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Planning a last-minute summer vacation or weekend getaway? Whether your ideal trip involves white beaches, spellbinding canyon vistas or lush forest islands, there’s plenty to see and experience just a road trip or quick flight away. Here, we’ll share our eight favorite relaxing vacation destinations in the U.S. where you and your family can get some well-deserved sun.
With its pristine natural beauty and endless attractions, Maui can appeal to every type of traveler. You can choose to soak up some sun on its 30-plus miles of beaches, tour a pineapple farm, hike to the top of Haleakala (the largest dormant volcano in the world) to catch the sunrise, explore 68 miles of verdant rainforest or immerse yourself in the rich cultural history of the island at Banyan Court Park or Iao State Valley Monument.
How much does a trip to Maui cost?
- Average daily cost: $220 per person
- Average weekly cost: $1541 per person
- Average cost for meals: $75 per person per day
- Average cost for transportation: $50 per person per day
Outdoorsy vacationers will have a blast at Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which straddles the border of North Carolina and Tennessee. Globally renowned for its rich wildlife and native plants as well as its gorgeous views of the ancient Southern Appalachians, the GSM is — understandably — the most visited national park in the country, by far. If hiking through waterfalls and wooded trails or camping under a sky full of stars sounds like your jam, book your visit as soon as possible.
How much does a trip to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park cost?*
- Entrance to park: FREE
- Overnight camping fee: $14-23 per night
- Average daily cost: $152 per person
- Average weekly cost: $1066
- Average cost for meals: $68 per person per day
- Average cost for transportation: $28 per person per day
*Data is for travelers who stay in Gatlinburg, the “gateway” to the Great Smoky Mountains.
For a quiet getaway with beaches, sun, trails and more, head to La Jolla (pronounced “La HOY-a”) to experience San Diego’s stunning summer weather and abundance of activities for nature lovers and city dwellers alike. With 24 beaches and coastal access points — some offering cave views, tidepools and cliffside glimpses — you can happily spend your days tanning, surfing, kayaking and picnicking on the sands of your choosing. For a refreshing hike with sweeping ocean views, visit Torrey Pines State Reserve, and if you’re in the mood to explore the rest of San Diego, Balboa Park and the San Diego Zoo are only a 20-minute drive away.
How much does a trip to La Jolla cost?
- Average daily cost: $161 per person
- Average weekly cost: $1128 per person
- Average cost for meals: $36 per person per day
- Average cost for transportation: $19 per person per day
Head to New England to visit Cape Cod and explore its charming villages, seaside attractions and beautiful beaches. This popular summer vacation destination may be known for its 40 miles of national seashore, but there are plenty of things to do besides the beach. Take pictures of the many spectacular lighthouses that dot the coast, rent a bike and glide through the 22-mile-long Cape Cod Rail Trail through shaded woods and four quaint towns, or grab a bite to eat at one of the many acclaimed restaurants in Provincetown.
How much does a trip to Cape Cod cost?
- Average daily cost: $146 per person
- Average weekly cost: $1025 per person
- Average cost for meals: $48 per person per day
- Average cost for transportation: $40 per person per day
Visitors often talk about Cape Cod, Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard in the same breath — and indeed, travelers need to pass through Cape Cod to reach Nantucket Island, which is 30 miles off the coast — but the three vacation destinations are considerably different when it comes to lifestyle and pace. Whereas Cape Cod is a city, Nantucket is a calm, remote oasis that feels removed from the hustle and bustle of a metropolis. Amidst the island’s charming cobblestone pathways and 82 miles of public beaches, you’ll find plenty of other relaxing experiences and activities, ranging from art galleries and shopping to whale-watching.
How much does a trip to Nantucket cost?
- Average daily cost: $280 per person
- Average weekly cost: $1961 per person
- Average cost for meals: $65 per person per day
- Average cost for transportation: $38 per person per day
One of Colorado’s best-kept secrets, Great Sand Dunes National Park is home to the highest sand dune in America and offers a different — but still spellbinding — experience of nature. Serious hikers might consider making the five-hour round-trip hike to the 750-foot summit at the top of the tallest sand dune (remember — in the summer, it’s going to be hot, so bring lots of sunscreen and water). Others can have just as much fun renting a board and sandboarding down the slopes, splashing in Medano Creek, cooling off at Zapata Falls or camping out at night with a view of the Milky Way.
How much does a trip to Great Sand Dunes National Park cost?
- Entrance cost for non-commercial vehicle and occupants: $25
- Cost of annual pass: $45 per person for one year
- Average daily cost: $160 per person
- Average weekly cost: $1120 per person
- Average cost for meals: $40 per person per day
- Average cost for transportation: $10 per person per day
Named by National Geographic as one of the “World’s 100 Most Beautiful Places” in 2013, Cannon Beach is a wonderland of scenic experiences that range from misty beaches to dazzling rock formations to sprawling rainforests and more. Check out Haystack Rock — one of Oregon’s most iconic landmarks — then walk by the sea caves and a small waterfall at Hug Point when the tide is low. There are plenty of attractions around Cannon Beach to fill up a weekend trip or an even longer stay. Tidepools and rock formations fleck Arcadia Beach, and there are plenty of hikes to stunning viewpoints at Ecola State Park. For dining and lodging, explore the nearby beach town, which offers charming sidewalks, art galleries and specialty shops.
How much does a trip to Cannon Beach cost?
- Average daily cost: $190 per person
- Average weekly cost: $1330 per person
- Average cost for meals: $60 per person per day
- Average cost for transportation: $10 per person per day
Water lovers, rejoice — more than 40 percent of this gorgeous Minnesota national park is waterways and lakes. Located in the northern part of the state near the Canadian border, Voyageurs National Park spans 218,000 acres of forests, waterways and lakes, and houses the Ellsworth Rock Gardens, a collection of pathways, sculptures and structures built over a 20-year period by artist Jack Ellsworth. There’s plenty of nature to explore in the course of a week or even weekend. Our suggestion? Rent a houseboat and take it for a spin and be sure to stay the night to stargaze and — if you’re lucky — spot aurora borealis.
How much does a trip to Voyageurs National Park cost?*
- Entrance fee: FREE
- Camping fees: varies, see website
- Average daily cost: $178 per person
- Average weekly cost: $1246 per person
- Average cost for meals + transportation: $32 per person per day
- Average cost for transportation: $34 per person per day
*Data represents the average cost of visiting the city of International Falls, MN, which is the closest representation of accurate data.
In addition to the highlights above, there are plenty of other summer vacation destinations that are worth experiencing. Here are several more:
- Sanibel Island. This romantic island off the coast of Florida is perfect for unique seashells, swimming, trails and pristine shorelines. Don’t forget to explore its sister island, Captiva, for a great bite to eat.
- The Hamptons. With beaches, bike paths, salt caves and excellent wine tasting ventures, the Hamptons is a luxurious getaway that offers something for everyone.
- Malibu. Removed from the bustle of Los Angeles, Malibu is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in California, with opportunities to enjoy whale watching, windsurfing and more. In the mountainous areas nearby, you’ll find national parks with hiking opportunities that give you stunning views.
Want some help planning your trip? Read our Pre-Travel Checklist.