7 Affordable Summer Vacations To Take This Year, From the Caribbean To Montana
You don’t need a big budget to book a last-minute getaway this summer. Whether you and your travel partner enjoy hiking, sailing, the city, or just lazing on the beach, you can make the most of these seven summer vacations in some of North America’s most scenic spots without spending a huge amount of money — if you plan correctly.
From snorkeling in the Caribbean to hiking in Montana, these are seven affordable getaways to take this summer.
We hope you love the spaces and stays we recommend! Just so you know, Matador may collect a small commission from the links on this page if you decide to book a stay. Listed prices are accurate as of the time of publication.
Old world charm in Quebec City, Quebec
Four centuries of French-Canadian history infuse Old Quebec with a fairytale atmosphere. Quebec’s City’s Historic District’s cobblestone streets, stone buildings, and fortified city walls whisk visitors back in time. All you need to do is brush up on your French and let the cultural immersion begin.
You can see the most important landmarks on a free self-guided audio tour. Or book a guided walking tour for $18 to $28 per person. If you’re interested the food scene of the city, an immersive Taste of History Walking Tour includes samples of Québécois cuisine for $56 per person.
The streets of Old Quebec are lined with boutiques, gourmet food shops, and romantic bars and bistros. Stop for a drink (try a local cider or sortilège, a Canadian maple whiskey liqueur) or an intimate and affordable multi-course prix fixe lunch. Try the cassoulet, rabbit poutine and maple crème brûlée on the terrace at Le Lapin Sauté or an elegant champagne brunch or the fresh, seasonal table d’hote menu at Rioux & Pettigrew.
Take the funicular to shop for locally made toques, moccasins, art, and clothing in Le Quartier Petit Champlain, North America’s oldest shopping spot. Or climb the Breakneck Stairs, which is popular for photos. For water views, hop on the ferry and sail across the St. Lawrence River for under $8 for a round-trip.
Many of Quebec City’s warm weather events — such as art installations, parades, and festivals — are free. Don’t miss buskers and free Thursday night fireworks on The Dufferin Terrace, a riverside boardwalk near the majestic Château Frontenac, one of the most photographed hotels in the world.
You can pick up a picnic at Grand Marché de Québec or at a local farmers market and unwind in Bois-de-Coulonge Park, on Pierre-Dugua-De Mons Terrace, or bring the provisions back to your rental.
Both this light loft Airbnb ($103 per night) and this sunny studio ($86 per night) offer fully stocked kitchens, so you can enjoy dinner and a glass of local wine on the patio after a day of sightseeing.
An atmospheric city break in San Francisco
Steep hills, colorful Victorian houses, atmospheric fog, and Pacific Ocean views make San Francisco the perfect spot for a getaway. And contrary to popular belief, it is possible to visit San Francisco without spending your entire paycheck.
See some of city’s most iconic sites from one of its signature cable cars. Purchase a visitor passport for unlimited Muni Metro Light Rail and cable car transportation for a day ($24) or three days ($36). You can enjoy some of the best views of the Golden Gate Bridge, live music in Union Square, and skirt Chinatown, one of the largest Chinese communities outside of Asia and the oldest in North America.
Get off between Bush and Jackson to visit the shops, noodle joints, Hong Kong-style cafes, and dim sum restaurants. City View Restaurant and Good Mong Kok Bakery are some favorites. To get the most out of your time in the neighborhood, book a free walking tour (one of 80 tours in the city) or try a Wok Wiz walking tour, which includes a dim sum lunch for $55 per person.
Continue to Fisherman’s Wharf to greet the sea lions on Pier 39, and treat yourself to chocolate at Ghirardelli Square. Grab lunch among the musicians at The Cannery or book a one-hour harbor tour ($36) to see the city from the water. Or take a three-mile walk to Crissy Field and stroll the waterfront, enjoy the beach, and score excellent views of the Golden Gate Bridge.
In the evening, head to The Mission for craft cocktails, gourmet ice cream, colorful murals, and people-watching in Mission Dolores Park. Or if you are sports fans, you can watch the Giants play baseball at Oracle Park, tickets start at $17.
Stay in the heart of the action at the Edwardian Hotel ($115 per night), a boutique property in a historic building just off Market Street and near the F tram line.
Rocky Mountain splendor in Glacier National Park, Montana
Dramatic Rocky Mountain vistas, scenic drives, and over 700 miles of trails make Montana’s Glacier National Park a brilliant choice for couples who are happiest outdoors. Spend your days hiking through wildflowers, spotting bighorn sheep, moose, and frolicking goats, watching crashing waterfalls, and cooling your feet in alpine lakes.
Start on the almost impossibly scenic Going-To-The-Sun-Road. Watch the waterfalls along the Weeping Wall, stop to view the glacier from Jackson Glacier Overlook, and take photos from Wild Goose Island Viewpoint — one of the most popular stops along the 50-mile route. To prevent overcrowding, advance reservations are required from May 27 through September 11, 2022.
Then lace up your hiking boots and hit the trails. Enjoy alpine peaks and meadows on the way to Hidden Lake Overlook (2.6 miles) or Hidden Lake itself (5.2 miles). Grinnell Glacier Trail, an 11.2-mile out and back trek, rewards hikers with views of glaciers and waterfalls. Apikuni Falls is much shorter (1.7) and so easy that kids can do it. If you don’t have a vehicle, a free shuttle is available along Going-to-the-Sun-Road.
After hiking cool off in Lake McDonald or a local swimming hole or book a multi-lake boat tour that also includes a guided hike ($35).
