cheap vacation

5 Cheap Vacation Destinations in 2024

Clark Griswold has the perfect idea for a vacation with his family. He decides he wants to drive his family to Walley World so he can spend more time with them in the classic movie, National Lampoon’s Vacation. Of course, this is just the beginning of both adventures and drama for the Griswold’s. Yet, Clark’s decision to drive fits with many families’ plans for going on a cheap vacation in 2024. As inflation is still a concern, driving can be a way to save money when traveling this year. 

As you may be planning your vacation this year, inflation is lurking in the background. The increase in prices at places including gas stations and restaurants is something to consider when planning your budget. Finding ways to save money came up recently in a conversation I had with some students in an online personal finance membership I run called the Money 101 Academy Membership. There was a couple I was working with who were trying to find ways to cut back spending. These are some factors you can consider while planning for your vacation on a budget.

National Lampoon's Vacation


Ways to Save Money While Planning for a Cheap Vacation   

A simple way to save money while traveling this year is to find the cheapest gas stations. Although I’ve not always found these websites to be perfect, I have been able to save money using websites that track the cheapest gas prices.  Gas Buddy is one website that can help you save money at the pump. Also, regarding your car, another consideration is to make sure you are getting the best rate on your auto insurance. Going to websites like Convenient Quote, you can get a free car insurance quote and compare it to your current auto plan. Also, while on the topic of auto insurance, here is a short article on Car Insurance 101


Cheap Vacation Destinations

1) Kansas City

As some know, Kansas City is in both Kansas and Missouri. Kansas City offers a range of engaging and affordable activities which is why it made the cheap vacation list. One way to start is by exploring the city’s renowned museums. The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art boasts an impressive collection of artwork and offers free admission. The museum’s beautiful sculpture garden is also worth a visit. Additionally, the National World War I Museum and Memorial offers a glimpse into history at an affordable price.

For outdoor enthusiasts, Kansas City has plenty to offer. Take a leisurely stroll in one of the city’s many parks, such as Loose Park or Swope Park. These green spaces provide a peaceful retreat from the bustling city. Both parks host free or low-cost events and concerts during the warmer months. Another outdoor gem is the Kansas City Riverfront, where you can enjoy a scenic walk along the Missouri River.

Food lovers will delight in the affordable dining options available in Kansas City. The city is famous for its mouthwatering barbecue. You can indulge in delicious meals at budget-friendly eateries such as Arthur Bryant’s or Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que. Additionally, the City Market offers a variety of fresh produce, local products, and affordable eats. Exploring vibrant neighborhoods like Westport and the Crossroads District will also reveal a wide array of affordable dining options. Some hidden gems of places to stay overnight north of Kansas City include Christ’s Peace House of Prayer in Easton.  Also, the monks at St. Benedict’s Abbey have a guesthouse where visitors can stay.


2) San Diego, California

You might be surprised to know that it is possible to take a vacation to San Diego that is inexpensive. First, make sure you lock in your airline tickets several months ahead of time to save money. After perusing the internet for several hours for places to stay, one of the lowest price hotels I found that also has great reviews is Stay Pineapple. You can see for yourself on Google reviews. The Stay Pineapple Hotel will put you in the Gaslamp Quarter which is known for its Victorian architecture, vibrant nightlife, and eclectic shops. Petco Park where the San Diego Padres play is also nearby.

Some other inexpensive activities you do can include going to Mission Beach. There you can lay on the beach, swim, or picnic at this popular beach spot. Also, the USS Midway Museum will cost a little money, but is a historic site worth checking out. It’s relatively affordable considering the unique experience of exploring a historic aircraft carrier. Finally, San Diego has various free outdoor concerts and movie screenings held throughout the city, especially during the summer months.


3) Chicago, Illinois

Despite its reputation for being a bit pricey, Chicago still offers a plethora of budget-friendly activities. Take advantage of world-class museums like the Art Institute of Chicago and the Field Museum; both often have discounted or free admission days. These cultural hubs showcase stunning art collections and fascinating exhibits that cater to various interests. Another must-visit spot is Millennium Park, a free public space in the heart of downtown Chicago.  The park also hosts various events and concerts, providing ample entertainment for visitors of all ages.

For nature enthusiasts, the Lakefront Trail is a picturesque pathway that winds along the shores of Lake Michigan. Take a walk to soak in the breathtaking views of the lake and the magnificent Chicago skyline. The Chicago Riverwalk is another delightful attraction; free guided walking tours are offered that showcase the city’s architectural wonders and rich history. If you’re traveling with family or simply love animals, the Lincoln Park Zoo is a perfect destination that offers free admission throughout the year. This zoo offers a chance to observe and learn about a wide range of fascinating creatures.

