11 Unique, Cheap Summer Vacations

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.

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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.

5. Sweden
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.

6. Samoa
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.


7. Laos
While most travelers might spring for a Thailand trip, Laos offers more outdoor adventure. Travel blogger Rory Cummins, who's visited more than 30 countries over the past four years, says that from "cave exploring and tubing to rafting and trekking, Laos is packed with activity." Expect to spend about $30 to 35 per day in Laos, all in.

In addition to basking in the sun outdoors, it's worth spending a least a few days exploring the country's history and culture. "The city of Luang Prabang in particular offers travelers a chance to experience the French influence the county had not too long ago,” says Cummins.

8. County Donegal, Ireland
Skip the commercialized version of Ireland, advises blogger Shannon Healey, who's visited 32 countries over the last decade, and check out County Donegal instead.

"The landscapes are vast, sumptuous, and dreamy," she says. "Tiny towns dot the region, with traditional pubs, humble B&Bs — the ones we stayed in ranged from $70 to $96 per night — and the kindest locals around.” County Donegal offers beaches, mountains, and lots of space to explore without encountering another person. In Healey’s words, “it’s nothing short of magical." Check out Donegal Castle, built in 1474, and the three-pub village of Glencolumbcille.

9. Batanes, Philippines
Healey also recommends traveling to the Philippines over neighboring heavyweights like Thailand, Vietnam, and Indonesia, where beaches and temples are typically overrun with tourists. While the plane ticket will be pricey, the stay won’t. Most hotels in Batanes are under $40 per night and each person can expect to spend about $20 per day total for all meals, transportation (motorized tricycle rides, a boat from Batanes to Sabtang, etc.) and personal tours.

Located in the South China Sea, Batanes is a largely untouched island archipelago; nearly 75 percent of the locals are fishermen or farmers. "For nature lovers, seekers of wide-open spaces, seascape enthusiasts, and anyone desperate to detach and truly get away, Batanes checks all the boxes," she says. Visit the unmanned Honesty Cafe, which survives on the good faith of its customers; the Spanish Lagoon; and the Chawa View Deck, which offers a gorgeous vantage point.

10. Taiwan
Taiwan has much to offer outdoor enthusiasts and adventurers. Rebecca Keiller, a writer for Klook Travel, notes that there’s “excellent diving in the tropical waters of the southern coast,” as well as whale watching, an abundance of national parks, and an Instagram-ready cherry blossom season.

Mild weather and affordability also make Taiwan a great option. Keiller notes that, for example, a four-hour tour from Taipei to the northern coast to see the geopark, the harbor, and other sights will set you back just $34 — including hotel pick-up and drop-off, all transportation, and an English-speaking guide.

11. Guatemala
Known as the land of eternal spring, this Central American country has year-round 65-degree weather so you stay comfy while diving into the culture and history.

"Contrary to popular belief, Maya culture is still alive and well in Guatemala," says travel writer Molly B. Kendrick. Check out the Maya villages on the border of Lake Atitlán and the open-air markets and in Santiago Atitlán and Santa Catarina Palopó.

Finally, make sure you visit the country’s former capital of Antigua, a UNESCO Heritage site where you'll find Guatemala’s Spanish history melded with Mayan traditions. While a luxury hotel will set you back around $300 a night, Kendrick says you can find simple (but nice) accommodations with volcano views for as little as $70 to $100 per night.

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