​Savings secrets for the 15 priciest U.S. vacation spots

By Cameron Huddleston/GOBankingRates

If you're planning to take a trip, where you go will have a big impact on how much you spend. That's because some destinations are pricier -- actually, a lot pricier -- than others.

To pinpoint which places would put the biggest dent in a traveler's budget, GOBankingRates surveyed food and drink costs, hotel rates and airfare for popular tourist cities throughout the U.S. All costs assume two plane tickets, a three-night stay for two adults at the cheapest hotels, as well as a total of nine meals and drinks per person.

Keep in mind, though, that there are ways to keep costs down even in expensive destinations. For example, one of the best ways is to visit these tourist spots during shoulder season.

"Traveling to touristy places right before or after peak season can be a great way to save up to 50 percent and avoid crowds," said Jason Soss, president of global business development for Tourico Holidays, a travel brokerage company.

Soss also recommended staying just outside big cities to find more reasonably priced accommodations and parking. And, take Monday off instead of Friday because "Sunday is typically the cheapest night at a hotel," he said.

Here are the 15 most expensive tourist destinations in the U.S., ranked from least to most expensive. Click through to find travel savings tips and low-cost activities near each destination.

This post was originally published by GOBankingRates.

​15. Seattle

  • Meals: $336
  • Drinks (including beer): $51.72
  • 3-night hotel stay: $310
  • Airfare: $734.50

Savings tips: Save 45 percent on Seattle's top five attractions -- including the Space Needle and Seattle Aquarium -- with a Seattle CityPASS.

Low-cost or free activities: Visit Pike Place Market, one of the oldest continuously operated farmers markets and home to the original Starbucks coffee store. Catch a concert during downtown Seattle's summer concert series, or visit the Frye Art Museum.

​14. Honolulu

  • Meals: $360
  • Drinks (including beer): $51.84
  • 3-night hotel stay: $267
  • Airfare: $755.86

Savings tips: Avoid the cost of a rental car, and take TheBus, Honolulu's public transportation system that costs $2.50 for adults, $1.25 for children ages 6 to 17 and free for kids 5 and younger.

Low-cost or free activities: Relax on the famous Waikiki Beach. You can also get a history lesson by visiting Pearl Harbor and taking a tour of the USS Arizona Memorial.

​13. Los Angeles

  • Meals: $345
  • Drinks (including beer): $51.72
  • 3-night hotel stay: $284
  • Airfare: $766.96

Savings tips: If you want to see several attractions, consider buying an all-inclusive Go Los Angeles Card, which offers admission to more than 30 attractions at a savings of up to 55 percent.

Low-cost or free activities: You can stroll along the Hollywood Walk of Fame, hang out on Venice Beach and visit The Getty art museum.

​12. Charleston, South Carolina

  • Meals: $345
  • Drinks (including beer): $45.72
  • 3-night hotel stay: $321
  • Airfare: $747.52

Savings tips: If hotel prices are too high, consider booking a vacation rental property through a site such as VRBO.com. Or, stick to hotels outside the historic district for lower rates.

Low-cost or free activities: You can visit the Charleston City Market, featuring authentic Charleston products and souvenirs. If you have kids, let them splash in the fountains at Waterfront Park.

​11. Portland, Oregon

  • Meals: $309
  • Drinks (including beer): $44.40
  • 3-night hotel stay: $409
  • Airfare: $701.34

Savings tips: Rather than rent a car, use Portland's MAX Light Rail to get around town for $5 for an adult day pass, and $2.50 for a youth day and "honored citizen" pass.

Low-cost or free activities: Check out locally made arts and crafts at the Portland Saturday Market, or hike through Forest Park, the nation's largest urban forest.

​10. Washington, D.C.

  • Meals: $390
  • Drinks (including beer): $58.44
  • 3-night hotel stay: $296
  • Airfare: $721.50

Savings tips: Avoid the cost of a rental car and the District of Columbia's traffic by using the city's public transportation system. The Metrobus regular fare is $1.75 using a SmartTrip card or cash, and the Metrorail fare ranges from $1.75 to $5.90.

Low-cost or free activities: Take advantage of free admission to the Smithsonian National Zoo. Also, visit any of the 17 museums and galleries in the DC metro area -- including the Air and Space Museum -- that are part of the Smithsonian Institution.

​9. Key West, Florida

  • Meals: $330
  • Drinks (including beer): $49.80
  • 3-night hotel stay: $478
  • Airfare: $616.10

Savings tips: For savings opportunities, late summer and early fall are typically the best times to visit Key West for vacation since fewer people tend to vacation there during those times.

Low-cost or free activities: Enjoy the entertainment during the nightly sunset celebration at Mallory Square, or stroll along Duval Street to soak up the city's quirky, tropical vibe.

​8. Philadelphia

  • Meals: $324
  • Drinks (including beer): $46.08
  • 3-night hotel stay: $365
  • Airfare: $742.98

Savings tips: Save 45 percent on Philadelphia's top four attractions -- including the Philadelphia Zoo -- with a Philadelphia CityPASS.

