There’s little I love more than travel, but it can become expensive quickly, especially when you consider paying for airfare, long hotel stays, and spendy attractions. However, if you opt to drive instead of fly, stay at a local campground or vacation rental instead of a hotel, and stick to low-cost activities, travel can be quite affordable – take my 2023 trip to the Finger Lakes, for example. 

When my family moved to the East Coast in 2021, I immediately began compiling our bucket list. At the top of that list was Ithaca, New York. I had a close friend from high school who went to college in Ithaca, and they always spoke so fondly of the area that I knew I had to experience it for myself. Centrally located within the Northeast United States, the Finger Lakes region of New York is an underrated getaway location we can’t get enough of – and it’s the perfect spot for an affordable vacation for nature and culture lovers alike. 

Accommodations In The Finger Lakes

Low-Cost Activities In The Finger Lakes

Outdoor Adventures In The Finger Lakes

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Food & Dining In The Finger Lakes

Ithaca and the surrounding area are home to countless delicious restaurants as well as coffee shops, wineries, breweries, and more. This is one area of your travel budget that you can be frugal or splurge – or land somewhere in the middle as we did.

Estimated Costs

I personally value experiences over things, so we tend to watch our budget more closely at home and let ourselves splurge a bit more than usual on vacations. You could spend less by forgoing spontaneous shopping, drinking less coffee, or checking into one of the many campgrounds in the area. I estimate you could easily spend less than $1,000 on a four-day trip if you were watching your budget more closely than we did. Here’s a breakdown of our costs for your reference.

  • Accommodations: $540
  • Outdoor Adventures & Low-Cost Activities: $32
  • Restaurants & Dining: $276
  • Coffee, Dessert & Wine Tasting: $114
  • Gas: $80 for 2 fill-ups on our five-hour drive + explorations
  • Misc. Shopping & Fun: $168, including two bottles of wine from Wagner Valley Winery and goodies from the Ithaca Farmers’ Market, a vintage store in Aurora, New York, and a local bookstore I can’t remember the name of.

This brings our grand total for our four-day trip to New York’s Finger Lakes region to $1,210 total (including the $540 we would have spent on a hotel if we didn’t have points — our out-of-pocket total was only $670). This breaks down to $101 per person per day for our family of three.

You can also absolutely spend more – or less – than we did depending on where you stay, what you do, and where you eat, but we’re talking budget travel here, so we focus on budget travel, where we aim to spend $100 per person, per day of travel.

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