Let’s chat about traveling on a budget. I’ve been very fortunate to be able to travel to quite a few places, especially over the last 10 years. And trust me, most of those years I had to find cheap ways to get places. I need to break this up into parts or we’ll have a mini book on our hands. I’m going to start with a 3 part series. Here’s Part 1:
If you haven’t been to Memphis yet, what are you doing? So you’ve been to Tennessee? Memphis ain’t Tennessee (well, technically, but it’s a completely different vibe!).
We went fall of 2014. So a few years ago, but I’m sure not much has changed. We ended up stopping and staying in Memphis on long weekend to Oxford, MS to see Alabama vs. Ole Miss (we lost—I’m never going to Oxford again.) Everything before the football game was great!
I don’t know if you guys know, but I love Elvis. Always have. So, I HAD to go to Graceland. You get to see Elvis’ house (including “the Jungle Room”), all his fabulous costumes, and so much more. Tours last on average about 2 hours and will set you back $41. Not bad to see the King if you ask me.
Memphis also has Beale St., which is essentially like a Bourbon St. (New Orleans) or Sixth St. (Austin). Tons of music, bars, and FOOD!
Speaking of food, let’s talk barbeque. I feel like I’m pretty knowledgeable about this topic. Texas—you do brisket well, but you don’t know delicious barbeque like Memphis. Of course we went to the famed Rendezvous and it was everything I dreamed about and more! I was completely worried that it was going to be overhyped. Yeah, definitely not. The ribs just fell off the bone. And as a sauce girl, I was worried that I wouldn’t love it with just the dry rub. I’m pretty sure I just left the sauce to the side! The ribs weren’t even my favorite part. I could have taken home a tub of their cole slaw.
As far as accommodations, there are hotels everywhere! Just do your research. Memphis has some pretty sketchy areas.
For all my DFW friends, Memphis is only 8 hours and you get to drive through scenic Arkansas (which was WAY prettier than I expected.) I definitely foresee returning to Memphis soon!
San Antonio, TX
We went to San Antonio at the end of March this year for a long weekend. It was our little one’s first trip and she did phenomenal! It’s about a 3.5-4 hour drive from the DFW area and there is plenty to see along the way. You can take a stop in Waco or even Austin.
I booked a cozy, AirBNB bungalow on Jackson St. It was a real gem. I highly recommend the place we stayed. There were plenty of options when we looked and all completely reasonable. I think it would have been even more reasonable if we waited a couple weekends. We were there when a few schools were on Spring Break.
The River Walk was absolutely beautiful! I would say that it’s a bit of a tourist trap. The restaurants and bars can be pretty pricey. We did a river boat cruise around sunset. It was perfect weather, just be careful where you select your seat. You could find yourself with sun in your eyes. Our guide was knowledgeable, but I didn’t realize that the ride was linear—you go down and come back, so he only talks about one side of the river at a time. Overall, I think it was totally worth the $12 price tag. The tours are run through Go Rio. You can buy online or walk up and buy them. We waited and it wasn’t a big deal.
Restaurants! There are so many great places to eat in San Antonio. They have incredible Mexican and Tex-Mex and a variety of other cuisines. Don’t feel pressured to eat at every single top restaurant on Yelp, there are plenty of choices. We even ordered Uber Eats one night!
I’ve also never been to SeaWorld and I wanted to see the Killer Whales. I thought my little one would love it too since she loves our local aquarium. The shows were unbelievable. They even had a kiddie section with rides and a splash pad. We definitely needed more than one day at SeaWorld. Just remember, tickets are pretty expensive here. I loved it, but it’s not a necessity for a good time in San Antonio.
There’s also a Six Flags in San Antonio. Just remember, you can use your Six Flags Season Pass at any Six Flags location. This can definitely result in some huge savings for your trip!
If you like shopping, there’s also the outlet mall in San Marcos and it is crazy good. I did NOT plan enough time for shopping. I did manage to make it by the Tory Burch outlet and got a pretty good birthday present—thanks mom!
Sports fans, don’t forget the Spurs if that’s something on your bucket list. I don’t know how much longer Gregg Popovich will be coaching so you better hurry down!
I definitely need to plan a return trip ASAP!
Phoenix is one of my all-time favorite places. It’s a lot like the metroplex with some major cities being really close together: Phoenix, Tempe, and Scottsdale. There’s plenty to do with shopping and food everywhere!
