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Summer Road Trips on a Budget

Over the past several months, we’ve talked a lot about the silver lining in this gray recession cloud. That is, all the great travel deals that are out there. For the summer, we’re seeing airfare that has dropped more than 17 percent over last year and hotel rates that have declined a good 13 percent.

But, there’s more to the silver lining than just deals. Travelers are getting back to the basics, seeking to experience the world on a budget and taking the time to explore their own backyards. For many, that means hitting the road.

Take a look at the map below for road trip inspiration from your hometown. We’ve highlighted the cities that have the best average hotel rates on the continent and found some local-recommended festivals that are worth checking out and will help to keep you on budget.

Summer Road Trips Festivals Map

If you plan on hitting the road this summer, consider these tips:

  • Before you go, plan out your route and stops along the way, but don’t be afraid to explore the unexpected treasures that you stumble upon.
  • Check traffic reports frequently. Traffic.com has a site for mobile device users.
  • Eat locally. During the summer, you’ll likely come across produce stands and local markets. Indulge!
  • Create a project for the kids. Allow them to help you navigate to learn to use a map, or give them a camera to take photos along the way. You can make a scrapbook when you get home!
  • Get a tune-up before you go, and make sure you have a spare tire and emergency kit for the drive ahead.

*Average airfare and hotel rates provided by Travelocity’s Summer Travel Report.

Jennifer

My name: Jennifer Gaines, but my friends call me Gaines, Jenni-Dallas or just plain Jenn.

(Find me on Twitter @jenngaines)

Travel ambitions: It's my mission to visit each of the New 7 Wonders and to step foot on every continent before my next milestone birthday.

Greatest travel lesson learned: Find the local hangouts to experience the real, true culture of a place. During a trip to Europe, my friends and I spent several days with a French family in the small town of Vichy. We had a private party in their family-run creperie, feasting on cheese-stuffed crepes and sampling wine that we picked up in the Bordeaux region a few days earlier. Their English wasn’t much better than my French, which is limited to a few well-known phrases from Moulin Rouge and the question: Parlez-vous anglais? (I'm proud to say that I can spout this question off in several different languages, and luckily most Europeans do indeed speak English!) After a few bottles of wine, the language barrier was hardly noticeable (slurring actually sounds the same in French!), and we managed to swap stories about life in other places. What a slice of local flavor!

My most beloved place in the whole world is: My grandparents place in Texas. It’s a 10-acre oasis in between two sprawling cities: Dallas and Fort Worth. A creek runs through their enormous backyard, where Granddad built a deck over the water. The entire place is shrouded with all types of trees (mainly pecan), blocking the Texas sun in the summer. Dusk is the best time to sit on the deck, drink a glass of ice tea and watch baby raccoons from the spring litter surround their back porch as Gram feeds them bread (no lie!). There will be dozens of raccoons eating on any given night. In the fall, my family gathers in the courtyard in front of their house for an annual “weenie roast.” Granddad lights the bonfire, and we roast dogs and s'mores. Yes, y’all, we’re from Texas!

Favorite way to get around: Well, I’m not much of a driver. I get lost easily and my tires have never come across a curb they didn’t want to get to know a little better. But, I do enjoy cruising around and listening to music. That said, I much rather explore a place by foot (with my iPod in tow) for a more intimate encounter.

View that took my breath away: Coming from Texas (where the view is wide but there’s not much to see), scenes from my new home of San Francisco never fail to amaze me. The city is a pedestrian’s dream, but don’t forget to turn around and look behind you as you meander through its neighborhoods. You won’t realize it, but you’ll be at the tip-top of a hill and the ocean will suddenly seem to be at eye level. Take a drive through the Presidio and over the Golden Gate Bridge where even more stunning views await!

Comments

Alison
Reply

I’ve been DYING to take a road-trip. Maybe I’ll head up to Vancouver for Musicfest…

Jennifer
Reply

I hear Musicfest is awesome! It comes highly recommended by a few trustworthy Vancouver locals. World music and great jazz to be expected. And they’re spotlighting music from Germany this year. Sounds like a fabulous time!

Bruce
Reply

Fiesta Noche del Rio in San Antonio is rather amazing and features music and dance from Mexico, Spain, Argentina and Texas. Lots of fun being right on the river at the Arneson Theatre where the swimsuit competition on Miss Congeniality was filmed! Highly recommended!

Katie
Reply

Charlotte’s Red/White/Blue fest looks cool. That’s something I never thought of before!

Bill Schmitt
Reply

Don’t miss Chicago this summer! There are so many fun things to see and do while you are here. From our stunning architecture, world class shopping, dining, nightlife, and our family friendly museums and attractions, why go anyplace else? And of course who can forget our 29 miles of shoreline along Lake Michigan????

After a day of sightseeing and shopping, hit one of our many beaches to cool off or venture out into one of neighborhoods and experience Chicago like a local. At night, take in a Broadway show, visit one of our famous Blues or comedy clubs, or dance until the wee hours at one of Chicago’s many hot clubs.

For more information on Chicago, please visit our website at http://www.choosechicago.com

The Travelocity Roaming Gnome
Reply

Well, goodness gracious me, what a coincidence! I’m going to Chicago myself this weekend — it was JUST decided, in fact, after the public voted on whether I should go there or New York. Looks like the Windy City blew the Big Apple away!

