Getting away is usually viewed with the requisite amount of cynicism (as in, ‘how much is this going to cost me?’) but you don’t have to be that cynic. There are plenty of things to see and do in big big and small cities which can educate and inform your vacationing mind and help you relax and have a fun time without spending too much.
North Hollywood: Yes California is known for its excess; especially southern California. But if you want to go and see the sights and you don’t want to get ripped off, North Hollywood has a good amount of inexpensiveness while staying close. North Hollywood is maybe 10 minutes on local roads to the far more expensive and touristy West Hollywood, Hollywood, and downtown Los Angeles. You are also right next to Burbank and a short jaunt from the oceans of Malibu and Venice. Another good thing about North Hollywood is that while there are ways to spend plenty of coin, there are also ways to frugally conserve. You don’t need a thirteen dollar Margarita to have a good time. Go to the ocean, go to the Hollywood Walk, (1) go see a live taping of a show; all things to do which are free.
Brooklyn: Yes the Manhattan adjacent borough has a few things going for it which could make it a great place to stay for your inexpensive vacation. First of all it’s not Manhattan. Second of all you can get anywhere on the subway (get familiar with the MTA)(2). You’re golden if you don’t have a car. If you do have a car, Brooklyn is a much better place to have it than Manhattan. Tolls, parking rules, and the tyranny of parking lots in Manhattan make taking a car into the City a really bad idea. Moreover Brooklyn has all kinds of fun restaurants and boutique shops and art and cinema and theatre; you just can’t go wrong. Try staying in downtown Brooklyn or Williamsburg if you’re staying here without a local. If you know someone stay near them and they can get you around, but it’s real easy to get lost on foot around the mighty borough.
Seattle: Because of its location, off separated by water from many of its closest neighbors, if you’re looking to save money on your vacation in Seattle, it may actually be a better idea to stay in the city. Fly in, get a car to your room, and go totally on foot or on bike. Seattle is a great city to visit with so many amazing things to do and see; the Space Needle,(3) for one. Many restaurants in Seattle are also quite good. The independent music scene in Seattle is still thriving. If still none of this sounds interesting, you can also likely pick up a game of hacky-sack without too much trouble at all!
Chicago: Because it’s old world, there’s still good stuff cheap left in Chi-town. You can get a sandwich from one of those cart guys on the street for cheap! A big sandwich too; Reuben, corned beef, steak, sausage; whatever you want; for not too much money at all. Chicago has sports, basketball, hockey, baseball, football; and Chicago has entertainment. Head on over to Second City (4) to see some really great live comedy/sketch-comedy/theatre. You can also get a pretty cheap bed in Chicago if you poke around. The fact that they have a train system makes needing a car, again, not an issue. Park your car and ride all over town!
Keene New Hampshire: Once you’ve been to all these other four places you’ll definitely want to switch things up. This is one reason Keene New Hampshire is a great place to stay on a restricted budget. You can seek out cheap rooms online; even scampering over to neighboring towns like West Swanzy, Marlborough, or Roxbury may be able to save you on a room. Outside of Keene you’ll likely have to stay in someone’s house as there are few to no hotels in these adjacent towns. Keene is a great place to base your vacation in the north woods. There is enough of a nightlife, bar scene for your evenings, there are many great restaurants and personal favorites like Lindy’s Diner (5) to cure your hunger. Of course there are many things to do and see; trails to hike on, lakes to row on; that Keene is like the antithesis of these other four destinations, but still with stuff to do. And it’s cheap! If it’s the summer time you can even camp out! Hunker down in Pisgah State Park (6) or along the Keene Watershed. You can also split your time between Keene and the neighboring town of Brattleboro Vermont for a real far north discount adventure.
Keeping your vacation on the down low is easy enough if you’re smart, if you’re thorough, and if you learn your area before you go there. So what are you waiting for?