7 Affordable and Awesome Summer Vacations for 2017

See recent posts by Michele Tymann

Summer is a great time for a vacation, especially for families, since the kids are out of school. However, it can be difficult to find a great trip that doesn’t break the bank. But don’t worry, an affordable vacation doesn’t have to be boring by any means. From destinations serviced by cheap flights to ones with reasonably priced attractions, here are seven places that are both awesome and affordable for your next summer vacation.

1. Grand Canyon

While many visitors stop here to see the amazing views while passing by on a long road trip, or as a day trip from Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon can easily be a trip by itself. Visitors on the West Coast can drive, while those on the east can often book affordable flights to Phoenix (a three-and-a-half-hour drive away) and rent a car for the duration of their trip. There are multiple campgrounds within the park. For those looking to stay in a hotel, Flagstaff, Arizona, is a good choice, as it it only a little more than an hour drive away. Entry to the park per week is only $30/car or $15/individual. 

The summer is the busiest time at the Grand Canyon, but its vast size means you can walk just a short distance away from the parking lots to get some peace and quiet. For those looking to learn more about the geological formations and nature of the canyon, there are ranger led tours. Mule rides along the edges of cliffs and down into the canyon can provide a fun experience for those willing to put their trust in the animals. More adventurous visitors can go white water rafting in the Colorado River at the center of the canyon. There are also amazing hikes and stunning views for all.

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2. Las Vegas

The Bellagio.

The Bellagio.

Unless you spend all your money gambling, Vegas can be one of the cheapest and most fun vacations out there. Since the resorts plan on you spending most of your money gambling in their casinos, rooms in upscale hotels can actually be under $50 each night. Apart from that, there are plenty of free and cheap activities in the area. For those near the Bellagio, check out the spectacle that is the fountains: 1,214 jets shoot water 460 feet into the air in an eight-and-a-half-acre lake. And if you walk into the Bellagio Conservatory, you’ll be rewarded by the sight of thousands of flowers, plants, and trees that change each season. You can head over to the Stratosphere Hotel and Casino and take the elevator up to Observation Deck, which has a 360-degree view 869 feet above the Strip. And if you’re looking for some thrills, there are three rides to experience up there. Fans of “Shark Week” can head over to the Mandalay Bay Aquarium, which is home to over 2,000 species of sharks, rays, fish, turtles, and even crocodiles. With a variety of restaurants in every hotel and shows every night, there will always be plenty to do at any budget.

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3. British Columbia



The westernmost province in Canada is the perfect place for adventure-seeking outdoor lovers. Its location between the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific Ocean provides the area with a variety of terrains from beaches to mountains, and it is home to seven of Canada’s National Parks and a large number of Provincial Parks. Even better: For Canada’s 150th anniversary this year, the country is offering free admission to all national parks, national historic sites, and national marine conservation areas, making this summer the ideal time to visit. 

If you need a break from nature and the outdoors, Vancouver is an amazing city with plenty of activities and things to do on the relatively cheap side. There are sightseeing cruises, walking food tours, and bike trips around the city. Vancouver has a rich cultural history dating back to the gold rush in the 1860s, providing ample historic and cultural activities as well. Plenty of dining options and craft beer breweries makes Vancouver ideal for foodies. And once you need some greenery again, Stanley Park covers nearly 1,000 acres on the northern tip of the city, extending into English Bay. 

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4. Cartagena, Colombia

If an international trip to appeals to you, consider heading to Cartagena, Colombia. The picturesque city was a colonial fishing village, and its charming cobblestone streets and centuries-old walls remain. Flights for under $500 from the U.S. are available throughout the summer — and that will likely be your biggest expense. Upscale hotels go for as little as $76 per night. The city is known for its bright colors, fantastic modern art, and fresh and delicious seafood. Visitors should walk the walls around the old city that took two centuries to build (thanks to storms and pirates hindering construction), then check out the various museums and art galleries that house centuries of Colombian art.

There are plenty of activities outside the city as well. If you’re yearning for some sun and relaxation, you can grab a motorboat to Barú Island and Rosario Island for white sand and mangroves. The more adventurous travelers can visit the Totumo Volcano and nearby mud baths. With low prices across the board, Cartagena should definitely be on your itinerary for the summer.

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5. Athens, Greece

The view from the Acropolis is worth the climb, even when you're tired.

While you may think Europe isn’t an affordable summer vacation destination, flight prices are down compared to last year. Visitors should consider a trip to Athens — Greece’s struggling economy will make the food, drinks, and attractions less expensive this season. There are cheap food stands around the city with kebabs, crepes, coffee, and falafel. If you prefer a sit-down meal, many restaurants have plates of meat, rice, vegetables and endless greek salad at affordable prices. Don’t forget to eat some pastries while you’re there. The spanakopita and baklava are not to be missed. 

To see attractions, we recommend getting the Athens city pass, which provides admission to many of the most popular attractions and museums, such as the Acropolis. There are also a two-day hop-on-hop-off city tour and a 72-hour city transportation pass to consider. For a day out of the city, you can check out the island of Hydra. It’s a small fishing island where motor vehicles aren’t allowed, making it an excellent change from the hustle of the city — and it’s only a couple hours away. Narrow cobblestone streets and stone mansions on cliffs turn this island into a serene destination where many yachts and boats often dock. Round-trip ferry tickets from Athens are available for less than $50, and once you arrive on the island, there is little need to spend excess money.

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6. Bar Harbor, Maine

Grounds at Bar Harbor Inn

View from the Bar Harbor Inn.

For those on the east coast, Bar Harbor is a great option for a New England vacation that won’t be overrun with tourists. While it’s not a secret, Bar Harbor certainly won’t have crowds or jacked up prices you’d find at Cape Cod or Nantucket. The town is especially great if you’re looking for an outdoor vacation, due to its proximity to Acadia National Park, which has over 50 square miles of hiking and biking trails, lakes, and mountains. For the more adventurous, you can go rock climbing for some stunning views of the island, while the less adventurous can stroll along the picturesque shorelines. Best of all, entry to the park is only $25 per car for seven days.

The town itself offers walking tours, as well as small museums and galleries that won’t be overwhelming. There’s live music every Thursday at the Bar Harbor Beerworks, as well as farmer’s markets and band concerts each week. Every Wednesday night between July 12th and August 16th this summer, there will be a family-friendly movie playing in the park where free popcorn will be provided. Those looking for a relaxing boat ride can go whale-watching or take a sunset cruise, to take full advantage of the location of Bar Harbor.

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7. Lisbon, Portugal

For another relatively cheap European option, check out Lisbon, Portugal. Round trip flights from the East Coast are available for under $800 round trip — but keep an eye out for flash sales that can get the price below $400 — and once you get there, everything is quite affordable. For the best the city has to offer, you should consider buying the Lisboa Card, which provides unlimited travel on public transportation, entry to many of the city’s museums, a handy travel guide, and deals and discounts for many of the other attractions Lisbon has to offer. Also included are day trips to Sintra and Cascais, all for less than $15 per day. 

There are multiple World Heritage Sites around the city that are free with the card, including the São Jorge Castel, which is a must see when in Lisbon. The city of Lisbon is extremely hilly, so if you’re not a fan of walking, you can take advantage of the funicular system — the views from the top of the city are not to be missed. You can head to the Miradouro de Santa Catarina for sunset views, where you can have a picnic and take advantage of the cheap drinks sold at the park. We also recommend enjoying the fresh seafood and cheap, yet delicious, Portuguese wine.

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