With so much information online, finding cheap places to travel has become easier than ever. The places you can go without breaking the bank may surprise you. There are also some great money saving tips that can help you plan outings during your vacation for less!
But where do you start? Sometimes the sheer number of vacation packages available can be overwhelming. Instead of hitting the beach and letting go of your worries, you can spend hours stressing out about which budget travel destination to choose.
Never fear! Club Thrifty is here to help. But before you get started, here are some featured travel cards that can make your trip even cheaper!
Featured Travel Rewards Cards – Summer 2016
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card – This isn’t exactly a travel card, but the Chase Ultimate Rewards points transfer at a 1:1 ratio with 10 different travel partners. Additionally, you can redeem the points for straight up cash! You’ll earn 2x points for every dollar spent on travel or dining and 1 point on everything else. Here’s the best part: Right now you can earn 50,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months. That’s worth $500 cash or about $625 in travel when you book through Chase Ultimate Rewards! There is a $95 annual fee, but it’s waived for the first year. Learn more now!
Discover it® Miles Card – With no annual fee and an unlimited 1.5X miles per dollar spent, the Discover it® Miles Card is great for anybody who doesn’t want to deal with points and conversions. These miles represent 1.5% cash back on travel purchases in the form of a statement credit. The best part is that Discover will double your miles at the end of your first year. So, if you earn $200 in travel credit, Discover will double it to $400! Effectively, you’re earning an unlimited 3% cash back for travel that first year, which is hard to beat. You’ll also enjoy an annual $30 credit toward in-flight WiFi, which is a nice bonus. Learn more now!
Chase Freedom® Unlimited – Looking for straight cash back to use for travel? No problem. Check out the Chase Freedom® Unlimited Card. For starters, you’ll earn a $150 sign up bonus just for spending $500 in the first 3 months. That’s practically free money, just waiting for you to grab it! After that, you earn an unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases. There’s no annual fee and an introductory 0% APR on all balance transfers and purchases for the first 15 months. Learn more now!
8 Surprisingly Cheap Places to Travel
Without further ado, here are 8 cheap places to travel that to check off your bucket list!
One of the cheapest laces to travel is Mexico, and Riviera Maya is the place to go! Playa del Carmen is the area’s crown jewel, with stunningly gorgeous white beaches and crystal clear Caribbean water that is second to none. The short bus ride from Cancun International Airport is easy on the eyes because the journey follows the coastline. Staying in Playa isn’t as crowded or expensive as Cancun, but it’s also not too far away for a quick visit. While you’re there, be sure to check out the magnificent shopping, dining, and nightlife on 10th Avenue. The energy is intoxicating! Playa del Carmen is also just a short ferry ride away from Cozumel, which offers outstanding diving and snorkeling opportunities.
In addition, Zihuatanejo is a small town on the Pacific coast near Ixtapa. It is a little more sedate than the typical tourist center, but still close to Ixtapa if you want activities like shopping, dining and nightlife. In January, average temperatures are in the low to mid 80s, but winter in the U.S. and Canada is also when the snow birds are in Mexico, so prices are higher. If you’re looking for a great deal, choose to visit during off-peak times when the prices are lower.
2) Costa Rica
This small but popular Central American country is a nature lover’s paradise. Costa Rica has it all: mountains, jungles, forests, streams, lakes, volcanoes, beaches and throngs of tropical wildlife species. It is also consistently rated as one of the happiest nations in the world.
The country itself is both adorable and afordable. VRBO has a number of rental opportunities ranging from just $50 – $100 per night.
Because Costa Rican vacations are so popular, there are a large number of reviews for places to stay on sites like VRBO and TripAdvisor. (Generally speaking, the more ratings there are, the more useful the ratings are.) If it is your first trip to there, it might help to look at travel packages like those on the website called Caravan. Their ten day package features a range of activities and sites to visit. If you want a shorter stay, you could arrange your own travel, but do some of activities they mention on your own. Sometimes, Costco Travel and Sun Trips also have packages there as well.
Belize ranks third on our cheapest places to travel list! This small, sub-tropical country is becoming more and more popular due to its beautiful natural environment, slow pace, and affordability. As an added bonus, English is one of the country’s official languages, making it easy for English-speaking tourists to communicate.