It’s also one of the best cities for Sports Fans. They have professional teams in all 4 major sports. Phoenix is also the location for Spring Training for the MLB—keep in mind that means that hotel rates skyrocket during that time!
The cheapest time to visit is between May and September as most of the “snowbirds”, retired folk from the north that come to warmer climates in the South, have gone back to their summer homes.
Now of course, May-September is going to be hotter than the devil’s kitchen. It gets up to 120 degrees there! Everyone is going to say “it’s dry heat, so it’s not that bad.” Well excuse me, hot is hot to me! I would just stay away from the July-August range. Unless you plan on spending your time at the hotel pool.
I would say the best weather for Phoenix is January/February. If you can find an awesome hotel deal, I would go then. Its 70 degrees and beautiful!
The last time I stayed I went I stayed in Tempe. I really enjoyed it. Lots of shopping and restaurants close by! Just a fair warning, it is overrun with college kids because of Arizona State.
Gulf Shores, AL
If you’re looking for that beach vacation, here’s your spot! Alabama’s coast is just as beautiful as the rest of the Florida Gulf, but way cheaper! It’s also a lot less overrun with tourists. Don’t get me wrong. It can get pretty busy during the summer and spring break, it’s just not Panama City Beach or Destin.
The last time I went with my family I found a condo on AirBNB for pretty reasonable. Remember that weekends and holidays are going to be more expensive. Try to avoid Spring Break (all of March) and post-graduation (early May).
You can make a beach vacation pretty affordable if you rent a house, condo, or hotel room that has a small kitchen. Growing up I can always remember the first day going to Wal-Mart to pick up “supplies.” Milk, Cereal, Sandwich Stuff, and Water. Sometimes hotels even have grills on the beach so you can do your own beach cookout!
U.S. beaches can be pretty expensive overall. Check out Part 2: International Travel for more beach suggestions.
If you’re looking for that “Pacific Northwest” vibe for an affordable rate, try Boise! I know it sounds crazy, but it’s truly beautiful. Now, you aren’t going to get to see the cliffs off the Pacific Ocean, but Boise has a beautiful landscape. The mountains are just gorgeous.
If you’re the outdoorsy type, I’m sure there is a plethora of hiking, camping, fishing, and more in Boise. I don’t have any experience with that as I am not “outdoorsy.” I do enjoy a casual stroll in the mountains or around a lake though.
As far as dining and bars, I would say that Boise is on the up and up and is trying to be the new “Portland.” The seafood is absolutely amazing! And they have some pretty delicious craft beer if that’s your thing.
If you’re a Sports Fan, you absolutely have to go by Boise State’s iconic blue field. It’s truly something to see.
The hotels are cheap and Boise is a smaller city so getting around is really not a big deal. All you’re looking for is that really good deal on a flight. There are very few direct flights to Boise. You may have a layover in Salt Lake City or Denver.
Be careful the time of year that you travel. Boise does get snow and ice. I would avoid December through March.
I was super surprised by Lexington. The food was really good and there was quite a bit I wanted to do. I stayed downtown right near Rupp Arena. Now, I was only in town for a short period of time and was on business, so I didn’t get to experience a whole lot.
However, even with the short time I spent there, I know I want to go back.
If you’re a Sports Fan, of course there’s UK Basketball. And horse races! Keeneland track hosted the Breeder’s Cup Classic! American Pharoah, Triple Crown Winner, actually won it! I’ve always wanted to go to the Kentucky Derby in Louisville, maybe this would make a good first stop.
For the foodies, there are plenty of great restaurant here. Especially if you enjoy the southern classics. I had chicken & waffles with pecan maple syrup that I still want to go back and get! Lexington also has quite a few breweries and distilleries.
If you really want to make a trip out of it, you can always drive up to Louisville which is about an hour and half away. Louisville is definitely on my bucket list to visit too! It would make for a really great long weekend trip.
Thanks for sticking around this long if you made it to the end! I just wanted to ensure a broad range of places. Honestly, if you go at the right time, and find a good deal on a flight. Most places can be pretty affordable. We found a great deal on a flight and a hotel right near Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco!
We also had a trip to Boston that I thought was pretty affordable as well. The friends we went with got a ridiculous deal on the flight. We weren’t so lucky, but as far as food and getting around, I think it was reasonable.
Other possible destinations:
- New Orleans
Leave in the comments below where you’re going on your next trip! Thanks for stopping by! Make sure to subscribe to our newsletter for more Sippy Cups and Mimosas!