If you're looking to beat the crowds, stretch your dollar, and check out less-charted lands on your next vacation, we’ve got you covered. Here are 11 destinations that have amazing sights and experiences — without the annoying tourists.
1. Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
This New England-esque destination is not only affordable — from accommodations to food — it's downright decadent. “The seafood is out of this world and you can get a lobster dinner at a five-star restaurant for under $40 per person,” says travel writer and photographer Katie Lara. “You can get a hotel at a very nice resort like Keltic Lodge for about $200, and that's during peak season.” Don’t miss the incredible parks and beaches, and Lara recommends the Cabot Trail for a scenic drive.
2. Cleveland, Ohio
You might be thinking: “Cleveland?” But "people don't realize how much this city has come into its own in the past few years," Lara says. Cleveland not only offers the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, it has a renowned art museum, a botanical garden, and one of the best theater districts in the country. Lara also points out that you can score a room at top-tier hotels, like the Westin, in peak summer travel season for $170.
Cleveland is also a food lover's paradise — it’s Iron Chef Michael Symon's hometown and he helped shape the city into a culinary mecca. “Restaurants are affordable too,” Lara says. “Even upscale, top-rated restaurants like L'Albatros have entrees for less than $25. If you go downtown to popular, top restaurants like Town Hall you can get entrees for lunch for $10 or less. And we're talking huge, delicious salads and fabulous grass-fed burgers too!”
3. Abruzzo, Italy
From a pristine national park where visitors can go bear and wolf watching to beaches and ski resorts within driving distance of each other, Abruzzo offers a ton of outdoorsy attractions that are only slowly being discovered by foreign tourists.
But you don’t have to be sporty to get on board. According to food and travel writer Anna Lebedeva, who calls this region home, you can find reasonably priced traditional restaurants serving “a six- to seven-course meal for $30 (or less) per person, including wine.” The many wineries, olive oil producers, and artisanal breweries are also not to be missed.
As for lodging, staying in this community is also more affordable than many other Italian destinations. “You would be looking at prices starting from approximately $275 per week,” Lebedeva says. “A restored medieval house that sleeps two to four people in the stunning mountain village of Santo Stefano costs $85 per night. Places by the sea cost more but are still very good value compared to more touristy destinations in Italy.”
4. Sanary-sur-Mer, France
This French town sandwiched between Marseille and Toulan on the Mediterranean Sea isn't in most guidebooks, making it ideal for experiencing unspoiled local beaches and culture.
When Roger Brinkley, CEO of travel company Pac2Go, visited, the hotel he stayed in had “an awesome view of the beach some 400 feet away.” Prices for most beach hotels are around $85, while a luxury hotel is under $300. “Our experience was that prices were softer in June and early July and very hard in late July and August,” he says. “For the adventurous travelers I would recommend just showing up and contacting the local tourist office. You can generally get a very good last-minute deal.”
The conditions couldn’t be more idyllic: Brinkley says the beach is warm and perfect for swimming, and that the village itself, known for fishing, hosts a weekly street fair.
For a longer, budget-friendly trip, travel around this often-overlooked European country. Because the Swedish krona is at its lowest rate against the dollar in more than five years — one krona equals .12 USD — it’s “suddenly really cheap to visit a beautiful country that is usually considered ‘too expensive,'" says travel expert Steve Vickers, founder of RoutesNorth.com.
He suggests visiting in the summer, when most of the locals in Stockholm are on vacation at their summer houses in the countryside. Then head to Gällivare in northern Sweden, where there are 40 days of round-the-clock sunshine, starting in the beginning of June. (If you go further north to Riksgränsen, you can go skiing under the midnight sun!) Finally, stop in Dalarna for a Midsummer celebration, complete with maypole dancing, feasting, and “copious amounts of strong Swedish snaps," Vickers says.
Samoa is a thoroughly underrated Pacific Islands destination, says travel blogger Anthony Bianco. "It's not a place that comes to mind to visit, but people's hospitality, and the laid-back nature of Samoa, really makes this place worth visiting," he says. "The natural beauty here and lack of development makes it a great place to relax."
While the cost of the flight may be steep, once you get there you’ll pay very little to enjoy paradise: You can stay in Samoa’s traditionally constructed beach fales right on the sand for under $30 a day, and the price usually includes breakfast and dinner.
You'll not only find unspoiled beaches and friendly locals, but you'll also be able to see Pulemelei Mound, Polynesia's largest ancient structure, as well as geological wonders like the Lava Field and the To Sua Ocean Trench.