10CheapestRoadtrip Feature
7.14.16 Travel

Hit the Road: 10 Cheapest Road Trip Destinations

By: Lindsey Carman

Road trips are a staple of American summers. Cars cruise along with the windows down and the radio blasting out a favorite song as mile after mile of highway unfurls on the horizon. Just imagine a dusk-tinged sky painting the road pink while fireflies dance along the countryside. It’s a slice of perfection on wheels.

However, a road trip with your buddies will quickly drain your bank account — unless you visit a budget-friendly city.

We looked at the average cost of food, transportation, and miscellaneous goods, as well as free (or very cheap) activities worth attending, and then we ranked the 10 cheapest road trip destinations in the U.S. If you want the most bang for your buck, you should look into stopping by these cities along your journey.

Notes on the data used: For the average cost of food, transportation, and goods, our statistics are based on a numerical scale of 100. For example, 100 represents the average cost of food, transportation, and goods in the U.S. Any number higher than 100 is considered more expensive, and any number below 100 is considered more affordable in comparison to other U.S. cities.

10. Grand Rapids, Michigan

A view of Grand River in Grand Rapids, Michigan

Only 25 miles away from Lake Michigan, Grand Rapids is home to the Mayweather boxing family. Here you can find a zoological garden, a museum on our 38th President, and one of the largest urban historic districts in the country. If that doesn’t tempt you, you might be interested to know that Grand Rapids features some of the best tea and beer in the country as well.

Food CostsTransportation CostsMiscellaneous Goods CostsCheap Things to Do
102.7103.790Brewed For Film series and Gerald R. Ford Museum

For a couple bucks, you can watch a movie and enjoy a classic film along with a classic beer at the Brewed For Film showings. On your road trip, visit Michigan’s second largest city for a good time on the cheap.

9. Camden, South Carolina

A horse-drawn wagon in Camden, South Carolina

Our #9 destination is South Carolina’s oldest inland city: Camden. Founded in 1733, Camden is a long-standing piece of American history, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t thriving with new activities. Every spring, about 71,000 people attend the Carolina Cup steeplechase horse race, so grab your sun hat and spend an afternoon cheering on your favorites.

Food CostsTransportation CostsMiscellaneous Goods CostsCheap Things to Do
103.48690Historic Camden Revolutionary War Site and The National Steeplechase Museum

If you’re visiting there during the fall, you can see the Colonial Cup winner race. For a more laid-back day outdoors, you can visit any number of parks and recreation areas for free or take a guided tour of the city’s historical landmarks.

8. Green Bay, Wisconsin

A view from the water of Green Bay, Wisconsin

On the west side of Lake Michigan lies Green Bay, home of the Green Bay Packers. This vibrant city offers an array of activities that will keep you and your friends occupied.

Food CostsTransportation CostsMiscellaneous Goods CostsCheap Things to Do
88.8100.297.7Bay Beach Amusement Park and Captain’s Walk Wine Tasting

True to its name, the city’s most beautiful feature is its many bays. You can soak up the summer sun at these lakeside beaches. At Bay Beach Amusement Park, you’ll find roller coasters, rides, concessions, and a large pavilion where events are commonly held. For more dignified amusement, you can visit Captain Walk’s Winery where daily wine tastings and weekend winery tours offer a relaxing good time.

7. Erie, Pennsylvania

Sunset on the water in Erie, Pennsylvania

Sandwiched between Cleveland and Buffalo, Erie is the cheapest Great Lakes city on our list. You can explore a plethora of breweries, wineries, and nature trails, but what really sets it apart is the Edinboro Highland Games, a 4-day event in September that brings the traditions of Scotland to Pennsylvania.

Food CostsTransportation CostsMiscellaneous Goods CostsCheap Things to Do
96.498.488.4Edinboro Highland Games and Presque Isle

This northeastern city is filled with many sights and sounds to explore, so make sure you check out Erie on your road trip.

6. Hickory, North Carolina

A street in Hickory, North Carolina

Only an hour’s drive from Charlotte, Hickory blends its past with its present. It holds on to its traditions such as being the home to the Hickory Motor Speedway for 65 years. It’s among the longest continuously operating speedways in the U.S.