Belize is best enjoyed by people who like the outdoors, beaches, and water. The Caribbean waters are very warm during the summer season, up to 83 degrees Fahrenheit! So, summer is a great time to enjoy some of Belize’s most popular recreational activities like swimming, diving, snorkeling, and fishing.
If you love beautiful seascapes, Belize has well over 300 kilometers of coastline to explore. Off-peak season here is from May to October, with rains beginning in June, so look for the best travel deals during late spring to early fall. Prices during December, January and February can be very high, unless you plan far in advance and get lucky.
Vancouver has to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world! With a comfortable temperate climate and a breathtaking location between the ocean and mountains, the views of Vancouver are simply spectacular. Just a short drive from the city, you’ll find world-class skiing and snowboarding in winter and beautiful hiking trails and campgrounds in the spring and summer months. Vancouver also has many fine restaurants and hotels, in addition to a zoo, a suspension footbridge, aquarium and art museums. If you are in the mood to explore, jump in your car and drive to either Victoria, the remote areas of British Columbia, or even Seattle.
January and February are the mild, wet times, so there are fewer tourists and better deals. The best weather is in the spring and summer when temperatures range from the 60s to low 80s, but this is also when travel costs tend to be the highest. If you are traveling during the high season, it’s probably a good idea to book flights and accommodations at least three months in advance.
Want to find a quiet place to escape? Head on over to Banff. This small mountain town is a great place for nature lovers. The town has less than 10,000 people and is near the beautiful Banff National Park, which is the main attraction. This park draws hikers from around the world who want to take in spectacular mountain vistas, forests, and lakes. To get there, you’ll need to fly to Calgary and rent a car for a 90-minute drive. You can also opt to take a shuttle.
If you’re looking for cheap places to travel, look no further than Cambodia. It is one of Southeast Asia’s most beautiful travel destinations, and it offers a plethora of low-cost options for transportation once you get there. Large, air-conditioned buses are available, as are share taxis and rentals. Make sure that you don’t rent a car or motorcycle without insurance. If you want to have time to view the scenery, riding a bus – or even a slow-moving train – is better than driving. Plus, it is safer.
Another way to check out Cambodia is to rent a mountain bike. Biking gives you a great way to see the landscape and really interact with the Cambodian people. The roads are rough, but that just adds to the adventure. Travelers will also find water taxis and in-country flights that are available, even though the country is fairly small.
Although Cambodia is a country with significant poverty, that doesn’t mean that you should avoid it. Of course, there is some crime and corruption, so travelers should be cautious about choosing the locations which they want to visit. Meals are relatively cheap and can be had for about $2.50, depending on where you go. Tourists should definitely visit the capital of Phnom Penh and the and the ancient Bayon Temple located at Angkor Thom. There are also sleepy coastal villages like Kep where you can slow down and just enjoy the water.
Related: How to Travel to Europe for $200
If you are already in Phnom Pehn, try hopping on a bus for $10-20 and cross the border to Saigon, Vietnam. Here, you’ll find a country that is wealthier than Cambodia and more developed. Although Vietnam is definitely one of the cheapest places to travel, you’ll pay a little bit more here for just about everything than in Cambodia. However, like Cambodia, this is a country where you can find low-cost enjoyable food at local markets. You may even find a woman with fresh produce and spices who whips up something right in front of you. Of course, Vietnam also has its share of high-end restaurants and fine dining.
When it comes to Vietnamese activities and attractions, you have a wide array of choices. Doing your research prior to coming can help you save time and money. From an overnight stay on a junk in Halong Bay to taking cooking classes, you’ll find plenty of budget-friendly things to do in Vietnam.
Typically, there are many forms of transportation available for foreign tourists to use. Some of the best options include trains and buses. As on all forms of mass transportation, you’ll want to be careful with your baggage when you’re taking the train or the bus. Thieves tend to roam these units and are looking for unsuspecting targets. In the cities, you should consider using the services of a pedicab driver or taxi. However, please note that the national Tet holiday usually takes place in late January or early February. During the holiday, local people are on the move which could make travel for foreigners difficult. It may be best to avoid Vietnam during this time.
