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The Most Expensive Tourist Destinations in the US

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Staying stateside is often a great way to cut costs while traveling. But vacations in the U.S. aren’t all created equal when it comes to certain expenses.

After reviewing rankings from a variety of travel sites to determine the nation’s most popular U.S. tourist attractions, GOBankingRates calculated food and drink costs, the average nightly rate for the three least-expensive hotels in the area and 2018 airfare averages to find out which destinations might be the biggest blow to travelers’ bank balances.

Keep in mind that hotel rates are based on October stays, and seasonality can drive prices up or down at some expensive tourist destinations. But even in these swank spots, there are ways savvy spenders can cut costs. Keep reading to see the cheapest and most expensive places to travel in the U.S.

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30. Cost to Visit Orlando, Fla.: $1,091.04

  • Meals: $327
  • Drinks (including beer): $43.68
  • 3-night hotel stay: $227
  • Airfare: $493.36

This central Florida theme park mecca is one of the best U.S. cities to visit. However, visitors can save even more if they venture outside of Disney World, where they’ll find plenty of fun and inexpensive things to do.

Click to See: Hotels Are Getting Cheaper in These 5 Tourist Hot Spots

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29. Cost to Visit Las Vegas: $1,193.58

  • Meals: $330
  • Drinks (including beer): $50.76
  • 3-night hotel stay: $328
  • Airfare: $484.82

Sin City is another one of the best U.S. cities to visit, and there are many fun and free things to do in Vegas. Take in fabulous fountains and flora for free at the Bellagio, which features a conservatory in addition to its famous fountains. Or, just walk down the infamous Strip and marvel at the street performers and bright lights.

28. Cost to Visit Lake Tahoe, Calif.: $1,238.82

  • Meals: $282
  • Drinks (including beer): $38.16
  • 3-night hotel stay: $244
  • Airfare: $674.66

Lake Tahoe might be known as one of the most beautiful winter wonderlands in the U.S., but it’s still beautiful during the fall. Plus, it’s much cheaper than many other popular destinations on this list — especially when it comes to hotel costs.

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27. Cost to Visit Aspen, Colo.: $1,317.52

  • Meals: $331.50
  • Drinks (including beer): $44.94
  • 3-night hotel stay: $343
  • Airfare: $598.08

If you’re planning a ski vacation, you might want to hit up one of the best world-class ski resorts in the country, like Aspen.

The Aspen Art Museum offers free admission daily, but the museum is closed on Mondays. For visitors who want to take a break from downhill skiing and upscale pricing, the Aspen Snowmass Nordic Trail System maintains more than 90 km of free trails linking the communities of Aspen, Snowmass and Basalt.

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26. Cost to Visit Phoenix: $1,327.26

  • Meals: $330
  • Drinks (including beer): $44.52
  • 3-night hotel stay: $311
  • Airfare: $641.74

Phoenix isn’t just one of the most affordable cities to visit during the winter — it can be affordable during the fall, too, if you plan in a thrifty way. In fact, the best time to visit Phoenix is November through April, according to U.S. News. If you’re lucky, you’ll escape the summer heat and enjoy temperatures in the uppers 60s, 70s and low 80s.

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25. Cost to Visit San Diego: $1,339.44

  • Meals: $360
  • Drinks (including beer): $60.36
  • 3-night hotel stay: $285
  • Airfare: $634.08

San Diego might be one of the cheapest summer destinations in the world, but it can also be affordable in the fall if you’re a smart vacationer. The SoCal city is full of beaches, hiking and biking trails for outdoor enthusiasts. Those looking for a little athletic inspiration can visit the U.S. Olympic Training Center in nearby Chula Vista. It offers guided tours for as little as $5 per person.

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24. Cost to Visit Denver: $1,344.52

  • Meals: $330
  • Drinks (including beer): $46.44
  • 3-night hotel stay: $370
  • Airfare: $598.08

Among all of the tourist destinations on this list, Denver has one of the lowest airfare costs. That’s not too surprising considering the city boasts one of the cheapest airports in the U.S.

