Tips for Visiting Arizona on a Budget

Grand Canyon View

Of the 50 states that comprise the United States, there’s not many states without wondrous sights to see or unique features to explore. However, to us, one state stands out among the rest as the state with the grandest sights and the most distinct explorable features. But Arizona is worth visiting for more than its grandest sights. 

The unique landscape and endless sunshine are two major draws for anyone visiting Arizona, but those aren’t two of the only things that don’t require spending money. Arizona features an array of vacation spots all around the state, from nature lovers to Western connoisseurs.  Thankfully, there are a plethora of places to visit that are budget friendly, including the Grand Canyon, Sedona, Tucson, Phoenix, and plenty more.  

Arizona is a particularly great state to visit if you’re looking for a more affordable vacation destination in the U.S. Read on to find out how you can get the most out of the Grand Canyon State with the least damage to your bank. If you’re interested in visiting Arizona without spending a fortune, keep reading. 

***Many people think of Phoenix when you think of Arizona, but there’s so much more to the state. 

Sedona, Arizona

Is Arizona Expensive to Visit?

There are a handful of iconic tourism destinations in the United States. While it is among them, Arizona does not necessarily receive the tourism hype of California or New York. However, if you prioritize affordability in your travel, California and New York are probably not your best bet. Arizona, on the other hand, is a relatively affordable state to visit.

But exactly how does Arizona compare as far as affordability goes? Check out these average travel costs to see how Arizona compares to larger tourist destinations: 

The U.S. CityAvg. Daily CostAvg. Hotel CostAvg. Transport Cost
Los Angeles$190$111/night$29/day
New York City$239$137/night$40/day
Cost to visit Arizona vs. other cities

According to Budget Your Trip, Arizona’s major city stacks up fairly well in affordability (measured per person) compared to the major cities of California and New York. In particular, Phoenix’s average hotel and hostel prices compare well at roughly three times lower than those of Los Angeles and New York City.

The average daily cost of visiting Phoenix, measured by merging the average daily costs for food, transportation, entertainment, and your hotel room, is also far more affordable than the other two cities. 

Phoenix may not be a cultural hub on par with either Los Angeles or New York City, but there is plenty to do within and nearby the city to make your visit more than worthwhile.

Even when compared to far more comparable U.S. cities Portland and Denver, Phoenix stacks up quite well.

The U.S. CityAvg. Daily CostAvg. Hotel CostAvg. Transport Cost
Cost to visit Arizona vs. other cities

Portland and Phoenix are fairly comparable in their average transportation costs per person, but the hotels and hostels in Portland are far more expensive than those in Phoenix. Denver has hotels and hostels on the cheaper side, but its average transportation costs exceed Phoenix’s by far.

It’s clear that Phoenix, Arizona, stacks up well among other U.S. cities concerning its affordability. Still, you may be wondering how the city stacks up concerning its value as a travel destination. You may also be wondering about the plethora of other cities, towns, and national parks worth exploring in Arizona.

The next sections will cover the most worthwhile travel destinations that are to be found here in Arizona and detail what makes these locales worth the trip.

Tips for Visiting Phoenix

As Arizona’s largest city and the fifth-largest city by population in the United States, Phoenix serves as Arizona’s cultural and social hub. Of all the experiences you can have in Arizona, you will find the most variety in Phoenix. Phoenix features any major city’s tourist attractions such as museums and eateries while delivering experiences endemic to only Arizona. (Local Visitors Guide to Phoenix)

Downtown Phoenix
Downtown Phoenix highrise buildings at dawn.


While it is not typically renowned for its cultural institutions, Phoenix does have several museums that warrant visits for their affordability and uniqueness.

  • Musical Instrument Museum: Phoenix’s #1 attraction was founded in 2010 by Robert J. Ulrich, former CEO of Target, it’s the largest collection of musical instruments, over 6,800 from around the world.  The general admission fee is just $20, and it’s quite easy to make a day out of exploring this vast museum with attending concerts or enjoy and participate in one of their interactive programs.
  • Heard Museum: An essential stop when visiting Phoenix is this incredible collection of award winning exhibits that hosts Native American art. The museum’s chair members and an advisory council consisting of representatives from local American Indian tribes, such as the Navajo and Cahuilla.  The museum digs deep into American Indian cultures.  Enjoy free guided tours while general admission is $15, but entry is free to all American Indians with a tribal I.D. card.


