Summer is nearly here, and for many, that means it’s time to start finalizing vacation plans. The good news is that summer air travel doesn’t have to cost a fortune. In fact, according to travel search site Skyscanner, domestic airfare to many U.S. cities is shaping up to be anywhere from 10 percent to 25 percent cheaper than last summer. “Domestic travel has never been more attainable, especially for the summer months, with round-trip fares available for under $300,” said Max Lorber, principal growth manager for Skyscanner. Here are this summer’s 25 cheapest destinations, based on a Skyscanner analysis of flights to and from all 50 states. All prices are for one round-trip economy ticket.
Average round trip: $228.34
Golf lovers rejoice. This year’s most inexpensive destination, according to Skyscanner, is Myrtle Beach, one of the best-known golf and beach cities on the East Coast. Myrtle Beach is a playground for young and old. The city is as famous for celebrity-designed golf courses as for its classic boardwalk lined with arcades, souvenir shops, and rides, including one of the country's tallest Ferris wheels.
Average round trip: $253.75
Home to more than a dozen amusement parks, this central Florida city is on the radar of families everywhere. In addition to Walt Disney World, there are many appealing lesser-known attractions such as Warbird Adventures, where visitors can fly in World War II era planes, and Forever Florida, a 4,700-acre wildlife conservation area with nine diverse subtropical ecosystems that are home to alligators, black bears, white-tailed deer, and more.
Average round trip: $256.43
Last year it was the cheapest travel destination in the United States, but Atlanta has dropped a few slots this time around, according to Skyscanner. Still, Atlanta is one of the most vibrant cities in the East, combining Southern culture, history, outdoor recreation, and a mouth-watering food scene. Some of the top attractions include the Georgia Aquarium, CNN Center, the Atlanta History Center, and the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site.
Average round trip: $257
Dallas has many claims to fame, both historical and colorful. It's the burial place of famed criminals Bonnie and Clyde, and visitors can still catch a movie at the Texas Theatre, where Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested. Home to the Dallas World Aquarium and Perot Museum of Nature and Science, this Texas city is also a popular destination for families with young children.
Average round trip: $265.78
Setting aside the fact that temperatures in July and August climb to more than 100 degrees, Las Vegas offers something for practically everyone: gambling, nightlife, over-the-top hotels, immense buffets, shopping (all air-conditioned!), and many free activities. Summer typically brings one more thing to Sin City: cheaper hotel room rates.
Average round trip: $266.50
Recognized by U.S. News & World Report as one of the best cities to live in, Tampa is also an interesting place to visit. Top attractions include Busch Gardens' African-themed amusement park ($89 per ticket), the Florida Aquarium, and the unique Big Cat Rescue, one of the largest accredited sanctuaries in the world. The sanctuary is home to more than 80 lions, tigers, bobcats, and cougars.
Average round trip: $267.72
Museums, shopping, nightlife, an impressive skyline, and sprawling parks are just some of the highlights of the de facto capital of the Midwest. Some of the top attractions in the largest city in the Midwest include the Art Institute of Chicago, Shedd Aquarium, and Grant Park, a 319-acre green space.
Average round trip: $272.64
Located at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, Denver is a great base camp for outdoor enthusiasts. It's also a foodie's paradise thanks to an exploding culinary scene. In between eating and adventuring, check out some of the city's museums, galleries, and nightlife. Families may want to explore the Denver Museum of Nature & Science or the Denver Zoo.
Average round trip: $273.04
A city known for its Cuban influence, massive collection of art deco architecture, and the uber-stylish South Beach neighborhood, Miami is one of the hottest vacation spots in the country. For a true immersion in the city's iconic architecture, take an art deco tour. They're offered by various companies and start at about $30 a person. Miami is also full of many free attractions, too.
Average round trip: $274.67
In terms of tourism, Houston is this year’s comeback kid, working to recover from last year’s devastating hurricane season. One of the city’s biggest highlights is Space Center Houston, the coastal visitor center at NASA’s astronaut training and flight complex. Downtown there’s a theater district to check out and a historic district filled with 19th century architecture and many notable restaurants. Families may also want to visit the Downtown Aquarium, a 6-acre entertainment and dining complex that includes a 500,000-gallon aquatic display.
Average round trip: $278.60
There's more to Detroit than cars and Motown. The city also boasts the Detroit Institute of Arts, showcasing the Detroit Industry Murals painted by Diego Rivera, as well as one of the largest art collections in the country. The Detroit Riverfront is a vibrant, revitalized space hosting everything from concerts to yoga classes. In a nod to the city's auto industry roots, visitors can see the Ford Piquette Avenue Plant, the first factory of the Ford Motor Co.
Average round trip: $280.54
Pack up the kids and bring them to a city that showcases America's history. Philadelphia is certainly ripe for learning, with the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall (where the Declaration of Independence and Constitution were signed), and other American Revolution sites. Fans of the movie "Rocky" can run up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art highlighted in the Sylvester Stallone film, while others may want to pop into the museum to enjoy its stellar artwork.
