9 Awesome Trips You Can Do Without Driving – Forbes Advisor

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As if car rental prices weren’t bad enough already, this year is about to make travel even more expensive. Fuel prices are rising to exorbitant levels. Don’t let it ruin your summer vacation: you can still travel reasonably priced if you choose your destination strategically.

While vacationing in the United States seems to go hand in hand with the need for a car, that’s not true for all places. These cities have public transport connections for easy arrival and easy travel once you get there. In other words, you can leave the car and the gas bill at home.

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Beacon, New York

If you know, you know: Beacon is an easy trip from New York and you won’t need a car to enjoy it. The main attraction here is Dia:Beacon, a contemporary art museum with more exhibition space than MoMA and the Guggenheim combined. This alone will take a full day. Afterwards, you’ll want to stick around to sample the cafes and breweries, then burn off your calories on a paddleboard trip down the Hudson River.

Like many towns in the Hudson Valley, Beacon is served by the Metro North commuter rail with frequent trips to and from Manhattan. If you are not coming from New York, you can also take the Amtrak to Poughkeepsie and transfer to Metro North from there.

Part of Beacon’s charm is the lack of chain hotels. However, savvy travelers can still book a free stay. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and Chase Sapphire Reserve® can waive Airbnb booking fees through the Pay Yourself Back program through June 30, 2022.

Estes Park, Colorado

When you think of public transit destinations, your first instinct is probably to head to an urban location. However, Estes Park is quite the opposite. This small tourist town is a fun getaway for all ages, with activities like miniature golf, 4×4 tours, and shopping and dining along the main street. Hop aboard one of six free shuttle routes out of town or ride the cable car for a bird’s eye view.

Getting to Estes Park is easier than you think. In the summer and early fall, Bustang offers service from Union Station in Denver, Westminster, Boulder and Lyon for just $5 each way. It’s pretty cheap, you should have the cash to buy a day trip to Rocky Mountain National Park, the star of the region.

Once in Estes Park, consider staying at the Ridgeline Hotel. The property is within walking distance of the bus stop as well as the main street of town. Rooms here require 20,000 Choice Privileges points per night. If you don’t already have Choice Points, you can transfer them in a 1:1 ratio from American Express Membership Rewards.

Fort Worth, TX

Fort Worth’s public transportation makes this city ideal for a car-free getaway. Routes like Molly the Trolley head into the Entertainment District, while others, including The Dash, head into the Cultural District and feature several area museums. Or head a few miles north by bus to the Fort Worth Stockyards to experience the heritage and history of the West.

Texas is gigantic, but now you can cover some ground in style. New luxury buses ply the highway, connecting cities like Austin and Houston directly to Fort Worth. If it’s easier for you to get to Dallas, you can board the Trinity Railway Express from there for the final push.

Finding hotels in Fort Worth that accept payment points is not difficult. You’ll find options at every major change, ranging from limited-service properties like the Aloft Fort Worth Downtown to the more upscale The Sinclair, an Autograph Collection property. Both can be booked with Marriott Bonvoy points and free night certificates.

Milwaukee, Wis.

In the summer, Milwaukee is the perfect car-free place. The town is compact enough that you can get around with the Bublr bike share program and enjoy the paved trails along the lake. You’ll also be pleased to know that several craft breweries are accessible on two wheels or even by kayak along the Milwaukee River.

The Milwaukee Intermodal Station is conveniently located directly across from the Harley Davidson Museum and is serviced by Amtrak, Megabus, and several regional bus routes that cross the Midwest. In season, you can also take the ferry between Milwaukee and Muskegon, Michigan.

As a major city in the Midwest, Milwaukee has hotels with every loyalty program you can think of. For a location that splits the difference between the downtown sights, restaurants and nightlife of Walker’s Point Historic Third Ward, book the Kimpton Journeyman using IHG Points. Rates vary but are often 40,000 to 55,000 points per night.

Montgomery, Alabama

For anyone interested in American history, Montgomery is a fabulous destination that doesn’t require a car. Begin your journey at the Legacy Museum and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice. A few more blocks, you’ll also find the Rosa Parks Museum and other important civil rights sites, the Confederacy’s first White House and the Alabama State Capitol. Many of these exhibits focus on heavy subject matter, so don’t plan your itinerary too much: you’ll need time to let things sink in.