When you’re hungry, head to off-the-grid Polebridge for bison burgers, beer, and live music at The Northern Lights Saloon. Try a club sandwich, pie, or cobbler accented with huckleberries (Montana’s state fruit) on the patio at Eddie’s Café and Mercantile in West Glacier. While you’re there, pick up groceries, wine, and beer and head back to your rental.
Treat yourself to a mountain view farm stay in Kalispell ($121 per night) or a lake view condo ($116 per night) with a private deck and fireplace in Whitefish. Both offer fully equipped kitchens and a hot tub.
A beachy culture trip in San Juan, Puerto Rico
Ocean-side historic sites, lively restaurants, and a vibrant art scene make San Juan a culture lovers’ paradise.
Start your exploration on the blue cobblestone streets of Old San Juan. Sip coffee on a shaded plaza or snack on corn fritters, fried plantains and croquettes, and a frosty piña colada at Barrachina, which (along with Caribe Hilton) claims to be the beverage’s birthplace (though there are plenty of great piña colada places in San Juan). Try ropa vieja (beef stew) and Puerto Rican rum at Princesa Gastrobar, a magical spot tucked into the trees along the Paseo de La Princesa boardwalk.
Follow the boardwalk through the city gates and along the stone walls to the forts of San Felipe del Morro and San Cristóbal. The view of the candy-colored colonial buildings and glittering Atlantic alone are worth the $10 admission.
Head to Santurce for colorful street art murals and modern art at the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Puerto Rico ($5). Walk to the nearby Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico ($6) to take in 17th and 18th-century art and a peaceful sculpture garden.
Picnic on the generous golden beaches of Isla Verde, just outside the city limits. Also worth a visit is La Playita del Condado, just east of the Ashford Avenue Bridge, is a tiny little beach inlet perched in the middle of San Juan. Cool off with coconut water, a piragua (shaved ice with syrup), or Medalla Light after a day in the sun.
Many of San Juan’s affordable vacation rentals offer easy beach access. Both this cheerful apartment ($95 per night) and this bright one-bedroom ($80 per night) are in Ocean Park, just a short walk from the beach. They also include full kitchens and gracious patios with hammocks and lush, tropical greenery.
Wine, art, and nature in Ashland, Oregon
Dubbed “the next Napa” and hailed as one of the top small art towns in the country, Ashland is tucked between the Siskiyou Mountains and the Cascades. It’s known for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, excellent wine, a robust food scene, and gorgeous mountain hiking, biking, and trail running routes, including the Pacific Crest Trail.
Pick up local produce, honey, and baked goods at Rogue Valley Growers and Crafters Market every Tuesday and Saturday, March through October. Have a picnic among the duck ponds, roses, and sycamore trees in Lithia Park or hike and bike the trails.
For a more challenging hike, tackle part of the 10-mile section of the Pacific Crest Trail that runs from Interstate 5 to Mount Ashland. Slow down to appreciate the birds, butterflies, wildflower meadows, and the views of Mt. Shasta along the way.
Make sure to check out the seasonal calendar for Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Tickets start at $35.
Leave plenty of time for tastings at Ashland wineries. Day trip into the Southern Rogue Valley to sample pinot noirs and malbecs or stop by the Ashland Chamber for a map of the self-guided Oregon Wine and Farm Tour.
Ashland Hills Hotel and Suites has rooms that are both luxurious and comfortable. Suites start at just $113 and include complimentary continental breakfast and use of the outdoor pool, hot tub, and tennis and pickleball courts.
An island cruise to The Bahamas
Cruising can be an economical way to see the world depending on the cruise line. And The Bahamas, an island nation around 180 miles southeast of Miami, is an affordable destination on many US cruise lines. Its turquoise waters, white-sand beaches, and bustling markets offer travelers a stress-free getaway.
Many cruise lines offer deals for budget-conscious consumers, so it’s worth it to compare prices. For example, a five-night Carnival Sunshine cruise departing from Charleston comes in at just $408 per couple.
This rate includes meals in several onboard restaurants, as well as entertainment and activities like cooking demos and poolside movies. You’ll also get free access to water slides, mini-golf, live musicals, a fitness center, and a comedy club, so you’ll have plenty to do while at sea.
The route takes passengers to Half Moon Cay, a private island where you can relax in a hammock or swim in the warm, turquoise waters. Like many other cruises, this one also stops in Nassau, the capital city where you can visit the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas and learn about Bahamian art and culture and purchase locals crafts and gifts.
Nature in bloom in Door County, Wisconsin
Cherry blossoms burst into bloom from mid-May until June, sheltering this 80-mile peninsula between Green Bay and Lake Michigan under a canopy of flowers. Door County also is home to over 100 art galleries, five state parks, and pretty towns and villages.
Purchase an annual vehicle pass ($38) and score admission to all Wisconsin state parks. The lighthouse at Whitefish Dunes State Park is worth a visit and Peninsula State Park has an accessiable canopy walk above the tree line.
If you’d rather explore the local art scene, you can see works by Wisconsin artists at The Miller Art Museum and find exhibits and classes at Peninsula School of Art. Admission is free at both locations.
The region’s signature Montmorency cherries flavor desserts, entrees, and cocktails (including the Wisconsin Old Fashioned) can be enjoyed at bars and restaurants all over the peninsula, but save room for a frosty mug of handcrafted root beer and an icecream sundae from Wilson’s Restaurant and Ice Cream Parlor, a favorite since 1906.
Watch the sunset from the private beach at Bay Breeze Resort ($115 per night). Accommodations are homey, but the amenities — heated outdoor pool, balcony, gas fireplace, whirlpool tub, and rain shower — add a modern touch.