If you enjoyed our previous blog ‘6 Cheap Vacations for College Students’, we’ve got good news for you—we’re back with four more budget-friendly vacations, and they’re pretty great.
Best of all, these four holiday destinations are all within the US, so if you’re a student in the States you won’t even need a passport to get your adventure started!
On the border of North and South Carolina is the largest city in North Carolina, Charlotte. Charlotte Douglas International Airport is American Airlines’ second biggest base, with cheap and regular flights across the US. Charlotte is also jam-packed with motels, starting at $65 a night—perfect if a road trip is your vibe.
The North Carolina city serves up a great offering of free or affordable outdoor activities, perfectly suited to the mild climate. Take advantage of the free admission to the UNC Botanical Gardens, or dive into the city’s Freedom Park, with 98 acres of outdoor space to explore.
For a dash of pop culture, the Southern Skyline Drive-In Theater is a great way to experience a drive-in movie underneath the stars. Entry is charged per vehicle, so grab your mates and enjoy an al fresco movie night.
If museums and galleries are what you’re looking for, a student card will gain you $7 entry to some of the city’s finest spots. The Charlotte Museum of History details the city’s Indigenous history, while The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art is a celebration of mid-century modernism. Charlotte is rich in cultural history, with a series of murals across the city that pay tribute to key events and figures in Charlotte’s Black history, all of which can be appreciated for free.
Finally, an attraction that draws auto racing fans from far and wide is the NASCAR Hall of Fame, packed with exhibits to celebrate the sport’s expansive history.
While in NC, check out some of the finest Southern cuisine, including the excellent BBQ food, seafood, and Charlotte’s sweet and alcohol-free ‘cheerwine’. For those on the go, grab a Carolina-style hotdog—you won’t be disappointed.
Tampa is located on the Tampa Bay, on Florida’s Gulf Coast, and is a surprisingly good and cheap location for college students. The coastal location offers a warm climate year-round, and plenty of culture and entertainment.
For theme park lovers, Busch Gardens is unmissable, packed with rollercoasters and thrills. While a little on the expensive side, you’ll save some money by booking combo tickets or by reserving far in advance.
Head to the Latin Quarter, Ybor City neighborhood, coined the ‘cigar capital of the world’. The area has a rich cultural heritage, full of bars, restaurants and cafes. This vibrant area is great to visit on a budget, where walking around and soaking up the culture is an activity in itself. The Ybor City Museum State Park offers information about the city’s diversity, beginnings, and Latin culture, all for the price of $4.
If you want to make the most of Florida’s warm climate, hire a bike or head out on foot along the Tampa Riverwalk, a 2.6-mile-long stretch along the Hillsborough River. Along the walk, you’ll find the Florida Aquarium, the Tampa Bay History Center and the WW2 American Victory ship, which you can tour for $10.
If you’re interested in wildlife, head to the Manatee Viewing Center at Apollo Beach—the perfect spot to see wild manatees during their winter migration, with free parking and admission.
Finish your day with a cool beverage or a free tour at the Tampa Bay Brewing Company, or tuck into some of Tampa’s famous seafood or Latin cuisine.
The Poconos, PA
The Poconos mountains are located in Northeastern Pennsylvania, jam-packed with natural beauty, from rivers and streams to forests and ski slopes, offering a cheap vacation for college students year-round.
This outdoor playground lends itself easily to those on a budget, with campsites galore, and a range of hostels for the colder months. In the winter months, The Poconos is a skier’s dream, with 6 ski resorts. Although skiing doesn’t always go hand-in-hand with a budget vacation, the Blue Mountain resort, with 40 trails, offers student season passes for $179.
If your trip is during summer, The Poconos is a great place to hire a bike and explore the many trails on offer. You’ll find lakes, waterfalls and plenty of picnic spots, ideal for an affordable but thrilling day out.
For keen hikers, there are 2,400 miles to be explored! The McDade Recreational Trail is an easy, pet-friendly route, or there’s the stunning 26-mile Lehigh Gorge Trail with some incredible views of the region, with many access points and parking lots along the way.
If you fancy some shopping, The Poconos has plenty of antique shops and flea markets dotted around its towns. Check out Pocono Antique Mall at Peddler’s Village, or The Olde Engine Works in Stroudsburg.
Finally, a Poconos must-see for us is Dingmans Falls—Pennsylvania’s second-highest waterfall.
Cape Cod, MA
Cape Cod is a peninsula located in Boston on the Atlantic Coast. With 560 miles of coastline, the Massachusetts location is a must-visit in the summertime for ocean lovers and a great, cheap vacation hotspot for college students.
North Beach Island, Chatham is only accessible by boat, with a calm bay on one side and the open ocean on the other. It’s a great spot to go seal spotting for the day, but make sure you pack a picnic as you won’t find a shop on this rustic island!
Another popular hotspot is Mayflower Beach, Dennis. When the tide is out, you can walk along the tidal flats—the perfect place to catch the sunset or enjoy some beach games.
The whale season in Cape Cod is from April to October, when you can take a boat trip out to see the magnificent creatures, or grab a pair of binoculars and see if you can spot them from dry land.
For only $8 you can visit the Maritime Museum and learn about the rich maritime history of the area. And while you’re by the sea, make sure you check out some of Cape Cod’s famous seafood—lobster rolls, fried clams and soft-shell crab sandwiches are all local delights.
Long story short…
You don’t always need a passport to go on a great budget adventure! Cheap vacations for college students can be found across the US, but we reckon that these four places are must-visits for your next vacation. They combine a little bit of everything, offering a variety of activities whilst on a shoestring budget. Happy holidays!
By AC Callahan