The least and most affordable places to spend your holiday vacation


As the song goes, there’s no place like home for the holidays. But if you prefer to get away, there are plenty of cheap holiday trips you can take. 

To help you pinpoint where to spend your Thanksgiving or Christmas without breaking your budget, GOBankingRates looked at six factors in popular destinations: the cost of hotels, holiday flights, food, drinks, transportation and entertainment. Read on to learn about the best and worst places to visit during the holidays.  

LEAST AFFORDABLE PLACES TO VISIT DURING THE HOLIDAYS 

 If you’re looking for cheap Christmas vacations or Thanksgiving getaways, cross these cities off your list of prospective destinations. We found that visiting these places can put a big dent in your budget during the holidays.  

HONOLULU  

Honolulu is one of the most expensive tourist destinations in the U.S. Winter is the peak tourist season, making it one of the least affordable places to visit during the holidays. During Christmas, the average nightly hotel rate is $241 — the third-highest among the most expensive places in our rankings.  

Flights aren’t cheap, either, but you’ll actually find lower fares during Christmas than Thanksgiving.  

KIHEI, HAWAII  

This city on the southwest shore of the Hawaiian island of Maui offers great beaches and surfing. It’s not a cheap place to visit for the holidays, however.  

Lodging is especially expensive during Christmas, when the average nightly hotel rate jumps to $362 from $190 during Thanksgiving. In fact, Kihei has the second-highest lodging costs during the holidays in our rankings.  

You’ll also have to shell out more for food here than in most other cities on our list. At $44, the average daily cost of meals makes Kihei the fourth-least affordable on our list.  

SYDNEY  

Christmas might seem like an ideal time to visit Sydney because it’s actually summer in this Australian city south of the equator. But December is peak tourist season here, which means prices are higher and crowds are bigger.  

The cost of traveling to Sydney is what puts the city among the most expensive holiday destinations on our list. The average fare for a flight from Atlanta during Christmas is $2,666, with the average Christmas flights from Los Angeles costing $1,609.  

PARK CITY, UTAH  

If you want to visit a world-class ski resort during the holidays, Park City, Utah, might be at the top of your list. Winter is peak season in this haven for skiers, who relish the city’s annual snowfall of 300 inches to 400 inches. But if you are looking for an affordable Christmas vacation, Park City isn’t it.  

Flights to nearby Salt Lake City are actually cheaper than flights to most other places in our rankings. However, lodging costs can put a big dent in your travel budget if you plan to visit Park City during Christmas.  

The average nightly hotel rate jumps from $116 around Thanksgiving to $534 around Christmas — the highest lodging cost of any place in our rankings. Daily transportation costs of $87 also are the highest on our list, and only Orlando, Fla., has higher entertainment costs.  

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA  

Winter is actually summer in South Africa, which makes it the peak season for tourists. As a result, it can be expensive to visit Cape Town during the holidays.  

Flights are the biggest cost of visiting this cosmopolitan city on Africa’s Atlantic coast. It costs more to fly to from Los Angeles to Cape Town during Thanksgiving — $1,341 — than any other city on our list. During Christmas, the price jumps to $1,952. And a flight from Atlanta to Cape Town during Christmas costs $2,262.  

Food and alcohol also are expensive. The average daily cost of meals is $48, and the average daily cost of drinks is $24.  

MOST AFFORDABLE PLACES TO VISIT DURING THE HOLIDAYS  

You don’t have to spend an exorbitant amount on a Thanksgiving or Christmas vacation. If you visit these affordable destinations, you can save money on your holiday travel.  

WASHINGTON, D.C.  

A trip to the nation’s capital can be an affordable Christmas vacation. Plus, you can avoid the crowds that are there at other times of the year. The average nightly hotel rate drops to $85 during Christmas from $97 during Thanksgiving. Christmas flights to Washington, D.C., also are cheaper than Thanksgiving flights and flights to most other cities in our rankings.  