Phoenix has a vibrant food culture, featuring restaurants and food markets with cuisines worldwide.

  • Pizzeria Bianco: According to Eater, the best pizza restaurant in the U.S. is not in New York or Chicago, but in Phoenix. The restaurant, and its founder Chris Bianco, has received this renown title from publications ranging from Bon Appétit to G.Q. The brick building and its wooden interior deliver a cozy atmosphere, and the pizza is more than affordable. Its most expensive pie is listed at only $19. Not bad for the best pizza in America!
  • Alzohour Market: A varied market serving Middle Eastern and Moroccan cuisine. This place is your classic hole-in-the-wall, but don’t let it slip under your radar. This is some of the best Middle Eastern and Moroccan food you will find, even within those regions. It is perfect for budget eating, too; all of their sandwiches are priced under $10.
  • Tacos Chiwas: Of course, if you find yourself in the southwest USA, you cannot leave without first consuming an adequate number of tacos. The best place to do so in Phoenix is Tacos Chiwas, a quaint Mexican eatery serving mouth-watering tacos at a very affordable price – $2.50 per taco.

Outdoor Activities

Phoenix’s most distinct features are evident in its many outdoor activities. As a desert region, Phoenix offers unique outdoor activities that you can experience most the year-round.

  • Desert Botanical Garden: This affordable ($15) botanical garden experience takes you on an informative tour of Arizona’s indigenous plants and people. The tour delivers iconic sites such as the Saguaro cactus while teaching you more about the people, particularly the Tohono O’odham and Western Apache, who first inhabited the region.
  • Hiking Trails: There are plenty of beautiful hiking trails to explore in the Greater Phoenix area. For novice hikers, the Double Butte Loop in Papago Park is a great place to start. For more experienced hikers, the Siphon Draw Trail in Lost Dutchman State Park is sure to give you a workout. Just down the road from Lost Dutchman are a few more but free, awesome hikes in the Superstition Mountains.  Both Hieroglyphic and Paralta Trail have been a favorite of ours. 
  • Hot Air Balloon Ride: If you want to experience Arizona’s awe-inspiring landscapes without breaking a sweat, Phoenix’s hot air balloon rides are a perfect way to do so. The trips are usually priced between $100-200, but compared to the ATV and mountain biking tours, which hover around $200-300, this option is slightly more budget-friendly.


Phoenix is a particularly budget-friendly place to visit with its hotel and hostel prices. There are some hotels and hostels that offer quality rooms at an affordable price.

  • Phoenix Hostel: This hostel offers quality group and single rooms, starting at only $36 per night and complimentary breakfast. Located in the middle of downtown Phoenix, with all of a hotel’s amenities, this is the perfect place for budget travelers to stay.
  • The Clarendon Hotel: If you are turned off by hostel living, there are plenty of affordable hotel options in Phoenix too. For one, the Clarendon Hotel offers the same quality service and amenities as any other hotel in the region at a more affordable price, starting at $70 per night.
  • VRBO’s and airbnb’s:  These popular sites have so many affordable options for you to choose from while you set your budget.  Anything from condo’s to tiny houses to casita’s to fa whole house.  The options are endless and price ranges vary greatly, we found some quiet guest houses for $43 per night.   

Tips for Visiting the Grand Canyon

Phoenix may be Arizona’s largest city by population, but in terms of landmass and pure grandiosity, nothing in Arizona is larger than the Grand Canyon. This natural wonder can be quite intimidating, so it helps to have planned out your trip beforehand. Here are a few tips for visiting the Grand Canyon on a budget. (Local’s Guide to Grand Canyon National Park)

Grand Canyon layers


Located on the Grand Canyon’s southern rim are several museums dedicated to the region’s geology and ancient civilizations.

