23 Affordable Places to Visit for the Instagrams Alone

23 Affordable Places to Visit for the Instagrams Alone
Photo: Allison Kahler.

Passport? Check. Phone charger? Check. Hundreds of dollars to spend on flights, hotels, food and sightseeing? Not so much. Traveling can be tricky when you’re trying to find cheap vacations that fit within your budget and your Instagram page’s aesthetic. We’ve all done the nightly routine of scrolling through Instagram Discover—only to get our travel dreams crushed via expensive destination photos we can barely afford to even look at. This year, we want to break that before-bed habit. Plus, going to bed envious is sure to result in bad dreams and dark circles the next morning.

Luckily, we live in a world where there are plenty of beautiful and fun places to go to that won’t bust up your budget (or your follower count). Besides, even if we don’t have enough vacation time to travel right now, it’s fun to be able to imagine all the idyllic trips we’d take to these budget-friendly locales.

So buckle up, ladies and gentlemen, because our next stop is vacation station. Please keep all hands and feet inside the moving vehicle while we show you 23 genuinely affordable travel destinations that are equal parts fun and photogenic.

1. Albuquerque, New Mexico

Find flights for under $100 and art galore in Albuquerque. If you’re looking to spend some time outside, browse the 17 miles of historical petroglyphs in the “no-fee” Petroglyph National Monument. Trust us, you’re bound to find a hidden piece of history that’s Insta-worthy.

2. Lisbon, Portugal

Think 1€ espressos and signature pastel de natas—plus, endless free sight-seeing that’s totally walkable . Every corner of Lisbon holds a new color to capture and an affordable place to sample the local Ginjinha (basically sour cherry liqueur).

3. New Orleans, Lousiana

Mardi Gras isn’t the only time to travel to NOLA. No matter what time of year you visit, Bourbon Street stays lit (and affordable) AF. Plus, you can’t beat a signature hand grenade cocktail in a souvenir cup for only $5. And trust us, just one of those cocktails will do the trick.

4. Puerto Rico

With tons of inexpensive flights, friendly folks on every corner and a never-ending (free to walk around in) city of color, Puerto Rico is a beautiful, budget-friendly destination. Plus, hanging out on the beach or getting lost in the Castillo San Cristobal Fort is always a fun and free activity. Spend a few days volunteering to help rebuild the communities devastated by Hurricane Irma and Maria aftermath, and make the most of your trip.

5. Savannah, Georgia

Visiting Savannah, Georgia is just peachy. Walk under the endless oak trees and Spanish moss in Forsyth Park and bask in the beautifully eerie Bonaventure Cemetery for the cost of $0. If you’re lucky, stop by a roadside peach stand and stock up on the local peaches for the rest of your trip!

6. Miami, Florida 

In need of a blue water location without the price of an international flight? Miami might be the place for you. Find yourself under the palms of the picture-worthy city, or dabble in the art scene by strolling by the Wynwood Walls of urban graffiti—then, snap a picture in front of your favorites free of price.

7. Glacier National Park, Montana

With ice-capped mountain ranges and bold blue waters, Glacier National Park is begging to be Instagrammed. While single day entry fees are only $20, there’s an entire list of free entry days. Not up for the cold? Take a dip in a natural hot spring, and you’ll be sure to get some loving DMs in your inbox.

8. San Antonio, Texas

Any history buffs out there? Find guided tours for free along the famed River Walk that’s lined with various shops and restaurants. No one said you had to go into the stores to Instagram them, right?

9. Merida, Mexico

Mérida, the capital of the Mexican state of Yucátan, has been named the American Capital of Culture a handful of times. Start the day off by immersing yourself in the rich Mayan history and wandering through historical ruins. Then, end the day with some incredibly affordable—and veritably delicious—Mexican street food.

10. Raleigh, North Carolina

With flights under $100, a trip to Raleigh, North Carolina is a no brainer. Filled with everything from contemporary art museums to botanical gardens with free entry, you’re sure to find something that’s stunning enough to post on your Instagram. Looking to work up a sweat on your stories? There are tons of hiking trails with free parking and plenty of #views.

