Best US Cities for Off-Season Travel

ByAnja Solum, CEPF
Edited byMegan Hull

Updated: September 21, 2023

ByAnja Solum, CEPF
Edited byMegan Hull

Updated: September 21, 2023

Advertising & Editorial Disclosure

Traveling can be expensive; off-season trips are a budget-friendly solution for those looking to save on their adventures. Off-season travel offers considerable savings on accommodations and attractions and provides unique — and often, less-crowded — experiences. To find the cheapest cities for off-season travel, MoneyGeek analyzed off-season airfare, hotel rates and restaurant dining costs for the 50 largest U.S. cities and found that winter travelers can find great deals in Las Vegas or Oakland, while summer travelers might find Mesa, Arizona, to be a budget-friendly destination.

KEY FINDINGS
  • A one-day, off-season vacation to the 50 largest U.S. cities costs $970, on average. During the summer, Mesa, Arizona, stands out as the most affordable place to travel overall, with costs amounting to just $528 — nearly half the national average.

  • Western cities have some of the best airfare deals during the off-season. In the summer, Mesa, Arizona, offers round-trip flights for $342. For winter travel, both Las Vegas, Nevada, and Oakland, California, have wallet-friendly, round-trip airfare prices at $540 and $552, respectively.

  • Texas and Oklahoma offer the most budget-friendly hotel options for vacationers in the off-season. In the winter months, Houston, Texas, averages hotel rates of $68 per night, while Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, isn't far behind at $72. For fall travelers, San Antonio, Texas, and Tulsa, Oklahoma, have nightly rates averaging $85 and $88, respectively.

  • Columbus, Ohio, presents an affordable option for fall travelers. It holds the third spot for least expensive overall off-season travel costs and claims the No.5 lowest off-season airfare among major cities — all adding up to an estimated getaway cost of just $749.

  • Airports in major cities typically charge $780 for a round-trip ticket, but for those flying to Meadows Field in Bakersfield, California, the fare climbs to $1,149 — 50% more than the standard fare.

Cheapest Cities for Off-Season Travel

A typical one-day off-season getaway to any of the 50 largest U.S. cities costs $970, factoring in average round-trip airfare, hotel and dining expenses.

For summer adventurers unfazed by high temperatures, Mesa, Arizona, is a wallet-friendly destination with total travel costs of just $528, 55% less than the national average. Round-trip flights to this destination average $342, while hotel stays cost an estimated $112 per night.

Winter travelers can enjoy significant savings in Las Vegas, Nevada, or Oakland, California, with both destinations costing under $770. Round-trip tickets average $540 and $552, respectively — the most affordable airfare among the cities included in our study. Hotel stays in both cities also average a reasonably priced $137 and $140 per night.

For those seeking a lower-cost fall destination, Columbus, Ohio, is worth considering. With an estimated total travel cost of $749, including $596 for a round-trip flight and $108 per night for hotel stays, Columbus ranks as the No.3 most budget-friendly major city for off-season travel costs and No.5 for off-season airfare.

5 Cheapest US Cities for Off-Season Travel
City
Off Season
Total Off-Season Travel Costs
Off-Season Airfare Costs (Round-Trip)
Off-Season Hotel Rates (One Night)
Inexpensive Restaurant Meal Cost

1.

Mesa, AZ

Summer

$528

$342

$112

$25

2.

Las Vegas, NV

Winter

$734

$540

$137

$19

3.

Columbus, OH

Fall

$749

$596

$108

$15

4.

Oakland, CA

Winter

$766

$552

$140

$25

5.

Denver, CO

Winter

$831

$674

$103

$18

Most Affordable Cities for Off-Season Hotel Stays

Off-season hotel stays in major cities usually cost an average of $130 per night. However, savvy travelers can save significantly by visiting Texas and Oklahoma in the fall or winter. In the colder months, Houston, Texas, and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, offer hotel rates averaging $68 and $72 per night, respectively — that's nearly 50% in savings compared to the national average for major cities. During the fall, San Antonio, Texas, and Tulsa, Oklahoma, provide nightly rates averaging around $85 and $88, respectively, which is still a significant discount of around 34%.

5 Cities With the Cheapest Hotel Rates
City
Off Season
Off-Season Hotel Rates (One Night)

1.

Houston, TX

Winter

$68

2.

Oklahoma City, OK

Winter

$72

3.

