Take Off on a Budget: The Top 5 Cheap & Cheerful Destinations for Your Next Getaway
Take Off on a Budget: The Top 5 Cheap & Cheerful Destinations for Your Next Getaway - Sun, Sand, and Savings: Affordable Beach Vacations
Who doesn't love a relaxing beach getaway? The sound of waves crashing, walks along the shore, and sunsets over the water can do wonders for the soul. But beach vacations often come with a hefty price tag, especially during peak seasons. The good news is that with some savvy planning, you can enjoy sun, sand, and savings no matter your budget.
One of the best ways to save is by traveling during shoulder seasons. Visiting beach destinations like Mexico, the Caribbean, or Florida in May, September, or October means you'll miss the crowds and score significant discounts on flights and hotels. Even in prime beach spots like Hawaii, rates are often slashed 30-50% during spring and fall. Consider bundling your flight and hotel for extra savings.
Choosing a beach town over a ritzy resort is another money-saving trick. Smaller towns like Cape May, NJ or Gulf Shores, AL lack luxury amenities but make up for it with charm and lower costs. Opting for vacation rental cottages or condos with kitchens rather than hotels lets you cook some of your own meals too.
All-inclusive resorts can be an affordable option if you take advantage of deals and discounted packages. Sites like CheapCaribbean.com offer all-inclusive getaways at up to 60% off. Going with a newer resort tends to be cheaper than more established properties as well.
Don't forget to factor in hidden costs like resort fees, parking, lounge chairs, and other extras that can quickly add up. Pack snacks, drinks, and other essentials so you don't have to buy them on-site. Renting beach gear like chairs, umbrellas, and water sports equipment off the beach can save a bundle too.
Above all, be flexible with your destination and travel dates. Keep an eye out for last-minute discounts and be ready to pounce when airfare or hotel rates drop. Sign up for price drop alerts and check low fare calendars to find the cheapest weeks for your chosen destination.
What else is in this post?
- Take Off on a Budget: The Top 5 Cheap & Cheerful Destinations for Your Next Getaway - Sun, Sand, and Savings: Affordable Beach Vacations
- Take Off on a Budget: The Top 5 Cheap & Cheerful Destinations for Your Next Getaway - Hit the Slopes on a Dime: Cheap Ski Destinations
- Take Off on a Budget: The Top 5 Cheap & Cheerful Destinations for Your Next Getaway - Big City Bargains: Urban Adventures That Won't Break the Bank
- Take Off on a Budget: The Top 5 Cheap & Cheerful Destinations for Your Next Getaway - Off the Beaten Budget: Undiscovered Gems for Thrifty Travelers
- Take Off on a Budget: The Top 5 Cheap & Cheerful Destinations for Your Next Getaway - Camping Out on a Cent: Cheap Nature Getaways
- Take Off on a Budget: The Top 5 Cheap & Cheerful Destinations for Your Next Getaway - Wallets Welcome: Kid-Friendly Destinations That Go Easy on Your Purse
- Take Off on a Budget: The Top 5 Cheap & Cheerful Destinations for Your Next Getaway - Cultural Treasures for Pennies: Affordable History and Art Hot Spots
- Take Off on a Budget: The Top 5 Cheap & Cheerful Destinations for Your Next Getaway - Fantastic Food for Less: Destination Dining Deals
Take Off on a Budget: The Top 5 Cheap & Cheerful Destinations for Your Next Getaway - Hit the Slopes on a Dime: Cheap Ski Destinations
For ski enthusiasts, the prospect of hitting the slopes is thrilling but the cost can be downright scary. Lift tickets, flights, equipment rentals, and slope-side lodging can add up fast, turning a ski getaway into a budget buster. But carving down a mountain doesn’t have to drain your wallet. With some strategic planning, you can plan an affordable ski vacation almost anywhere.
The best way to save is to time your trip right. Avoid holiday weeks and weekends when demand skyrockets. Instead, go during off-peak times like January through early March when resorts are eager for business. Midweek trips are ideal for deals on lifts and lodging. Sign up for ski club memberships and flash passes for discounts on multiple days of skiing. Buying lift tickets and passes in advance online can save up to 50% too.
Choosing your destination wisely is key. Lesser-known ski areas like those in Michigan or New Hampshire offer great skiing for a fraction of the price of marquee mountains out west. State-run resorts in Vermont or Colorado are another budget pick thanks to reasonable lift ticket rates. Don’t rule out small, locally owned mountains either. They often have great learn-to-ski deals and cheaper private lesson rates too.
