Between unbelievable gas prices, unpredictable and unreliable flights, and staff shortages across tourism, it’s a tough time to travel. However, the demand for adventure has never been higher. Years of various stages of lockdown have everyone antsy to get out of town ASAP. If you’ve got your eye on the road but don’t want to fork over an entire month’s salary for a getaway, you’re in luck. We spoke with travel experts who recommended the best budget-friendly destinations — from Europe to North and South America — that provide a memorable experience without breaking the bank.
Here’s a look at the top 8 picks for late summer 2022:
Cabo San Lucas
For the traveler looking to spend time on the beach, summer and fall are great times to consider a trip to Cabo San Lucas, says Alex Simon, the CEO and co-founder of Elude. This unique west coast destination is split between two countries: One half in the U.S. (in California), and the other in Mexico. Here, you can stay in numerous hotels at various price points, overlooking the jagged — and gorgeous — cliffs of the Pacific Ocean. Take long strolls by the beach, set sail to experience Lover’s Beach, and enjoy freshly-caught seafood. If you’re lucky, you may even spot a whale toward the end of the summer season.
Simon explains in the winter months, travelers may see higher prices in Cabo as more people try to escape the frigid northern temperatures and fewer people visit during the warmer months. To save even more, he recommends booking at least a month or two in advance to get great flight prices.
According to FORA travel advisor Rebecca Dangler, Portland, Maine is a summer oasis for affordable travel. If you’re in or near the New England area, this charming city has low-cost activities, like sitting by the beach, strolling the boardwalk, or eating a lobster roll by the water. Dangler recommends loading up on affordable breakfast goodies in the morning and then exploring the two iconic lighthouses — Bug Light and Spring Point Ledge — which overlook the northeastern shore.
“Hustle back to the East End by happy hour for delicious deals at The Shop by Island Creek Oysters. At just $1.50 per oyster, this is the most affordable place to enjoy a dozen delicate Maine varieties,” she adds. And if you want to see more of Maine, The Amtrak Downeaster delivers travelers to five different locations around Portland: Wells, Saco, Old Orchard, Freeport and Brunswick, and adult fares start at just $6 roundtrip.
Perhaps you’ve always dreamt of the picture-perfect sea scenes of Greece: white buildings and opaque-teal waters. But although Greece used to be an affordable destination, it’s climbed in price in recent years. Thankfully, you can find many of the same views and fresh catches in the nearby country of Croatia. Simon says this destination is growing in popularity but continues to offer beautiful beaches, fascinating history, and a Hollywood appeal without compromising your budget. “For many years, the country has stayed off the beaten path of many travelers due to being part of Yugoslavia until 1991,” he shares. “While flight prices have skyrocketed in other parts of Europe, Croatia is a great option on the Adriatic Sea for travelers looking to experience everything there is to offer.”
Canada has been slower than most countries to rebound from their pandemic travel slump due to their strict regulations that were lifted only recently, which means that tourism demand, as well as prices are a bit lower, explains Greg Buzulencia, the CEO and founder of Via Hero. For those looking for a summer getaway that’s both inexpensive and dynamic, Quebec City truly has everything. “An idyllic cobblestone-ridden historic district that feels like you’re in a charming European village, a gastronomic scene that rivals France itself, loads of outdoor options within 45 minutes of the city (many of which are free!), and cooler temps to escape the mid-summer heat waves,” he shares.
Don’t want to fly? Depending on the zip code you call home, you might not have to. “Driving from the Northeast US is entirely doable, as it’s five hours from Boston/Portland and eight hours from NYC,” he adds. Also, the exchange rate is in your favor; at the moment, everything in Canada costs around 20% less than in the United States.
In general, Eastern Europe is more affordable than Western or Southern Europe. There are many must-see cities in this region of the continent, including Prague, Czech Republic and Budapest, Hungary, but a hidden gem is Kraków, Polan, according to Dan Demsky, founder of Unbound Merino. “With cheap food and accommodations, Eastern European destinations are great places to visit for budget travelers. Most things cost a fraction of the price you’d pay in the west,” he adds.
In Kraków, you can easily explore gorgeous cathedrals and synagogues, visit museums, explore beautiful parks, and so much more.
Douro Valley, Portugal
Despite rising travel costs in Europe, Dangler says Portugal continues to be an affordable destination for both city and beach travelers. “While the summer crowds flock to the southern Algarve, savvy travelers should instead visit the Douro Valley, Portugal’s breathtaking wine region,” she shares.
Here, you can stay at resort-style properties for around 60 Euros per night, tour your way through tasting rooms and vineyards, and dine at local haunts that provide excellent food sans the mark-up.
Despite being south of the border, Mexico City often has cooler summers than most United States destinations, thanks to the city’s 7,000-foot altitude, says Buzulencia. Plus, he notes flights are often under $400 from major American hubs, and the exchange rate is so strong that you’ll have to try hard to spend more than $10 per meal at all but the fanciest restaurants. “Getting around is easy — Uber is reliable and usually costs no more than a NYC subway ride. You can book a nice Airbnb for as low as $45/night if you’re willing to book a month or two in advance,” he raves. The subway system is reliable, safe and inexpensive, around a quarter per ride.
When you’re there, you can explore the dynamic food scene, picnic in many lush, green parks, and live like a local in neighborhoods like San Rafael, Coyoacan, Juarez, or Narvarte.
Whether you’d like to visit Cartagena, Cali, Medellin, or Bogota, flight rates are in your favor this summer, according to Buzulencia. You can expect to pay between $200 and $400 and land in one of the most diverse countries in the world. It has two oceans, a range of climates, energetic cities, astonishing wildlife, and a vibrant cultural and food scene, he raves. “To state the obvious, it’s not the land of Narcos anymore, touting lower crime rates than many major cities in the US, but perhaps the flights are cheap because not everyone knows that yet,” she says. “Go now before the secret is out.”
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