With international travel still mostly at a standstill, if you’re looking to scratch your wanderlust itch, it’s a great time to check some cities off your US bucket list. No matter how much you’ve traveled in the US, there’s always something more to see! From big cities like New York and LA to outdoor adventures in places like Colorado or Miami, there’s no shortage of incredible US destinations for every traveler. Just make sure you follow all local rules regarding quarantine and testing before and during your visit!
Here’s our top 10 US destinations to plan a trip to this year.
1. New York
How could this list be complete without a trip to New York? Despite being a bit quieter than usual, New York is still one of the major bucket-list US destinations and has plenty to see. The city is endlessly walkable and if your feet get tired, you can also hop on the subway. It also has a lot of socially-distant places to explore. Wander around Central Park, visit the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty and enjoy some of NYC’s best street food. No visit to the Big Apple is complete without at least a few slices of true New York pizza! Several NYC museums have also reopened, including the famous Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Current best deal: $40* one-way from Chicago (average flight price: $270* roundtrip—and less if you’re flying from the East Coast)
Best Places to Stay in New York
If it’s your first trip to New York and you want to be in the heart of all the action, consider staying in Midtown. For travelers on a budget, Soho and the East Village are hip, youthful neighborhoods. They’re also a bit cheaper and still super easy to get to all the major things to do in New York.
Don’t rent a car! Parking and driving in NYC can be insane (and expensive!). Plan on walking, taking public transportation and taking the occasional Uber instead.
Can I travel to New York during covid?
If you’re traveling from a state that’s not on New York’s safe list, you must quarantine for two weeks upon arrival. Currently, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Connecticut, Oregon, Washington, Arizona and Hawaii are exempt from this requirement. (This is subject to change at any time, be sure to check New York’s official travel requirements to be sure.) However, we always recommend travelers get tested before traveling! When in New York, be sure to always wear a mask in public areas and maintain social distancing.
2. Los Angeles
Los Angeles is one of the best US destinations, pandemic or not. Since the weather stays in the 70s-80s all year long, it’s a very outdoor city, perfect for social distancing! From Chinatown and Koreatown to Olvera Street and Hollywood Boulevard, there’s a LOT to see and experience! For starters, grab some tacos from a taco truck for some on-the-go street food. Then head to one of the many beaches (Santa Monica, Newport and San Clemente are some of our favorites) and plan a few hikes. Hiking to the Hollywood sign is an LA bucket-list must! Many of the museums are still closed currently, but you can still explore downtown and some of LA’s unique architecture, like the Getty, the Walt Disney concert hall, the LA Central Library and more.
Current best deal: $70* one-way from New York (average flight price: $260* roundtrip—and less if you’re flying from the West Coast)
Best Places to Stay in Los Angeles
For being close to the city and still getting some budget accommodation, we love neighborhoods like Silver Lake and Echo Park. Los Angeles is a sprawling city with plenty of hotels and Airbnbs to choose from, and options for any budget!
If you want to be able to travel around, renting a car might be your best bet. Downtown LA has public transit—a great budget option!—but depending on where you’re staying, it might not be the most convenient.
Can I travel to Los Angeles during covid?
There’s no domestic travel restrictions or quarantine requirements for traveling to Los Angeles. However, we recommend all travelers to get a COVID-19 test before traveling, and many airlines require it. While in Los Angeles, you’ll need to be sure to always wear a mask in public areas and maintain social distancing. Since Los Angeles has plenty of outdoor spaces and good weather, it’s a great destination for low-covid-risk activities and social distancing.
Chicago is often ranked as the best big city in America, so if it’s not on your bucket list yet, it’s definitely time to add it. Whether you want to explore a beautiful city with a slice of deep-dish pizza or sit down for some incredible food and experience some of the best in museums and the arts, Chicago has plenty to offer.
There’s plenty to do while social distancing too. Go kayaking on the Chicago River, enjoy selfies with the bean at Millennium Park or take in the views from Skywalk Chicago. Several of Chicago’s best museums (looking at you, Art Institute of Chicago, and Museum of Science and Industry) are open too, with advance tickets. Plenty of music venues and theatres are also open for outdoor performances and socially-distanced, outdoor concerts. In short: plenty to do and explore, pandemic or not!
Current best deal: $64* roundtrip from Dallas (average flight price: $250* roundtrip)
Best Places to Stay in Chicago
Chicago has lots of great areas to stay in, with good hotels, hostels, Airbnbs and the like all over the city. The Loop (aka Central Downtown Chicago) and River North (aka the Magnificent Mile) are both great areas to stay at if you want to be at the heart of the city where all the activity is. Lincoln Park and Wicker Park are both great areas if you’re on a budget but still want to enjoy a hip, youthful scene.