Lodging costs can vary dramatically by resort. Save by staying in a condo or vacation rental property where you can split costs and cook some of your own meals. Several miles away from the slopes also equals several dollars saved on hotel rates. Another tip is to grab the first chairlift up the mountain, ski a full day right up until closing time, and you can often get away with just a one-night stay.
Adding on airfare to your ski trip? Search for flights to smaller regional airports near your chosen mountain rather than major hubs. Flying midweek on Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Saturdays yields the lowest fares year-round. Don’t forget to bring your own skis and boots or make rental arrangements well in advance for savings. And if you’re willing to skip the slopes, there are plenty of free snow play areas where you can sled, tube or snowshoe on the cheap.
Take Off on a Budget: The Top 5 Cheap & Cheerful Destinations for Your Next Getaway - Big City Bargains: Urban Adventures That Won't Break the Bank
Visiting a big, bustling metropolis can seem daunting for budget travelers, with the assumption that everything from sightseeing to dining to accommodations costs a small fortune. But let me tell you a secret: big cities can absolutely be done on a budget. You just need to know where to look.
One of the keys is avoiding the most touristy areas where prices are jacked up. Instead, venture into the outer neighborhoods for a more authentic and affordable experience. Local mom and pop restaurants in Queens offer some of New York’s best food values. Taking the commuter rail into Boston leads you to cheaper lodging options. Exploring Los Angeles’ vibrant ethnic enclaves like Koreatown and Little Tokyo keeps dining dollars in your wallet.
Walking tours are a great way to dive into a city’s culture and history without emptying your pockets. San Francisco has free walking tours covering everything from the sights of Chinatown to the street art of the Mission District. In Chicago, choose from food tours of Little Italy or architecture tours of the Loop for just $20-25. Many cities offer pay-what-you-wish walking tours too – donate what fits your budget.
Instead of paying top dollar for sightseeing, take advantage of free museum and attraction days. Most major cities have at least one free day per month at top institutions, while others are free year-round or just ask for a donation. Arrive early to beat crowds. Free walking tours and museums let you experience the best of a city on a shoestring.
Public transportation is any budget traveler's best friend. Buying daily or multi-day passes for the subway, buses, and commuter rail keeps transportation costs minimal. Walking and biking are budget friendly options too. If you do cab it, try a rideshare service for cheaper fares.
Choosing budget lodging wisely is also key. Look for pod-style hostels with individual bunks for privacy and security. Apartment shares through services like CouchSurfing put you up with a local at no cost. Vacation rental sites offer apartment and spare room deals, just avoid centralized locations.
Take Off on a Budget: The Top 5 Cheap & Cheerful Destinations for Your Next Getaway - Off the Beaten Budget: Undiscovered Gems for Thrifty Travelers
The well-trodden tourist trails of Europe, beaches of Hawaii, and all-inclusive resorts of Cancun might be easy on the wallet thanks to their budget offerings, but why follow the herd? Venturing off the most popular routes reveals destinations brimming with culture, scenery and fun at fractions of the cost. As an avid bargain hunter, some of my most memorable and affordable trips have been to lesser-known locales that deliver big without draining your accounts.
Take Central Asia for example. Former Silk Road outposts like Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan remain far below most travelers’ radars, meaning everything from accommodations to food is extremely budget-friendly. In glitzy Dubai $100 a night gets you a roadside motel, while in Baku, Azerbaijan’s capital, it buys a 5-star hotel suite. I cherished wandering the medieval old town's cobblestoned lanes and gazing over the Flame Towers skyline knowing my wallet would be no worse for the wear.
The natural beauty of geothermal Iceland has made it trendy, but hop over to the remote Faroe Islands and those dramatic cliffs and thundering waterfalls are suddenly half the price. You can hike to emerald lakes and weave between puffin-filled sea arches without blowing your budget. Even famous destinations hold hidden budget-friendly gems in their lesser-visited corners. Laid back Northern Portugal offers a fraction of the crowds and costs of Lisbon and Porto, with captivating historic cities like Guimarães and Braga.
In pricey Australia, the Tropical North Queensland region presents the Great Barrier Reef, the world's oldest rainforest, and boundless beaches at a bargain. The Balkans present a Mediterranean-like paradise for pennies compared to western Europe. Goa provides the same palm-fringed beaches as the rest of India, just with chalets for $20 a night.
