The Cheapest North American Cities for Travelers

Salt Lake City

If you’re traveling in the USA, Canada, or Mexico, which destinations will cost you the least? The cheapest cities are probably not the ones you would expect.

I write a lot on here about the cheapest places to travel internationally, but my fellow Americans aren’t exactly worldly wise. Only about a third of them even have a passport, so there’s a lot more domestic travel going on each year than international travel. This is a terrific time to go abroad thanks to a strong U.S. dollar though, which is also having an effect on the rankings of cheap cities in North America.

Trivago keeps tabs on this and has a ton of data to pull from based on customer searches. Each month they release a list of average hotel prices in the 35 most popular markets. These aren’t necessarily the biggest cities, but the most popular for hotel searches. So while Austin doesn’t make the cut, Atlantic City and Niagara Falls do.

Niagara Falls turns out to be the cheapest domestic option on that list, probably thanks in part to the fact that there aren’t a lot of luxury rooms in the mix. That isn’t the case with the cheapest cities for travelers in our neighboring countries though: Mexico City and Quebec City. Those two have plenty of nice places to stay. Prices are mostly down because the greenback is so strong.

Niagara Falls cheapest hotels

Here are the North American cities with the lowest average hotel prices this month. Keep in mind this is low season in some northern cities: prices will be higher in the summer. And forget about getting a deal in Houston during Super Bowl weekend.

10) Indianapolis – $132

9) Salt Lake City – $132

8) Vancouver – $128

7) Houston – $122

6) Montreal – $115

5) Atlantic City – $112

4) Quebec City – $108

3) San Antonio – $106

2) Mexico City – $90

1) Niagara Falls – $81

Barely missing from this list is St. Louis, averaging just $2 more than the #10 entry at $134. Throughout the year, the priciest is usually Honolulu, NYC, or Miami Beach.

Go Smaller for Big Hotel Savings

So what about the places beyond the 35 most popular? Are there some hidden bargains out there?

As a general rule of thumb, smaller cities have better prices than large ones. That’s a natural result of lower prices for real estate, taxes, and labor. There are exceptions though because competition and the types of hotels in the inventory mix can sway the prices quite a bit.

Puebla cheap destination

I did a spot search on Trivago of other cities that I know are generally a bargain. I can’t crunch all the numbers to get an average, but here’s the range of where prices start from the lowest 2-star to the highest 5-star hotel on a Saturday night in mid-February.

Puebla, Mexico – $13 – $88 except this one $140 luxury hotel

Lexington, KY – $39 – $219

Kansas City, MO $47 – $239

Albuquerque, NM – $36 – $211

Chattanooga, TN $42 – $179

Memphis, TN $45 – $199

Reno, NV $45 – $194

Kingston, Ontario – $44 – $139

Search the city you’re headed to next here:


Comments
  1. Christine

    Vancouver, Montreal, and Quebec City are all fantastic bargains, with plenty of winter activities too!

  2. Dean

    Most of the ‘real bargains’ are not listed. If you are looking for the cheapest you must walk around and inquire, sometimes bargaining with the hotels in foreign countries. All these internet services that show prices like Trip Adviser and other search engines have no incentive to show the ‘cheapies’ since they make no comision on them! My advise is to book a cheap place for one or two nights then find the place you like at the price you want carefully.

    • Tim Leffel

      The post is about North American cities.

      What you’re describing can work in Mexico, but almost never in the USA and Canada. There are very few independent hotels and the chain ones are all locked into pricing contracts. They can grant you an upgrade as a walk-in, but seldom a discount. They’ll often quote you a higher price than you can find online, not lower.

  3. Agness of a TukTuk

    Hi Tim, I will surely add this list to my next destination this year. Some of these cities are surprisingly cheap, I never thought that it could be a good value for money. But thanks for sharing this, many budget travelers would really jump into it this year.

  4. Jason

    That’s surprising about Quebec City. I always pictured that one as a really pricey spot.

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