If you want this to be a cheap vacation, budget your money on where you will stay overnight. You might save money using Airbnb to find a place to sleep.  Also, on the south side of Chicago there are some Benedictine monks who have a guesthouse open to visitors; this is called the Monastery of the Holy Cross.  While staying there, you could also try joining the monks for prayers throughout the day.  Also, this is within walking distance of the baseball stadium where the White Sox play if you want to catch a game there.


Get the Money 101 Newsletter for Free


4) Saint Louis, Missouri

Another cheap vacation spot this year is St. Louis, Missouri. St. Louis has many free things to do starting with Forest Park which hosted the 1904 World’s Fair. Forest Park has over 1,000 acres including many hiking trails, the History and Art Museums, lakes, and boat rentals. It’s worth noting both the Art and History Museums in the park are free admission! Secondly, the St. Louis Zoo which is in Forest Park is also free admission; you can get access to many parts of the zoo at no charge!

A little west of the city is another free attraction, Creve Coeur Park.  Creve Coeur Park has several miles of trails, a beach, the Lakehouse Restaurant, and kayak rentals. Finally, the massive and beautiful Cathedral Basilica is in St. Louis and hosts free tours. In 1997, the Cathedral was designated as a Cathedral Basilica by Pope John Paul II; John Paul II honored the Basilica on his visit to the United States in January of 1999.

St. Louis has several non-free, inexpensive attractions as well. The Anheuser Busch Brewery tour, St. Louis Arch tour, and Missouri Botanical Gardens all cost a little money, but are worth the visit. You can get bleacher seats at many St. Louis Cardinals baseball games for around $13. There are many more attractions including the City Museum, Grant’s Farm, and wineries west of the city in Hermann.


5) Denver, Colorado 

Denver is a vibrant city that offers plenty of affordable activities for visitors to enjoy. Start by exploring the city’s picturesque parks, such as City Park or Washington Park. Both parks are free to enter and provide a serene retreat from the urban bustle. You can also explore the scenic trails or picnic while taking in the breathtaking views of the Rocky Mountains. Summers in Colorado are a good time to camp with fewer bugs as it is a desert-type climate. Oh, and speaking of Colorado, you can get another take on it when I interviewed Ben Miller, Founder of ChroniFi

For a taste of culture, visit the Denver Art Museum, which offers free admission for children and discounted rates for adults on certain days. Immerse yourself in art from around the world and explore the museum’s diverse collections. Another budget-friendly option is the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. The museum offers the opportunity to learn about dinosaurs, space exploration, and the natural world. Frequent offers for discounted tickets or special promotions also make it an affordable and educational experience for all ages.

Don’t miss the opportunity to explore Denver’s vibrant street art scene. Take a self-guided tour through neighborhoods like RiNo (River North) and the Santa Fe Arts District, where you’ll find colorful murals and innovative art installations. These public art displays are free to admire and provide a unique and visually stimulating experience.  And, of course if you want to pay some money, Denver hosts a variety of other choices. These include professional sports (Rockies, Broncos, Avalanche, and Nuggets), skiing, and white water rafting.


Your 2024 Cheap Vacation 

A budget-friendly vacation doesn’t have to mean sacrificing quality or fun. The destinations highlighted in this article offer a diverse range of experiences that cater to various interests and preferences while remaining affordable. With careful planning and a sense of adventure, anyone can embark on a memorable and budget-friendly getaway in 2024. Wishing you a happy, inexpensive vacation!

By the way, if you decide to travel to any of the places we mentioned, please send me an email to let me know; I would love to hear about the experience you had on your vacation!


Do you want to know how to save money while taking a vacation? Learn more about staycations in the video below.

About Money 101 Academy

Money 101 Academy creates fresh content based on real-life experience to help you find success with money and personal finance. The cornerstone of this site is the Money 101 Academy Membership, which includes an online personal finance course with coaching and a community to help you work toward financial freedom.

It is a top priority for us to publish material to help you. 

Something to keep in mind is we only partner with companies and products that we truly believe will benefit you.  Some of the links in this article are called “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and make a purchase from that vendor, based on our recommendation, we may earn a commission. This could be a commission for that sale, future sales or recurring billings (at no additional cost to you). These help pay for the cost to maintain this site so we can continue to give you quality information. We will only recommend a product that we had a positive experience with or would recommend it to our family. So you can rest assure that anything we recommend is going to be of the highest quality.