Cheap flights across the United States often fall into two categories. In the first, you’ve got massive tourism hubs that you can almost always count on for low fares and great deals. Think Miami, New York, and Hawaii—bucket list destinations.
In the other group, there are loads of smaller destinations that typically have cheap tickets, but you might struggle to even point them out on a map.
Or, maybe you’re just rightfully afraid of getting caught in a spooky little town for longer than you bargained, à la Twin Peaks.
That second collection of cities makes up the secret corners of this vast country that have more than enough to offer any visitor, even if it may not seem like it on the surface.
Now, there are plenty of takes on this very topic, with similar lists on which city in the US is the most underrated—we're looking at you, Spokane!— but we're doing things a little differently.
At Jack’s Flight Club, we know cheap flights. So, we've decided to take what we know about domestic airlines and route prices, and merge it with the coolest things to do in each city. All to deliver you a guide on where to go, how to get there, and what it should cost. And we’ve wrapped it up in a nice bow for you too :-)
So, without any more hubbub (and in no particular order), here is our list of the ten most underrated cities in the US, and how you can actually travel there for cheap.
Charleston, South Carolina
Typical Flight Cost: $70s-$110s (East Coast), $150s (West Coast)
Airlines: Spirit, Avelo, JetBlue, Southwest
There’s really no better place to start than in 2022’s best small city in America—Charleston, South Carolina. Now, we know what you’re thinking, “Charleston is super popular, what is it doing here?” And you’re right.
In fact, Business Insider ranked it as the 14th most popular tourist destination in the US just last year. With a quaint charm that escapes the hustle and bustle, historic neighborhoods teeming with incredibly-old buildings, and some of the best local cuisine in the country, it’s more than earned those high honors.
So why is it on our “underrated city” list? Well, because it’s so popular, the small-town charm that makes Charleston unique from other big flashy cities means it’s often just thought of as another destination. It also doesn't hurt that it's super cheap to get there from basically anywhere in the country.
Charleston is one of our most frequent deal spots, with low fares usually in the $70s-$110s from across the East Coast and in the $150s from the West Coast.
These prices are frequently with budget airlines like Spirit, Avelo, and JetBlue, but, if you can catch a Southwest drop, the word “budget” basically goes out the door with those two checked bags included.
Typical Flight Cost: $70s (West Coast), $100s (Texas)
Airlines: Allegiant, Breeze
The entire state of Utah seems to be getting trendier by the day, and Provo is at the forefront of that movement. This college town is also one of the most livable in the country for regular folks, and that mix of young and old comes through in everything the city does.
But there are also museums on every corner thanks to Brigham Young University, and plenty of neat little food spots to keep your mouth watering. To top it off, it’s also home to Dry Bar Comedy Club, where you might just catch some of the nation’s biggest standups in action.
We have buried the lede here, though: Provo and the surrounding Utah Valley are home to some of the most stunning nature literally anywhere in the world. With a city center that looks like a stereotypical postcard, and a waterfall that plummets over 600 feet just a short drive away, this is definitely one of America’s most beautiful towns.
It’s also a gateway to explore the entire state: Head north an hour and you'll hit Salt Lake and Park City, for skiing and urban life alike. Or go south and brave that 4-hour drive to the legendary Zion National Park. The natural beauty Utah has to offer is truly second to none.
Provo is pretty new for us over here in deal land, as it’s almost entirely served by Allegiant and Breeze, two rapidly expanding budget carriers.
But, we routinely see fares in the $70s from California and the low $100s from Texas. While there isn’t really much East Coast coverage yet, Breeze’s new routes do have our hopes up for the future.
Typical Flight Cost: $70s-$110s (East Coast, Florida), $160s (West Coast)
Airlines: JetBlue, Breeze, Spirit, American
Virginia’s River City, Richmond, is in that super-sweet spot of size and style. I mean, just look at the city flag and tell us that doesn’t scream flair.
Richmond is steeped in history, as it’s one of the oldest cities in the country, where Civil War relics live on every corner. But it’s also an up-and-coming hub for artists in Virginia, with restaurants and breweries popping up all over the city as it grows younger.
This intersection of young and old has led to some conflict, especially with its recently-removed Confederate monuments. Honestly, though, the graffiti and street art-covered statues are as good a statement as any community can make.
Keeping on that theme of sweet spots, Richmond’s location in the mid-Atlantic makes it pretty accessible to most corners of this country. We see deals come from Florida most often, with prices in the $70s-$110s on budget airlines like JetBlue, Breeze, and Spirit.
Cities in the Northeast also fall into the $70s-$110s price range, even if the deals aren't as common, while our West Coast pals usually see prices in the $160s, again with relative rarity.
But that rarity is part of the fun—next time it pops up in a deal email, you know your fingers will be working quickly to book that flight.
Typical Flight Cost: $90s-$130s (West Coast), $150s (East Coast but rarely)
Airlines: Alaska, American
And like some of its West Coast brethren, Boise’s natural beauty is nothing to scoff at. Nestled in the middle of the Treasure Valley, downtown Boise overlooks some beautiful, often snow-capped hills with plenty of hiking opportunities for young and old alike.