Chicago weather is famously unpredictable and cold in the winter months—plan accordingly! This doesn’t mean you should never plan a trip to Chicago in the winter, but it does mean you should pack your warmest winter gear. You’ll also want to plan some of Chicago’s best winter activities. Our favorites include ice skating, indoor museums, the (very tropical) Garfield Park Conservatory or seeing the holiday lights at Lincoln Park Zoo.
Can I travel to Chicago during covid?
For travelers coming from Chicago’s list of higher-risk states, you must quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. Check the list of higher-risk states before traveling. Regardless of where you’re traveling from, we recommend all travelers to get a COVID-19 test before traveling, and many airlines require it. While you’ll need to wear a mask and observe social distancing, many attractions are reopening. You can find a handy list of what’s open in Chicago to help you plan your trip.
Boston is a favorite destination among students, and it’s not hard to see why! The hip, energetic city offers a great mix of being both compact and easy to explore while also having plenty to do for different kinds of travelers. With dozens of historical landmarks, delicious restaurants, shopping and outdoor spaces, there’s lots to do, indoors or out. Walk the Freedom Trail outside to hit some of Boston’s best landmarks. Then head to the North End for some of the best Italian food and cannoli’s (plus, plenty of outdoor dining!). If the weather’s nice, you can enjoy some time outdoors in the Boston Common or on the Esplanade along the Charles River.
Current best deal: $40* roundtrip from Orlando (average flight price: $280* roundtrip—less if you’re coming from the East Coast)
Best Places to Stay in Boston
Boston is a compact city, so staying downtown will make it super easy to explore on foot or by subway. Stay in downtown Boston, near Back Bay or Fenway. You can also stay a bit outside of the city, in Brookline or Cambridge for more budget options. Between hostels, hotels and Airbnbs, you’ll be sure to find something to suit your budget.
Bring your walking shoes! Boston is very walkable, so a good pair of walking shoes will help you get around on a budget and see the best of the city. Visit during late fall for the best colors. Also, don’t rent a car unless you’re planning on getting out of the city.
Can I travel to Boston during covid?
We recommend all travelers to get a COVID-19 test before traveling, and many airlines require it. For travelers coming from Boston’s list of higher-risk states, you must quarantine for 14 days upon arrival or provide a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72-hours before arriving. You’ll also need to fill out the state’s travel form. Travelers from California, Connecticut, Washington D.C., Hawaii, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Vermont and Washington are currently exempt. Although this is subject to change at any time—check the list of low-risk states before traveling.
Of course, you’ll need to wear a mask in public areas and maintain social distancing during your stay as well. Thankfully, there’s plenty of ways to do so in Boston.
5. San Francisco
If San Francisco isn’t on your bucket list yet, what are you doing? Not only is it an incredible city to explore in its own right, it’s a great starting place for a California road trip down the coast or to Yosemite National Park. While you’re in SF, make sure you hit some of the most scenic landmarks. Our must-sees? The Golden Gate Bridge, Golden Gate Park, Pier 39, Lombard Street and Coit Tower. Head to Union Square or the Ferry Building for some amazing food. Don’t forget to try the local clam chowder, preferably in a bread bowl. And of course, a stop at the beach is a must. Ocean Beach is one of our favorites, especially for spectacular sunsets.
Current best deal: $40* roundtrip from Denver (average flight price: $255* roundtrip)
Best Places to Stay in San Francisco
If you’re committed to staying within the city, downtown SF (aka Nob Hill and Union Square areas) are among the best places to stay within San Francisco. If you’re on a budget, the Marina District or North Beach are two good places to stay. San Francisco is pretty compact, so if you have a car, you can save more by staying outside of the main city. Just be sure to consider all-day parking costs in the city, which can be expensive.
If you’re planning on mostly staying within the San Francisco city area, you don’t need to rent a car: grab a bike, take a streetcar or just walk around. However, if you’re planning on heading outside of the city, a car can help you explore more of the Bay Area. Just be aware that narrow, hilly streets and terrible traffic can make for, well… unpleasant driving. Whether you stay in the city or take it out of town, there’s a LOT of hidden gems in SF, so be sure to explore some of the non-touristy areas as well!
Can I travel to San Francisco during covid?
