Cheap Vacations Guide cancun

The Complete Cheap Vacations Guide for 2016

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Cheap vacations are like the holy grail of travel. Everybody wants to find them, but most people don’t know where to look.

Still, traveling the world has to offer doesn’t have to bust your budget. Over the last few years, we’ve been able to travel the globe for pennies on the dollar. We’re talking destinations like London, Paris, Rome, Venice, St. Maarten, and Jamaica. And while these destinations may seem expensive, they don’t have to be. Learning a few tricks can make almost any destination fall within your budget.

That being said, not every discount vacation has to involve travel hacking tricks. There are plenty of places to go that are pretty cheap in their own right. Better yet, combine some of our savvy travel tips with a destination that’s already budget friendly. You’ll save even more, which means more money for more trips!

We know you love to travel. We also know you have a budget. That’s why we’ve prepared this guide to help you find the cheapest vacations around. Here’s what we’ll cover:

  1. Cheapest Places to Fly
    • Best Airline for Cheap Flights
    • Using Points and Miles
  2. Cheap Tropical Destinations
  3. Cheap Places to Visit in the U.S.A.
  4. Cheap International Destinations
  5. Cheap Places for Spring Break

We’ve packed this piece with all kinds of valuable information and  actionable advice to help make your next vacation a dream vacation. Even better, these tips will all fit within your budget.

So, let’s get started! And don’t forget, we’d love for you to use our affiliate links if you decide to make any purchases. You’ll get cheap travel, and we’ll make a small commission for the recommendation! XOXO in advance!

Cheapest Places to Fly

Flying is one of the most expensive parts of traveling. Unfortunately, getting to many of the best vacation spots require flights. Even if you find cheap lodging, you still have to get there…and the cost of flights can significantly increase the cost of your total vacation.

But, there is hope! Flying around the world can be affordable any time of year, but it takes some flexibility to do it. Generally speaking, the more flexible you are with your travel dates, the more money you’ll save. For instance, flying mid-week is generally cheaper than flying on the weekends.

By planning your trip during off-peak seasons, you’re sure to save money on flights. In our own travels, we’ve found flying off-peak usually saves us 40-50% on flights. That’s big money, and it’s helped us cut down on our travel costs considerably. Off-peak travel to the Caribbean generally runs May through November. To Europe, off-peak travel is usually considered to be from October/November through March.

Another way to save money is by choosing your destinations based on flight costs. According to Time, you can save up to 26% on airline tickets in 2016 to places like Hong Kong, Beijing, Bangkok, Athens, and Tel Aviv. So, if you’re trying to decide between several locations, choose the cheapest place to fly.

Personally we’ve saved thousands using this tactic. For instance, we recently considered a trip to either Germany, Italy, or Greece. Because flights were cheaper to Italy, that’s where we chose to go. We also flew into Rome and out of Venice because it saved us even more!

Best Airline for Cheap Flights

Getting the best deals on flights often depends on the airline, but ticket prices aren’t the only thing to consider. Many airlines charge you additional fees for checking bags, plus taxes on international flights can vary by hundreds of dollars. (We’re looking at you BA!) If you’re flying with the whole family, that can put a major dent in your vacation budget.

We always try to fly Southwest Airlines whenever possible. They service a gazillion locations throughout the U.S. and Caribbean, plus airfare costs are generally lower than other airlines. When you fly Southwest, you also get two free checked bags, which saves you even more. We often fly for free by earning easy to get Southwest points (see below). To top it off, a companion can fly with you to any destination for free when you earn the Southwest Companion Pass. That’s a great deal, and we highly recommend using Southwest! Learn more about how you can fly a companion for free with the Southwest Companion Pass by checking out our review.

Using Points and Miles

You can make the cheapest places to fly even cheaper by using the best travel rewards credit cards. By choosing flexible rewards or co-branded airline cards, you can even get your flights for free. Some of our favorite rewards cards include:

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card – Our favorite travel rewards card for beginners, you’ll earn 60,000 bonus points – which you can redeem for $750 in travel rewards – after spending $4,000 in the first three months. Points transfer to several airline partners, including United, Southwest, British Airways, and Virgin Atlantic. Check out our full review here!
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card – Right now, you can earn a signup bonus of 50,000 bonus points when you make $1,000 in purchases in the first three months! (Psst…a 50K points is usually enough for a round-trip flight within the U.S. and the Caribbean!) Learn more about the Southwest Visa credit cards here.

