10 Expensive American Vacations That are Still Worth Splurging on

The U.S. is full of amazing vacation spots worth their high price tags.

tourist couple traveling
Updated May 28, 2024
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The U.S. is a gem for travel lovers. With so many different regions, its vacation options really run the gamut.

You can choose from beautiful beaches on both shores, breathtaking national parks, world-renowned theme parks, and some of the most famous metropolitan destinations on the planet.

With so many options, narrowing down the destinations worth spending your hard-earned money on can be difficult. So in an effort to avoid making mistakes, we wind up staying at home.

Stay at home no longer. Here are 10 destinations in the U.S. that may be pricey — but are absolutely worth the splurge.

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shanemyersphoto/Adobe Na Pali Coast Kauai

Hawaii tops the list as a must-see destination, no matter which island you plan to head to. 

Oahu, home to the state’s capital, Honolulu, is the most visited island and offers a mix of city life alongside gorgeous beaches, breathtaking views, and crystal blue water.

However, given Hawaii’s location right smack in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, getting there alone will cost a pretty penny. If you can swing it or budget for it, the trek (and the splurge) will absolutely be worth it.

New Orleans

f11photo/Adobe pubs and bars with neon lights in the French Quarter New Orleans

Even if you don’t plan to spend too much time around the sites and sounds (and drinks) on Bourbon Street, vacationing in New Orleans, Louisiana, can get pricey.

Hotels tend to be more expensive than other cities, and there’s so much to do, travelers can end up running up quite a tab. On the plus side, many activities in and around New Orleans are quite affordable, making the Big Easy a must-see if you can swing it.

Visitors can take carriage rides through the gorgeous French Quarter, hop on a bayou and swamp tour, visit haunted cemeteries, or indulge in a dinner cruise. You can do it all on a budget if you book smart.

The Grand Canyon

SeanPavonePhoto/Adobe Grand Canyon Arizona USA

As one of the seven natural wonders of the world, you absolutely have to see the Grand Canyon to believe it. Unfortunately, seeing it can be costly.

The closest airport to the Grand Canyon is in Flagstaff, Arizona. That’s about a 90-minute drive away, so travelers are looking at the cost of a flight plus a rental car (or bus trip).

Renting a hotel inside the park can be pricey, but it may be worth it if you want to spend a few days exploring. However, you can get cheaper rates in Flagstaff or Las Vegas and book bus tours from those cities.

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Disney World

JHVEPhoto/Adobe Walt Disney World entrance arch gate in Orlando Florida

It may take some budgeting, but planning a trip to the Most Magical Place on Earth is worth the splurge at least once.

Flights to Orlando may be affordable, depending on where you’re coming from. But factor in the cost of hotels, transportation, and park tickets, and you’re looking at a pretty pricey Floridian vacation. That doesn’t include all the food and souvenirs you can buy in the parks.

However, the attractions, rides, parades, and daily fireworks shows can be unforgettable for visitors, especially kids. Day passes (currently $109) also drop in price if you buy more than one, which is ideal if you plan to spend one day in Magic Kingdom and another in Epcot, for example.


David A Litman/Adobe skiers and snowboarders ascend the Elk Camp

If you’re into skiing, Aspen, Colorado, needs to be on your bucket list. However, this top winter destination is one of the priciest ski towns in the country.

Average visitors spend around $200 per night on lodging and another $200 on ski-lift tickets. If you’re spending a few days in the area, that vacation tab could run up to several thousand.

However, you don’t have to stay at pricey accommodations when visiting the area. You can save big bucks if you lodge in nearby Snowmass Village (about 20 minutes outside of Aspen) or opt for hostel-style lodging inside Aspen.


Maridav/Adobe Alaska whale watching boat excursion

No matter where you’re traveling from in the U.S., getting to Alaska is quite the journey — but it’s worth it. The natural phenomena you can see there are unlike anything in the lower 48 states.

However, many travelers book a cruise or a land tour (or both) to get the full experience. The cost of a cruise can really add up, even with one of the best credit cards for cruises.

While smart traveling is possible — booking day cruises or traveling in the off-peak “shoulder season,” for example — a trip to Alaska will still take some financial planning.

The Hamptons

haveseen/Adobe Montauk Lighthouse and beach

The Hamptons are known as a hotspot for the rich and famous, but they make for a great getaway for everyone else as well.

Cheap lodging is not easy to come by in this coastal community on Long Island, New York, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.

There’s plenty to do in the gorgeous villages, from beach hopping to beer and wine tasting to hiking to the Montauk Lighthouse. Booking far in advance or opting for the off-season (after summer ends) can save you some big bucks on a Hamptons vacation.

Big Sur

Krzysztof Wiktor/Adobe bixby creek bridge

Big Sur encompasses a coastal stretch of Central California and offers truly gorgeous views of the Pacific, as well as hiking, camping, and so much more. Visitors also tend to stop for a photo opportunity of the world-famous Bixby Creek Bridge.

While Big Sur has no shortage of luxury hotels, travelers can also take advantage of oceanview or streamside camping to cut costs and still enjoy all the beauty the area offers.

Jackson Hole

aceshot/Adobe vintage barn in Mormon Row

If you’re the adventuring type or enjoy outdoor sports, Jackson Hole, Wyoming, a 48-mile valley surrounded by mountains, is an excellent addition to the bucket list.

From Grand Teton National Park to ski-hill Snow King Mountain, visitors have endless options for enjoying the natural beauty.

However, flying into the area and paying for lodging, lift tickets, and more can really add up. It’s possible to knock a few dollars off the price by staying in town rather than in Teton Village and choosing budget meals rather than fine-dining experiences.

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Napa Valley

Sherri Camp/Adobe autumn vineyard - rows of grapevines in fall

Napa Valley, California, is a must-visit destination if you enjoy a great glass of wine.

The world-famous region is just over an hour outside of San Francisco and offers visitors the opportunity to bike, hike, and indulge in top-of-the-line cuisine. And, of course, acres and acres of some of the country’s best wineries.

Unfortunately, the area has a reputation for being pricey. But like the other destinations on this list, it’s possible to cut down vacation prices by booking in advance and comparing lodging prices (Airbnb vs. local hotels, for example) to get the best deal possible.

Bottom line

AboutLife/Adobe tourist on the Brooklyn Bridge

While there are many great vacation spots within the U.S. that you can travel to on a budget, plenty of the pricier options really are worth the splurge.

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Laura Gesualdi-Gilmore

Laura Gesualdi-Gilmore is a seasoned freelance writer who also teaches writing courses at Rutgers University. She's based in Jersey City and enjoys travel, live music and, of course, spending quality time with her pup.