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10 Affordable Road Trip Destinations in the U.S.

10 Affordable Road Trip Destinations in the U.S.

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This summer, skip the plane or train ride and hop in the car to embark on an epic road trip. Fortunately, the U.S. is home to dozens — if not hundreds — of incredible road trip destinations, some more budget-friendly than others. That’s why we tapped the pros at Turo, the world’s largest car-sharing marketplace, to determine the most affordable road trip destinations across the country.

“Turo has an incredible selection of vehicles for every budget, and there’s still time to rent an amazing vehicle this summer with plenty of vehicles under $50 (not including taxes or fees) all over the U.S., especially in Florida, Texas, and California,” says Albert Mangahas, Turo’s chief data officer. Along with some of the most beautiful beaches, these states are home to some of the nation’s most iconic national parks for travelers who prefer land over sea.

From the beaches of San Diego to the streets of Orlando, keep reading for the top cheap road trip destinations in the U.S. with rental car options under $50 per day based on data pulled by Turo.

Jacksonville, Florida

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This northern Florida city – which also happens to be the largest city in the continental U.S. — offers 22 miles of beautiful beaches, outdoor adventure, and America’s largest urban park system, making it a must-visit. After picking up your rental car, make a beeline straight for Jacksonville Beach, or tie up your laces and explore part of the 14.5-mile Jacksonville-Baldwin Rail Trail, which features stunning forest scenery best explored on foot or bike. Art enthusiasts need not miss the expansive Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens, with a collection that spans 5,000 pieces and counting across several centuries. Families, meanwhile, will especially love the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, which is home to over 2,000 majestic animals, including elephants, flamingos, and tigers. Pro tip: Plan your trip over a weekend to experience the Riverside Arts Market (open every Saturday, rain or shine) that sells handmade jewelry, art, produce, and more from over 100 local vendors.

Palm Beach, Florida

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Ready for the next stop on your Florida road trip? About 70 miles north of Miami lies posh Palm Beach. Known as “The Hamptons of the South,” this ritzy seaside enclave is home to an abundance of swanky bars, restaurants, and designer shops. Fortunately, summer marks the destination’s off-season, which means you can enjoy many of the tony town’s top hotels — including the Brazilian Court Hotel, Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa, or The Colony Hotel — for a fraction of the cost compared to winter rates. The region itself is home to 47 miles of beaches, which are, by far, the top attraction here. However, travelers need not sleep on the scenic 5.5-mile Lake Trail or Worth Avenue, which is lined with chic boutiques. After breaking a sweat or shopping, hit up local hot spots like Green’s Pharmacy & Luncheonette and Sprinkles Ice Cream. Finally, for some reprieve, check out the idyllic Mounts Botanical Garden in nearby West Palm Beach, an easy drive from Palm Beach proper.

San Antonio, Texas

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Between its history (don’t miss The Alamo), 15-mile River Walk, and abundance of eclectic drinking and dining options (it’s one of very few U.S. cities to be named a UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy), San Antonio is well worthy of a spot on your summer travel list, Upon arrival, hop in your car and head straight to the trendy-but-historic Pearl District, where you can admire public art along the 1.3-mile Museum Reach, which also happens to be a haven for foodies with an abundance of top-notch eateries like Best Quality Daughter, which dishes out delectable Asian-American fare. While there is so much to see and do within the city limits — including the aforementioned Alamo and the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park — you can also hop in the car to visit Fredericksburg (approx. 90 minutes away by car), which is teeming with wineries and scenic hiking, including the Enchanted Rock State Natural Area.

Orlando, Florida

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While there’s lots to love about Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando, this central Florida city and its surroundings offer so much more than the incredible theme parks that call Orlando home. Nature lovers can get out on the water via a guided kayak tour through Wekiwa Springs State Park, known for its emerald springs and incredible swimming and hiking, or paddle through the canals in the nearby city of Winter Park. Culinary connoisseurs will also be pleased to find that Orlando was recently voted America’s best food city, and it’s home to Michelin-ranked spots across a variety of price points and cuisines, including Otto’s High Dive for fantastic Cuban food and cocktails, The Strand for seasonal New American fare, and Camille for tasty Vietnamese. There are plenty of free things to do in Orlando too, be it a scenic stroll through Lake Eola Park, classic car shows in nostalgia-inducing Old Town, or self-guided mural tours through the Mills 50 District.

