12 Fabulous Vacations You Can Fund with a Modest Tax Refund

Disappointed with your slightly lower tax refund? These 12 U.S. vacation destinations are perfect for splurging without overspending.
Last updated April 3, 2023 | By Michelle Smith Edited By Jeff White
family having a vacation with their dog at mountainous area resting on pier together

We may receive compensation from the products and services mentioned in this story, but the opinions are the author's own. Compensation may impact where offers appear. We have not included all available products or offers. Learn more about how we make money and our editorial policies.

After two years of bigger-than-average tax refunds, Americans might be disappointed in this year’s much more modest tax return. Luckily, you don’t actually need oodles of cash to enjoy a dream vacation.

You can get more out of your tax refund by visiting one of these 12 unique, off-the-beaten-path destinations and staying in the U.S. for your vacation.

Black Mountain, North Carolina

jonbilous/Adobe green mountains surrounding lake tomahawk

About 15 minutes away from the more popular tourist destination of Asheville, Black Mountain is a beautiful city nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Depending on what time of year you travel there, motel rooms for two adults can cost as little as $60 a night.

Free outdoor concerts from June through August, lakeside walking paths, and hiking trails help you keep costs low without sacrificing entertainment.

Forks, Washington

SeanPavonePhoto/Adobe the city of forks welcomes you sign board in washington during day time

The small city of Forks, Washington, is located on the Washington Peninsula, about a three-and-a-half-hour drive from Seattle. Forks can serve as a home base while you explore dozens of beaches up and down the Peninsula.

While staying on the Peninsula, you’ll also have your pick of national parks, state parks, and state forests.

A state parks pass from Washington State costs just $30 a year for unlimited access to all state parks, while a National Parks pass costs $80 a year (or $20 if you’re over age 62).

Reno, Nevada

tusharkoley/Adobe reno the biggest city in the world with lots of neon lights at night

If Las Vegas’s glitz and glam are outside your budget, Reno is a quieter, more affordable alternative.

The city might lack Vegas’s rich nightlife, but staying in Reno still gives you access to some of Nevada’s biggest draws, including casinos, high-desert landscapes, and fascinating Western history.

Orange Beach, Alabama

Felix Mizioznikov/Adobe buildings in line at orange beach alabama during sunset

If your ideal vacation is lounging on a sunny Southern beach, you have plenty of options besides an expensive Florida trip.

Orange Beach, Alabama, is home to around 8,000 residents, and the beach itself is just one of many along the state's 32-mile stretch of Gulf Coast.

Depending on when you stay, four-star hotels in Orange Beach can cost as little as $149 per night.

Tulsa, Oklahoma

SeanPavonePhoto/Adobe skyscrapers in tulsa oklahoma with lights at night

You might not think of Oklahoma as a prime tourist destination, but a trip to Tulsa is almost guaranteed to change your mind.

The city is home to the Gathering Place park, a public park along the Arkansas River that spans over 100 acres and serves as a welcoming recreational space for all Tulsans.

You can find motels starting at around $50 a night for two adults.

Springdale, Utah

Stephen/Adobe flowing virgin river with lush green mountains in zion national park utah

Springdale is a tiny town located quite literally at the entrance to Zion National Park. Although you can definitely burn through a lot of cash in the town’s high-end restaurants, bars, and shops, Springdale has plenty of budget options for food and lodging.

Zion can get quite crowded in the spring and summer, but it’s just as gorgeous — and even more affordable — if you visit in the off-season from late fall to early spring.

Dubois, Wyoming

christy/Adobe beautiful landscapes including country house with snowy mountains in background at teton national park

Many visitors to Grand Teton National Park — as well as to Yellowstone National Park and Jackson Hole — stay in the nearby city of Jackson, Wyoming.

But if you’re willing to drive an hour to reach the park entrance, Dubois is a cheaper, less crowded option.

The town of 900 residents (and home of the National Bighorn Sheep Center) maintains the authentic Wild West cowboy feel that gets lost in Wyoming’s more touristy cities.