We recommend all travelers to get a COVID-19 test before traveling, and many airlines require it. While in San Francisco, you’ll need to be sure to always wear a mask in public areas and maintain social distancing. Since San Fran has plenty of outdoor spaces and good weather most of the year, it’s a great destination for low-covid-risk activities and has plenty of open attractions for social distancing.
6. Washington, D.C.
If the last time you visited D.C. was on your 8th grade field trip, it’s definitely time to start planning a return trip. There’s a lot to explore and discover, even if you’re not a history buff (but especially if you are!). Washington D.C. is home to many, many historical and political museums and monuments. There’s also world-class science and art museums, music and theatre venues, parks and more. While you’re there, you’ll find plenty to explore while staying outside and social-distancing too: the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, and the White House, for starters. Also, fyi: all the Smithsonian museums are free, so add a few to your itinerary!
Current best deal: $59* one-way from Washington D.C. (average flight price: $228* roundtrip)
Best Places to Stay in Washington, D.C.
Some of our favorite places to stay—especially if you’re planning on doing lots of sightseeing—include Dupont Circle, Georgetown, Foggy Bottom and Penn Quarter. Georgetown is one of the oldest sections of the city, so it’s super charming. It’s also home to plenty of students thanks to the nearby university. Dupont Circle, on the other hand, is one of the trendiest areas of the city and offers incredible restaurants and nightlife, aside from being super close to some of the best sights.
Don’t try to do it all on one trip! D.C. is bigger than it seems, and packs a serious punch when it comes to things to do. Exploring the National Mall and monuments there could easily fill an entire day. Wear comfortable shoes and prioritize your must-sees first.
Can I travel to Washington, D.C. during covid?
If you’re visiting D.C. from a state designated as high-risk by the city, you’ll need to quarantine for 14 days. We recommend all travelers to get a COVID-19 test before traveling, and many airlines require it. Regardless of where you’ll be coming from, you’ll need to be sure to always wear a mask in public areas and maintain social distancing. Check out the updated list of what’s open in Washington D.C. when planning your itinerary!
Seattle is known for being a hip, youthful city that’s a hub for arts and culture. There’s always something going on here—and plenty of green spaces both within and outside of the city if you need a break from city life. Indulge in some delicious craft coffee (& beer, if you’re old enough), as Seattle is a bit obsessed with both.
Grab a bite to eat at Pike Place Market, then enjoy the waterfront views from downtown. Hit up an art museum or an outdoor music event, or head indoors to the super-unique Museum of Pop Culture. If you want to social-distance out of town, hop on a ferry and head to Olympic National Park. It’s home to some incredible scenery and one of the quietest places in the US, the Hoh National Forest. What better way to destress?
Current best deal: $64* one-way from Los Angeles (average flight price: $230* roundtrip)
Best Places to Stay in Seattle
Staying in downtown Seattle is definitely your best bet. It puts you close to all the must-sees and do’s and has a hip vibe with amazing views. However, if you’re on a tight budget, staying in Pioneer Square, Belltown or even University District are great options that’ll keep you close to the heart of things while providing more budget options.
Seattle’s weather is notoriously rainy—so do not forget a raincoat, no matter when you’re visiting! However, it’s also a very walkable city (with good public transit options as well) so don’t feel like you have to rent a car.
Can I travel to Seattle during covid?
There are currently no domestic travel restrictions or quarantine requirements for visiting Seattle. However, we recommend all travelers to get a COVID-19 test before traveling, as many airlines require it. Seattle requires masks and social distancing in public areas—but thankfully has plenty of green outdoor spaces to enjoy the city while staying socially-distanced! Check out information on what’s open in Seattle while planning your trip.
Austin has been an overlooked destination for awhile, but it’s been putting itself on the map! It’s eclectic music scene, delicious food offerings and sunny year-round weather make it a favorite getaway. It also has a totally unique feel from loads of other US destinations. You could easily spend your entire trip just eating some of the best local food—from BBQ, breakfast tacos, all kinds of Mexican food and plenty of food trucks with offerings from everything to Lebanese and Italian foods to milkshakes, grilled cheese and more. And of course, exploring the downtown districts and hitting up some outdoor concerts is a must. If you get a bit hot (which you might, considering the 300+ days of sunshine per year), head to Barton Springs Pool (a 3-acre pool in Zilker Park) for a quick dip.
Current best deal: $65* roundtrip from Chicago (average flight price: $260* roundtrip)
Best Places to Stay in Austin
East Downtown or South Congress (affectionately known as SoCo) are two of our very favorite neighborhoods to stay in Austin! They’re super close to downtown while still having a very local vibe, filled with the music scenes and food you’ve heard so much about from Austin. And since they’re not smack-dab in the city center, you’ll be able to find more budget accommodations as well.
