Affordable America: The $500 challenge

With a shaky economy sending Wall Street into a tailspin, would-be travelers may feel inclined to stay put. But even $500 can be stretched into a two-night getaway in some of the USA's top tourist destinations — with a little planning.

To kick off our Affordable America series, USA TODAY sent three reporters to New York City, Orlando and Las Vegas with just $500 for a weekend's worth of lodging, meals and entertainment. The deals they found might surprise you.

Three cities, two nights

Las Vegas: Great odds for cheap frills

New York: Spread the word, not your dough

Orlando: The time is right for splashy fun