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23. Cost to Visit Park City, Utah: $1,366.42

  • Meals: $294
  • Drinks (including beer): $43.32
  • 3-night hotel stay: $309
  • Airfare: $720.10

In some ways and if you plan correctly, Park City is one of the most affordable places to visit this fall. Although some prices might be high, it’s one of the top five cities in this study with the cheapest hotel costs in the fall.

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22. Cost to Visit Miami Beach, Fla.: $1,380.12

  • Meals: $396
  • Drinks (including beer): $53.76
  • 3-night hotel stay: $292
  • Airfare: $638.36

A day at the beach in Miami can be free, but there are plenty of other free places to snag some shade, too. After a day at the beach, dance the night away at The Purdy Lounge, which doesn’t charge a cover fee.

Disney, Beaches and More: Your Guide to Florida Travel on a Budget

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21. Cost to Visit New Orleans: $1,468.20

  • Meals: $420
  • Drinks (including beer): $42.60
  • 3-night hotel stay: $406
  • Airfare: $599.60

To save money at one of the best tourist cities, New Orleans, start your happy hour in your hotel. If you stay in the French Quarter, you can take your drink outside — as long as it’s not in a glass or metal cup — and enjoy it on the way to dinner. So, stocking up on alcohol at the liquor store rather than buying all your beverages at a bar can save some cents.

 

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20. Cost to Visit Anaheim, Calif.: $1,484.06

  • Meals: $306
  • Drinks (including beer): $55.20
  • 3-night hotel stay: $395
  • Airfare: $673.86

Fall travelers who want to save time and money when visiting Disneyland should schedule a trip during the off-season — mid-September through mid-November. This is when the park tends to be less crowded. Just avoid it during Halloween time.

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19. Cost to Visit Los Angeles: $1,497.98

  • Meals: $375
  • Drinks (including beer): $59.76
  • 3-night hotel stay: $386
  • Airfare: $673.86

You can find plenty of cheap things to do in Los Angeles during the fall. Strolling Venice Beach is always free. For a less leisurely walk, try hiking through Griffith Park to the Griffith Observatory, which offers free admission and access to telescopes.

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18. Cost to Visit Seattle: $1,510.86

  • Meals: $360
  • Drinks (including beer): $57.18
  • 3-night hotel stay: $430
  • Airfare: $663.68

Seattle can be a pricey city to visit — unless you learn how to travel on a budget. For example, skip the taxi and take the Link light rail instead. The line between Angle Lake and the University of Washington includes an airport stop and also has stations at popular sites including Chinatown and Pioneer Square. Adult fares range from $2.25 to $3.25, depending on trip distance.

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17. Cost to Visit Portland, Ore.: $1,510.88

  • Meals: $327
  • Drinks (including beer): $49.92
  • 3-night hotel stay: $482
  • Airfare: $651.96

Visiting Portland is one of the most affordable trips you can take after you turn 50. It’s also known as the City of Roses — and for good reason. To get a look at some stunning specimens, check out the International Rose Test Garden in Washington Park. The site offers free public tours daily.

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16. Cost to Visit Atlanta: $1,525.32

  • Meals: $330
  • Drinks (including beer): $48
  • 3-night hotel stay: $425
  • Airfare: $722.32

Atlanta is one of the destinations that is getting cheaper to visit. To save money on transportation during your trip, move around Atlanta with MARTA. One-way fares for the transit system are $2.50 each. Visitors who plan to take the train often might want to invest in a three-day pass for $16.

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15. Cost to Visit Palm Springs, Calif.: $1,551.96

  • Meals: $342
  • Drinks (including beer): $42
  • 3-night hotel stay: $392
  • Airfare: $775.96

Palm Springs isn’t just a popular place to retire, it’s also a relaxing place to spend your fall vacation. Save money on your trip by looking for low-cost or cost-free activities. For example, tour the Palm Springs Art Museum for $12 and marvel at the works by Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol and more. Or, visit the weekly VillageFest, a downtown street fair featuring arts, crafts, food and entertainment.

