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Saturday, April 2, 2016

Tax Refund = Vacation Funds

Did you know that almost half of Americans are either not using any or all of their vacation time? According to Skift, 42% of Americans didn't take any of their vacation days in 2014. That is a sad, sad statistic to me! Getting away is good for your health and well-being and makes you like life just a little more. Women, apparently, take fewer days away than men and younger take fewer than older. Somehow, those who live in the suburbs realize life is short and shouldn't be work-work-work all the time and take more time for vacations than those that live in the city. People! If you're working hard all year, you deserve a break and you need to take it. You have paid vacation days and not using them is giving your boss free work for those 10+ days and also just throwing money out the window. I'd rather work harder those couple days before and after I travel than not travel at all.

tax refund vacations

I know, I know, like me you see house repairs and bills and probably even school-related expenses for you or your children (or both!), but if you don’t have that time to recharge your batteries, then you will be running on empty and feel more stressed each day. Trust me. You need it. So, figure out what part of your refund you can reasonably live without and put that towards your next vacation…and make it soon. Like within the next 6 months if you can. In fact, if you have the ability to travel in the fall, plan for an autumn getaway, because you can get more for your money, go further and also avoid the summer crowds. 

Just because you don’t have a lot to spend doesn’t mean you can’t go somewhere worth traveling to. In fact, around 45% of travelers only want to spend around $1000 for their getaway. At the very least, that can get you a long weekend thought I would suggest trying to go somewhere for at least a week.

So, where should you go? 

Because it's 2016, let's look at 16 places that are budget-friendly:
  1. Iceland: See the Northern Lights, tour around a volcano, sit in a natural hot springs, eat a ton of seafood (and other weird local foods) and stay in a luxurious, but minimalist hotel for around $130/night. Stay for even less though, rent a car and make your way around Reykjavik and surrounding areas. IcelandAir now serves even more U.S. cities and they also offer a free layover in Iceland for up to 7 days if you just want to check it out on the way to somewhere else.
  2. San Antonio, Texas: Bigger is not always better in Texas. Case in point, vacation prices. Meander along the River Walk, packed with waterfront eateries, immerse yourself in free and affordable history and culture. They have awesome museums and (remember) the Alamo. 
  3. Greece: The economy is slowly rebounding, but the euro is down, so now's the time to save money and bask in the Mediterranean sun, try all the olive oils, hike some ruins and stay in a beautiful hotel that's just steps away from landmarks for under $100/night.
  4. Vietnam: Always a bargain, Vietnam has amazing landscape, warm temps (like really  warm) and cheapish cruises. Visit Ho Chi Minh City, Ha Long Bay and even get custom-made clothing without going broke.
  5. Martinique: You want to get away to a tropical paradise? This is where to go. The beaches are beautiful and 2/3 of the island is protected parklands. Take an awesome tour (or three) to learn about the island's history, including that of the volcano Pelee and snag a villa rental for under $75/night.
  6. Portugal: The Brits have been discovering Portugal's beauty for decades. It's like Spain, but cheaper and definitely unique. Accommodations might run you a bit more than expected, but activities, including wine tours, will more than make up for that.
  7. Isla Holbox: Cancun and Cabo are out! This little undiscovered fishing village has ll the magic of those destinations without all the tourists. Swim with whale sharks, see tons of other wildlife and explore tiny islands. Book yourself into a boutique hotel and you're set.
  8. Cincinnati: There's cool stuff in the Midwest and this Ohio gives visitors a retro vibe while giving them hip and modern restaurants and breweries. It's a great place to just slow down and enjoy life.
  9. Croatia: If Italy has been on your travel list, hit up Croatia instead. It has the same feel, with vineyards and rolling hills, but at a much more attainable price. You can indulge in medieval architecture and museums, then rent a bike and discover the city in a totally different way. Stay right on the gorgeous coastline at budget hotels for under $100/night.
  10. Asheville, North Carolina: If you want to spend your whole vacation drinking beer/wine and eating delicious foods, this is your vacation must. Work off those calories by getting outdoors and doing some walking, biking, hiking or camping. Bring your camera for all the beautiful picture ops of the mountains.
  11. Colombia: Don't write of Bogota as a dangerous destination. It's gotten a wonderful overhaul recently and is now a South American hotspot. Hotels run super cheap at around $50/night and you'll feel lovely and relaxed when walking through the city's historical squares.
  12. Scotland: Want a great pint? Make your way to Edinburgh and its many pubs filled with the friendliest locals you'll find anywhere. The city mashes historical with gorgeous nature to make a very unique getaway. Nightlife abounds here and you can stay nearby, so you can stumble home after a few too many easily and for around $130/night.
  13. Rome: Hotel rates in Rome are down almost 20% from last year. That makes it a great budget vacation destination in addition to the popular landmarks like the Trevi Fountain, the Colloseum, the Pantheon and the Basilica. 
  14. Copenhagen: Hotel rates are lower than 2015 and Norwegian Air can get you a great deal on a flight to Copenhagen. The colorful city is full of culture, delicious Nordic eats and so much more.
  15. Hong Kong: If you want the best of both worlds - nature and big city - Hong Kong has it all. Explore the religious sites, vibrant food markets and places where pink dolphins swim free and then go back to your luxury hotel room that only set you back around $150/night.
  16. New Zealand: Can you believe this is on the list? The strong U.S. dollar and the more affordable flights on Fiji Airways and Air Tahiti Nui are making New Zealand a lot more accessible to us budget travelers. Nab at package deal that includes accommodations and tours from as little as $500.

5 Ways to Get More Relaxation From Your Trip
  1. Unplug: Turn your phone off and leave the laptop at home. Use the internet only when you need to {you can use Google maps offline!} and take time to see stuff and take pictures for you instead of your Facebook friends and Instagram followers.
  2. Eat like a local: Ask the locals where they love to eat. Chances are it won't be those fancy restaurants packed with tourists. You're going to be eating in affordable places that serve local foods and flavors that are off the beaten path.
  3. Go alone: There's nothing better than taking a few days just to yourself. You have nobody to answer to, can do whatever you want and there's so much quiet if you're looking for it.
  4. Bring a great book: When's the last time you had time to read? If your answer is a blank stare or that you grab a chapter or two before bed, this is the time to catch up on your reading list. You know you have one.
  5. Go small: Plan to visit a smaller destination. You won't be overwhelmed with things to do and life is generally less hectic, even for travelers. Budget Travel has a list of the 100 Coolest Small Towns in America.

Remember, sign up for travel alert emails, so you know when prices drop on your preferred destination(s). It’s the easiest way to save money, besides stalking my Facebook page for deals. Another great way to find deals, especially if you aren’t all that set on where to go and just want to go SOMEWHERE within your budget, check out the FareCompare Where-To-Go Getaway Map or Kayak's Explore feature. Choose your date range and home airport to see rates across the globe!

Don't forget the rules of packing light when you travel, because it will only save you more bucks. No bags to check means no baggage fees, less stuff to lug around (happy backs are nice on vacation) and no hanging around at the baggage carousel for ages with your fingers crossed. I'm a big fan of saving time and wheeling my bag right off the plane and straight out of the airport to get to my vacation quicker.

Do you have plans for your tax refund that involves getting away from home?

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