Do you desperately need to get away and go somewhere? You might have daydreams of exotic tropical cruises or sightseeing in Europe, but your tight-budget reality may demand a dirt-cheap vacay.
Luckily for you and your wallet, the U.S. has many fun and affordable places to visit, maybe one that's just a short road trip away.
Check out America's top low-cost travel destinations, according to U.S. News. Its ranking is based on an analysis of opinions from experts and readers.
17. Biloxi, Mississippi
When you think of gambling destinations, Las Vegas or Atlantic City might come to mind first. But Biloxi, on the U.S. Gulf Coast, has no less than a dozen casinos right along the water that offer cheap hotel accommodations and entertainment.
Grown-ups can bar-hop down Fishbone Alley, visit a brewery or take a tasting tour at Boggy Creek Vineyard. For family fun, there are plenty of free parks and museums, and admission to the popular Biloxi Lighthouse is just $5 for adults, $2 for kids.
16. Oklahoma City
Oklahoma City is nicknamed “The Big Friendly,” and visitors will find it budget-friendly. Historic old Route 66 runs through the city and is dotted with landmarks and museums you can visit for free, including the Oklahoma State Capitol.
Other interesting and relatively inexpensive attractions include the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum and the American Banjo Museum. Kids will enjoy Frontier City, a Wild West-themed water park. Look for coupon codes online.
15. Branson, Missouri
Never heard of Branson? Well, how about the Titanic? Branson has a museum built like a replica of the “unsinkable” ship, where you and your significant other can pose for once-in-a-lifetime photos and see actual items saved from the wreckage.
But your kids may not enjoy listening to Celine Dion on repeat or watching you get teary about some guy named Jack. Make it up to them with a visit to the World’s Largest Toy Museum or one of the many amusement parks in the area.
14. Daytona, Florida
Fans of NASCAR will already know that this Florida beach town is the home to the Daytona International Speedway. Racing tickets aren’t exactly cheap, though Groupon usually has good deals.
If you would rather take it slow while you’re on vacation, soak up some sun with a good book on Daytona Beach. When you’re done, you can visit one of the area's many beautiful museums or see a live show at the Daytona Playhouse.
13. Raleigh, North Carolina
You'll find so much to do in Raleigh that you won’t be able to accomplish it all in one trip.
North Carolina's capital city has several free museums, including the North Carolina Museum of History, and museums that do charge admission all tend to have free or discount days.
If you’re ready to spend a little bit of cash, you could see a game or concert at the PNC Arena or shop at the ginormous Crabtree Valley Mall.
12. Dallas-Forth Worth, Texas
The Dallas area offers big-city attractions at small-town prices. If you stay in the heart of Dallas, you can hop on a free trolley to get around town. The city also is home to the Texas State Fair, JFK historic sites and the football Cowboys.
If you'd rather see authentic cowboy history, visit the Fort Worth Stockyards. You can experience free historic demonstrations of cattle-driving, a Wild West show and a “cow camp” where kids and adults can learn to be cowboys and cowgirls.
11. Jacksonville, Florida
Jacksonville is a sprawling city with so many affordable attractions, you’ll have plenty to keep you entertained after you’re done tanning in the North Florida sun.
The Cummer Museum has beautiful artwork and a lovely outdoor garden. Craft beer lovers will find multiple breweries, and kids will love the Jacksonville Zoo and Sweet Pete's, a candy shop featured on CNBC's "The Profit."
Hotels offer deals for under $100.
10. Gatlinburg, Tennessee
At the gateway to awesome Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Gatlinburg is a city rich in natural beauty. But if you have kids who'll yawn at the scenery, there are quirky museums, a chair lift ride and even a mountain coaster.
Grownups will enjoy the hiking trails, skiing (in season), whisky distilleries, breweries and wineries. On Airbnb, you'll find dozens of options to rent an entire house or apartment — maybe even a romantic log cabin — for less than $100 per night.
