America's Most Affordable Holiday Travel Destinations
Travel is top of mind as Americans navigate into the new year. According to the U.S. Travel Association, nearly one-third of Americans will make taking a vacation one of their highest priorities. And so far, travel spending for September 2022 has hit its highest ceiling since the pandemic. With prices up across the board with rising inflation, getting the most out of a vacation budget is important and some cities offer a better opportunity to do so.
To determine the most affordable travel destinations, we looked at 35 of the largest cities in the country and calculated costs for a three-day trip considering hotels, rental cars, air travel and meals. We ranked each city based on the total cost for a family of four. To provide more context, we also calculated costs for an individual traveler. For more details on how we found and analyzed our data, read the data and methodology section below.
Southern cities make up half of the top 10 cities. A trip down South to warmer climates will offer more savings for travelers this holiday season. Two of the three most affordable travel destinations are in the South (El Paso, Texas and Memphis, Tennessee) and overall, this region tends to offer lower daily hotel room rates and meal costs relative to other cities in our study.
Traveling together can save you big time. On average, a family of four will spend roughly 2.78 times that of an individual, meaning that a family of four traveling together is more affordable than three individual travelers. The difference in spending is most prominent in Phoenix, Arizona where the ratio is lowest (2.53 times more).
1. Columbus, OH
Ohio's capital - Columbus - tops our list as the most affordable travel destination this holiday season. Here's why: a three-night trip for a family of four would cost roughly $2,867. It is the only city considered that falls below $3,000 for this figure. Specifically, airfare in Columbus is roughly $275 per person, which is the lowest out of all the cities considered in this study; and the average hotel room price ranks in the top 10 - averaging $157 per room.
2. El Paso, TX
Where El Paso, Texas excels is in daily meal cost ($15 per person) and hotel room rates ($146 per room), ranking top three cities for both metrics. Combined with airfare and car rental costs, a family of four can expect to pay roughly $3,014 for a three-night trip to Texas' sixth-largest city.
3. Memphis, TN
Similar to the No. 2 city, Memphis, Tennessee offers lower daily meal costs ($24 per person) and hotel room rates (just over $149 per room), ranking No. 4 and No. 5 respectively. The daily car rental rate hovers around $51 and airfare sits just over $400. In total, this adds up to roughly $3,200 for a three-night trip.
4. Oklahoma City, OK
A family of four will find the most affordable daily hotel room rates in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (roughly $137 per room) out of the cities considered in this study. Additionally, Oklahoma City has the second-lowest average daily meal cost (about $23 per person). For a three-night stay, a family of four will pay just over $3,300 in Oklahoma's state capital.
5. Albuquerque, NM
For a three-night stay in Albuquerque, New Mexico, a family of four will dish out roughly $3,361, while an individual traveler will spend just under $1,200. Airfare and car rentals in the area are higher than other cities in our top 10, but hotel room rates and meal costs balance it out.
6. Kansas City, MO
Roughly $3,405 is what a family of four will need for a three-night stay in Kansas City, Missouri. Individual travelers will spend close to $1,200. While airfare into the area isn't the most affordable, daily car rental rates, hotel room rates and meal costs rank in the top 11 cities for affordability across the study.
7. Fresno, CA
Fresno, California offers low costs across hotel, car rentals and meals - ranking in the top five cities across all three metrics. For a family of four, that means daily hotel room rates around $282, car rental rates below $45 and daily meal costs just under $100.
8. Jacksonville, FL
A family of four can get around Jacksonville, Florida and enjoy a meal at an affordable price. Jacksonville ranks with the eighth-lowest car rental rates ($44) and sixth-lowest meal costs ($25 per person). Hotel rates hover around $180 per room and airfare is just over $410 per person.
9. Baltimore, MD
The Charm City ranks best in the transportation-related metrics for this study, claiming the No. 1 spot for its low daily car rental rates ($40) and No. 8 for airfare ($376 per person). Both the typical hotel room rates and average meal costs in Baltimore fall within the top 25 cities.
10. Las Vegas, NV
The Entertainment Capital of the World has plenty to offer for families and individual travelers including affordable and necessary travel costs. Flying into Las Vegas, Nevada costs roughly $290 per person (second-lowest). Hotel costs for a family of four will be under $240 per night on average. And both the car rental rate and meal costs for a family of four will typically not exceed $170 combined per day.
Data and Methodology
SmartAsset analyzed the data from 35 of the largest cities in America to find the most affordable travel destinations this holiday season. We considered the following four factors:
Average airfare cost. This is for Q2 2022 and includes one-way and round-trip, domestic flights. Data for this metric comes from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.
Average hotel room price per night. Data comes from businesstravelnews.com.
Average daily car rental cost. Data comes from businesstravelnews.com.
Average cost of a restaurant meal. We assume travelers will have two meals per day at a mid-range restaurant. Data comes from Numbeo.com.
We ranked the cities from most affordable to least affordable according to the total cost for a three-day, three-night trip for a family of four, using the formula below:
(avg hotel room rate x 2 rooms x 3 nights) + (avg car rental rate x 3 days) + (avg flight cost x 4 tickets) + (avg cost of a meal x 4 people x 2 meals x 3 days)
For additional context, we also calculated the cost of a three-day, three-night trip for an individual:
(avg hotel room rate x 1 room x 3 nights) + (avg car rental rate x 3 days) + (avg flight cost x 1 ticket) + (avg cost of meal x 1 person x 2 meals x 3 days)
Tips for Holiday Travelers
Save now, so you can vacation later. Utilize a budget for your everyday needs and future spending so you can squeeze out a fun and relaxing vacation whenever you need to getaway. SmartAsset's budget calculator can give you a clear picture of your spending habits now making it easier to cut back in places and save a little more each month.
Make your money work for you. If you're in the market for a new credit card, consider the benefits of travel-focused credit cards which can earn you rewards to make your travel spending cheaper. Here's our round-up of the best travel credit cards.
Get financial advice. Managing the moving parts of your investments and retirement can be overwhelming. A financial advisor can guide you through important decisions and help you grow your portfolio. SmartAsset's free tool matches you with up to three financial advisors who serve your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you're ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
Questions about our study? Contact email@example.com.
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