The Great Escape
If your last few vacations have been to the local beach, it’s time to mix things up. And you don’t have to pay big bucks for a getaway that will satisfy your wanderlust.
These travel spots in the U.S. and abroad are ideal for kicking back, exploring sights, and relishing in new experiences — and you’ll even have cash left over for souvenirs.
Admire wildlife and panoramic views in this southwestern African country — a highly underrated spot for nature lovers, according to travel blogger Anthony Bianco. You'll get to explore places like Fish River Canyon and Soussesvlei, as well as the breathtaking Etosha National Park, where you're sure to see lions, rhinos, leopards, and elephants.
While the cost of staying there is relatively cheap post-flight — you’ll pay less than $100 per night USD — Bianco says that you’ll need to rent a vehicle to get around. And, as far as timing is concerned, he suggests going in the winter, with cold nights and pleasant days, instead of the scorching summer.
If Europe is calling your name, look no further than this Danish city — it’s far more wallet friendly than its neighbors, according to travel expert Steve Vickers, founder of RoutesNorth.com.
"Copenhagen is home to Noma, one of the world's most famous and exclusive restaurants," Vickers says. "You don't need to have a millionaire's budget to eat well in the Danish capital. There's cheap, delicious food around almost every corner, making this the ideal place to get to grips with Scandinavian cuisine." Cycling is the locals' preferred means of transportation, and there are a number of bike rental options so you can use pedal power to get from eatery to eatery and burn off whatever you chow down.
An affordable time to travel is January through March, during the off-season, and you can stretch your budget further by staying at one of the four government-run hostels, which range from around $25 to $40 per night.
For inexpensive luxury, take a peek at this often passed-over U.S. city, says travel blogger Katie Lara. From top-rated fine dining to local ice cream (Graeter’s is a must), you'll have your pick of cuisine.
Cincinnati is also home to a vibrant arts scene. Lara suggests taking advantage of the free walking tour of the city's murals to see street art and staying at the super-hip 21c hotel, which houses a gallery open 24/7.
If you're into tennis, visit during the summer's Western & Southern Open, which Lara says draws all the big names.
Check out Wales for a U.K. experience that costs far less than a trip to London. "It's more laid-back and a great place to escape the hustle and bustle of the capital," Bianco says. For a budget perspective: A top-end hotel in Wales will set you back just under $200 per night, while mid-range accommodations in London cost roughly $300 per night.
Plus, you can have some adventure with your cup of tea thanks to activities such as coasteering, which is like canyoning along the coastline. If that sounds a little too intense, you can visit beautiful natural landscapes like the Pembrokeshire coast and Snowdonia mountains, instead. Oh, and a number of castles as well.
Travel during the summer, when your chances of having nice weather are better, and be sure to stop in Cardiff, a port city filled with friendly locals who will be more than happy to share their heritage with you while you’re out grabbing a pint.
Home to incredible natural and culinary diversity, Sumatra is a less-visited destination that provides incredible experiences without the high price tag, according to Bianco. (A mid-range room with Wi-Fi will cost around $30 to $80.) "Indonesia is generally a cheap place to travel around once you're there — including accommodation and dining," he says. "People who love culture and food would feel right at home here."
Sumatra is known for Tanjung Tinggi Beach, which features crystal-clear water and large stone formations, volcanic Lake Toba, and jungle river Bukit Lawang. Hot and humid all year round, it's a great location for adventurous travelers and anyone whose idea of paradise involves relaxing with a cold drink.
This Southern city isn't just full of honky tonks and BBQ joints — though you can enjoy plenty of both. Lara says that the food scene in Nashville is blowing up with a lot of top chefs setting up shop, making it an ideal destination for a weekend getaway that’s much more affordable than, say, NYC or San Francisco. You can find a room at a four-star hotel in the city center for around $250 on a summer weekend, when prices tend to be at their highest.
"You can stay at a beautiful hotel and live it up with live music without breaking the bank," Lara says. "Even fancier restaurants are affordable compared to other big-city pricing, but the quality is on par. Restaurants like 5th & Taylor and The Farm House serve up inventive fare in trendy, industrial surroundings so hip you’ll think you’re in Brooklyn."
With France, Spain, and Italy reigning as top European travel destinations, Iceland remains a less well-known and better-priced option packed with natural wonders. And it may seem remote, but "few people realize how accessible this country is [and] how temperate it is,” says travel blogger Rory Cummins. “Reykjavik often gets no colder than New York City and it’s majestic in its landscape, history, and culture.” While most people visit in the summer, the off-season promises fewer crowds. The height of the rainy season is October to February, while May and June are typically the driest.
Flights from major East Coast cities like Boston and New York can be found for under $400 round-trip, Cummins says. Once you've arrived, make sure your camera or smartphone is fully charged. You'll want to take endless photos of Iceland's waterfalls, geothermal pools — the Blue Lagoon Geothermal Spa is the most famous — volcanoes, and glaciers.
"It is a photographer's paradise like no other place on this planet," Cummins says.