The 5 Best (and Most Affordable) Places to Travel in July

So many places, so little time. Summer really hits its stride in July and although you might think that would mean hefty airfare prices, hotel minimum stays and rate hikes, it can be quite the contrary. Just follow our guide to the five locales that are some of the most popular (yet inexpensive) places to venture to right now.

Courtesy of Cape May Chamber

Cape May, New Jersey

This idyllic, seaside community blooms in the summer months, and experiencing it for the Fourth—during its insane fireworks display, jazz band performances and lobster bake—is a time-honored tradition whether you’re a local or not. In fact, the population of Cape May swells in summer by almost ten times with out-of-towners taking advantage of quality beach time at many of the surrounding area’s ten square miles of sandy, wide and quiet beaches. You and your crew will also love the plethora of perfect-for-sharing vacation rentals and B&Bs available in town, many of which are housed in beautifully preserved historic Victorian homes. Start your morning with breakfast at the open-air Harry’s Ocean Bar & Grille, which has a popular rooftop bar area for post-beach day cocktails. From there, you can simply cross Beach Avenue and find yourself on one of the Jersey Shore’s best stretches, or drive ten minutes to a more rugged, isolated beach—Sunset Beach—which is nearby to an adorable and still-functioning lighthouse that allows you to climb 199 steps to the top. If you’d prefer not to get your bathing suit wet, you can take a self-guided tour of the Emlen Physick Estate, a grand stick-style Victorian home that’s been restored to give you a peak at life in the late 19th and early 20th century. And if all else fails, Cape May is home to some of the East Coast’s best beach grub: Look into Peter Shield’s Inn, The Mad Batter, Iron Pier House and even a yummy organic and vegan option, Good Earth Organic Eatery.

Where to stay: Flying in and out of the nearby Atlantic City airport is easy and cheap this time of year, and a visit to Cape May can even be combined with a few days in the city full of vices. Not so easy: Picking one of the many adorable places to stay (There. Are. So. Many. Good. Ones). If you’re going the classic B&B route, look into the boutique Casablanca, the cozy Queen Victoria and the elegant Mainstay Inn. Meanwhile, one of our favorite places to rest our head in town right now is Cape May’s latest hotel opening, Boarding House, converted from an old-school-style motel into a trendy hideout with updated, beachy digs—as in, the perfect amount of shiplap and a surfboard positioned over your bed—and a primo rooftop sundeck. The pet-friendly hotel also lets guests access the beach club at the sister resort, The Montreal Beach Resort.

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Nassau, Bahamas

The crystal blue water, friendly locals, cuisine (bring on the conch) and ideal weather would make anyone seriously consider moving to the picturesque island full-time. And although one could easily spend all day zen’ing out on the beach, there are tons of other experiences to take advantage of, like: every water sport you can imagine, testing your luck at the tables (Nassau is home to the largest casino in the Caribbean at the Baha Mar), shopping (tax-free!) in town, catching a fish fry on the beach and, of course, lots of nightlife. Because July is *technically* hurricane season (don’t worry: the occasional rain shower doesn’t last long), flights are fairly inexpensive, and you can score cheap deals on packages and room rates.

Where to stay: A splurge-worthy hotel is The Ocean Club, A Four Seasons Hotel, which boasts a Versailles-like garden on the premises. If you’re seeking a more lively retreat closer to downtown, however, head to the SLS Baha Mar. The beats never end, just like the abundance of roses and other exotic flowers draped around the common areas. Psst: Follow the signs through the casino to the Rosewood’s Manor Bar for some killer vintage cocktails.

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Watch Hill, Rhode Island

Easily accessible from most places in New England and a short drive from Boston’s Logan Airport, Watch Hill has everything you would want in a nautical getaway: a relaxed mentality, some of the best beaches New England has to offer and fresh seafood fare (try Olympia Tea Room and Matunuck Oyster Bar for a casual brunch or lunch outdoors and COAST for a one-of-a-kind dinner and tasting menu centered around RI’s beloved shellfish). July is one of the most popular times of the year for the area, and although one might think that would mean annoying crowds, Watch Hill’s always on the DL. That means even more reason to enjoy the many cool activities going on in the area, like Veuve Clicquot’s pop-up: The Secret Garden at Ocean House. This special spot opens its under-the-radar gates in summer to allow guests to enjoy a fully stocked Champagne bar with cocktails like Veuve Clicquot’s Rich Rose Pom Pom and a Rich Pepper Swimming Pool cocktail—whatever it is, just sign right up. Plus there’s an adorable step and repeat that was obviously built for poppin’ bottles and ’Gramming at the same time.

