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Planning an Affordable Vacation to Michigan

Michigan is one of the most tourist-friendly and popular states in the U.S. It has a huge number of beaches on its long coastlines along 4 of the 5 Great Lakes, and attracts a large number of tourists thanks to its aquatic resources and scenic forests.

It may seem like an expensive vacation to take, but if you plan right, this fantastic state can be experienced in its full glory without burning Great-Lake-shaped holes through your wallet.

Planning a Budget Vacation to Michigan

Michigan’s scenic beauty and various tourist attractions can price out unknowing tourists, but there are several ways in which you can enjoy the various gifts this state has to offer, without paying as much as you think it demands.


Since tourism is a large avenue of income in Michigan, commercial accommodation is often expensive.

► Relatively cheaper options can be found in the form of the numerous B&B’s and at Extended Stay America hotels, where you can live at a rate of USD 20-30 per person per night. There are several extended stay hotels in Detroit. These hotels often have microwaves, which can help lessen the cost of food.

► Another option is to use the popular and ever-so-useful Couchsurfing, which puts you in touch with hospitable hosts who have space to put you up for the duration of your journey. Milwaukee (WI) and Detroit have many registered couchsurfers, though you may need to use other options as you move into northern Michigan.

► Michigan also offers many campsites for the adventurous and the outdoorsy types. Camping may be an excellent idea in the northern parts of the state, since the region, being in proximity to the Great Lakes, is tourism-oriented, and therefore, costly. Camping will also allow you to enjoy the beautiful scenery in a more intimate manner. More information about camping sites in Michigan can be obtained from Pure Michigan, a website about the state and the various destinations and travel options in it.


Places such as Detroit, Grand Rapids, and Port Huron can be reached by Amtrak; Ann Arbor and Detroit can be reached by Megabus from Chicago; and Detroit is, of course, connected to most major cities in the U.S. by air. Within Michigan, it’s best to get or rent your own vehicle.


Michigan has many options for the budget traveler. Here’s a few of them…

➙ The Great Lakes

michigan in autumn
Autumn Scene on Lake Michigan
cliff on superior
Cliff on Lake Superior
michigan in winter
Lake Michigan in Winter
sunset on lake michigan
Sunset on Lake Michigan

Well, doh! Michigan has a coast along 4 of the 5 Great Lakes, which is a major source of income for this water-rich state. Various water-related activities abound on the shores of these titans for little to no cost, and lovely landscapes are littered all over the place.

➙ National Parks

Cave on the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Arch on the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Michigan is home to several National Parks, which can be visited at virtually no cost. Beautiful Parks such as Keweenaw and Pictured Rocks allow visitors free of cost, Sleeping Bear Dunes charges USD 10 for a seven-day vehicle pass, and Isle Royal―home to large populations of wolves and moose―charges USD 4 per day.

➙ Waterfalls

Potawatomi Falls
Bond Falls

Like the lakes, Michigan is home to several fascinating waterfalls. Falls such as Bond falls and Gorge falls take your breath away, and don’t cost a penny to visit!

➙ Lighthouses

big sable point light
Big Sable Point Light
crisp point light
Crisp Point Light Station

Due to its rich history and traditional dependence on aquatic transport, Michigan has numerous lighthouses, many of which are still operational. The Big Sable Point Light, an operational lighthouse, can be visited free of cost, and other nonoperational lighthouses retain their aesthetic value and importance as tourist attractions.

➙ Fish Farms

farmed trout
Farmed trout

Fish farms in Michigan are quite popular in their own small way, and deserve greater recognition. They are free, and have several informative and entertaining exhibits.

➙ Museums

Michigan is not just rich in natural beauty. It is also home to numerous museums about various topics, such as the Michigan Iron Mining Museum, the A.E. Seaman Mineral Museum, and the Alberta Village Museum. Some, such as the Kalamazoo Valley Museum, are even free!

➙ Festivals and Events

Michigan is a very ‘happening’ place, and there are numerous festivals at various times of the year. Whenever you go, chances are you will run into something really interesting and virtually cost-free. More information on such events can be found here.

Another enjoyable experience is the free park concerts held in many cities in Michigan. Take your own seats and snacks with you, and enjoy the casual music fest.

➙ Annual State Park Pass

For a fee of around USD 30, you can get an annual vehicle pass to Michigan’s numerous State Parks. In a state that prides itself on its scenic beauty and wildlife, this is a pass to cherish and use as much as you can!

➙ Kalamazoo Air Zoo

The Kalamazoo air zoo, an aviation museum and indoor amusement park, is situated next to the Kalamazoo-Battle Creek International Airport. It contains various exhibits of old and iconic airplanes, and amusement rides such as hot air balloons and flight simulators.

Accommodation in this beautiful state can be acquired quite cheaply if the right channels are pursued. The destinations mentioned above can be easily accessed without spending too much. Just remember to capture a lot of photos, and to have loads of fun!

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