An annual fee gets you access to not just all National Parks but Federal Recreation lands as well. For those planning a family road trip, it’s worth noting there are discounted passes for youth and seniors, while veterans and individuals with disabilities can get them for free.

If you’re located on the West Coast, consider an Oregon Coast road trip to experience one the most beautiful drives in the country. Highway 101 hugs the roughly 360-mile coast of Oregon, winding between lush green redwoods, past rocky sea cliffs and through charming coastal towns.

Outside of the major cities, accommodations in the Pacific Northwest can be relatively inexpensive, with plenty of spots to camp along the way. Some activities you won’t want to miss along the route include whale-watching at Depoe Bay, visiting the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport or exploring the cliff caves in Arcadia. If you’ve got the time, take a quick diversion into the cultural hub of Portland, one of the most beloved cities in the U.S. — and be sure to try the coffee!

Florida Road Trip
For East-Coasters, one of the top destinations to visit by car is sunny Florida. While the state often gets associated with luxury beach resorts and eye-watering Disney World ticket prices, there’s a lot to explore outside these beaten — and expensive — paths.

Florida’s massive coastline wraps around the entire state, making trips to the state’s gorgeous beaches a free and fun way to spend any leg of your trip. For family road trips, Plant City’s Dinosaur World or Adventure Island in Tampa offers a more wallet-friendly alternative to Disney.

Affordable cultural hot spots include the historic district of St. Augustine, the oldest city in America, the Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota and the (free!) National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola. If you’re in the mood for the peace and quiet of nature instead, the bird sanctuaries of Bok Tower Gardens, the swamps of Everglades National Park and the natural springs of Ichetucknee Springs State Park are all must-sees.

Texas Hill Country Road Trip
The Texas Hill Country refers to the roughly triangular area between Austin, San Antonio and Fredericksburg. Outsiders who associate the state with tumbleweeds and oil fields will be shocked at the natural beauty on display in Texas’ rolling hillsides.

Natural spots make up some of the best and cheapest fun Texas Hill Country has to offer, from the warm water swimming holes of Krause Springs to the stunning rock formations of Pedernales State Park to the otherworldly cave formations of Hamilton Pool.

The surrounding cities offer their own inexpensive road trip destinations — Fredericksburg has a charming historical feel and 40 different wineries to sample, while San Antonio has some of the best Mexican food in the U.S. and is home to the beautiful River Walk. The weird and wonderful Austin — dubbed “the live music capital of the world” — will be the priciest city of the bunch, but it’s still relatively cheap compared to other cultural hubs in the U.S. like Seattle, San Francisco or New York.

The Great River Road Road Trip
No list of American road trips would be complete without mentioning the Great River Road, a winding route along the mighty Mississippi River, starting downstream from the headwaters in Minnesota and continuing all the way down to the Delta in Louisiana.

You don’t have to do the full 700 miles, of course — each segment of the trip has something worth seeing, with hundreds of river towns to visit across the 10 states along the road. Many of the destinations and activities along the river are free or low-cost, such as hiking, fishing and picnicking along the bank or visiting the multitude of historic sites on the river.

Here are some of the super-saving highlights: Near the top of the map, there’s the Como Park Zoo & Conservatory in St. Paul, which is free (with a small suggested donation), the Minnesota Marine Art Museum in Winona, and the charmingly historic downtown of La Crosse, Wisconsin. During the middle leg of the trip, you can visit the 56-acre Dubuque Botanical Garden in Iowa or the Mark Twain Memorial Lighthouse in Hannibal, Missouri without spending a dime. Once you reach the South, don’t forget to take advantage of the many free things to do in Memphis and tour the antebellum architecture of Natchez, Mississippi.