Albuquerque, New Mexico

Greg Meland/Adobe colorful hot air balloons passing over rio grande during day time

Not too long ago, AARP named Albuquerque as one of its most affordable travel destinations in the U.S.

While the city doesn’t have the same draw as artsy Santa Fe or historic Taos, its free activities should keep it on your radar for budget-friendly vacations.

The University of New Mexico hosts fascinating exhibits with no entry fee, and the Rio Grande Bosque trail gives you the chance to experience New Mexico’s unique natural environment for free.

Three Rivers, California

altitudevisual/Adobe trees in sequoia forest

Visalia, California is typically cited as the nearest city to Sequoia National Park, but if you want to get closer to the park without overspending, it’s hard to beat Three Rivers.

The village is ten minutes outside of the park, and pricing for hotels, motels, and inns ranges from $69 to $200 a night.

Bar Harbor, Maine

Zak Zeinert/Adobe bass head light in front of water and rocks in acadia national park, maine

If a visit to Nantucket or Martha’s Vineyard feels too far out of reach for your budget, Bar Harbor is an excellent seaside alternative.

The city is located right up against Acadia National Park, and you can stay at a coastal cottage or inn with ocean views starting at $95 a night in the off-season.

Boat cruises to see everything from puffins to historic lighthouses start at $41 for a two-hour tour.

El Paso, Texas

SeanPavonePhoto/Adobe skylines with lights in tulsa at night

Hotels in El Paso hover around $50 a night for two adults or around $60 a night for families of four. Beyond saving you money on a ridiculously affordable hotel stay, an El Paso vacation can give you more bang for your buck.

Free activities include scenic drives, walking trails that connect the city’s historic missions, and a visit to the U.S. Army’s Fort Bliss Museum.

Klamath Falls, Oregon

hanksstudios/Adobe klamath river flowing along rocks and green vegetation during day time

Klamath Falls is located in southern Oregon, fairly close to the state’s borders with Nevada and California.

The city is an excellent destination for nearly any outdoor activity year-round, from skiing to hiking, but its main draw is its bald eagle population.

Apart from birdwatching, visitors to Klamath Falls can enjoy multiple bike trails through the city and quick day trips to tourist draw like Crater Lake.

Bottom line

Siphosethu Fanti/peopleimages.com/Adobe african american couple enjoying piggy ride while walking on beach

No matter how much you get back from the government after filing your taxes, you can definitely use that money to reach an amazing, unique vacation destination somewhere in the U.S.

Any of the options on this list can help you stop throwing away money on pricier vacations and find a terrific place to visit that's within your budget.

Easy-to-Earn Unlimited Rewards

Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card


Card Details

  • Earn 25,000 online bonus points after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases
  • Earn 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases
  • Longer intro APR on qualifying purchases and balance transfers
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Apply Now
  • Earn unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases, with no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees and your points don't expire.
  • 25,000 online bonus points after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases.
  • Use your card to book your trip how and where you want - you're not limited to specific websites with blackout dates or restrictions.
  • Redeem points for a statement credit to pay for travel or dining purchases, such as flights, hotel stays, car and vacation rentals, baggage fees, and also at restaurants including takeout.
  • 0% Introductory APR for 18 billing cycles for purchases, and for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days. After the intro APR offer ends, 17.74% - 27.74% Variable APR will apply. A 3% fee applies to all balance transfers.
  • If you're a Preferred Rewards member, you can earn 25%-75% more points on every purchase. That means instead of earning an unlimited 1.5 points for every $1, you could earn 1.87-2.62 points for every $1 you spend on purchases.
  • Contactless Cards - The security of a chip card, with the convenience of a tap.
  • This online only offer may not be available if you leave this page or if you visit a Bank of America financial center. You can take advantage of this offer when you apply now.
Apply Now

on Bank of America’s secure website

Read Card Review

Intro Offer

Earn 25,000 online bonus points after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases

Annual Fee



Why we like it

Author Details

Michelle Smith Michelle Smith has spent a decade writing for and about small businesses. She specializes in all things finance and has written for publications like G2 and SmallBizDaily. When she's not writing for work at her desk, you can usually find her writing for pleasure near large bodies of water.