Average round trip: $281.44
Another historic city, Boston is home to the Freedom Trail and Paul Revere's house. The city also offers fabulous dining, renowned museums like the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, legendary educational institutions, and a great sports scene. Those who enjoy the outdoors shouldn't miss the Boston Public Garden.
Average round trip: $290.61
Pittsburgh is a city known for its many Gilded Age cultural sites, which include the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, the Carnegie Museum of Art, and the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, all of which are examples of its history as an industrial capital in the early 1900s. Among the more recent additions to the city’s offerings is the modern Andy Warhol Museum.
Average round trip: $292.32
For those who've longed to visit the Mall of America, this summer is your chance. Located just outside the city, this must-see attraction is big enough to hold nine Yankee Stadiums. Minneapolis is also a city with many cultural landmarks, a notable music scene (it was home to Prince, after all), and an abundance of parks and lakes. Other attractions include the Minneapolis Art Institute and the Guthrie Theater, renowned for its classical and avant-garde productions. And in a more recent development, since Prince’s untimely passing, you can now tour his former home and famed recording studio, Paisley Park.
Average round trip: $293.06
Does the Big Apple really need any introduction? Between Central Park, the Statue of Liberty, Broadway and Times Square, a person could spend days and weeks here. There’s also The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Empire State Building, fabulous shopping and dining galore, and many free attractions. Good thing you’ll be saving a few dollars on airfare to get here.
Average round trip: $295.45
A city located in the shadow of San Francisco, Oakland is less expensive and less chilly than its more famous neighbor. And those are not the only reasons to visit. Oakland is home to a growing creative community that includes artists, chefs, and directors and programmers from Pixar Animation Studios. Old Oakland showcases restored Victorian architecture and boutiques, and the Oakland Museum of California, which highlights state history, is also a notable draw.
Average round trip: $299.06
The Texas state capital has long been known as a vibrant and engaging destination, thanks in large part to being home to the University of Texas’ flagship campus. Visitors particularly enjoy the city’s exploding live music scene (Austin is home to more than 250 music venues offering everything from country to blues and rock). The city is also a great choice for outdoor enthusiasts thanks to its many parks and lakes, providing ample opportunity for hiking, biking, and more. There are also world-class museums and a notable ballet.
Average round trip: $299.18
Seeking some quality beach time this summer? Fort Myers has that in spades. The city is surrounded by both fresh and saltwater, and its nature-related offerings are a big draw. There are several natural preserves in the area. One of the most popular is the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. Darling was a pioneering conservationist and Pulitzer Prize-winning political cartoonist from the 1920s to the 1940s. The Edison & Ford Winter Estates are also a popular attraction.
Average round trip: $299.81
NASCAR, anyone? One of the most famous attractions in Kansas City is the Kansas Speedway, which hosts NASCAR races and is also home to a casino. For the rest of the family, there’s the National Frontier Trails Museum, which offers an in-depth look at Lewis and Clark’s explorations. For those with kids in tow, check out Kaleidoscope, an art studio where children can be creative.
Average round trip: $303.44
Visitors could spend weeks exploring the city known for its association with the film and TV industries. Tours provide a chance to gawk at the palatial homes of celebrities. Top sights include the iconic Griffith Observatory (seen in countless films), the art-filled Getty Center, Universal Studios, the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and Rodeo Drive.
Average round trip: $304.56
For music buffs, there's the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. For foodies, there is a dynamic and blossoming dining scene, thanks to a combination of celebrity chefs and locally renowned culinary stars. Other top attractions include the Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland Botanical Garden, and West Side Market.
Average round trip: $305.14
The nation's capital, with its many museums, government buildings, and iconic public spaces, needs little description. But one new attraction of note is the National Museum of African American History and Culture, which opened in 2016. Focused exclusively on documenting African-American life, history, and culture, it is home to more than 36,000 artifacts.
Average round trip: $305.31
A sprawling city that boasts 300 days of sunshine a year, Phoenix offers theaters, museums, and the Desert Botanical Garden, which provides an overview of the region's flora and fauna. Some of the most popular places to visit include the Heard Museum and Old Town Scottsdale. Hikers flock to Camelback Mountain, which has outstanding views of Phoenix and Scottsdale.
Average round trip: $306.70
The final city rounding out Skyscanner’s affordable summer flights list is San Francisco, a place that is reported to have inspired Mark Twain to quip, “The coldest winter I ever saw was the summer I spent in San Francisco.” Whether or not that quote was actually uttered by the famous writer, San Francisco is certainly legendary for its foggy weather. However, it also offers much to see and do including the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, riding its colorful cable cars, and don’t miss a visit to Alcatraz, the notorious former prison perched on an island in the bay.