Summertime is prime vacation season, but just because you want to get away doesn’t mean you have to splurge on a trip. Whether you want to travel by car, train, cruise ship, or plane, there are many destinations in the U.S. and abroad that will enchant you without emptying your pockets. Looking for cities, shorelines, or mountains? No matter what you’re interested in, you’ll find something intriguing among our 10 budget-friendly ideas.—Andrea M. Rotondo
Home to a dizzying number of historic sites from the colonial period, this university-heavy metropolis is a pleasure to visit in the quiet summer months, when the city empties out and there are fewer students around. Explore the Freedom Trail on foot, then take a break on the Swan Boats at the Public Garden Lagoon. Spend some time exploring the Museum of Fine Arts or Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and when it's time for a meal, head to Faneuil Hall, Chinatown, or the North End for an authentic Italian dinner.
Insider Tip: The Charles River Esplanade is a fabulous place to walk, rollerblade, bike, or enjoy an outdoor concert at the Hatch Shell.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor's Boston Guide
Surprisingly affordable year-round, Chicago is arguably at its best in the summer, when the city comes alive with a flurry of events. Why not see a Cubs game at Iconic Wrigley Field while you're in town? Spend some time on the beaches lining Lake Michigan, and enjoy the pizza and hot dogs the city is famous for. For exploring away from the crowds, head to some of Chicago's great neighborhoods north of downtown, including Wicker Park, Bucktown, and Lincoln Park.
Insider Tip: Check out our list of 25 Things to Do in Chicago This Summer.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor's Chicago Guide
While you might assume that Bermuda is best left to well-heeled individuals with private yachts, there are plenty of budget and mid-priced accommodations for those making the two-hour flight from the East Coast. Enjoy the turquoise water, rocky cliffs, and pastel houses complete with signature moon gates (an interesting architectural element and symbol of good luck).
Insider Tip: The island is always hopping during the annual summertime Bermuda Big Game Classic fishing tournament, where some 40 teams compete for bragging rights and prizes.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor's Bermuda Guide
While the city may be particularly hot and crowded, June, July, and August are still fantastic months to visit if you don't mind those inconveniences. Hotel rates are low and package deals—including airfare, rental car, theme park tickets, and even some meals—abound. Don't forget about Orlando's top-ranked golf courses, like Bay Hill.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor's Orlando Guide
Asheville, North Carolina
A pleasantly uncrowded city nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville makes for a highly affordable and equally enjoyable summer trip. The area is a magnet for both hikers tackling the Appalachian Trail as well as artists and chefs who live and work here. Spend your time hiking and biking, visiting art galleries, sampling craft beer, and dining out in one of the many excellent restaurants in the city. Try local-favorite 12 Bones Smokehouse for out-of-this-world barbecue.
Insider Tip: Asheville is second only to Miami when it comes to preserving America's Art Deco architecture. Check out City Hall to see a prime example of the style.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor's Asheville Guide
San Juan Islands, Washington
There's something special about the lush San Juan Islands in Washington State. San Juan, Orcas, Lopez, and Shaw are the major island outposts and each offers a peak into quintessential small-town America. The leisurely pace here makes for the ultimate relaxing vacation—you'll even have to arrive by ferry from Anacortes. Each island offers scenic drives, bike paths, hiking trails, beach breaks, and plenty of opportunities for fishing and sailing. The weather—in the 70s all summer—couldn't be better.
Insider Tip: While the San Juan Islands have their share of resorts, B&Bs, and inns, you can also book affordable cottages, cabins, and campgrounds.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor's San Juan Islands Guide
You'll be astounded by Juneau's wild beauty—whether arriving by air or as part of an Inside Passage cruise. From April through November, visitors are bound to see bald eagles, black bears, mountain goats, harbor seals, sea otters, and humpback whales. You can hike or bike, raft or kayak, or take a guided tour lead by naturalists. If you love to fish, there's no better place to cast a line for halibut or salmon.
Insider Tip: You can actually drive to the mighty Mendenhall Glacier, one of Alaska's most popular spots. It's part of the Juneau Icefield, comprised of 40 major glaciers covering 1,500 square miles, Mendenhall is 13 miles outside of Juneau.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor's Juneau Guide
The Riviera Maya may be the darling of Mexico, but don't discount the established resort town of Cancún. Powdery white sand fringes the peninsula and most resorts have expansive stretches of beach dotted with thatched-roof palapas—the perfect spot to relax in the shade and sip a fruity drink. The Caribbean Sea lures visitors for swimming, snorkeling, and diving.
Insider Tip: The waters near Isla Mujeres—a 20-minute ferry ride from Cancún—are home to whale sharks from May through September. If you visit from July 25–27, don't miss the annual Isla Mujeres Whale Shark Festival.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor's Cancun Guide
Yellowstone National Park
You'd be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn't get a little giddy when the majestic geyser erupts within Yellowstone National Park. Home to the world's greatest concentration of geysers, including Old Faithful, this national park is well visited every summer. Vacationers may spot elk, bison, wolves, and even grizzly bears. Visit Yellowstone (or any national park) on August 25, when admission is free in honor of the National Park Service's Birthday.
Insider Tip: The lodges and campgrounds around Yellowstone fill up fast during the summer months. Make reservations early.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor's Yellowstone National Park Guide
Wildwood, New Jersey Shore
This trio of towns along the Jersey Shore—Wildwood, Wildwood Crest, and North Wildwood—is known as the Wildwoods. This family-friendly beach destination is the site of numerous fun events throughout the summer, including family nights on the boardwalk, Friday night fireworks, the New Jersey State Barbecue Championship, International Kite Festival, traditional Italian festivals, and much more.
Insider Tip: Bring your dog to the beach this summer! Wildwoods beach at Poplar Avenue permits licensed and leashed dogs from 6 a.m. to dusk.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor's New Jersey Shore Guide