Thailand is also just a bus ride away from Cambodia. Flights to Bangkok can be expensive, but there are several different airline passes that can help you save big bucks if you plan to fly within Southeast Asia. When traveling through Thailand, using trains is also a good option to get you to your destination. Just be aware that they can be very slow. Traveling the country by bus seems to be the preferred method for most budget-conscious tourists, although you can also catch a cab if you want something a little more private (and more expensive).
If you want to come to Southeast Asia but need your modern amenities, Thailand is your spot as it is the most developed country in Southeast Asia. In Thailand, you’ll find such large movie theaters, large shopping malls, and fine dining restaurants – especially in Bangkok.
Looking for a more authentically Thai experience? Chiang Mai is a good place to slow down and immerse yourself in Thai culture. Here, there is a lower cost of living as well as more access to natural habitats. Accommodations can be booked as cheaply as $15 to $60 per night on VRBO.
The Chiang Mai area is full of places to visit! Some of the activities are touristy – like visiting the Old Moat – while others are more about coming in contact with local culture – like seeing an elephant camp. You may even want to take a visit to the Healing Family Foundation. This foundation teaches disabled children to weave products that can be sold to support themselves. Of course, your trip to Chiang Mai would not be complete without getting at least one massage. One massage may last for an hour or more, and they’re typically so affordable that you might as well get two! Regardless, it helps to know your own tastes before you go so you don’t try to cram too much into one trip.
When you’re looking for cheap places to travel, don’t forget about Laos! The country has a very lengthy border that can be entered from Cambodia, Thailand or Vietnam. It is still relatively undeveloped, so it can be very affordable to travel once you are there. While it is know for being a very relaxed place to visit, Laos is not known for its creature comforts or its cleanliness. Still, it is easily one of the cheapest and most beautiful travel destinations in Asia. Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng, Vientiane, and Southern Laos are some of the top places to visit.
Luang Prabang is the former capital city of Laos, and is stocked with scores of Buddhist temples and markets to visit. The total population is only about 25,000 people, so it certainly isn’t a metropolis. A meal of sticky rice and coconut can be purchased for about one US dollar – which is totally affordable in my book! With its natural beauty and peaceful river, Vang Vieng has become a destination for backpackers from around the globe. It is also very affordable.
Vientane is the current capital of Laos and has a population of well over 700,000. Like Luang Prabang there are many Buddhist temples here, including Buddha Park. In a city this size, you will certainly find many excellent restaurants. However, dining at Makphet Restaurant is an unforgettable experience all its own. The restaurant has a program for street kids, training them as chefs and waiters serving traditional Laotian cuisine. Plus, as one of the top-rated restaurants in Vientane, the food is sublime.
8 More Ways to Make Travel Cheaper
Visiting cheap destinations isn’t the only way to save on travel. Use these 8 simple tips to help make your money stretch even further!
Use Hotel and Airline Cards
Our favorite way to save money on travel is by using credit card rewards. By taking advantage of the top travel cards, you can make these cheap places to travel even cheaper! But, with so many options available, where do you start?
For us, the best way to hoard points is to jump on generous signup bonus offers. You can earn a ton of points quickly, and those points translate into free travel. In fact, we’ve used credit card rewards to make nearly two dozen international trips over the last 3 years…and we did it all for pennies on the dollar.
Co-branded hotel and airline credit cards are a great way to get started. If you want to travel either domestically or to several Caribbean destinations, now is a great time to get the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card. Currently, you can earn 50,000 bonus points just for signing up and spending $2,000 within 3 months. If your plans are flexible, that should easily get you 2 round-trip tickets to Southwest’s Caribbean destinations. Plus, you’ll be about half-way to earning the Companion Pass – which means a companion can fly with you anywhere for free each time you travel. There is an annual fee of $99, but you’ll more than make up for that with the free travel you earn. Read here to learn more about the card!