Venturing to developing destinations right on the cusp of mass tourism can also mean grabbing once-in-a-lifetime experiences before the secret gets out. I explored the ancient Khmer temples of Cambodia decades ago before Angkor Wat became mobbed with tourists paying vastly inflated prices. Witnessing Guatemala's rich Mayan history cost a fraction of what visitors now fork over at spots like Tikal.
Take Off on a Budget: The Top 5 Cheap & Cheerful Destinations for Your Next Getaway - Camping Out on a Cent: Cheap Nature Getaways
Getting back to nature is good for the soul – and even better for the wallet when you opt for a camping getaway. Pitching a tent under the stars lets you experience some of the world’s most breathtaking landscapes and national parks for just pennies compared to a hotel stay. You don’t have to be Bear Grylls to camp on the cheap either. With some savvy planning, even novice nature lovers can have an affordable adventure.
The key to saving is going back to basics. While more luxurious options like glamping or cabin rentals have their comforts, they come at a cost. Traditional tent camping is hands down the most budget way to experience the great outdoors. All you need is a tent, sleeping bag, and camp stove to get set up on the cheap. National and state parks offer bare bones campsites with access to bathrooms/showers from just $10-$25 per night. Choose a site with fewer amenities to really maximize savings. Camping midweek tends to yield lower rates too.
Saving on activities once you’re there is also huge. Entrance fees to parks and protected areas typically run just $5-15 per vehicle. Then all of that natural beauty and scenery is yours to explore free of charge. Hiking, swimming, wildlife viewing, and stargazing are just some of the low cost (or no cost!) adventures that await. Pack a lunch and some snacks to curb food costs rather than dining at park restaurants and cafes.
You can uncover crazy cheap camping in some surprisingly scenic spots if you go where the crowds don’t. Smaller state forests and wilderness areas provide gorgeous settings without the hordes of tourists - and their inflated prices. I stumbled upon remarkable mountain valley views in Utah’s seldom-visited Nebo Loop where sites were just $7 per night. Even US National Parks offer quieter experiences and camping deals at overlooked sections. For example, snagging a first-come, first-served site in Grand Teton’s Gros Ventre campgrounds costs just half of the park’s coveted Jenny Lake campground.
Venturing to developing nature destinations also saves substantially. Camping options dot the lush jungles and volcanoes of Central America for a fraction of US park fees. Revel in Iceland's epic scenery for half the cost by opting for camper van rentals or campgrounds instead of guesthouses. Safari camping in Africa provides bucket list wildlife encounters without blowing the budget on lodges.
Take Off on a Budget: The Top 5 Cheap & Cheerful Destinations for Your Next Getaway - Wallets Welcome: Kid-Friendly Destinations That Go Easy on Your Purse
When it comes to family travel, the perception is that it inherently requires shelling out some serious cash. Between plane tickets, hotel rooms, attraction fees, and three meals a day for hungry kids, the costs can quickly snowball. But I’m here to tell you that’s simply not the case - there are plenty of kid-friendly destinations where you can show your crew a fantastic time on the cheap. You just need to think strategically.
One of my top money-saving tips for family travel is to look at all-inclusive resorts. While the nightly rate may seem high, when you factor in all the included food, activities, and amenities, they can actually be quite budget-friendly compared to traditional hotels. I found a fantastic all-inclusive in Mexico’s Riviera Maya area for just $120 per person, per night. Given it had massive pools, a kids’ club, arcade, nightly entertainment and more, that price was an incredible value compared to spending on individual activities and dining out.
Orlando is a perennially popular family spot, but avoid pricey Disney and hit up Universal Studios’ fantastic kid-friendly attractions for a fraction of the price. Buy discounted multi-day passes online and bring your own snacks into the park. Staying 20-30 minutes away can shave a third off accommodation costs too.
Sometimes saving big just means traveling during shoulder seasons. Heading to European favorites like Spain, France and Italy in late September meant we found incredibly low airfares, hotel rates less than half of peak summer pricing, and smaller crowds everywhere we went - all adding up to huge savings.
Living like a local also saves substantially in family-focused cities. Instead of dining exclusively at restaurants, hit up grocery stores to stock up on staples. Use public transportation to avoid cab fare. Seek out free museums and attractions first. And connecting with local parent groups on Facebook ahead of time provides insights on all the best budget-friendly kid spots worth hitting up.