The city is pretty isolated, with the nearest major metro areas of Salt Lake City and Portland located over 300 miles away. But that sense of isolation is what makes the city so beautiful, and will just make you feel more and more in tune with your nature-loving and off-the-grid-but-not-really self.
This isolation does bump up costs a bit, though. Boise is one of the pricier cities to get to on this list, and most of the deals we’ve seen in the last few years are exclusive to the West Coast.
From Seattle and San Francisco, we usually see major carriers like Alaska and American discounting this route, with fares in the $130s and, while it has been a minute from Los Angeles, we’ve seen fares in the $90s before.
That’s not to say it’s all bad news—some East Coast cities had a Boise renaissance just a few years ago, with American dropping prices into the $140s-$150s on this typically costly cross-country route.
So, we’re keeping our fingers crossed for those super-low fares to eventually return. After all, who couldn’t use more french fries?
Typical Flight Cost: $30s-$40s (budget airlines), $80s-90s (mid-tier), $110s (legacy)
Airlines: Spirit, Frontier, Southwest, JetBlue, American, Alaska
We can already hear you screaming at your screen. “You start this list with Charleston, and now you’re including Nashville!!! How can you even call this an underrated city list???”
Well, Nashville is here to stay because it definitely smashes our other criteria: the fares we see to the Capital of Country Music are too low not to mention.
Basically every region of the US has cheap flights to Nashville, across the broadest range of airline types. Ultra-low-cost like Spirit and Frontier are in the $30s-$40s, slightly less low-cost with Southwest and JetBlue in the $80s-$90s, and even up to big legacy carriers like American and Alaska in the $110s. Nashville runs the gamut.
And it’s not too hard to see why. It’s right in the center of the country, so it’s accessible for everyone, and an evening trot down Broadway feels more like you’re in Vegas than in Tennessee.
The heart of Nashville is also super walkable, something that tons of other US cities can’t match. It’s only 2.5 miles from the full-scale replica of the Greek Parthenon in Centennial Park to Nissan Stadium on the other side of the river, which covers a full sweep of the tourist attractions in the city.
But that doesn’t mean you have to stay in that small zone. East Nashville and Wedgewood-Houston are both just outside of downtown and are home to bustling creative communities and upscale eats. Or you can take a slightly longer drive out to Radnor Lake State Park and hike to your heart’s content.
So yeah, ‘underrated’ might not be the best word to describe Nashville but, the combo of low fares and everything that you can do in the city makes it a no-brainer travel destination.
Typical Flight Cost: $150s-$200s (West Coast), $280s-$320s (East Coast)
Airlines: Alaska, Delta
Ju-neau you wanna go to Juneau!
Ok, ridiculous & corny puns aside, Juneau is actually incredibly accessible for an Alaskan city with a population of only about 30,000. And we’re not complaining, because it means more of this great state to go around.
Juneau’s got an incredibly walkable downtown, mixing tourist shops and local businesses together for the best of both worlds. That downtown walk is also punctuated by a massive statue of a whale literally leaping out of the ground, which makes for a pretty sick photo op.
But the real draw to Juneau is the natural beauty that surrounds it. Situated between Juneau Mountain and Douglas Island, the views over the channel from the city are truly marvelous, and that’s only the start.
You can pool the money you save on airfare toward a helicopter ride up to Mendenhall Glacier, which combines icy snow and green mountains as far as the eye can see for a breathtaking view.
Or, just use Juneau as the starting point for the Yukon-Alaska mountain trip you’ve been waiting for years to take.
And, to address the elephant in the room, Juneau’s summers are actually incredibly temperate, with highs in the mid-60s Fahrenheit (18 degrees Celsius) and lows in the low-50s (about 10 degrees Celsius). So, while it won’t be your usual sweaty summer vacation, it won’t be too frigid either.
Alaska’s isolation does come at a cost. While it is cheaper to arrive at the Last Frontier than you might otherwise imagine, it’s certainly the priciest destination in this list.
West Coast cities usually get the best fares, with deals in the mid-$200s from California, and in the $150s from Seattle. But, we often see fares hovering in the $280s-$320s from cities across the East Coast, which is pretty reasonable when you think about how far you’re traveling.
And, because of how remote the state is, budget carriers often ignore it entirely, so you’re getting an extra level of service on legacy carriers like Delta and *shocker* Alaska.
Typical Flight Cost: $80s-$120s (East Coast), $180s (West Coast)
Airlines: American, United, Southwest
Please do not listen to the internet: Ohio is not trying to take over the world.
Instead, it just wants to give us a neat little capital city to enjoy. There’s nothing wrong with that, and we hope there isn’t any kind of ulterior motive…
Like tons of others here, Columbus is a huge college town, home to THE Ohio State University. That shouldn’t pose an issue on most days—besides the sheer number of Buckeyes flags—but definitely be wary to avoid visiting during The Game for a slightly calmer city.
