Lonely Planet Writer

What it costs to visit the Best in the US destinations for 2018

It’s time to start planning a trip, as the best places in the US to travel this year have been revealed. Lonely Planet’s 2018 Best in the US provides plenty of inspiration to get travellers dreaming of their next getaway, so now it’s time to start making those dreams a reality. Money magazine has helped Lonely Planet pull together an estimated budget for a week-long vacation for two, in each of the top 10 destinations, based on average airfare, hotel prices and on-the-ground costs. Find out just what it could cost – and some money saving tips from experts – to ensure that you can spend some of 2018 in the best places the US has to offer.

A visit to California’s redwood forests is the top place to go in 2018. Image by ©MNStudio/Shutterstock

California Redwood Coast – $2,360 to $2,990

Lonely Planet has picked California’s Redwood Coast as the #1 destination to visit in the US in 2018. When exploring this epic region of Northern California, most travellers will be required to make their base in nearby San Francisco or Sacramento. Money estimates the cost for a week in San Francisco at $2,990, while Sacramento costs about $2,360. If you’re looking to save a bit of money once you’re there, Save the Redwoods League conservation campaign and California State Parks have made it easy for budget travellers, announcing that the second Saturday of each month will allow free day-use admission to more than 40 redwood state parks.

Robert Firpo-Cappiello, editor-in-chief of Budget Travel magazine, also notes that when choosing a place to stay, wandering away from the main centres can help save money. “At the north end of Redwoods National Park, Crescent City is home to some shockingly affordable, reliable hotels where you can easily nab a room for under $100 a night or ‘splurge’ for a little more money on a Best Western Plus or the Oceanfront Lodge.”

Boise, Idaho. Image by Anna Gorin/Getty Images

Boise, Idaho – $2,540

A week-long stay in Boise will set you back – on average – about $2,540, according to Money. Luckily, if you’re looking to save a bit of cash on arrival, Boise is a great place to skip the bus ticket or taxi ride and explore the city on one of its famous GreenBikes. For $5 an hour, you can hop on a bike and explore the city’s incredible 12-mile Greenbelt.

Chattanooga, Tennessee – $2,640

The average cost for a week for two in Chattanooga is about $2,640, but there are a few places to shave dollars off your final bill. Skip the pricy hotels and get back to the basics at Chattanooga’s Crash Pad, the world’s first hostel to earn a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environment Design) Platinum ranking. The city is another great spot to get outside. “Sometimes overlooked are the free (or almost free) miles of trails in the region’s state parks and the national-park-in-the-making at Moccasin Bend,” according to Firpo-Cappiello.

First stage engines from the Saturn 5 rocket on display at the Kennedy Space Center. Image by © NaughtyNut / Shutterstock

Florida’s Space Coast – $2,250 to $2,510

Travellers who want to take a trip that’s out of this world can explore Florida’s Space Coast. According to Money, a week for two in Orlando will cost about $2,250, while Daytona Beach is a bit pricier at $2,270. The most expensive main center is St. Augustine at $2,510. Alexander Howard, managing editor of Lonely Planet’s US magazine, said that the Space Coast can be a budget-friendly destination if you avoid the “well-known at wallet-grabby attractions”. “Instead of booking a hotel, consider renting a house or a condo. The coast is a frequent snowbird and retirement destination, and there are plenty of short-term rentals available. Most come with full kitchens, allowing you to save heaps on your food budget by grocery shopping and cooking for yourself.” He also notes that if you want to see a launch, Kennedy Space Center has viewing platforms – that are an additional cost on top of the $50 admission price. “Save some dough by craning your neck at one of the free launch-viewing sites like Space View Park or Port Canaveral. The Canaveral National Seashore ($10 per vehicle) is also a great place to watch a launch without breaking the budget”.

Over-the-Rhine, an intact 19th-century historic district in Cincinnati. Image by Posnov/Getty Images

Cincinnati, Ohio – $2,250

A week in Cincinnati will set you back about $2,250, but when it comes to saving cash, Firpo-Cappiello has some simple advice: “An affordable alternative to the great food you’ll find in the Over-the-Rhine brewery district is the reasonably priced Cincinnati-style chili, served over spaghetti and topped with cheese, onions, and other delights. We also recommend an absolutely free goosebumps moment to all visitors: Stand on the banks of the Ohio River and remember that at one time this was the dividing line between slave-holding states and free states, that crossing the Ohio to Cincinnati was the route to freedom”.

Midcoast, Maine – $2,810

Travellers exploring Midcoast Maine can face pricey hotels, with the average cost in Brunswick, Maine set at $2,810. But, Firpo-Cappiello, notes that there are ways to save: “Vacation rentals are an especially good budget alternative to hotels and motels for groups who need more than two beds during their visit to the Maine coastal communities in summer. $1,000 a week for a comfy cottage is a big savings over seven nights in two hotels rooms”.

Richmond, Virginia – $2,600

While Richmond boasts a ton of free museums, parks and historic sites, making it a great spot whatever your interests. The city is also home to more than 100 street art murals from local and international artists, so you can explore the region as its own open-air gallery.

Whiskey barrels at the Touring Woodford Reserve Distillery, Kentucky. Image by © thomas carr / Shutterstock

Kentucky Bourbon Country – $2,560

A week in Louisville will cost about $2,560, but it’ll be worth cutting corners to save your bucks for the real reason to visit– sampling the famous Kentucky Bourbon. Firpo-Cappiello says: “Budget Travel senior editor Liza Weisstuch, our whiskey expert, recommends Mint Julep Tours, which leads public full-day and half-day tours of Kentucky distilleries and offers an option for customizing your tour to your personal tastes and interests”.

Minneapolis, Minnesota – $2,750

Head north to explore the cultural hub that is Minneapolis, where a week’s stay will cost about $2,750. But there’s plenty of free tours to take in Minneapolis, from the state capitol building, the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Bird Sanctuary, to the local Summit Brewing.

Sweeping sunset panoramic view of famous Delicate Arch in Arches National Park in Moab, Utah. Image by ©Colin D. Young/Shutterstock

Southeastern Utah – $2,830

Set up a base in Moab, for about $2,830, and then get outside and explore the stunning natural features that make Southeastern Utah one of the most astounding spots in the US. Ancient rock formations and archaeological sites will transport you to another time – and you can’t put a price on that.


This list is from Lonely Planet’s 2018 Best in the US. The trip cost estimates are based on Money’s 2017 Best in Travel database. Vacation costs include average airfares provided by Hopper, hotel pricing from Hotels.com and on-the-ground expenses by Numbeo.