  • Yavapai Geology Museum: This quaint museum and gift shop offers several interactive exhibits of the Grand Canyon’s unique geology. The museum is small, but it is free to enter, and there is an unobstructed view of the canyon from the museum’s window. There are also walking tours you can take from the museum for an additional cost.
  • Tusayan Museum: The Tusayan Museum, also free to enter, features ancient ruins of the prehistoric people who used to inhabit the region. There are artifacts in this museum that date back 2000-4000 years and ruins that you can explore independently.

It is important to note that these museums are only located on the southern rim, so be sure to book your accommodations for the southern, not northern, rim of the Grand Canyon.


While there may not be any Michelin-star restaurants by the Grand Canyon, there are certainly a few charming restaurants with jaw-dropping views of the canyon.

  • Main Lodge Dining Room: Located on the northern rim, this dining room dates back to 1928, when the lodge itself was first established. It features a cozy interior, Grand Canyon delicacies like trout, Yukon Gold potatoes, and bison short ribs, and a beautiful view of the Grand Canyon from its wall-length windows.
  • Yavapai Tavern: Located on the southern rim, this tavern features a full bar, indoor and patio seating with televisions at both locations, and hearty American bar cuisines like burgers and hot wings. The menu is moderately priced as well, so this is an excellent option for travelers on a budget.
  • Phantom Ranch Canteen: For those looking for a dining option located within the Grand Canyon itself, look no further than the Phantom Ranch Canteen. This quaint restaurant is located within the Phantom Ranch lodge, which typically accommodates hikers making the trek through the canyon. The food is hearty, and the prices are moderate.

Outdoor Activities

Now, this is probably why you’re visiting the Grand Canyon in the first place. While the activities present within a canyon may seem limited, there are many potential outdoor fun options in and around the Grand Canyon – most of which are completely free!

  • South Rim Day Hiking Trails: There are a ton of day hiking options on both the north and south rims of the Grand Canyon. On the south rim, several trails take you around the rim. For steeper hikes into the canyon, there are the Bright Angel Trail and Grandview Trail hikes. 
  • North Rim Day Hiking Trails: On the north rim, there are more options around the rim than actually entering the canyon. The only maintained trail that enters the canyon is the North Kaibab Trail, but the Widforss Trail and Ken Patrick Trail offer exceptional views of the canyon from the rim.
  • Overnight Hiking Trails: To turn any of the trails into an overnight hike, you must first acquire a backcountry permit from National Park Service. The form you fill out to request a permit can be found on National Park Service’s website in the Grand Canyon section, and the permit itself costs $10.
  • Mule Trips: There are mule trips that go through some of these hiking trails, but the rules are fairly strict, and the price is a little steeper, roughly $150 per person. If you meet the strict requirements and are willing to pay a little more for some extra Grand Canyon fun, the mule trips may be for you.


The hotels at the Grand Canyon are slightly more expensive than in Phoenix, but the options listed below are well worth the price.

  • Grand Canyon Lodge – North Rim: This is the Main Lodge Dining Room’s home mentioned in a previous section. Arguably the best place to stay in the north rim, the Grand Canyon Lodge, is well worth its moderate price, $189 per night.
  • Yavapai Lodge: Located in the south rim, the Yavapai Lodge is one of the more affordable lodging options around the Grand Canyon. At $96 per night, this hotel is the perfect spot for budget travelers.
  • Phantom Ranch: As the only lodging option located within the canyon, this hotel offers travelers a unique experience. At only $169 per night for a 2-person cabin, this option is definitely worth its price.
  • Williams:  Just an hours drive from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon you can find Hotels, airbnb’s, and VRBO’s that start at well under a $100 per night and go up from there.
  • Flagstaff:  Just a 1 1/2 hour drive from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon you can find the same deals as you would in Williams.  Flagstaff will have more options for eating, hiking, and sightseeing and it will have great accommodations for your trip to The Grand Canyon.    

Tips for Visiting Tucson

Tucson does not compare in size to Phoenix, but the southern, very spread out Arizona city does hold its own as a place with plenty to do within and around the city. (Top 10 – Fun Things to Do in Tucson)


There are quite a few museums within Tucson that are unique to the region and the city itself. 

  • Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum: This highly rated museum is an institution with many faces, serving as a zoo, aquarium, and botanical garden. You can see animals native to the region like coyotes and javelinas while perusing the region’s geology in a replica limestone cave. You can experience all of this for only $19.50!
  • Pima Air & Space Museum: This is a perfect niche spot for aircraft enthusiasts. The museum features roughly 400 aircraft, ranging from the original Wright Flyer to a modern Boeing 787 Dreamliner. The adult price for entry is only $16.50, making it a decent option for budget travelers.
  • The Mini Time Machine Museum of Miniatures: If you prefer your museums with a touch of quirk, the Mini Time Machine Museum of Miniatures will certainly fulfill your quirk quota. The museum features displays of miniature homes from various eras in human history. The price of admission is only $6-9, which makes it a decent option for budget travelers.


***Like Phoenix, Tucson does not feature any Michelin 3-Star restaurants, but the city has plenty of restaurants that do justice to the cuisines they represent.

  • Taqueria Pico De Gallo: There is plenty of exceptional Mexican food to be found in the southwest U.S. However, Taqueria Pico De Gallo is the premiere Mexican dining experience in Tucson. The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and with nothing over $15 on the menu, this is an excellent place for travelers on a budget.
  • Downtown Kitchen: For a slightly more upscale option, Downtown Kitchen in downtown Tucson serves global cuisine with regional influences, particularly from the Tohono O’odham tribe. While a little pricier, nothing on the menu exceeds $26, and the 5-6 pm Happy Hour menu offers $4 beers and $6 cocktails.
  • Percheron Mexican Grill: Bacon wrapped burrito.  Do we have your attention?  Homemade flour tortillas.  How about now?  What started in a food truck has now grown to 3 locations around the Tucson area.  For under $10 you can get the above goodness.  You can’t beat that!   

Outdoor Activities

Tucson’s main draw is its plethora of outdoor activities, but many of these activities are in the greater Tucson area rather than within the city. 

  • Cave Exploration: Although they may not match the size of the Grand Canyon, the caves just south of Tucson are worth exploring. Kartchner Caverns State Park was voted the “Best Cave in the USA” by USA Today’s Readers’ Choice Awards in 2016, but Colossal Cave Mountain Park is a less expensive option that allows for walk-up tours.
  • Hiking Trails: It is always an excellent activity for budget travelers, and hiking options in Tucson are just as prevalent as they are throughout the rest of Arizona. Novice hikers will enjoy the Sabino Canyon hike, whereas more experienced hikers will rejoice in the stunning views on the Romero Pools hike. 
  • ***Saguaro National Park
  • ***Mount Lemmon


There are plenty of affordable hotel options in Tucson, albeit less adventurous options like the Phoenix group hostels.

  • Lodge on the Desert: This 3-star hotel is priced comparable to its nearby competition, charging roughly $130 per night. However, this hotel far surpasses its competition in quality, delivering a spacious room with a walk-in shower and a gorgeous pool and patio area.
  • La Posada Lodge & Casitas: Although this option is technically a 3-star hotel, its price certainly does not reflect that. At roughly $82 per night, this hotel is the perfect option for budget travelers. The quality is inferior to Lodge on the Desert, but the discrepancies are minimal.
  • ***VRBO

Tips for Visiting Lake Havasu City

An iconic spring break destination, the hottest temperature ever recorded in Arizona, and the second most popular Arizonian tourist destination are located in the same place: Lake Havasu City. This border city in Mohave County contains quite a bit of explorable features for its modest size.

Outdoor Activities

Lake Havasu City does not feature much in any cultural or culinary institutions, but there is still plenty to do around the city.

