smart spending

7 classic American vacations on the cheap

Badlands National Park, the Black Hills
Badlands National Park, the Black Hills © iStock

Badlands National Park, the Black Hills

Western South Dakota is home to Mount Rushmore, the Crazy Horse Memorial, Badlands National Park and the Wild West town of Deadwood in the Black Hills.

It's also a place where buffalo literally roam, at least in Custer State Park. And it's all packed into about 100 square miles.

There are so many historic sites and museums so close together "that the area offers a lot of bang for every vacation dollar," says Nort Johnson, president of the Black Hills, Badlands & Lakes Association in Rapid City.

To stretch your travel dollars, avoid the summer rush and travel from late August until May. "You can get exceptional bargains," he says. "Attractions and hotels have a lot of spare capacity and are willing to make deals."

Staying at one of the many mom and pop motels in smaller towns is also a sure way to stretch hotel dollars in any season, Johnson says. Camping is affordable year-round, starting at about $18 per night.

Local tourism organizations also offer coupons for local attractions and package deals with discounted hotel stays and attraction tickets.

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