Low-cost or free activities: You can see some of Philadelphia's most famous attractions, including the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall.

​7. Boston

  • Meals: $375
  • Drinks (including beer): $57.48
  • 3-night hotel stay: $323
  • Airfare: $732.80

Savings tips: Save more than 40 percent on Boston's top four attractions -- including the Museum of Fine Arts -- with a Boston CityPASS.

Low-cost or free activities: You can climb to the top of the Bunker Hill Monument, the site of the first major battle of the American Revolution. You can also take a tour along the Freedom Trail.

​6. New York

  • Meals: $456
  • Drinks (including beer): $58.68
  • 3-night hotel stay: $195
  • Airfare: $811.30

Savings tips: Save up to 40 percent on the cost of the city's top attractions -- such as the Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, and the 9/11 Memorial & Museum -- with a New York CityPASS. And, get tickets to Broadway shows at half price at a TKTS Discount Booth.

Low-cost or free activities: Stroll through Central Park or ride the Staten Island Ferry, which gives you a great view of the Statue of Liberty, New York Harbor and skyscrapers.

​5. Savannah, Georgia

  • Meals: $360
  • Drinks (including beer): $42.60
  • 3-night hotel stay: $261
  • Airfare: $860.22

Savings tips: Get around the city's historic district for free with the dot, Savannah's express shuttle.

Low-cost or free activities: Stroll through Forsyth Park in the city's historic district, and hike the trails through the maritime forests and marshes of Skidaway Island State Park.

​4. San Francisco

  • Meals: $405
  • Drinks (including beer): $59.04
  • 3-night hotel stay: $317
  • Airfare: $837.64

Savings tips: Save more than 45 percent on the San Francisco area's top four attractions -- including the Monterey Bay Aquarium in Monterey -- and get unlimited cable car rides with a San Francisco CityPASS.

Low-cost or free activities: Enjoy street performers and sea lions at the Sea Lion Center at Fisherman's Wharf. You can also visit San Francisco's most well-known landmark, the Golden Gate Bridge.

​3. Napa, California

  • Meals: $565.50
  • Drinks (including beer): $70.56
  • 3-night hotel stay: $380
  • Airfare: $618.56

Savings tips: Visit during the off-season from November to April for lower prices. Also, sign up to receive special offers from the Napa Valley Welcome Center at VisitNapaValley.com.

Low-cost or free activities: Find wine tasting discounts with the Winery Finder app, and get two-for-one wine tasting coupons at NapaTouristGuide.com.

​2. Anchorage, Alaska

  • Meals: $359.52
  • Drinks (including beer): $55.56
  • 3-night hotel stay: $263
  • Airfare: $994.84

Savings tips: The peak season in Alaska is during the summer. If you visit before mid-June and after mid-August, you can save up to 25 percent on tours and lodging, according to Alaska travel planning site Alaska.org.

Low-cost or free activities: If you're feeling brave, take a walking ghost tour of Anchorage and see the city's haunted sites. Tours will be returning on June 1, and according to Alaska.org; tickets are only $15.

​1. Jackson, Wyoming

  • Meals: $237
  • Drinks (including beer): $37.56
  • 3-night hotel stay: $298
  • Airfare: $1,298.98

Savings tips: Visit during the shoulder seasons in spring and fall to save money on accommodations.

Low-cost or free activities: You can visit nearby Grand Teton National Park to see wildlife, lakes and the Teton Range for $30 for a seven-day pass.

Methodology

To find the most expensive tourist destinations in the U.S., GOBankingRates.com sourced from a variety of travel sties to find the most popular destinations in the country. GOBankingRates then used the following factors to determine which cities are the most affordable, assuming two adults are staying in the cities for three nights:

1) Food and drinks costs from Numbeo.com. Food costs include meals for two at mid-range restaurants (assuming three meals total) and meals at inexpensive restaurants (assuming 12 meals total). Drink costs include domestic beer prices (six total) and Coke/Pepsi prices (12 total). These figures are accurate as of May 3, 2016.

2) Hotel rates from Hotels.com. Hotels with three or more stars and within 5 miles of the city center were considered, but the average price of the three cheapest hotels were used. These figures are accurate as of May 3, 2016.

3) Most recent airfare costs from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. If prices for a particular city weren't available, the next-closest city's fares were used. For Jackson, Wyo., the Average Domestic Airline Itinerary Fares By Origin City for Q4 2015 was used. According to the BTS:

"BTS reports average fares based on domestic itinerary fares. Itinerary fares consist of round-trip fares, unless the customer does not purchase a return trip. In that case, the one-way fare is included. One-way trips accounted for 33 percent of fares calculated for the fourth quarter of 2015. Fares are based on the total ticket value, which consists of the price charged by the airlines plus any additional taxes and fees levied by an outside entity at the time of purchase. Fares include only the price paid at the time of the ticket purchase and do not include fees for optional services, such as baggage fees. Averages do not include frequent-flyer or 'zero fares.' Constant 2015 dollars are used for inflation adjustment."