I’m looking forward to filling my tum at the Taste of Chicago, seeing a few fireworks, and hopefully even catching a Cubs game as well. Should be a jolly good trip.

TI
Reply

“…who can forget our 29 miles of shoreline along Lake Michigan?”

The Chicago Lakefront is, OK. In some ways, as a Chicagoan I would give it a 10 out of 10, because it is the only place to head to in Chicago for some relaxation. You simply cannot beat it if you live in Chicago. There really are VERY FEW places to head to for some R&R if you are looking for a place to meet and watch people and enjoy the great outdoors. If you have been out of IL and traveled to say some of the Mediterranean beaches, or the coasts of the United States, white sand beaches in Florida or Northern California then you know there are far better beaches than these man made disasters. I give the Chicago Lakefront between Lake Point Towers and just North of the Boathouse at North Avenue Beach… at most 5 out of 10 if you have been around the block. The Chicago Lakefront is NOTHING like California or Florida…there are very few parking spaces for the 7 million people of the greater Chicagoland area to use and parking on the nearby streets and walking to the beach is a TOTAL DISASTER! Now the City of Chicago is even talking about putting in meters! What they need to do is totally demolish the Lakefront and redo it so that the beaches, bike paths, and walk ways are three to six times deeper in to the lake. Omitting the bike paths…and just looking at the approach to Lake Michigan, more than half of the approach area is CONCRETE AND BLACKTOP, the rest is sand.

You will spend hours and hours and hours looking for a parking space anywhere within one to two miles of the Chicago Lakefront if you are headed to the beach unless you get there before 9:30AM on a Saturday or Sunday. If you get into the Downtown area at around noon time absolutely forget the beach, by the time you find a parking space you are going to want to kill someone. I have a better idea. Go to a microbrewery like Goose Island and have a few beers or go have some Giordanos or Ginos deep dish Pizza! I live in Chicago and these places are like food landmarks. Goose Island has ample parking and they are located just off of the Hwy at North Avenue. For parking at Giordanos or Ginos you are going to be looking for a parking lot that you pay to park at. Google it.

If you insist here are the locations for the beaches:
http://www.chicagoparkdistrict.com/resources/beaches/

“….or dance until the wee hours at one of Chicago’s many hot clubs.” I live in Chicago and would be very careful of where you go at the “wee hours.” I have some news for you. If you are NOT from Chicago, and you absolutely have to go to a bar stick to Rush and Division Street. Some of the more popular spots have had shootouts and fights and you do NOT know what you are walking in to unless you are a regular. I am not going to lay out “safe zones” for you. There are other spots that are safe…but I am responding to a post not writing a blog!

Diego
Reply

Please do not come to San Diego. There’s already to many people here!

Johnny mac
Reply

Wow, most impressive dude, most impressive!

MV
Reply

Myrtle Beach? Maybe worth the trip thirty years ago, but what’s left is a mess of a commercialized tourist trap. Just a few miles south is Charleston, South Carolina, a serious SC destination. A night a the DoubleTree will set you back $150, but keep you right in the middle of market street, the hub of Charleston activity. 20 minutes from the beaches, 20 minutes from a PGA golf course, and even closer are several historical plantations and colonial sites. Nationally renowned restaurants, and unbelievable seafood, most of it caught that day from local fishermen. Not to mention the average gas price in Charleston at the time of writing this is around $2.40.

Skip the Hard Rock cafe and dirty, over-crowded beaches and experience the charm and sophistication of Charleston. You’ll be glad you did.

johnny5
Reply

JERSEY SHORE! NO THANKS!

San Francisco Auto Glass
Reply

I think that in some ways, you simply cannot beat it if you live in Chicago. There really are VERY FEW places to head to for some R&R if you are looking for a place to meet and watch people and enjoy the great outdoors.

Watch TV Online
Reply

Great collection, will have to try these out this summer.

todd
Reply

TI: calm down you make Chicago sound like LA or New York, or Atlanta. Chicago like any city has issues but not nearly as bad as you say many of great nights i have spent in chicago night-life and have enjoyed nearly all of it. I have had a few rough nights but i was normaly part of that due to a few too many beers. Chicago is a great place to be, we only have 5 months of reasonable weather, so we know how to make the most of a good time.

Erik
Reply

Also, make sure that your spare tire is properly inflated. I had a friend who got a flat tire while on a road trip and she went to get her spare tire and realized that it was flat as well!

Tampa has a lot to do and some of the best beaches are in Clearwater/St. Pete right near Tampa. Also, if you are looking for good nightlife in Tampa, there is a place called Splitsville that is really unique. It’s an upscale bowling alley, bar, and restaurant. Pretty cool

summer road trips
Reply

i love to take road trips!Amazing list! I really want to take road trip to these places as soon as possible for me. Thanks for the great list

Tavla
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Nationally renowned restaurants, and unbelievable seafood, most of it caught that day from local fishermen.Thank You Tavla Admin.

john
Reply

Pretty decent post i like it.I went Chicago to attend the meeting of web hosting after closing the session i with my friends go to the beach there were lot of things for fun we really enjoyed there.

internet tv
Reply

Nashville at $120 seems like a great deal. There’s a lot of good food to be had there.

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