7 Inspiring Destinations for Every Traveler and Budget
By Adam Erace
- PUBLISHED November 30
- 6 MINUTE READ
Whichever you choose, we’ve got a trip for you that won’t break the bank.
Be a Beach Bum in Hawaii
Why: Airlines are often caught up in fare wars, and the battle for your bucks is driving down the cost of flights from the West Coast to Hawaii. Round-trips for less than $500 are not uncommon, and contrary to popular opinion, everything doesn’t cost a fortune once you get to the islands.
Instead of the central tourist areas like Waikiki and Wailea, consider smaller towns like Pupukea, home to a spectacular beach on Oahu’s North Shore, and Paia, where you can walk to smoothie bars and boutiques after a day at Maui’s Baldwin Beach. Hitting independent restaurants over ones in resorts is an essential cash-saver.
When: February, May, September, October
Discover the Arts in Santa Fe
Why: You can’t walk more than five feet in any direction in New Mexico’s magic city without encountering art.
From 17th-century Spanish colonial masterpieces to a psychedelic interactive mystery house, whatever kind of art you prefer, you’ll find in Santa Fe. The city also boasts a plethora of high-end hotels with surprisingly reasonable rates in the off-season. Pick one with a great art collection.
When: Fall, for weather and festivals
Be a Big Kid in Orlando
Why: After decades of being alcohol-free, the Magic Kingdom now serves drinks. That’s a good place to start if you’re looking for reasons why Orlando, Fla., is not just a kids’ destination.
A new entertainment district is positively stacked with solid restaurants from known chefs. To save money, consider staying at a hotel not affiliated with one of the big amusement parks, many of which offer free breakfast and daily shuttle service to the parks. Outside the parks, Orlando and adjacent Winter Park are vibrant cities with great restaurants and many free museums.
When: Avoid school breaks, holidays and weekends if you can.
Camp in Acadia
Why: Encompassing almost 50,000 acres along the coast of Maine, Acadia National Park is a fever dream of evergreen forests, sapphire lakes, picturesque harbors and secret beaches.
In season (May through October), entrance fees are only $15 per pedestrian (or $30 for a car of up to 15 people), with no fees in the off-season. Campsites range from backpacker-budget to luxe. Take advantage of the National Park Service’s free or inexpensive ranger-guided hikes, walks and cruises.
When: September to October
Dine in Mexico City
Why: There are few countries where the U.S. dollar goes further than in Mexico. That’s just one reason our southern neighbor’s cosmopolitan capital keeps popping up in your Instagram feed.
From street carts selling icy tumblers of agua de jamaica (hibiscus tea) and corn on the cob showered with queso fresco, to world-class restaurants, food in Mexico City is as inexpensive as it is delicious. And getting to CDMX (La Ciudad de México), as the city is called, is easier than ever, with nonstop flights from San Diego, Seattle, and Philadelphia.
When: A long weekend. Flights are four hours or less from major U.S destinations, and the weather is 75 degrees Fahrenheit year-round.
Start a European Adventure in Milan
Why: As a year-round destination and the gateway of Italy (a country almost everyone wants to visit), Rome is routinely one of the most expensive cities in Europe to fly to from the United States. Look instead for a flight to Milan. There are fewer of them, but you can often get great deals.
From sophisticated Milano, you can launch a tour of northern Italy, visiting cities like Verona, Bologna and Venice to the east; Torino, Portofino and Cinque Terre to the south and west; and gorgeous lakes to the north. Instead of glitzy Como, try lower-key Lake Iseo, which offers all the dramatic scenery and water activities at a fraction of the price.
When: Avoid crowds and peak prices of Europe in summer. Instead, try May and September.
Backpack Through Vietnam
Why: The absence of nonstop flights to Vietnam from the United States means that it takes longer to get there, but eagle-eyed travelers can still save money. Chinese airlines run drastically discounted fire sales that can get you to Vietnam for under $500. You’ll route through a hub like Shanghai or Beijing and there might be a long layover, but you have to connect anyway and the savings are significant, half of what premium carriers charge.
Regardless of what you pay to get there, once in Vietnam, a few hundred dollars will finance a week of exploring. Boutique hostels in Ho Chi Minh City, for example, offer crisp white linens, spa-like rock-wall shower rooms, rooftop bars and free cooking lessons—at prices that still fit a $25-a-day budget. Cheap intercity flights encourage exploration. Start in the capital, then make your way north to Hanoi, taking in a beach break in Da Nang on the way.
When: Spring and fall
Adam Erace is a freelance food and travel writer based in Philadelphia. His work has appeared in Men's Journal, Fortune, Food & Wine and over 50 other publications.