Within its city limits, Phoenix offers several legendary golf courses and interesting sights, such as the historic Tovrea Castle and the odd and man-made Mystery Castle. The Desert Botanical Garden is a gorgeous tribute to the local landscape.
A budget traveler can rely on Phoenix's decent public transportation — Valley Metro rail and bus. And, you'll find numerous hotel options for under $100 per night. Use a hotel rewards credit card to rack up points from your stay.
8. Salt Lake City
As the name suggests, one of the biggest attractions when you visit Utah's capital city is the Great Salt Lake, which spans an impressive 1,700 square miles. Admission to Great Salt Lake State Park costs just $3 per car.
The Utah Museum of Fine Arts and the Hogle Zoo are worth visiting, too, and are fairly inexpensive, and if you go in the winter, you'll find great ski resorts in the surrounding area. An adult lift ticket can cost as little as $39.
7. Williamsburg, Virginia
For history buffs looking for an All-American vacation, Colonial Williamsburg allows you to step back in time to the 1600s. This family-friendly village offers both guided and self-guided tours, plus authentic entertainment and food.
The Busch Gardens theme park, also in Williamsburg, has amazing roller coasters for adrenaline junkies. Plus, you could take a drive and see the free national landmarks in Washington, D.C, a city that's budget-friendly — even when the politics get nasty!
6. Memphis, Tennessee
Music lovers looking for a cheap vacation should head to Memphis. You can visit the Beale Street blues clubs and Graceland, the home of the late, great Elvis Presley.
Tours inside Graceland can get pricey, but a little-known tip is that if you show up between 7:30 and 8:30 a.m., entry to the outdoor meditation garden is absolutely free. You can see the exterior of the house and pose for pictures.
Memphis has tons of free things to do, like musical performances at Overton Park, the Art Museum of the University of Memphis, and the Pink Palace Museum, which doesn't charge admission Tuesday afternoons.
5. Albuquerque, New Mexico
You may want to time it just right if you visit Albuquerque so you can take in one of its spectacular annual events, like the hot air balloon festival or the Native American Gathering of Nations Powwow.
If you’re a fan of Breaking Bad, you could take a free self-guided tour of locations from the TV show, such as the local house that doubled as Walter White's home (above). Lonely Planet has a good do-it-yourself tour connecting locations with episodes from BB.
In Albuquerque, it's not too difficult finding a hotel room for $50 a night.
4. Tucson, Arizona
If you've been through a rough winter and want a warm vacation retreat, don’t head to Florida with the rest of the snowbirds. Go west to Tucson for its sunshine and temperatures that never dip below 60s.
You'll find free or cheap historic sites, museums and parks (including iconic Saguaro National Park), plus delicious authentic Mexican food. There's even a movie set called “Old Tucson” that will transport you back to the Old West.
When you tool around Tucson, be sure to use a gas credit card to earn cash back from your fill-ups.
3. Las Vegas
Staying at a casino can be very cheap in Las Vegas, because those establishments earn most of their money from gambling. Rooms at Circus Circus start at just $21 per night, and kids will love the hotel's theme park rides and free circus show.
If you can restrain yourself from gambling, it’s possible to get away with a very cheap Vegas vacation. There are loads of free attractions, including art galleries and the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop, featured on the History channel's Pawn Stars.
2. San Antonio
San Antonio is where you go to remember the Alamo. The historic mission offers guided tours, historic reenactments and occasional lectures and book signings — and admission is free.
The city's famed River Walk is lined with shops and restaurants, and you can take a boat tour to enjoy the sights. San Antonio has several gorgeous luxury hotels, but if you’re on a budget Airbnb is probably your best option.
1. The Grand Canyon
The best deal on this list is a road trip to the stunning Grand Canyon to experience one of the most beautiful natural attractions in all the world. You can enter the park on a weekly pass for only $30 per vehicle.
If you’re on a serious budget, you can visit on any of the free entrance days. Overnight campground rates range from just $12 to $50 per night, and there are showers, laundry facilities and dog kennels available for small fees.