While there, you can visit holiday markets and see the National Christmas Tree near the White House, the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree and the National Menorah.  

SEATTLE  

A trip to Seattle during the cold, rainy winter might not seem ideal. But if you’re looking for cheap holiday vacations, you should consider Washington’s largest city.  

Holiday flights to Seattle are cheaper than to most other cities in our rankings. Although lodging costs aren’t exorbitant, they aren’t super cheap. The average nightly hotel rate during Thanksgiving is $142, and the average rate during Christmas is $140.  

CHICAGO  

Chicago offers an affordable holiday getaway, but be prepared to bundle up in the Windy City if you go during the cold months of November or December.  

You’ll be rewarded for braving chilly temperatures with low average nightly hotel rates of $87 during Thanksgiving and $85 during Christmas. And holiday flights to Chicago are among the cheapest in our rankings.  

SAN FRANCISCO  

San Francisco might not seem like it would be near the top of a list of cheap Christmas trips because it has a reputation for being expensive. However, The City, as locals call it, can be more of a bargain in winter.  

You can find cheap Christmas flights to San Francisco from Los Angeles — just $96. And the average nightly rate for a hotel during both Thanksgiving and Christmas is $121.  

San Francisco’s transportation costs are among the lowest in our rankings, and you can see the city’s most popular tourist attractions for free. Those include Pier 39 and the Golden Gate Bridge (if you cross by foot or bicycle). Don’t forget to grab some free chocolate samples at Ghirardelli Square.  

PLAYA DEL CARMEN, MEXICO  

For cheap Christmas vacations at the beach, look no further than Playa del Carmen, Mexico — the most affordable place to visit during the holidays. Located in the most eastern part of Mexico, this popular tourist destination has incredibly inexpensive food, transportation and alcohol costs, as well as the lowest entertainment costs of any city in our rankings.  

———  

GOBankingRates.com () is a leading portal for personal finance news and features, offering visitors the latest information on everything from interest rates to strategies on saving money, managing a budget and getting out of debt.


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Travel

Survey: Airline passenger satisfaction declines slightly in 2017
Survey: Airline passenger satisfaction declines slightly in 2017
Frustrations with security screening and baggage claim were pain points for passengers as satisfaction with the air travel experience declined slightly in 2017, according to a new survey released by an airline industry group. A total of 81 percent of travelers said they were satisfied with their overall air travel experience, Airlines for America found...
5 wine tours a lot closer to home than Napa
5 wine tours a lot closer to home than Napa

You can take some of the most lavish, expensive wine tours in the world in the Napa Valley, where wines are all about heritage, taste and sophistication. These days, though, even the snootiest oenophile can find a worthy wine tasting in places far from California. And the same goes for the Napa-style custom of wine tours. Travelers in the South...
Traveling in summer: 8 ideas for where to go
Traveling in summer: 8 ideas for where to go

Summer is that carefree season when we cut loose, pack our bags and go in search of new adventures. Whether you want to go across the country or across the globe, here’s a short list of destinations to consider for your next getaway. If your ultimate summer fantasy is getting a hole-in-one on a course that would test the pros, it’s time...
Traveling in fall: 8 ideas for where to go
Traveling in fall: 8 ideas for where to go

As the days grow shorter in autumn, and the old year begins to wane, Mother Nature compensates by turning up the lights and gilding the flora around us in vivid jewel tones of copper, ruby and tawny gold. Fall getaways are ideal for those wishing to sidestep dizzying summer crowds, and take in what this unrivaled season offers. In San Diego, whale...
Traveling in spring: 8 ideas for where to go
Traveling in spring: 8 ideas for where to go

Ahh, spring. Time to banish the cabin fever and get outdoors — and beyond. This season brings chances to make discoveries dug from the dirt of the distant past to outer space, and in some cases, the air in between. Hop aboard a new roller coaster, zip line or space simulator, or settle into a seat at one of Paris’ newest sweet spots. Options...
More Stories