Food CostsTransportation CostsMiscellaneous Goods CostsCheap Things to Do
101.186.593Catawba Science Center and Hickory Motor Speedway

If you’d like a quieter place to explore, you can visit the Catawba Science Center, which has both a planetarium and aquarium. This interactive learning space has been delighting children and adults since the early 80s. Make sure you stop in Hickory and enjoy the fun-loving atmosphere.

5. Memphis, Tennessee

A downtown street in Memphis, Tennessee

Located right next to the Mississippi River, Memphis earns our #5 spot because it’s just a rockin’ place to visit on a budget. While the King’s home of Graceland is a costly tourist attraction, visiting Beale Street, the birthplace of Rock ‘n’ Roll, isn’t.

Food CostsTransportation CostsMiscellaneous Goods CostsCheap Things to Do
92.791.595.2Beale Street and Dixon Gallery & Gardens

There are also many cheap activities such as strolling through an art gallery or going on a free paranormal investigation in this city. Memphis is an American treasure, well worth visiting, even if you’re on a budget.

4. Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Sioux Falls is a lovely city that gets its name from the waterfalls of the Big Sioux River. Its 123-acre park allows visitors to walk to the water’s edge and experience the beauty created by water and gravity.

Food CostsTransportation CostsMiscellaneous Goods CostsCheap Things to Do
91.586.9100.6Falls Park and USS South Dakota Battleship Memorial

While at Sioux Falls, you can also visit a memorial museum dedicated to the USS South Dakota. The concrete outline of the WWII ship rises out of the grass and is a popular tourist spot because admission is free. If you’re seeking a cheap road trip up north, Sioux Falls is the destination for you.

3. Roanoke, Virginia

A view from the sky of Roanoke, Virginia

The only thing disappearing from Roanoke will be your desire to leave the city. The largest city in southwest Virginia, Roanoke is home to the Virginia Museum of Transportation, which houses dozens of stunning railroad locomotives.

Food CostsTransportation CostsMiscellaneous Goods CostsCheap Things to Do
89.791.194.8 Virginia Museum of Transportation and Community Arboretum

To get more in tune with nature, the Community Arboretum has 2 acres of greenery for your enjoyment. During your road trip, be sure to drive down a part of Virginia’s 469-mile long Blue Ridge Parkway, commonly dubbed “America’s Favorite Drive.”

2. Knoxville, Tennessee

The skyline of Knoxville Tennessee

Nearing the top of our list is Knoxville, where you’ll find the University of Tennessee’s main campus. Knoxville’s Market Square has attracted shoppers since the 1860s, so you’ll have lots to entertain you in this bustling hub. Concerts happen frequently on the Square, where the jazz is free and dancing is encouraged.

Food CostsTransportation CostsMiscellaneous Goods CostsCheap Things to Do
91.484.295.1Jazz on the Square

Knoxville takes great pride in the history and heritage of the South. You can visit a fair number of Confederate museums, memorials, and historical sites — free of charge.

1. Round Rock, Texas

The round rock that Rock, Texas was named afterTexas not only does things bigger and better — it also does them cheaper (if you know where you go). Round Rock, Texas, tops our list because of the many low-cost activities available. The round rock jutting out of the water is a sightseeing favorite in Memorial Park, a perfect place for a picnic. You’ll find parks and nature trails galore, but also more unique destinations.

Food CostsTransportation CostsMiscellaneous Goods CostsCheap Things to Do
81.987.697.6Rock’n River Family Aquatic Center and Play for All Park

The Rock’n River Family Aquatic Center is simply fantastic and quite cheap. If you’re travelling with children, take them to the Play for All Park where they can enjoy a playscape, sandbox, and swings that are accessible to everyone. With cheap attractions and an even cheaper cost of living, it’s no surprise that Round Rock, just 25 minutes from Austin, is #1 on our cheapest road trip destinations list.

Next Exit: An Affordable Road Trip

With this list of destinations, you can’t help but have a good time while staying on budget. From Michigan to Texas, these roadside gems are sure to make an impression. Wherever you go, do your research and make a plan to save money while on your road trip.

Next time you’re cruising along the highway, enjoying the cool breeze through your open window, consider making a detour to any of these 10 cheapest cities for a perfect rest stop. Safe travels!

Photos courtesy of atxinjurylawyers.com, huffingtonpost.com, tntrailsandbyways.com, tripadvisor.com, wikipedia.com, prevedi-domani.com, ashevilleguidebook.com, conversationprints.com, gardenista.com and blogsouthwest.com.