Traveling can be expensive; off-season trips are a budget-friendly solution for those looking to save on their adventures. Off-season travel offers considerable savings on accommodations and attractions and provides unique — and often, less-crowded — experiences.
To find the cheapest cities for off-season travel, MoneyGeek analyzed off-season airfare, hotel rates, and restaurant dining costs for the 50 largest U.S. cities and found that winter travelers can find great deals in Las Vegas or Oakland, while summer travelers might find Mesa, Arizona, to be a budget-friendly destination.
- A one-day, off-season vacation to the 50 largest U.S. cities costs $970, on average. During the summer, Mesa, Arizona, stands out as the most affordable place to travel overall, with costs amounting to just $528 — nearly half the national average.
- Western cities have some of the best airfare deals during the off-season. In the summer, Mesa, Arizona, offers round-trip flights for $342. For winter travel, both Las Vegas, Nevada, and Oakland, California, have wallet-friendly, round-trip airfare prices at $540 and $552, respectively.
- Texas and Oklahoma offer the most budget-friendly hotel options for vacationers in the off-season. In the winter months, Houston, Texas, averages hotel rates of $68 per night, while Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, isn’t far behind at $72. For fall travelers, San Antonio, Texas, and Tulsa, Oklahoma, have nightly rates averaging $85 and $88, respectively.
- Columbus, Ohio, presents an affordable option for fall travelers. It holds the third spot for least expensive overall off-season travel costs and claims the No.5 lowest off-season airfare among major cities — all adding up to an estimated getaway cost of just $749.
- Airports in major cities typically charge $780 for a round-trip ticket, but for those flying to Meadows Field in Bakersfield, California, the fare climbs to $1,149 — 50% more than the standard fare.
Cheapest cities for off-season travel
A typical one-day off-season getaway to any of the 50 largest U.S. cities costs $970, factoring in average round-trip airfare, hotel, and dining expenses.
For summer adventurers unfazed by high temperatures, Mesa, Arizona, is a wallet-friendly destination with total travel costs of just $528, 55% less than the national average. Round-trip flights to this destination average $342, while hotel stays cost an estimated $112 per night.
Winter travelers can enjoy significant savings in Las Vegas, Nevada, or Oakland, California, with both destinations costing under $770. Round-trip tickets average $540 and $552, respectively — the most affordable airfare among the cities included in our study. Hotel stays in both cities also average a reasonably priced $137 and $140 per night.
For those seeking a lower-cost fall destination, Columbus, Ohio, is worth considering. With an estimated total travel cost of $749, including $596 for a round-trip flight and $108 per night for hotel stays, Columbus ranks as the No.3 most budget-friendly major city for off-season travel costs and No.5 for off-season airfare.
Most affordable cities for off-season hotel stays
Off-season hotel stays in major cities usually cost an average of $130 per night. However, savvy travelers can save significantly by visiting Texas and Oklahoma in the fall or winter. In the colder months, Houston, Texas, and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, offer hotel rates averaging $68 and $72 per night, respectively — that’s nearly 50% in savings compared to the national average for major cities. During the fall, San Antonio, Texas, and Tulsa, Oklahoma, provide nightly rates averaging around $85 and $88, respectively, which is still a significant discount of around 34%.
Most expensive cities for off-season travel
While off-season travel is more affordable in many places, it can still be expensive in certain cities. For example, Bakersfield, California, is the most expensive city for off-season winter getaways, with an average total travel cost of $1,342. Round-trip airfare there is the highest among all major cities at $1,150, nearly 50% more than the major city average of $780. While Bakersfield consistently has the priciest airfare year-round, opting for winter travel can provide a discount of roughly 10%, translating to a savings of about $268 on round-trip flights.
Detroit in the winter and Boston in the fall also rank among the top five most expensive cities for off-season travel, with hotel rates sitting at $334 and $258 per night during these seasons, respectively — significantly more than the average rate of $130 per night seen across all cities studied.
To identify the most affordable off-season U.S. travel destinations, MoneyGeek analyzed off-season airfare, hotel, and food cost data for the 50 largest cities in the country.
MoneyGeek analyzed airfare data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, focusing on the quarter with the highest number of off-season months. For cities lacking airports, we utilized data from the nearest major airport. Our airfare data, inflation-adjusted to Q1-2023, was collected for Q1-2023, Q4-2022, Q3-2022, and Q2-2022.
Additionally, we analyzed the top 25 lowest nightly hotel rates per city during each city’s off-season months on Booking.com, averaging the results. Our search filters included a Saturday night stay during off-season months, a minimum three-star hotel rating, and the exclusion of aparthotels, a type of accommodation that blends the features of a hotel with the features of an apartment.
Using food cost data from numbeo.com, we analyzed the cost of an affordable restaurant meal in different major cities. It’s important to note that this data isn’t specifically focused on off-season months — like hotel and airfare prices — and only refers to the most recent available updated data.
To determine the total off-season travel cost per city, we added the expenses of round-trip airfare, one night’s hotel accommodation, and the cost of three daily meals from inexpensive restaurants. We ranked cities in order of least expensive total travel costs to most expensive total travel costs.
Stacker is a news organization that produces and distributes data journalism to the world’s news organizations. Founded in 2017, Stacker combines data analysis with rich editorial context, drawing on authoritative sources and subject matter experts to drive storytelling. This article has been republished pursuant to a CC BY-NC 4.0 License.