Cheap Tropical Destinations

If you’re a beach lover like us, finding cheap tropical destinations is super important! I mean, if we can’t plop our bodies down on a great beach every few months, we practically go insane. #lifegoals

Of course, some tropical locations are more expensive than others. Hotels, airfare, and other costs can land some locales outside your budget. But, you don’t have to sacrifice a beautiful beach just to save a few bucks. Here are a few cheap tropical destinations we think you’ll love.

Cancun, Mexico

Known for crystal clear waters and beautiful sandy beaches, Cancun is a great place to save money on vacation. Rooms on the beach start at about $99 per night, and you’re just minutes away from the airport. You can even fly there on points with Southwest, or choose almost any other airline of your choice. If you need more than just the beach, you can always check out the city center, do a little snorkeling, or book a day trip to Chichen Itza!

Montego Bay, Jamaica

Montego Bay is a cheap and beautiful travel destination for the whole family. There you’ll enjoy the clear blue waters of the Caribbean without breaking the bank for your vacation. Take the family to the “Hip Strip” or take cheap float down the Martha Brae River. Plus, unlike some other Caribbean destinations, you don’t have to worry about drinking the water. All the major international airlines fly to Montego Bay, including Southwest, and rooms by the beach start at just $71 per night!

Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

When it comes to cheap tropical destinations, Punta Cana is one of our favorites. The weather is warm, the water is warm, and the beaches are incredible. Better yet, the prices are right. Fly with Southwest, Delta, American, or United. Then book a room on the beach for as little as $50 a night! That’s what we call affordable!

Phuket, Thailand

Let’s face it: Flying to Thailand isn’t particularly cheap. Your best bet is to fly off-peak and earn some rewards points to cut down on costs. However, once you make it to Phuket, you can really make your dollars stretch! Rooms at beachfront hotels start at ridiculously low price, like $44 a night. And we aren’t talking about some mucked up dirty beach either. These are beautiful spots with hotels receiving a 94% recommendation rating on Expedia! Spend a lazy day at Nai Harn beach, get your snorkel on, or spend some time at the giant Buhdda Shrine. You can’t go wrong!

Cheap Places to Visit in the USA

discounted vacation deals
Hanging out on Bourbon! This is by far the tamest picture I have…

Are you looking for discount vacations closer to home? There are oodles of cheap places to visit in the USA! From beautiful beaches to national parks, the US has it all. Here are a few of our favorites.

Gulf Shores, Alabama

You don’t have to travel to the Caribbean to find beautiful beaches. We’ve got some of the best beaches in the world right here at home. Gulf Shores, Alabama is a sleepy beach town where you’ll find over 32 miles of white sand beach stretching along Alabama’s Gulf Coast. Plus, it’s within easy driving distance if you live anywhere from Dallas, Texas to Columbus, OH. Book a hotel for less than $100 a night or rent a beachfront condo on VRBO starting at just $116 per night.

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Yellowstone National Park is America’s first national park and a great place to visit for travelers of all ages. With breathtaking scenery, miles of trails, scores of wildlife, Yellowstone is a nature lover’s paradise. Save money by driving there and check out VRBO for vacation rentals near the park. Entrance fees for a car a $30, so a trip to the park is easy on your wallet too.

New Orleans, Louisiana

Take a stroll along the Mississippi River, listen to live jazz on the street corner, or experience all that Bourbon Street has to offer. It’s all there in New Orleans! Seriously, New Orleans is one of our favorite places ever. There’s no place quite like it, and it’s one of the cheapest places to visit in the USA. Rooms in the French Quarter start for as little as $100 a night.

Cheap International Destinations

Cheap international Vacations Guide
Holly overlooking the Roman Forum. I wish I had enough space for the full photo. It’s amazing!

Finding cheap vacations isn’t always easy when you want to leave the country. Getting there can cost an arm and a leg, plus you still need to have enough cash to enjoy your experience. Places like London, Tokyo, and Paris are notoriously expensive, which can make them tough to fit into your budget.