Flexible Travel Cards
Hotel and airline cards are super, but our favorite type of rewards cards are those offering flexible travel points. Rather than locking you into using certain travel brands, flexible travel cards earn points that can often be used anywhere. For instance, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card earns Chase Ultimate Rewards Points which can be redeemed for points or gift cards. The points transfer at a 1:1 ratio to 11 of the world’s best loyalty programs – like Hyatt, IHG, United Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Ritz-Carlton, and more! Right now, you’ll earn 50,000 points when you sign up. Those points are good for $500 in gift cards or $625 in travel credit when you book through Chase. Plus, the $95 annual fee is waived for the first year. Read more here!
Another great card for flexible travel rewards is the Discover it® Miles Card. Although there is no signup bonus, you earn 1.5X miles on every dollar you spend. At the end of your first year, Discover actually doubles your miles. So, you’re really earning 3X points that first year! Because the miles are flexible, you can use them on any airline or hotel without having to worry about blackout dates or availability. With no annual fee and no earnings caps, the Discover it® Miles Card is great car to earn travel points for everyday spending. Learn more here!
One of the biggest keys to saving money on travel is being flexible with when you can go. If you want to save the most money, it pays to travel during off-peak travel times. Not only will you find cheaper flights and hotels, many attractions slash their prices too. When it comes to Caribbean destinations, the best deals generally fall between May and November.
In addition to traveling during slower seasons, you should also consider flying mid-week. Generally speaking, it is more expensive to fly on and around weekends and holidays. Demand for tix is usually less on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, so search for flights then, if possible.
Rent a Condo
One of the biggest costs of traveling is lodging. Even when visiting cheap places to travel, you can save big bucks by renting a condo or vacation rental. These places are often larger, which means you can split the cost of your lodging with family or friends. Plus, condos and vacation rentals usually come equipped with a functional kitchen. That means you can save money by eating in for some of your meals.
As mentioned previously, websites like VRBO are a great place for travelers and rental owners to hook up. There, you’ll find affordable properties to rent located all around the world. You can compare prices, read reviews, and book your stay. We’ve used it on several occasions and love it. Learn more about VRBO here!
Interested in meeting new people and saving big money on your travels? Don’t mind sleeping in somebody else’s place? Couch surfing may be for you. New technologies have made it possible for travelers and locals to meet and connect. Travelers get to meet new people, crash at a free place to stay, and get tips on what to see from locals. Hosts meet people from all over the world plus get a chance to show off their house and city to tourists. It’s great for everybody. If you’re game, check out a website like CouchSurfing.
Create a Vacation Budget
Cheap places to travel can still be expensive if you don’t watch your spending. One way to avoid spending more than you intend is to create a travel budget before you go. Just as you’d do with your monthly budget, create a plan for how much you’ll spend for things like food, drinks, and souvenirs. Keep an eye on your spending during your stay and don’t forget to write it down. Remember, a budget doesn’t restrict you. It’s a way to help stretch your money further. By creating a plan, you can save on the things you don’t really want so you can spend on the things you do.
Shop Where the Locals Shop
Travelers have money to spend and the areas around where tourists stay generally reflect that reality. It doesn’t matter if you’re shopping for food, clothing, or souvenirs – prices in tourist areas are almost always higher, sometimes remarkably so. To save money, try to shop where the locals shop whenever possible. You’ll find cheaper prices and – sometimes – more unique goods. Also, don’t forget that many areas expect you to bargain. Don’t just pay the sticker price. Make an offer and walk away if you don’t feel the item is worth it.
Take Advantage of City Passes and Deals
One of the best ways to save money on travel is to take advantage of city passes and deals. Many travel destinations have welcome centers that offer free coupons and deals for local restaurants and attractions. Just using these can save you hundreds on activities and food while you’re there. Also, be sure to check online for any deals or coupons before you go.
Even when visiting more expensive locations, you can still save money in many larger cities with “city passes.” With cards like the London Pass, you’ll save on the price of admission to popular attractions. Even more importantly, features like “Fast Track Entry” help you to skip lines and save time. Most large cities, particularly in the U.S. and Europe, have a pass. Make sure you check their benefits before you go!
Free Travel Advice
Want more info about traveling on points? Get your FREE personalized travel rewards plan by clicking the link below. We’ll help you plan the trip of your dreams, and save you some big money doing it! Thanks for reading and happy travels!