Published on March 4, 2019

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Photography by Chris Murray

Reports detailing trending travel destinations may be great at inspiring wanderlust, however, more often than not, the locales on the list aren’t super budget-friendly. It’s lovely that Paris continues to be a favorite (who saw that coming?), but it’s hardly the picture of a quick, easy weekend retreat. To provide a more realistic survey of the travel scene, Money magazine turned to cold, hard data. In the outlet’s 2019 Best in Travel guide, researchers looked at the cities offering the best bang for your buck. If you’re starting to plan your summer escapades, the list is worth examining.

Money looked to over 43,000 data points from a wide array of sources ranging from TripAdvisor to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The comprehensive guide examined over 750 destinations and whittled it down to the top 20. With things like airfare, meal costs, and hotel pricing heavily weighed, travelers can rest assured that each place that made Money’s list is a great value. The best part? Several of these destinations have an under-the-radar feel to them. You won’t find tourists crowding every square inch.

Ahead are the top five destinations in the US that will satiate both your wanderlust and your wallet.

1. Jekyll Island, Georgia

With airfare averaging in at $300 and hotel stays averaging at $242 a night, this tiny island off the coast of Georgia is a great option for someone looking for a beach getaway. It’s prime for the outdoor lover, given both the availability of beaches and hiking trails. It’s also prime for Walking Dead fans—the series was shot in part on this island.

Don’t miss: Take a break from the sandy beaches to wander the 240-acre historic district and admire the architecture.

2. Ponce Inlet, Florida

A tiny beach town promising white sand beaches, Ponce Inlet is an even more budget-friendly beach getaway: Money reports an Airbnb price drop of 24 percent between 2017 and 2018. Aside for relatively low prices, the town is also known for its efforts in marine wildlife, and you might even spot a dolphin or two during your stay.

Don’t miss: $6.95 will get you into the bright red Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse & Museum. Both a photo opp and an architectural feat, it offers great views of the surrounding water.

3. Las Cruces, New Mexico

If you’re after a different kind of sandy experience, head to Las Cruces. The dunes at the White Sands National Monument are like something you’d find in a desert and are worth a trip in their own right. With hotel stays averaging at $113 a night and a decrease in average airfare by 17 percent, this southwestern destination should be on your must-see list.

Don’t miss: The Farmers and Crafts Market of Las Cruces happens twice a week (on Wednesday and Saturday) and is a great opportunity to pick up unique, traditionally crafted pieces from local artisans. After you find a clay vessel or colorful textile for your apartment, peruse the stalls to sample some seasonal food too.

4. Stowe, Vermont

It’s already March, but winter weather doesn’t seem to be slowing down soon. Spring for a $369 airplane ticket (the average price, according to Money) and hit the slopes in Stowe to take advantage of the cold. The “Ski Capital of the East” is super picturesque and definitely worth it for any skiing aficionados looking to capitalize on the season while it lasts.

Don’t miss: Unwind after a day in the snow at Cork Wine Bar & Market. Possibly the chicest take on apres-ski we can imagine, the cozy spot offers natural wines, ciders, and a plethora of cheese and charcuterie boards.

5. San Antonio, Texas

Aside from architecture and history, Texas’s second-biggest city is also a foodie capital. It was made a UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy in 2017 and now offers over 3,000 restaurants. With three-course meals averaging $35, plane tickets around $310, and hotels hovering around $209 a night, you won’t have to splurge to get the most out of this southern city.

Don’t miss: While the tourist-magnet River Walk is definitely worth seeing if you’re there, turn your attention to more under-the-radar spots in San Antonio. If you make your way a little farther down the River Walk, you’ll stumble upon Pearl Brewery, which is now not so much a brewery as it is a marketplace. Check out The Tiny Finch for decorative giftables and Ten Thousand Villages for globally inspired treats.

See more travel news:
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