Yes, you read that right. Why plan a trip to the beach – where hotels can cost as much as airfare – when you could spend the same amount on a trip that's more exciting and might include a beach? I'm always in favor of going somewhere new and farther away than someplace old that I can go to anytime. Here are 5 destinations you can visit where your dollars will go further and you'll get more culture than your nearest waterpark or boardwalk.
South America is always a great money-saving destination. Buenos Aires – "The Paris of South America" – is a hotspot for culture, nightlife and food. Take your time lingering over amazing dining experiences, learn to tango and explore historic neighborhoods and museums. You'll find plenty of affordable wine sipping opportunities, plus you can save on accommodations. Find suites for as little as $60 per night.
With tons of all-inclusive resorts, you can pay one price and have your sleeping and eating – and some entertainment – totally taken care of. Lay on the beach, go hiking and generally enjoy nature in one of the prettiest and budget-friendly destinations you'll find anywhere. 3- and 4-star resort rates will totally floor you and you'll find yourself looking for ways to splurge a bit in between the tanning and relaxing. Maybe by spending a little extra for the luxury of a 5-star resort.
If you can handle some of the crowds in the touristy parts of the country, like Cancun and Puerto Vallarta, you can find some really great hotel rates. It's no secret why a lot of people flock south when they go on vacation. Look at resorts along the Yucatan Peninsula for more scenic views or search for places that have all the things you enjoy doing on your trips, because Mexico has it all, and at better rates than many other countries. You just want to make sure you do your research so you aren't stuck in a million-room resort with a bunch of stuff you'll never do or use. Check into cottages, bungalows or boutique hotels instead.
One of the most up-and-coming vacation destinations, Nicaragua is a country where you can get by on as little as $25 per day. Up the luxe for just $50 more, which is still cheaper than a lot of other places you may have on your travel list, but it still gives you a historical and European-esque feel, but with the lower airfare of a Central American location. Instead of huge resorts next to the crowded ocean beaches, you can enjoy a quiet forest eco-lodge or beautiful beachfront cottages, plus engage in amazing diving, a visit to coffee fields or a hike in the cloud forest.
Portugal (and Spain)
Even on a budget, you can totally plan a trip to Europe. Portugal and Spain are culture-laden, delicious (and affordable) cuisine and tons of local wines. Spend your days lounging on the beautiful beaches, wandering the myriad museums and walking along cobblestoned streets. Both off everything you could want for less and also give you the chance to practice your Spanish with the locals. Just make sure you set up a price alert for airfare, because that's the only thing stopping you from enjoying Europe right now.
What are some of your favorite budget-friendly vacation destinations? Have you ever been surprised by how cheap a place has turned out?