Tampa, Florida

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Want to add to your Florida itinerary? Dubbed Florida’s new “It” city, Tampa has become increasingly trendy in recent years thanks to the 2022 opening of The Tampa EDITION and a slew of haute restaurants like Ash, Casa Cami, and Predalina. You may be tempted to spend your entire trip posted up in the hip and highly walkable Water Street Tampa district — which is almost always buzzing thanks to its abundance of green space, restaurants, and hotels — but don’t be afraid to neighborhood-hop, which is incredibly easy to do with a car. While it spans just six blocks, Hyde Park Village is an upscale neighborhood renowned for its shopping and dining, and Seminole Heights boasts tree-lined streets and quaint homes. Ybor City, meanwhile, teems with historic charm, vintage shops, and Cuban and Latin American restaurants. For the best city views, venture off to Davis Islands, which also offer Instagram-worthy, pastel-hued buildings that look like they’ve been plucked straight from the Mediterranean.

Sacramento, California

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California’s capital city is often overlooked in favor of more popular spots like San Francisco or Los Angeles, but don’t let that deter you from visiting. The destination is chock-full of distinct charm and character. Located along the water, Old Sacramento — which has been deemed a National Historic Landmark District and State Historic Park — pays homage to the 1849 Gold Rush era with dozens of recreated and restored buildings, wooden sidewalks, and horse-drawn carriages. History buffs will also appreciate a visit to the state capital. Additionally, it’s worth noting that the city offers 230-plus days of sunshine each year, making it a haven for outdoor lovers with activities like biking, hiking, and al fresco concerts. The city is also home to over 650 murals, making it a fun stop for art enthusiasts. Looking to escape Sacramento for a day or so? Consider a trip to Lake Tahoe or San Francisco, which are 90 minutes and two hours away, respectively.

Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas

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The Dallas-Fort Worth region spans over 9,000 square miles, so renting a car here is a no-brainer. In Dallas proper, visitors can enjoy a much-needed break from the scorching heat by cooling off inside one of the city’s many museums, including the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealy Plaza, the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, and the Dallas Museum of Art. The 68-square-mile Dallas Arts District serves as the city’s arts and culture hub,  while the Uptown neighborhood boasts a buzzy drinking and dining scene. The Bishops Arts District, which is known for its top-notch shopping, entertainment, and street art, is also a must-visit. Meanwhile, in Fort Worth — approximately 45 minutes from Dallas by car — a visit to the Stockyards feels like a step back in time to the Wild West with cattle drives and rodeos. The city is also home to the National Cowgirl Museum & Hall of Fame.

San Diego, California

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This sunny SoCal city is renowned for its warm weather, stunning stretches of sand, and lush parks, making it a great choice for a long weekend getaway. It goes without saying, but a trip to the beach here is one for the books. Options run the gamut from Cardiff State Beach, to the lively Moonlight State Beach in nearby Encinitas, which is a popular spot for swimming, surfing, and volleyball, to bustling Coronado Beach. Be sure to also carve out enough time to explore the city’s other equally impressive sights, including Belmont Park, an oceanfront amusement park that practically oozes nostalgia; the expansive Balboa Park, which is home to the San Diego Zoo; and the historic Gaslamp Quarter that’s teeming with nightlife. La Jolla, a quick 20-minute drive from downtown, is famous for its rugged coastline, abundance of seals and sea lions, scenic trails (don’t miss Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve), incredible golf, and charming downtown area.

Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Area

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It’s no secret that our nation’s capital is beloved among history buffs for its many monuments, landmarks, and (free) museums, but there’s so much more to see, do, and explore both in the city and nearby. Georgetown and The Wharf are two of D.C.’s trendiest neighborhoods, and both are teeming with eclectic shopping, drinking, and dining venues. Additionally, travelers can — and should — venture outside the city limits to explore nearby destinations such as Old Town Alexandria (approximately eight miles away), which offers quaint cobblestone streets and 18th-century townhouses. A bit further away is Loudoun County, which is famous for its wineries, vineyards, and storybook-worthy towns like Middleburg and Leesburg.

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