Montgomery is easily accessible by Megabus from Atlanta or New Orleans. As with most Megabus routes, booking in advance is to your advantage: tickets start from just $1, but are only available in small quantities.

Budget travelers need look no further than the Hampton Inn & Suites Montgomery-Downtown. Free breakfast and free Wi-Fi are standard, and rooms can often be booked for 30,000 Hilton Honors points per night.

Providence, Rhode Island

From Boston, it takes 75 minutes or less by commuter train to Providence, RI, and it will only cost you $12.25 one way ($10 on weekends) to get there, no car is required. This small town in the smallest state in the country is ideal for a car-free getaway. Once you arrive at the station, everything you need is within walking distance: exhibits at the Rhode Island School of Design, shopping at the Arcade, and dozens of great restaurants downtown and along the river.

If you’re lucky enough to have several days ahead of you, from Providence you can extend your car-free getaway to Bristol and Newport, Rhode Island, both accessible by seasonal ferry.

Marriott Bonvoy has several hotels in downtown Providence, but the Residence Inn stands out. As a category four hotel, you can redeem free night certificates for a stay there (or just redeem 20,000-30,000 points per night).

San Juan Island, Washington

The town of Friday Harbor is tiny, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to do. Come and enjoy the great outdoors, accessible if you are ready to rent a bike (or e-bike) or take a shuttle. There’s something to match everyone’s energy levels, whether it’s picnicking while watching whales from shore at Lime Kiln State Park, bird watching around of the island or an epic kayaking expedition.

Although ferries depart from the Port of Anacortes, the passenger-only San Juan Clipper departs directly from Seattle and drops you off at Friday Harbor three hours and 45 minutes of scenic sailing later.

There are no hotels on San Juan Island that can be booked with loyalty points, but there is an easy workaround. Many credit cards have their own booking engines where you can pay with your card’s rewards, usually earning one cent per point, such as the Citi Premier® Card. Some cards also offer annual travel refunds when booking through their platform, such as the Capital One Venture X Rewards credit card.

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Like Spanish towns – Santa Fe was settled by a conquistador – the central plaza is an obvious hub of activity and an easy car hop in New Mexico’s capital. For starters, you’ll find the Governors Palace, the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, St. Francis Cathedral, and restaurants where you can debate the merits of red and green chilies. One exception: you’ll need a taxi or bus for the eight-kilometer journey to Meowwolf, a breathtaking and one-of-a-kind exhibit.

Reach Santa Fe by New Mexico Rail Runner from Albuquerque. From elsewhere in the region, arriving is a little more difficult but still doable. Amtrak stops near Lamy, but if you book your reservation in Santa Fe, they will include a shuttle from Lamy station to Santa Fe itself.

Santa Fe has several highlights, but beware: many of them will require a car to get around. Instead, book the Hilton Santa Fe Historic Plaza. Standard rooms require 60,000 Hilton Honors points or less per night.

washington d.c.

Our nation’s capital is a perennial favorite for car-free travel. As a bonus, the plethora of free activities makes this destination doubly economical, at least if you’re willing to plan your itinerary strategically. The Smithsonian monuments and museums are obvious winners, but the parks, street markets, and ethnic restaurants in less-visited neighborhoods are just as worthwhile and easy on your wallet.

Buses to Washington, DC run the gamut from inexpensive Chinatown transportation to luxury vehicles. Trains are also a reasonable alternative from many states and even flights can be reasonably affordable given the competition.

Right next to the White House, the luxurious Intercontinental The Willard will make you feel as important as a foreign dignitary or other VIP. Reward stays require a large reserve of IHG Rewards points, but that’s a lot compared to the $500-$700 price tag. Weekends tend to be cheaper than weeknights, which is perfect for your getaway.


The cost of rental cars and fuel this summer is frustrating, but there’s more than one way to take a vacation. There are dozens of places all over the country accessible by bus, train or ferry. This year, leave the car at home and save on gas, tolls and parking, all without having to give up your getaway.

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