Where to stay: The OHM Collection has a handle on the area with three charming properties with distinctly different personalities to choose from. There’s Ocean House, the grand dame of Watch Hill with its gorgeous grounds (be sure to wear your brightest whites for croquet on the lawn), impeccable rooms and suites and old-world attention to detail and service. Weekapuag Inn is the laid-back little sister that feels more like your best friend’s summerhouse than a hotel and encourages barefoot afternoons by the pool or beach, and Watch Hill Inn is for a luxe-meets-shoreline stay. If you’re looking for a fashion fix (or are Lilly Pulitzer-obsessed), you’ll love this last one since you can sleep in the Lilly suite decked out in Ms. Pulitzer's whimsical designs. That's worth the trip to Watch Hill alone—well, that and the chance to spot Taylor Swift and her squad out and about, since she has a place up the street from the hotel.

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Monterey Peninsula, California

Yes, we’ll admit, including Monterey and its surrounding areas is partially influenced by seeing the Big Little Lies cast on HBO week after week. And while the suburban mom politics and a big secret are keeping Madeline, Celeste, Jane, Bonnie and Renata busy on the second season of the show, you can keep busy by spending the day shopping and relaxing at some of the spots they frequent most—the Cannery Row and Fisherman’s Wharf for retail therapy and The Monterey Bay Aquarium, one of the most highly regarded tourist attractions in all of Monterey. (Seriously, even if you’re not really into marine biology, you will appreciate this place.) The Bixby Bridge, recognizable from BLL’s opening credits, is technically a 30-minute drive south in Big Sur, but you can easily make a trip out of it before spending an afternoon in the stylish, Spanish-inspired downtown of Carmel on your way back. Filled with everything from cheese shops, antiques, jewelry, clothing and even fine rugs, you’ll want to bring the credit card that’s not maxed out with you. 

The rocky, rugged California coastline in this part of the world also offers amazing photo opps and plenty to do sans money, especially at Lovers Point Beach and on the famed 17 Mile Drive, where you can take in all the region’s natural splendor during a leisurely two-hour ride. Pro tip: The weather will be cooler in Monterey than in many other parts of the U.S. in July, so it’s a particularly good way to beat the heat, but make sure you bring a sweater. Domestic flights this month are as low as $263 even from New York City, so it’s shaping up to be the perfect month to go.

Where to stay: Despite the region being relatively compact in size, there’s no shortage of great lodging options to meet your personal style or budget. The iconic Inn at Pebble Beach has freshly updated guest rooms and a super-posh suite option, the Fairway One Cottages, that feature special amenities and direct views over the greens. The property is also offering a special two-night July 4 package this month that includes two rounds of golf along Monterey’s dramatic coastline. Considering the courses at Pebble Beach are some of the most beautiful, prestigious and expensive in the U.S., it’s a total deal if you or your S.O. love to swing clubs around.

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Denver, Colorado

There’s no shortage of reasons to choose Denver as a summer destination. For starters, there’s Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre for outdoor concerts surrounded by terra-cotta-colored behemoths and the recreational (and legal) cannabis culture that attracts many, but there’s also a booming art scene (like the acclaimed Denver Art Museum), outdoor adventure galore (Denver is consistently voted the healthiest city in the U.S.), urban sophistication in the form of upscale shops and eateries (with Mercantile Dining & Provision and Tavernetta taking the lead) and plenty for out-of-town visitors to do and see, such as touring Titanic survivor Molly Brown’s legendary mansion. Flights (according to Skyscanner) aren’t too shabby this month, with many at $300 or below from various airports across the States.

Where to stay: Halcyon and The Source Hotel. The former is located in the trendy Cherry Creek district not far from downtown Denver, while the latter resides in the heart of Denver’s River North Art District. The Halcyon is musically inspired with record players, impressive collections and cool art in each of the rooms. It’s also home to a rooftop pool so enough said on that. As for The Source Hotel, this boutique gem with only 100 design-focused rooms features another July baby: Alon Shaya’s first-ever Denver restaurant, the highly rated Safta. The esteemed Israeli chef is known for his modern Middle Eastern eats (think artisanal pita, creamy hummus with spiced lamb or wild mushrooms and wood-fired skewers) and reservations fill up quickly, so the sooner you book the better.

With additional reporting by Kelli Acciardo