Or maybe you’re a high-class foodie—or at least a budding high-class foodie. Forbes dubbed Columbus a “secret” foodie city a few years ago. So, all the barbecue, kolaches, and pizza you eat around the city come with an extra perk of secrecy and bragging rights to your friends.
This breadbasket town does cost a bit more than a loaf, but only a bit. It’s a super common destination for cities along the East Coast, and it’s usually served by carriers that include more perks in their base fares, like American, United, and Southwest.
Their prices are a tick higher than their low-cost counterparts, but with fares hovering in the $80s-$120s, you’re still getting a whale of a deal. And West Coast Best Coasters, you can expect prices just under $180 to Columbus, still a pretty good fare for near cross-country travel.
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Typical Flight Cost: $150s (West Coast), $140s-$180s (Texas), $130s-$150s (Chicago)
Airlines: Southwest, American
Have you ever seen a Peak this Pike?
We’re not gonna beat around the bush: Colorado Springs is all about the nature that surrounds it. Sure, the city’s got a couple of spots—a pioneer museum, a museum about the US Olympic teams, and a cool old castle-hotel combo on the outskirts.
But come on—you’ve got Pike’s Peak (above) & rock formations so cool that they could only think of the gods when naming them. Also, waterfall hikes & red rock canyons that didn’t quite inspire the famous amphitheater, but are close by. And a wildlife preserve in the center of the city with hiking trails for days.
Yeah, this is a nature lover’s paradise. And being at the foothills of the Rockies makes it an even better (and often waaay cheaper) starting point for any mountain trip than cities like Aspen and Grand Junction. Talk about a quintuple threat, we think? We’re not sure, we lost count of all the good things.
Now, Colorado Springs does come with a caveat: it’s virtually only ever cheap for people on the West Coast and Texas. But if that works for you, this city is your oyster.
Due to its relatively small size, proximity to Denver, and the fact that few low-cost carriers service the city, fares aren’t ridiculously cheap—they’re just normal cheap. We’re talking in the $150s from places like Seattle and LA, and the $140s-$180s from across Texas.
And Chicago. Being a hub for Southwest pays dividends, as Colorado Springs is one of the most in-demand domestic deal destinations (say that three times fast) for your city. We’ve seen it a ton, with prices hovering in the $130s-$150s. Take it as a sign from the stars.
Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina
Typical Flight Cost: $40s-$80s (budget), $120s-$140s (major)
Airlines: Avelo, American, Delta
Lucky for you, RDU serves two super sweet cities.
An airport so nice they named it twice, Raleigh and Durham have basically grown into one another. They do still have a bit of space between them, but there’s a reason the airport serves them both.
So, what else do they have in common? Well, these Research Triangle towns might just make up America’s most bustling college area (sorry, Boston), and that youthful spirit is in everything they do.
Maybe take in some craft breweries across Durham, or hike every possible trail in Raleigh. Or, if that doesn’t work, how about hitting up hiking spots in Durham and the craft breweries all throughout Raleigh, instead?
Jokes aside, this two-city combo is perfect for your next trip where you don’t wanna stress about making sure you do every single possible thing in a place. Sure, there are museums of all kinds—and we mean, all kinds—but there are also parks as far as the eye can see, perfect for that laid-back vibe.
Raleigh is another one of those middle-of-the-country cities, so it’s accessible from just about every nook and cranny. The airport has a pretty solid mix of budget and legacy carriers, really making this a carte blanche, whatever your preference.
Cheap flights from budget carriers typically reside in the $40s-$80s range (with Avelo’s new base at the airport pulling a lot of that weight), while legacy carriers like American and Delta climb into the $120s-$140s on average.
Kansas City, Missouri
Typical Flight Cost: $90s-$160s (East Coast & Texas)
Airlines: Southwest, American, JetBlue
Kansas City has jumped high up the national consciousness lately because of how good the Chiefs have become. And that’s a good thing for us, because now there’s an abundance of new cheap flights to one of the wonders of the Midwest.
Every list of things to do in Kansas City starts with their world-famous BBQ. And with good reason, as their tomato-based sauce is so different and so much better than anywhere else in the world, it has its own Wikipedia page.
Once you’ve had your fill of all the smoky meats your stomach can handle, what’s next? Well, how about a world-class art museum that has all the art of a museum you might find in New York City with none of the crowds? Or a World War I museum that sits upon a hill with sprawling views of the city’s beautiful skyline?
It’s also a good thing that you waited this long to cross Kansas City off your travel list, as the city’s airport recently unveiled a massive new $1.5 billion terminal that rivals any other across the country. So nothing but luxury here.
Kansas City is a frequent flier, but normally only from the East Coast and Texas. We typically see prices in the $90s-$160s depending on your outbound airport, but Southwest’s 45% market share at MCI means it’s not the low-cost carrier extravaganza you might otherwise expect.
We do have to knock the city on one thing—some regions in the US have basically never seen a deal to it, namely our Floridian friends. Not to worry, as there’s more than enough Kansas City in your own town every February.