San Antonio, TX

Fall

$85

4.

Tulsa, OK

Fall

$88

5.

Wichita, KS

Winter

$93

Most Expensive Cities for Off-Season Travel

While off-season travel is more affordable in many places, it can still be expensive in certain cities. For example, Bakersfield, California, is the most expensive city for off-season winter getaways, with an average total travel cost of $1,343. Round-trip airfare there is the highest among all major cities at $1,150, nearly 50% more than the major city average of $780. While Bakersfield consistently has the priciest airfare year-round, opting for winter travel can provide a discount of roughly 10%, translating to a savings of about $268 on round-trip flights.

Detroit in the winter and Boston in the fall also rank among the top five most expensive cities for off-season travel, with hotel rates sitting at $334 and $258 per night during these seasons, respectively — significantly more than the average rate of $130 per night seen across all cities studied.

5 Most Expensive Cities for Off-Season Travel
City
Off Season
Total Off-Season Travel Costs
Off-Season Airfare Costs (Round-Trip)
Off-Season Hotel Rates (One Night)
Inexpensive Restaurant Meal Cost

1.

Bakersfield, CA

Winter

$1,343

$1,149

$134

$20

2.

Detroit, MI

Winter

$1,276

$895

$334

$16

3.

Los Angeles, CA

Spring

$1,149

$920

$157

$24

4.

Boston, MA

Fall

$1,145

$815

$258

$24

5.

Fresno, CA

Fall

$1,134

$943

$142

$17

creditCards icon
USING CREDIT CARDS TO MAXIMIZE YOUR OFF-SEASON TRAVEL SAVINGS

While traveling in the off season is an excellent way to save money on your trips, incorporating the benefits of travel credit cards and reward credit cards can amplify those savings even further. By wisely using these cards for your bookings, you can accumulate points and miles for future trips or even snag special promotions. Be sure to always use credit judiciously and aim to pay off balances in full to ensure your adventures remain cost-effective.

Methodology

To identify the most affordable off-season U.S. travel destinations, MoneyGeek analyzed off-season airfare, hotel and food cost data for the 50 largest cities in the country.

We used travel planning resources to identify off-season months for each city. These include whereandwhen.net, travellersworldwide.com, and travellemming.com.

MoneyGeek analyzed airfare data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, focusing on the quarter with the highest number of off-season months. For cities lacking airports, we utilized data from the nearest major airport. Our airfare data, inflation-adjusted to Q1-2023, was collected for Q1-2023, Q4-2022, Q3-2022, and Q2-2022.

Additionally, we analyzed the top 25 lowest nightly hotel rates per city during each city's off-season months on Booking.com, averaging the results. Our search filters included a Saturday night stay during off-season months, a minimum three-star hotel rating, and the exclusion of aparthotels, a type of accommodation that blends the features of a hotel with the features of an apartment.

Using food cost data from numbeo.com, we analyzed the cost of an affordable restaurant meal in different major cities. It's important to note that this data isn't specifically focused on off-season months — like hotel and airfare prices — and only refers to the most recent available updated data.

To determine the total off-season travel cost per city, we added the expenses of round-trip airfare, one night's hotel accommodation and the cost of three daily meals from inexpensive restaurants. We ranked cities in order of least expensive total travel costs to most expensive total travel costs.

Full Data Set

Rank
City
State
Off Season
Total Off-Season Travel Costs
Off-Season Airfare Costs (Round-Trip)
Off-Season Hotel Rates (One Night)
Inexpensive Restaurant Meal Cost

1

Mesa

Arizona

Summer

$528

$342

$112

$25

2

Las Vegas

Nevada

Winter

$734

$540

$137

$19

3

Columbus

Ohio

Fall

$749

$596

$108

$15

4

Oakland

California

Winter

$766

$552

$140

$25

5

Denver

Colorado

Winter

$831

$674

$103

$18

6

Miami

Florida

Summer

$852

$670

$107

$25

7

Houston

Texas

Winter

$858

$736

$68

$18

8

Baltimore

Maryland

Winter

$871

$705

$123

$15

About Anja Solum, CEPF


Anja Solum, CEPF headshot

Anja Solum is an experienced data journalist and marketing manager for MoneyGeek. For over six years, she has produced studies for both agency and in-house teams across multiple verticals, including personal finance, home and health. She's passionate about using data to tell compelling and informed stories that empower readers.