Bring a swimsuit (and sunglasses) no matter what time of year you’re visiting! Austin is HOT (like, summer weather March-October hot). Thankfully, there’s plenty of swimming areas and places to cool off in the city (check out Barton Springs on really hot days!), but be prepared. Plan your outdoor adventures early in the day or in the evening and hide out of the sun during mid-day, unless you want to bring home a nasty sunburn as a souvenir.
Can I travel to Austin during covid?
There are currently no domestic travel restrictions or quarantine requirements for visiting Texas. However, we recommend all travelers to get a COVID-19 test before traveling, as many airlines require it. Austin requires masks and social distancing in indoor public spaces and outdoors if social distancing can’t be maintained.
Miami is one of the most popular travel destinations in the US, especially for students. If some sunnier days lounging on the beach sounds like a luxury right now, a trip to Miami may be just what you need! No one will judge if you want to spend your whole trip on the beach. If you need a break, there’s lots more to do in Miami too. Miami has a thriving arts and food scene, too. Whether you want to visit a formal museum or stay outside and soak up the street art, eat at a fancy restaurant or grab outdoor tacos from a taco truck, there’s plenty of choices.
Current best deal: $21* one-way from Newark (average flight price: $330* roundtrip—less if you’re coming from the East Coast)
Best Places to Stay in Miami
Miami Beach and South Beach are two of the most popular places to stay, and they’re great choices. Since they’re right in the heart of some of Miami’s best beaches and at the hub of Miami’s modern center for art, culture, food and nightlife, you really can’t go wrong. If you’re looking for something slightly quieter, Coconut Grove (known as just “the Grove” to locals) is home to dozens of annual festivals and countless seaside cafes, bars and restaurants.
Remember: a bikini is only acceptable attire during the day! Fashion is quite casual in Miami due to the huge beach influence, but if you’re heading out at night, cocktail attire is expected at many places. Also, a local tip: even if you’re staying near Ocean Drive, don’t eat all your meals there. The food there is more for tourists and tends to be more expensive. Venture to other areas of Miami, like Downtown or Little Havana for a real taste of local food.
Can I travel to Miami during covid?
We recommend all travelers to get a COVID-19 test before traveling. Many airlines require it, even though there aren’t travel restrictions or quarantine requirements in place for visiting Florida. With Florida’s sunny weather and plentiful beaches, though, there’s plenty of outdoor spaces to social distance!
Colorado is known for its incredible outdoor offerings, and Denver makes for the perfect jumping-off point! Red Rocks, right in Denver, is known for its outdoor summer concerts, but it’s also a great place for day hikes. If you really want to get out in nature, Rocky Mountain National Park is just a short drive away, as are Mount Evans and Pikes Peak. Be warned: altitude sickness and quickly-shifting weather in the mountains can make hiking conditions more variable than they seem. Plan ahead and be safe!
Current best deal: $33* one-way from Philadelphia (average flight price: $216* roundtrip)
Best Places to Stay in Denver
There’s plenty of great areas to stay in Denver. If it’s your first trip, we recommend staying in downtown Denver or near the Central Business district. For more budget accommodations, staying a bit further outside of the city center can be a great option. Capitol Hill has some great budget hostels, and of course, Airbnbs are another go-to for many budget travelers.
Denver sits at 5,280 feet elevation (thus why it’s nicknamed the Mile-High City!) so the altitude might feel noticeable for the first few days if you’re coming from somewhere coastal. Give yourself a day or two to adjust before heading into the mountains. Make sure to wear plenty of sunscreen, regardless of weather. Also, the weather can change rapidly in Colorado (it’s not unheard of to get snow in September or May!) so bring layers and be prepared!
Can I travel to Colorado during covid?
We recommend all travelers to get a COVID-19 test before traveling. Many airlines require it, although there is not an official testing or quarantine requirement for visitors to Colorado. While in Denver, you’ll need to be sure to always wear a mask in public areas and maintain social distancing. Since Colorado is known for its incredible outdoor adventures, it’s a great place to social distance!
So, where will you be off to next? Wherever you’re headed, we have cheap student flights to get you there for less.
*FYI: Flight prices are dynamic and subject to change at any time—while these prices were available at the time of writing, we can’t guarantee how long these will be available. All prices were current at the time this was published. Prices are subject to availability and subject to change without notice. Flight prices vary by date, departure city, arrival city and availability. All taxes/fees are included in the price, except certain government taxes, change fees and fees imposed in destination and airline baggage fees if applicable.