Sure, we’d love to book round-trip flights to Paris and Rome, or jet-set halfway across the globe to Beijing and Tokyo. But we’re not exactly a millionaire, so we’re always looking for ways to satisfy our insatiable wanderlust (and ever-growing bucket list) on a dime. According to the travel experts, it can definitely be done. Here, ten of the most budget-friendly destinations. And they’re not shabby at all.
Move over, Croatia. Central Europe’s most budget-friendly destination is still its best-kept secret. Bordering the Adriatic Sea across from Italy’s boot heel, Montenegro—with its rugged mountains and coastal churches—lacks the crowds and cost location neighbour but comes with similarly gorgeous scenery (aka a win-win) and affordable konoba, the locally owned restaurants serving up delicious kebabs and stuffed cabbage leaves.
According to a website, flights for Madrid and Barcelona are trending cheaper than they were last year at the same time. The hotels are also pretty reasonable throughout the country. Plus, ya know, it’s Spain—it’s basically all-you-can-eat-and-see tapas and Gaudi. So it’s time to brush up on your Spanish (and Catalan).
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA
We know, kind of a shocker. But the Golden City has tons of free attractions and public spaces (think: Golden Gate Park, Lombard Street and Chinatown) and is especially great for families traveling on a budget. Plus, there are many affordable flights from most U.S. hubs, easy-to-use public transportation and plenty of bargain hotels.
If you’ve been dreaming of Thailand since your college raved about the heavenly bowl of tom yum goong she ate while studying abroad in Bangkok, then might be your year to go. With its inexpensive (and delicious) cuisine, accommodations and transportation, Thailand is still one of the best bang-for-your-buck destinations. Plus, its diverse landscape—from relaxed beaches and dramatic karst islands to bustling metropolises and quaint villages—means you get to experience so much in one place.
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA
Save your money for the Blackjack table. Most major airlines have affordable flights to Sin City year-round, so getting here won’t cost you those slot-machine nickels you’ve been saving up. Plus, some of the top tourist attractions in Vegas are completely free (the Bellagio fountains, the free shows in major casinos each day, and the Las Vegas Strip). But maybe Lady Gaga’s new residency is worth the splurge?
This sparsely populated southwest African country has enjoyed stability and safety since gaining independence almost 30 years ago. Due to its relatively low tourism numbers, however, Namibia offers much better prices for safaris (we recommend the flying ones to see the vast deserts, 1,000-feet-tall sand dunes, wilderness parks and rugged coastline in one fell swoop) than many other African countries, which can reach upwards of $1,000 per person.
Our nation’s capital definitely boasts some expensive real estate, but its many free attractions, including all the national monuments, National Portrait Gallery, the Smithsonian Museum and Zoo (which you could honestly get lost in for centuries), and easy-to-use public transportation make it one of the best budget- and family-friendly destinations in the country. And while things might get busier during early spring, the cherry blossom blooms bring a much-needed serenity amid a heated political backdrop.
The low currency exchange rates for New Zealand make the land of the Kiwis even more appealing for U.S. travelers than ever before. Plus, who needs to spend money when they’re in Middle Earth? The stunning natural beauty of the landscape means lots of (free) hiking and sightseeing, while many alternative accommodations (like farm stays) can help keep trip costs low.