  • Visit the London Bridge: Dismantled in London and reconstructed in Lake Havasu City in 1971, this famous bridge is Arizona’s second most popular tourist destination. The bridge is impressive in stature but particularly impressive in its rebuilding process, which was done brick-by-brick, with numbered labels for all 10,276 granite bricks.
  • Beaches: Lake Havasu City is one of the few places in landlocked Arizona to contain beaches. There are over 2.5 miles of shoreline in Lake Havasu State Park, and the water is comfortably warm, especially in the summer when it reaches temperatures of up to 87 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Watersports: Speaking of the beach, Lake Havasu City is known as the “Personal Watercraft Capital of the World” for its expansive lake and frequent PWC (Personal Watercraft) competitions. Visitors can rent out paddleboards, scuba gear, or bring their motorboats for wake surfing and waterskiing.


Lake Havasu City features a smaller selection of hotel options than Phoenix or Tucson, but these options are comparable in price and quality.

  • The Nautical Beachfront Resort: This is a fairly inexpensive resort that is perfect for travelers looking for a fun spot for their kids. This resort features a kids’ water park and a golf course, all for a moderate price of $134 per night.
  • London Bridge Resort: This is a slightly more expensive resort option for travelers with kids who are looking for a fun destination for their kids and themselves. This resort also features a kids’ water park and golf course, but it also includes a built-in nightclub overlooking the water. This is all available for the average price of $149 per night.
  • Days Inn: If you are looking for a more affordable option, the Days Inn on McCulloch Blvd offers decent rooms for only $62 per night on average.
  • ***VRBO

Tips for Visiting Sedona

In stark contrast to Lake Havasu City, the town of Sedona, located near Flagstaff, is the perfect destination for a traveler looking for relaxation and tranquility.

View from Bell Rock
View from Bell Rock


Sedona may be the smallest of all the destinations listed thus far, but it does feature some of the classiest dining options in all of Arizona.

  • Tii Gava: Located within the Enchantment Resort, this upscale Mexican cuisine restaurant was ranked the #1 restaurant in Sedona by Eater Las Vegas in 2019. The restaurant has certainly earned that distinction, and with everything on the menu priced below $30, the food is definitely worth the price.
  • Etch Kitchen & Bar: Located within the L’Auberge de Sedona resort, this New American eatery features breakfast, lunch, dinner menu, and an expansive bar menu. Also, the kitchen is located in a cozy, tree-shaded region of the L’Auberge de Sedona resort, which justifies its slightly higher prices.

Indoor & Outdoor Activities

Sedona does not feature many culturally significant destinations, but the town is rife with lovely, relaxing experiences for the more laid-back traveler.

  • Spa Day: There are a plethora of resort spas located throughout Sedona. Take a day trip to the spa in your resort or visit a neighboring resort spa if your hotel does not include a spa.
  • Shopping: The Sedona Uptown Mall features many high-end and local businesses selling products from high-end apparel to rocks, minerals, and crystals.
  • Hiking Trails: If you wish to venture out of the comfort of your resort or the quiet downtown Sedona area, there are over 400 miles of hiking trails to traverse in the greater Sedona area.  Most free and some of the more popular trails with a small day fee.


There are several very expensive 5-star resort hotels in Sedona like the L’Auberge mentioned above de Sedona or the Enchantment Resort. However, the crafty budget traveler would take advantage of the fine dining and spa features in these resorts and then find a room somewhere a little more affordable.

  • Lodge at Sedona: This collection of lodges features many of the 5-star resorts’ amenities at more than half their price. Priced at roughly $195 per night, the Lodge at Sedona is an excellent budget option with a great central location.
  • The Sedona Hilltop Inn: If you are looking for an even more budget-friendly option, the Sedona Hilltop Inn will certainly satisfy that desire. Although there is quite a bit of a quality drop-off here compared to the Lodge at Sedona, its average price of $165 per night makes it one of Sedona’s most affordable options.
  • ***VRBO

Here’s another article with additional information on visiting Sedona over a weekend.

Final Thoughts

I think many people over look the state of Arizona when wanting to plan a trip, but when you do finally get here, your mind is blown by how cool, diverse, and unique the state is as.  There are plenty of exciting places to visit within Arizona’s most popular regions, the ones listed above. These destinations are also considered tourist destinations, so they can get pricey if you’re not careful. However, with careful planning and research, you can still make the most of your Arizona vacation with plenty of activities that fit your lifestyle and your budget.