11. Cold Spring, New York

Manhattan isn’t the only picture perfect place in New York. A quick and affordable train ride upstate will bring you to the cozy town of Cold Spring, New York. Find fudge sampling, free admission to the Magazzino Italian Art Foundation, or a challenging hike with a beautifully Instagram-worthy view of the Hudson at the top.

12. San Diego, California

Walk along the boardwalk for free, or ride with Lime, a battery-powered scooter company that only charges 15 cents per minute, to speed up the sightseeing. Get your fish taco fix for under $10, or rent a surfboard for the day at around $15 (then stage a photo shoot to show off your new San Diego-learned skills, obv). 

13. Tucson, Arizona

Stroll along the Turquoise Trail or the Mission San Xavier Del Bac to satiate your architecture aesthetic craving, or enter into a world of beautiful photos at the Center for Creative Photography to inspire your next Insta post.

14. Bermuda 

Blue water and picturesque pink sand beaches, here we come! With a short and extremely affordable flight to Bermuda, you can find yourself lying on the beach sipping on their very own Bermuda Rum Swizzle. If that’s not worthy of going up on your feed, we’re not sure what is.

15. Alexandria, Virginia

Meander through the cobblestone streets (tip: don’t wear heels), or take a free trolley ride and delve into the history of Alexandria, Virginia. End the day with a visit to the Torpedo Factory Art Center and meet some of the community’s talented young artists.

16. Asheville, North Carolina 

Drive along the famous Blue Ridge Parkway and find mountainous views for days in Asheville, North Carolina. Make a pit-stop in the downtown area and catch some live music for free at one of the local restaurants or bars.

16. Chiang Mai, Thailand

Trust us when we say, the flight to Chiang Mai, Thailand is worth it—and the price of the ticket doesn’t at all reflect the price of living and eating. While you may spend a little more than expected to get there, you can find hostels and restaurants that are the most affordable you’ve ever visited. $1 USD is equal to 0.032 in the Thai Baht currency. Talk about an affordable international trip.

18. Washington, D.C.

We know what you’re thinking—there’s no way D.C. is an affordable place to visit. But contrary to popular belief, D.C. offers tons of free sight-seeing and a bunch of no-cost art museum entries.

19. Montreal, Canada 

Perfect your French without the pricey trip to France. Hike the 7km walk to Mount Royal for a stellar panoramic view or surround yourself with French-speaking cuties in the cozy downtown area. Then, get your fill of the famous (and insanely cheap) Montreal-style bagel.

20. Kansas City, Missouri

Looks like we’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto. We’re in Kansas City! We know what you’re thinking—vacation in the Midwest? But trust us, if you’re looking for an affordable place to visit with a fun downtown area and some of the best BBQ eats, then Kansas City, with flights under $100 is a great option. Tour the Harley Davidson Plant or visit the Crossroads Arts District (that features around 70 art galleries!) to get a taste of the art scene and a collection of some hardcore Insta-worthy pieces.

21. Memphis, Tennessee

Paul Simon knew what he was talking about when he said, “I’m going to Graceland, Graceland, Memphis Tennessee.” Music lovers have long been visited the city to get a glimpse of Elvis Presley’s home—and to surround themselves with free music. Tip: If you can, get an early start, because entry into the meditation garden at Graceland is free.

22. Grand Canyon, Arizona

Just because the Grand Canyon is a big tourist attraction doesn’t mean you can’t afford to visit it! Check out the free entrance days and plan your visit accordingly to save the most money possible. Once you’re done Instagramming the endlessly gorgeous angles of the Grand Canyon, set your phone down and appreciate the scale of beauty in front of you. It’s more than worth it. 

23. Salt Lake City, Utah 

With one of the largest lakes in the United States and endless mountains to ski on with lift tickets under $40, Salt Lake City is a perfect spot for family, friend or solo budget traveling. Plus, what looks better on your Insta story than you and your friends hitting the slopes? A good wipeout is quality content.