14. Cost to Visit Hilton Head Island, S.C.: $1,573.64

  • Meals: $306
  • Drinks (including beer): $41.94
  • 3-night hotel stay: $408
  • Airfare: $817.70

Traveling to Hilton Head won’t hurt your wallet too much if you’re smart. In fact, it scored pretty well for food and drink costs. However, airfare isn’t cheap — it’s the No. 3 city with the highest airfare in this analysis.

Learn From the Pros: Flight Attendants Dish Their Best Money-Saving Travel Tips

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13. Cost to Visit Savannah, Ga.: $1,622.14

  • Meals: $303
  • Drinks (including beer): $46.44
  • 3-night hotel stay: $455
  • Airfare: $817.70

You can save money on your fall trip to Savannah if you book your travel plans at the right time. When visiting this semi-expensive U.S. city, take a stroll through City Market. It features shopping, dining and other attractions — just watch your spending.

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12. Cost to Visit Key West, Fla.: $1,626.12

  • Meals: $375
  • Drinks (including beer): $47.76
  • 3-night hotel stay: $565
  • Airfare: $638.36

Key West ranked as one of the worst spring break destinations in a previous study — and it doesn’t rank too well in this one, either. The main culprits are food and hotel costs. What helps it rank higher in this study is its lower airfare.

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11. Cost to Visit Chicago: $1,640.12

  • Meals: $360
  • Drinks (including beer): $54.24
  • 3-night hotel stay: $567
  • Airfare: $658.88

To save money when visiting one of the best shopping capitals in America, consider getting a Go Chicago Card. It offers discounts on numerous attractions, including the Field Museum of Natural History, LEGOLAND, SkyDeck Chicago, rides at Navy Pier and more. Savings and pass prices vary depending on which options you choose.

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10. Cost to Visit Charleston, S.C.: $1,680.82

  • Meals: $348
  • Drinks (including beer): $41.82
  • 3-night hotel stay: $534
  • Airfare: $757

It doesn’t have to be Valentine’s Day for you to visit one of the most romantic cities in the country. When in Charleston, check out the Charleston City Market or take a trip to the Charles Pinckney National Historic Site, a 28-acre remnant of an expansive rice and indigo plantation that dates back to the 1800s.

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9. Cost to Visit Philadelphia: $1,697.56

  • Meals: $360
  • Drinks (including beer): $52.32
  • 3-night hotel stay: $528
  • Airfare: $757.24

You can save money when visiting this expensive U.S. city if you take advantage of free or cheap legendary landmarks. Brush up on your American history at the Liberty Bell Center and Independence Hall. Both are free, although Independence Hall requires tickets for some days and times.

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8. Cost to Visit San Francisco: $1,705.52

  • Meals: $450
  • Drinks (including beer): $62.52
  • 3-night hotel stay: $463
  • Airfare: $730

San Francisco is both an expensive place to live and visit. It’s probably no surprise that airfare and hotels are pricey, but don’t forget about food. A meal for two can cost you $80 at a mid-range restaurant — which is tied for the highest cost in that category in this analysis.

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7. Cost to Visit Nashville, Tenn.: $1,728.22

  • Meals: $348
  • Drinks (including beer): $48.60
  • 3-night hotel stay: $628
  • Airfare: $703.62

Nashville can get expensive, so look for free or low-cost activities to ease the financial pain. Sample Music City’s offerings at the honky-tonks on Lower Broadway, which rarely, if ever, charge a cover.

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6. Cost to Visit Boston: $1,730.02

  • Meals: $390
  • Drinks (including beer): $59.40
  • 3-night hotel stay: $634
  • Airfare: $646.62

When visiting one of the most historic places in America, seek lodging bargains at boutique hotels and bed-and-breakfasts. You’ll appreciate the savings, especially because Boston is one of the cities in this study with the most expensive hotels.

5. Cost to Visit Austin, Texas: $1,735.94

  • Meals: $360
  • Drinks (including beer): $52.50
  • 3-night hotel stay: $626
  • Airfare: $697.44

Austin scored poorly across the board in this study on cheapest and most expensive tourist destinations in the U.S. Its ranking is mostly attributed to its high hotel costs and airfare. On the plus slide for visitors: Austin has one of the best airports for cheap or free entertainment.