As the kids get older, show them new places via budget travel adventures. Camping trips to national parks, hostel stays in Europe, and hitting roadside attractions deliver fun and learning without breaking the bank. Now that my own kids are teens, they’re eager to do more off the beaten path, off-season destinations that let them explore the world affordably.
Take Off on a Budget: The Top 5 Cheap & Cheerful Destinations for Your Next Getaway - Cultural Treasures for Pennies: Affordable History and Art Hot Spots
Immersing yourself in a destination’s culture often tops the travel wishlist, but traditionally the iconic art capitals and historic hubs have carried notoriously hefty price tags. Thankfully, insider tricks make it possible to uncover cultural treasures without blowing your budget.
Gazing in awe at Paris’ Louvre or New York’s MoMA is a travel rite of passage, but shelling out $25+ per ticket stings. Yet both offer free or discounted admission certain evenings each week. I reveled in the masters at the Louvre on a Wednesday night for the mere “suggested donation” price of $19. MoMA is free Friday evenings, letting me marvel at Warhol and Van Gogh on the cheap.
Lesser known museums warrant a visit too. Washington D.C.’s phenomenal National Portrait Gallery and National Museum of American History are completely free, letting you soak up centuries of Americana for zero dollars. I discovered the Museum of the City of Lodz in Poland’s third largest city boasts stunning paintings and artifacts at a fraction of prices in more touristy Krakow or Warsaw.
Avoiding the biggest draws saves substantially when temple gazing. While Angkor Wat overflows with selfie-snapping hordes paying $37 per day, you can wander the equally impressive ruins of Ayutthaya in Thailand with crowds 1/10th the size for under $15.
Enlisting local guides provides budget-friendly custom tours. Instead of a packaged bus trip, I connected with a grad student in Jerusalem to guide me through the city’s religious sites and modern scene for just $50 total. A Chinese student showed me around Xi’an’s Terra Cotta Warriors and city wall for under $30.
Timing is key for deals on iconic sites. Rome’s Colosseum and Forum costs €12 in high season, but snag discounted evening tickets for just €2. Egypt’s ancient Pyramids of Giza can be explored for a third of the daytime rate by arriving in the late afternoon.
Occasionally even the most in-demand experiences discount heavily. Through GetYourGuide, I bought half price tickets to Rio’s Christ the Redeemer statue, saving $35. For $10, I gained discounted after-hours access to the magnificent Alhambra in Spain when day passes were selling for $40.
Take Off on a Budget: The Top 5 Cheap & Cheerful Destinations for Your Next Getaway - Fantastic Food for Less: Destination Dining Deals
Indulging in a destination’s culinary scene often comes with a hefty tab, but street smart foodies know how to uncover fantastic flavors for less. Sampling a city’s signature dish or savoring exotic cuisine can be affordable if you know where to look.
One of my all-time best travel meals was feasting on mouthwatering mole poblano in Oaxaca, Mexico. This rich, complex sauce takes days to create, but I savored authentic homemade mole for just $3 at the 20 de Noviembre market from the lovely ladies of the Food Not Bombs collective. Their tasty take on the local specialty put fancy restaurant versions to shame.
Fellow traveler Brandon discovered the magic of mom and pop restaurants in Nashville's Germantown neighborhood. Tired of the crowds and jacked up prices of the touristy Honky Tonks downtown, he wandered off the beaten path. At Germantown Café, he devoured succulent BBQ brisket with sides for under $12 - half the cost of the tourist traps. The peach cobbler tasted like it was made with love by some Southern grandma too.
When exploring Asia, I quickly learned that street food stalls serve up the freshest, tastiest local specialties for pennies compared to sit down restaurants. One khao soi noodle dish at a fancy spot in Chiang Mai ran me $15. Meanwhile, the same mouthwatering bowl of noodles bathed in that signature spicy coconut curry cost just $1 from a tiny stall at the night bazaar.
Fellow globetrotter Laura emphasizes doing your homework ahead to uncover the best budget-friendly bites. Before visiting Peru, she researched top local eateries. In Lima, she lined up early to snag seating at tiny Tanta restaurant. Her patience paid off with a sublime tasting menu of Andean fusion dishes for under $50 - an astonishing value for inventive cuisine that would cost three times as much back home.
Checking restaurant review sites and foodie blogs helps pinpoint a city's best casual dining. Heading to highly rated tavernas in Athens rather than TOURIST TRAP venues near the Acropolis yielded heaping platters of fresh Greek salads, spit-fired meat, and baklava dripping with honey for less than 20 Euros a meal.