July is a huge month for travel lovers. Summer weather has arrived, school is out, and more people are taking time off from work. All of these things make July a great month to take a summer vacation. Unfortunately, these things can also mean big crowds and high prices at popular travel destinations.
But a memorable summer vacation doesn’t have to wreak havoc on your travel budget. Exploring new destinations, finding cheap flights, and researching budget travel guides are all easy ways to save money on your summer travels.
To help you keep costs down on your next trip, here are our picks for the best places to travel in July without breaking the bank.
Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park is one of America’s most beautiful destinations, making it an incredibly popular summer vacation option. Every year, millions of people flock to the incredible national park to experience the erupting geysers, majestic wildlife, towering mountains, and incredible hiking trails within its 2.2 million acres.
Despite the park’s massive popularity in July, a trip to Yellowstone can provide incredible bang for your buck if you plan your trip right.
Entrance fees to enter Yellowstone National Park are $35 per private vehicle, $30 per motorcycle or snowmobile, and $15 per person if entering by bicycle, foot, skis, etc. In a car of 4 people, that’s less than $9 per person for 7 days of park access. The park also offers free admission days throughout the year.
Though hiking is free and park admission to Yellowstone is affordable, it’s the hotels and food costs that are really going to cut into your travel budget. Yellowstone does contain several lodges within the park, including the iconic Old Faithful Inn. However, these lodges are definitely not cheap and often fill up 6-8 months in advance.
If you’re visiting Yellowstone on a budget, camping is a great way to save money. The park offers 12 campgrounds with over 2,000 campsites, and fees start as low as $15 per night. Five of Yellowstone’s campgrounds can be reserved ahead of time, and the rest are awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis. While July offers the best weather at Yellowstone National Park, be sure to bundle up if you’ll be camping, as summer nights can still be quite cold.
To save money on food, consider bringing some snacks along and cooking at the campsite. Just don’t forget to bear-proof your foods if you’re camping in the backcountry.
Salt Lake City, Utah
Salt Lake City is widely known as a haven for winter sports enthusiasts, but this up and coming city is also a top tier summer vacation destination. Salt Lake City offers visitors a true mountain town feel with all of the attractions and amenities you’d expect from larger cities like Denver. Best of all, July brings some of the best weather for exploring the great outdoors in Salt Lake City.
In our guide to visiting Salt Lake City on a budget, we highlight a ton of free and cheap things to do in the city, from awe-inspiring hikes to military museums and historic churches. Salt Lake City is the headquarters of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The LDS Church offers free tours of the beautiful Temple Square where travelers can visit the historic Salt Lake Temple and the world-famous Salt Lake Tabernacle.
Finger Lakes, New York
For a budget friendly and memorable summer vacation that takes you away from the big city, it doesn’t get much better than the Finger Lakes. Comprised of 11 narrow lakes and miles upon miles of breathtaking state parks, gorges, waterfalls, and over 120 vineyards, the Finger Lakes region is truly an outdoor lover’s paradise.
July is arguably the best time to visit this picturesque region in central New York. The area’s 11 lakes provide no shortage of water activities, including boating, fishing, swimming, water skiing, kayaking, and so much more. If you’ve got an adrenaline junkie in your group, visit Roseland Wake Park, the first and only cable wake park in the northeastern United States.
Once you’re done exploring the waterfalls of Watkins Glen State Park, carve out some time to eat and drink your way through the Finger Lakes Wine Trails, the Finger Lakes Beer Trail, or the Finger Lakes Cheese Trail. If you’re looking for a few air conditioned places to explore, the Corning Museum of Glass and the Strong Museum of Play are not to be missed.
Bar Harbor, Maine
July is a great time to visit Bar Harbor. Located on beautiful Frenchman’s bay, this quaint New England town is best known as a gateway to Acadia National Park, one of America’s most visited national parks. The park is home to stunning landscapes that include mountains, ponds, and beaches. For a once in a lifetime experience, wake up early, wear an extra layer of clothes, and hike or drive to the top of Cadillac Mountain for one of the most beautiful sunrises in America.
Entrance fees to enter Acadia National Park are $30 per private vehicle, $25 per motorcycle, and $15 per person if entering by bicycle or on foot. In a car of 4 people, that’s just $7.50 per person for 7 days of park access.
Once you’re settled back in town, start your day with some blueberry pancakes from Cafe This Way, or try a bizarre twist on a local delicacy with lobster ice cream from Ben and Bill’s. If you’re up for some free entertainment, grab a blanket and head to Agamont Park for a free movie and popcorn.
Often overlooked by travelers that visit New York City or Washington, DC, Philadelphia is a budget friendly destination that punches above its weight class – and that’s not just a joke about the famous ‘Rocky Steps.’
And as the birthplace of America, July is a great time to visit and celebrate Independence Day in the City of Brotherly Love. Every July, Philadelphia is filled with free events to celebrate the 4th of July, as Wawa Welcome America turns the city into a weeklong festival of free concerts, fireworks shows, free museum days, free outdoor movie screenings, block parties, and more.
After a long day of historical sightseeing, grab a craft beer, kick back in a hammock, and enjoy the summer breeze coming off the Delaware River at Spruce Street Harbor Park.
San Diego, California
There really isn’t a bad time to visit San Diego, but impeccable July weather makes it a perfect time to visit what many call America’s Finest City. Whether you’re looking for unspoiled coastline, serene beaches, historical landmarks, or free activities galore, San Diego has got you covered.
You can spend hours getting lost in Balboa Park, a 1,200-acre urban park that serves as the city’s cultural epicenter. It’s home to expansive green spaces, beautiful gardens, and multiple museums, many of which are free. Highlights include the nationally famous San Diego Zoo and Japanese Friendship Garden.
When you’re ready to get outside and take full advantage of the amazing San Diego weather, go hiking at Torrey Pines State Reserve, a stretch of preserved coastline that shows you what San Diego really looked like before it was developed. If you’d rather kick back and go full vacation mode, sunbathe at some of the nation’s best beaches including Coronado Beach and Mission Beach.
Start planning your July vacation
An amazing summer vacation doesn’t need to cost a fortune. By visiting less-traveled destinations, choosing budget friendly activities, and signing up for free cheap flight alerts, you’ll be on your way to an incredible July vacation in no time.
BY: ZACH ANDERSON, CONTENT MARKETING & FLIGHT EXPERT
Zach is a digital marketer, copywriter, and flight deal expert at Dollar Flight Club where he helps 1 million people travel more. As a digital nomad, he is deeply passionate about location independence, Thai food, and helping others see the world affordably.