Each new year brings the prospect of fresh experience, especially in the form of travel. While it infuses you with treasured memories from new adventures, travel can drain your savings. You might start to panic when dollar signs fill your eyes and the digits start to add up. The list of costs can be lengthy, including rides to and from the airport or parking, flights, gas money, rental cars, hotels, food, and entertainment.
Travel is an investment in new or enhanced knowledge, skills, and relationships, and mental souvenirs that stay with you and your camera roll forever. Travel costs are dependent on where you live, but some experiences are more budget-friendly so you can take the trip with less financial burden. To get the best of both worlds, here is a list of ideas for destinations that fill your cup without emptying your wallet. (Some suggested destinations on this list assume you live on the east coast of the United States; obviously airfare costs will vary depending on your location.)
Do you want to stay close to home with minimal travel involved but take in new sights and escapades? Or, you might want to learn more about local activities and landmarks. A staycation makes you a tourist in or close to the place that you call home. Whether you sleep at home or at a hotel, a staycation is easy and cuts out or reduces the costs of flights or gas. Explore nearby towns, eat at popular restaurants, and discover historic buildings and towns. Driving a few hours away from your home can feel like a new world, whether you live in a city and drive to the closest beach, or live in the suburbs and journey into the nearest mountain range. A simple internet search of things to do near you offers an abundance of ideas for vacations right around the corner.
Visit friends or family
Bunking with others may not be your ideal situation, or you may love the chance to spend extra time with friends and family. Staying with loved ones when you travel means no accommodation costs and more money in your wallet to save or spend on experiences, food, and transportation. It is worth considering who you might be able to stay with near destinations you have been wanting to explore.
Take a trip out West
Taking in stunning mountain views out West could be within your reach as a budget-friendly vacation. Spend your days camping, hiking, and enjoying the peaceful outdoors, and your nights gazing up at the undisturbed night sky full of stars. Flights to Phoenix are on the more affordable end of flight costs, and a rental car takes you a little over 3 hours away to the breathtaking Grand Canyon. If you’d like to get to the Grand Canyon faster, fly into Flagstaff Pulliam Airport, which is also reasonably priced. Camp out in the park, stay in a budget-friendly hotel, or experience the true West while lodging at a dude ranch.
Often for less than $200, you can be in sunny Florida in no time, where there are a variety of beautiful vacation spots with different atmospheres. The famous Walt Disney World can get expensive if you frequent the parks and stay on-site, but the trip will be full of beautiful memories, especially if you go with kids. A Disney vacation can be planned with less cost if you book certain packages, stay in separate accommodations, or visit one park. More affordable trips to Florida with outdoor activities include learning to surf on northern East coast beaches, visiting the natural springs to see marine life like manatees and fish through the crystal clear waters, or taking an airboat ride through the alligator-filled Everglades. You can enjoy the sparkling bright blue waters of Miami and its thrilling nightlife, or explore the West coast with its calm and warm Gulf waters that feel like the Caribbean.
Washington, D.C. and Virginia
An excursion to the Washington Metropolitan Area is a must for history buffs. Flights to our nation’s capital are economical and open up a world of museums, monuments, events, and architecture. The Smithsonian boasts incredible national museums packed with history and art and is home to a 3,200-acre zoo.
Travel a few hours south to immerse yourself in historic villages that transport you centuries into the past of our country’s history. Colonial Williamsburg was one of the first intentional cities in the United States and served as an epicenter for education, culture, and politics. As you walk around the town and tour the beautiful historic buildings, employees greet you in 18th-century attire and educate you on life back in time in Williamsburg.
New York City
New York City is an exciting place to visit and is full of things to do and see. NYC offers Broadway shows, incredible art museums, the breathtaking Statue of Liberty and Empire State Building, vibrant Times Square, and beautiful Rockefeller Center lit up during the holidays. Flights to the city can be budget-friendly, but the costs of food, lodging, and entertainment are higher than in other locations. If you want to see the sites of New York City on a budget, stay outside of the city and take the subway or trains. Eat at less well-known but delicious restaurants for a lower bill and look for the best menu deals online.
Flights to Puerto Rico, particularly its capital, San Juan, are inexpensive and give you an international feel without being fully removed from the United States. The American territory has stunning sandy beaches and surf in hot spots like Rincón, Aguadilla, Vieques, and Luquillo. For a city feel that also has a beach, San Juan is full of Spanish history. In the capital, you’ll find ancient cathedrals and forts and walk through quaint and colorful towns. You can even experience the sole tropical rainforest in America’s collection of national forests. El Yunque spans 29,000 acres and offers breathtaking views and waterfalls. You can even hear the iconic sound of Puerto Rico’s coquí frog.
Some flights to Central America are not as budget-friendly as our other options, but once you arrive, the costs are economical. The most affordable option would be dining via local street vendors, using the bus system, and staying in a hostel. Hostels are shared accommodations with lower nightly rates and are a great way to save money on vacation. In locales like Mexico, Belize, and Costa Rica, you find rich culture, delicious cuisine, pristine beaches, and peaceful rainforests filled with wildlife. Visit between December and April for a warm and dry climate.