So you want some serious vacation time, but need to stick to a student-friendly budget? Don’t worry — we’re here to help with 10 awesome, cheap summer vacation ideas for students.
From staying on home soil and exploring some of the United States’ incredible national parks and buzzing cities, through to budget-friendly vacation destinations abroad, here are the best cheap summer vacations for students:
1. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Home to some of the most colorful scenery in the US, Yellowstone National Park is a stunning vacation destination and a great spot to visit with a group of friends. The park spans across 2.2 million acres and is a nature-lover’s paradise, filled with mountains, geysers, waterfalls, and colorful hot springs. You can save money by camping at one of the many campgrounds in the park. Showers and toilets are usually included in the price. Bring enough food and drink supplies to float your trip — restaurants in the park can be expensive.
2. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
The Grand Canyon is one of the most picturesque destinations in the world, and is worthy of a spot on any bucket list. It’s home to stunning red rock formations, turquoise waterfalls, and lush forests. If you want to splash around and really get in the summer mood, take a dip in the turquoise waters of Havasu Falls. The best way to experience the Grand Canyon is to go camping, where you can really feel like you’re ‘at one’ with mighty mother nature. The Grand Canyon is home to several campsites, all of which are budget-friendly. If you’re also keen to extend your trip and see some more of Arizona on a budget, check out the best spots to go camping in Arizona.
Georgia is a state filled with historic cities, sandy beaches, green forests, and mysterious mountains. Whether you want to explore the cobblestone streets of the city of Savannah, relax on a sandy beach at Cumberland Island, or go hiking in the Tallulah Gorge State Park, there are so many things to see and do in the state. Georgia is home to plenty of camping spots, cheap motels, and hostels, so it’s a great place for a student vacation.
4. Portland, Oregon
Portland, Oregon, is one of the US’ most well-known ‘hipster cities’ thanks to its excellent food and beer scene, as well as its large creative community. Portland is a great place for a city vacation with a group of friends as you can explore the cultural activities during the day and party at night. Prices in Portland are decent and there’s a good hostel scene too.
Want to go abroad? Why not go to Iceland! Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital city, is just a 5-hour and 40-minute flight from New York and you can find cheap flights with airlines such as WOW, Iceland Air, and Norwegian Air. Iceland is one of the most amazing vacation destinations in Europe. In summer, you can experience almost 24-hours of daylight, relax in natural thermal hot springs, and explore some of the country’s national parks. There are so many amazing things to do in Iceland, you’re sure to find inspiration here. Iceland has a good hostel trail and a good bus system, making it a great budget vacation option.
6. Key West, Florida
If your idea of summer vacation is to relax on tropical beaches, look no further than Key West, Florida. While you’re there you can visit famous author Ernest Hemingway’s former home, kick back with frozen margaritas on white sand beaches, or go snorkeling in tropical waters. While summer is the peak time to visit, if you book ahead of time you can find large home rentals, which are ideal for a group of friends.
7. Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico
If you want to experience an amazing new culture, why not head south to Mexico. There are cheap flights from many of the main US and European cities to Mexico’s Cancun airport, where visitors can explore the Mayan ruins, the street food scene, and the Caribbean beaches of the Yucatan Peninsula. You can keep your daily vacation budget down by staying in hostels, eating street food, and catching buses between major destinations. (Read our post on 10 Genius Travel Hacks for Students for more great tips for traveling on a budget).
8. New Orleans, Louisiana
New Orleans is one of the most awesome cities in the US. It’s home to history, jazz, and a melting point of African, American, and French cultures. It’s a great budget destination thanks to its excellent hostel scene (check out New Orleans’ best hostels) and bars with great drink promotions. If you want to soak-in culture during the day, the historic French Quarter is a really nice place to stroll around.
9. San Diego, California
If all you want to do is kick back on a beach, play volleyball, and surf, San Diego is the place for you. San Diego has 30 beaches that are open to the public and is home to affordable hostels, plus tons of home rentals and campsites. When you want a break from the beach, the city’s free activities include strolling around the historic Gaslamp Quarter, which was originally built in the 1860s, or relaxing in San Diego’s impressive Balboa Park, which is the largest urban cultural park in America.
10. Miami, Florida
While the thought of Miami might conjure up images of expensive parties and high-fliers splashing their cash, you can actually explore the city without breaking the bank. Discover the city’s beautiful art deco historic district or vibrant communities such as Little Havana, or simply unwind on one of the many public beaches. You can also find plenty of street eats and hostels — all of which won’t break the bank.
About Carmela Rodriguez: Carmela is a journalist from London and contributing author at AlltheRooms, the world’s first vacation rental search engine. She’s traveled from Asia to South America, where she got (temporarily) lost in the Peruvian Amazon. She quit the rainy UK and moved to Medellin, Colombia, where she has lived for two years.