Luxury for Less: Big City, Small Budget

Below are some of the most sought after travel destinations in the U.S. making them some of the most expensive. While some are more affordable than others, you can make them all work for your budget with a little finesse. Read on to discover how you can have luxury for less in these big budget cities.

P.S. The attractions listed below are all free unless otherwise stated. Also, the "stay" section under each destination is just to give you an idea on what kind of deals you can get. Enjoy!


Los AngelesThe world capital for entertainment, millions flock to sunny L.A. every year for vacation. To avoid high prices and large crowds, try avoiding holidays and  award seasons and visit anytime from September through May. L.A.'s indomitable warm climate will not make you suffer through winter.

     Stay: Stay on Main $45; Travelodge Hollywood $91; Rodeway Inn $76

     Play: Getty Villa and Getty Center, Downtown Art Walk, Hollywood Walk of Fame, concerts and movies in the park, Griffith Park, Runyon Canyon, Venice Beach, free TV show screenings, etc.


Las Vegas: Vegas is actually one of the most affordable destinations in the U.S. as casinos and hotels are constantly trying to draw in new people. You can even stay in those big name luxury hotels on the Strip for pennies compared to an equal ranked hotel in another city. Come from March to May or September to November to beat the largest crowds and shave off a few more dollars from the pricetag. P.S. don't eat on the Strip, the prices are exorbitant.

     Stay: Luxor Hotel and Casino $82; Circus Circus Hotel and Casino $43; The Orleans $64

     Play: Free shows at casinos and hotels (Big Elvis at Harrah's Hotel, Clown Show at Circus Circus, etc.), Bellagio fountains show, Bellagio Conservatory, Aviation History Museum, Freemont Street Experience, Auto Museum, Calico Basin Red Springs, Ethel M. Chocolate Factory tour, Coral Reef Aquarium at the Mirage, Hoover Dam, etc.


Washington, D.C.: Definitely one of the most visited cities in the country, the capital is a tricky one for hotel prices and weather. Winters can be brutal and wet while summers are stiflingly hot and sticky. If you can stand it, the low season runs from November through January while shoulder season prices pick up just a little February through May, September through October.

     Stay: Head to outerlying cities like Arlington for better deals like: Inns of Virginia $80; Comfort Inn $84; Budget Inn $62

     Play: Every single Smithsonian museum is free, including the National Zoo and the Air and Space Museum; national landmarks including National Mall, Jefferson Memorial, Washington Monument, Arlington National Cemetery, Lincoln Memorial, Capitol Hill, etc.


San DiegoThere really isn't a bad time to visit sunny San Diego as the climate is generous year round and you can find fairly good deals even in the high season if you look hard enough. For low season prices, come during November through January or during the shoulder season of February through May, September through October. You'll still be able to wear flip-flops, guaranteed.

     Stay: Super 8 $55; Point Loma Inn and Suites $67; Bay Inn and Suites $47

     Play: 33 free beaches, La Jolla Cove, Children's Pool (resting spot for wild seals), whale watching, Mission Bay Park, touring the Gaslamp Quarter or Little Italy, Balboa Park, U.S. Olympic Training Center free tours, Mt. Laguna, Point Loma tide pools, Embarcadero, Coronado Municipal Beach.


Nashville: Music City, like D.C., can offer up a rough winter here and there but for the most part she's fairly mild with January lows bottoming around the mid-40s. Fall is perhaps the most beautiful time to visit and luckily this falls within the low season, mid-August through September. Also hit late winter, early spring from January to March.

     Stay: Howard Johnson Downtown $55; EconoLodge North $50; Day's Inn Nashville West $80

     Play: Music City Circuit free bus service for touring, festivals and lawn concerts, Honky Tonk Highway, the Parthenon, Tennessee Agricultural Museum, Tennessee State Capitol, Model Train Display, Tennessee State Museum, Fort Nashborough, the Hermitage


OrlandoLike the California destinations, Orlando tends to be fairly warm year round with an annoying rainy season thrown in to make it feel like winter. However, as a tourist city, you'll want to hit the low and/or shoulder seasons to skip crowds and high prices. Low season starts in May, skips to September, November to early December, and finally the month of January. February, late May to mid June, mid to late August, and October qualify as the shoulder season where prices aren't too high but not as cheap as the low season.

     Stay: Travelodge Downtown Centroplex $50; Red Roof Inn Orlando South $63; La Quinta Inn Airport West $49

     Play: Fort Christmas Historical Park, Kraft Azalea Gardens, Lake Eola Park, Cornell Fine Arts Museum (free for students), Black Hammock Adventures Wildlife Exhibit, Old Town, Winter Park History Museum, farmers markets, The Hurston, the Arboretum.


ChicagoThere's no playing about it; Chicago's winters are awful and anyone who lives in the northern Midwest can attest to their brutality. But if you can stomach the biting winds and frostbite inducing chill then the low season, running January to March, is just for you. Early spring is also a delightful time to see the trees begin to bud and the grass in Lincoln Park start to color in again.

     Stay: Motel 6 $60; Chinatown Hotel $75; Extended Stay America Chicago $90

     Play: Lincoln Park and Zoo, Chicago Cultural Center, free movies in the park through September, Millennium Park and its free events, tour Navy Pier, window shop the Magnificent Mile, tour the Baha'i Temple (one of seven in the world), Garfield Park Conservatory, Hull-House, Chicago Botanic Garden


San AntonioLovely San Antonio with its Texas charm and Mexican weather greets you the cheapest the latter half of August as well as the latter half of December. This doesn't leave you a huge window of opportunity so consider the shoulder season, from September through mid-December and January to April. San Antonio's winter months aren't too bad, with a chilly breeze here and there which may keep you from the Schlitterbahn but you were trying to save money anyway, right?

     Stay: Alamo Inn Motel $55; Knight's Inn $55; Pinn Road Inn and Suites $60

     Play: The Alamo, touring the Riverwalk, San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, touring King William Historic District, Brackenridge Park, Fort Sam Houston Museum, HemisFair Park, Japanese Tea Garden, Cibolo Nature Center, Witte Museum free Tuesdays from 3:00-8:00 pm, McNay Museum free days, Tower Plaza free Friday concerts.