Picture it: Strolling along canals and bridges. Riding in a wooden gondola at sunset to admire modern and classical homes (and your gondolier’s singing) as oars slice through shimmering water.
Think you’re vacationing in Venice? You’re right—sort of. The canals of Venice, Calif., were built with the Italian city’s charms in mind. And it’s just one of many places in America tailor-made for an exotic, exciting getaway. Plus, keeping travel domestic also could mean serious savings (and no jet lag).
Instead of a trip abroad this summer, opt for adventure, out-of-the-way eateries, gorgeous scenery and sophisticated cities right here in these 50 states. According to our travel experts, there’s no better time to hop on a domestic flight or take a classic road trip. Here is some insider wisdom from travel industry experts who can help you find the best places to go.
Fly When Others Don’t
Head to the airport midweek or right after a major holiday (e.g., the Tuesday after Memorial Day), says Kristin Luna, founder of the popular travel blog Camels & Chocolate. Not only will prices be sweeter, but you’ll avoid traveling with the masses by going at the beginning and end of the weekend instead.
Don’t Let The Unexpected Take Its Toll
Whether you’re heading to the shore or to the mountains, reach your summer destination with confidence by taking out a travel insurance policy. It can give you peace of mind before and during your trip, so you can focus on the reason you’re there: relaxation. Head to the airport knowing it can pay for certain expenses if your trip is interrupted or cancelled, if you get sick or injured, or if something happens to your luggage.
Seek “Shoulder Season”
In mid-May or mid-September, “prices tend to drop precipitously, even though the weather in many places is still ideal,” notes Luna. The timing is tough if your kids are in school, but it’s worth considering.
Try Some Southern Comfort
The South is typically more affordable than the Northeast and the West Coast, notes Luna. A night out for one in Nashville, for instance, including dinner, drinks, a show and hotel, averages $360, according to a 2016 report by local news station WKRN. A comparable evening in New York City would likely start at $400.
Or set your sights on a Southern road trip. After a night of music in Nashville, drive to Asheville, N.C., for great food and craft browsing (this is the place for artisan culture). Then loop back to Tennessee via Knoxville, and stop for a hike in the Great Smoky Mountains, the country’s most visited national park in 2015.
Opt For A City (Slightly) Less Traveled
Visiting cities that offer similar pleasures to larger destinations is another way to avoid summer hordes and keep your budget on track. Three favorite cities you may not have thought of visiting:
- Philadelphia: It has the restaurant scene, the history, the museums—and dinner out is nearly 25 percent cheaper than in the Big Apple, according to a 2016 Numbeo report, a living-condition data site.
- Milwaukee: Along with the mellow Midwestern vibe, the city boasts the 11-day SummerFest, with top musical acts as well as activities for kids of all ages (ever been on the Skyglider?). Plus, luxury hotels here average $130 a night versus $170 for the Windy City.
- Portland, Ore.: For one thing, there’s no sales tax. And with 500-plus food carts around the city, eating well on the cheap is a breeze, according to Lisa Ng, editor-in-chief of This Beautiful Day, a lifestyle blog. For a dose of nature, head out in the early A.M. to Multnomah Falls, Oregon’s highest waterfall at roughly 620 feet. Or drive out to Astoria on the coast to see where The Goonies was filmed.
No matter where your travels take you, leave the worry behind and get travel and flight insurance through the GEICO Insurance Agency.
Next article: 9 Under-the-Radar Vacation Spots to Visit This Summer
Originally published May 2017.