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4. Cost to Visit Washington, D.C.: $1,881.48

  • Meals: $408
  • Drinks (including beer): $59.88
  • 3-night hotel stay: $558
  • Airfare: $855.60

Washington, D.C., might be one of the most popular U.S. tourist attractions, but make sure you save enough money ahead of time before you visit. From food to airfare, the cost to visit D.C. is high. But who knows — it might be a trip that is worth the cost.

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3. Cost to Visit Asheville, N.C.: $1,921.82

  • Meals: $330
  • Drinks (including beer): $44.76
  • 3-night hotel stay: $689
  • Airfare: $858.06

Who would’ve guessed that Asheville is the No. 3 most expensive tourist destination in the U.S.? Out of all the cities evaluated in this study, Asheville has the most expensive airfare. Hotels aren’t cheap either — the city has the No. 3 priciest hotels on this list.

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2. Cost to Visit Maui, Hawaii: $1,924.04

  • Meals: $390
  • Drinks (including beer): $78
  • 3-night hotel stay: $751
  • Airfare: $705.04

Vacationing in paradise doesn’t come cheap — especially if you’re planning to visit Maui. It’s one of the most expensive places to travel this fall, thanks to high airfare and hotel costs. But it actually has the highest drink costs in this ranking.

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1. Cost to Visit New York City: $2,070.36

  • Meals: $480
  • Drinks (including beer): $67.44
  • 3-night hotel stay: $773
  • Airfare: $749.92

If you don’t know where to go on vacation, maybe skip New York City. The Big Apple is the No. 1 most expensive tourist destination in the U.S. It has the highest cost for hotel stays and meals, which can leave you with less money to spend on attractions, souvenirs and more.

To save money in New York City, explore Central Park — it’s fun and (even better) free. The park also offers a variety of attractions, including gardens, fountains, meadows, a carousel and more.

See: 20 Life-Changing Trips That Are Worth the Cost

Where to Go on Vacation in the U.S.?

Choosing the most affordable or cheapest places to visit for your next vacation is no easy feat. But the results from this study should help guide toward the most cost-effective decision:

The five most expensive tourist destinations in the U.S. are:

  1. New York
  2. Maui
  3. Asheville
  4. Washington, D.C.
  5. Austin

As you can see, it’s a mixed bag of eastern, western and southern destinations in the U.S. On the other hand, you’ll notice that four out of the top five cheapest tourist destinations in the U.S. are located in the West:

  1. Orlando
  2. Las Vegas
  3. Lake Tahoe
  4. Aspen
  5. Phoenix

So when planning your fall trip, perhaps check prices on the West Coast before ultimately booking your flight and hotel.

Click through to learn which tourist attractions aren’t worth the cost.

Sydney Champion contributed to the reporting for this article.

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Methodology: To find the most expensive tourist destinations in the U.S., GOBankingRates.com sourced from a variety of travel sties to find the most popular destinations in the U.S., including U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Places to Visit in the USA”; TripSavvy’s “Top Places to Visit in the U.S.”; and WorldAtlas’s “Most Visited Cities in the U.S.” Combining lists and excluding duplicates, we assembled a list of 30 U.S. destinations and then used the following factors to determine which cities are the most affordable, assuming two adults are staying in the cities for three nights from Oct. 18, 2018 through Oct. 21, 2018: 1) Food and drinks costs from Numbeo.com. Food costs include meals for two at mid-range restaurants (assuming three meals total) and meals at inexpensive restaurants (assuming 12 meals total). Drink costs include domestic beer prices (six total) and Coke/Pepsi prices (12 total). These figures are accurate as of 7/31/18.; 2) Hotel rates from Hotels.com. Hotels with three or more stars and within 5 miles of the city center were considered, but the average price of the three cheapest hotels were used. These figures are accurate as of 7/31/18; 3) Most recent airfare costs come from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. If prices for a particular city weren’t available, the next-closest city’s fares were used.