Luckily, there are plenty of cheap international destinations that might fit into your plans. Try these awesome places the next time you’re looking to book a cheap vacation.

Barcelona, Spain

Located on the Mediterranean Sea, Barcelona is a great place to enjoy some culture after relaxing on the beach. Check out the areas incredible churches, art museums, and restaurants. Then make your way back toward the water to enjoy a relaxing day on Barcelona’s sandy beaches. Hotels in go for as little as $44 a night, so accommodations in this awesome beach town are cheap enough to meet anyone’s budget.

Agra, India

If you’re looking for cheap international destinations, look no further than Agra, India. Home of the famous Taj Mahal, Agra is the perfect place to stay for travelers on a budget. Rooms in Agra start at less than $10 per night. In addition to the Taj Mahal, Agra is a great jumping off point for exploring cities like New Delhi, Jaipur, and Lucknow.

Athens, Greece

Known as the cradle of democracy, Athens can be a cheap place to visit – especially when you do so during the off-peak season. Use Athens as your home base to visit sites like Delphi, Olympia, and the Greek Islands. Of course, you’ll definitely want to visit the Acropolis in Athens itself, which houses some of the best Ancient architecture in all of Greece. Hotels in Athens start around $45 a night, which is great news for budget travelers.

Rome, Italy

Rome may seem like an expensive place to visit, but you can do it cheaply if you travel off-peak. The city is full of art, ancient ruins, and historical monuments. One of our favorite places is the Roman Forum, which you can enter cheaply by getting a city pass. Of course, you’ll want to visit Vatican City as well, but be sure to get a pass so you can skip the lines. If you’re looking for free things to do, wander into one of Rome’s beautiful small churches and admire the art and architecture. Or, have a low-key and free night sitting in one of the city’s many piazzas and watching the people stroll by. Off-peak hotels start about $45 a night, but you can find them on sale for even less!

Cheap Places for Spring Break

discount spring break vacations
Holly took this photo of San Juan.

When you think Spring Break, your mind automatically heads to the beach. And, while prices at generally higher during this peak time, you can still find cheap places for Spring Break if you know where to look. Here are a few of our favorite spots you can enjoy next Spring!

Panama City Beach, Florida

Known as the “Spring Break Capital of the World,” Panama City Beach has long been the place to be for college kids looking to have a great time. However, since the city banned drinking alcohol on the beach, PCB could become a little less rowdy this Spring Break season. The weather stays warm and the white sand beaches are some of the most beautiful in the world. Spring break rooms start for as little as $97 a night while you can rent condos from VRBO for about the same.

Los Cabos, Mexico

Located in Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula, traveling to Los Cabos means can enjoy the beach this spring for a lot less. Traveling anywhere in Mexico is generally cheaper than heading to the Caribbean, but the west coast is even better. Hotel’s in the area start at just $95 per night during Spring Break. Plus, you can fly there on our favorite airline for cheap flights, Southwest!

San Juan, Puerto Rico

Located in the Caribbean, Puerto Rico is actually an American territory. That means you can use American dollars, don’t have to worry about drinking the water, and you don’t even need a passport. Besides that, San Juan is absolutely beautiful, with awesome art, architecture, and museums to boot. The island is also home to the only tropical rainforest on American soil. Puerto Rico really wants you to come, and the prices show it. Hotels during Spring Break start at about $100 per night! Not bad for hanging out in the Caribbean!

Take a Cruise

Can’t decide which of these cheap places for Spring Break you want to visit? Save some money by taking a cruise and visiting more than one. Hitting the sea on with your favorite cruise line is a great way to visit multiple locations all in one trip. Plus, you’ll might get to see some islands that may be otherwise out of your financial reach. Additionally, your food, entertainment, and rooms are all paid for with the cost of the cruise. Provided you don’t over-do it on the alcohol or souvenirs, you can get by pretty cheap when you cruise. Just find a cheap flight to one of several cruise ports in the U.S. and you’re set to go!

Enjoy Your Cheap Vacations!

Finding discount vacations is a lot easier when you know the tricks of the trade. Staying flexible with your travel plans, traveling off-peak, and using points and miles to book flights and hotels are all great ways to save…but they aren’t the only way. You can find cheap vacations almost any time of year – even for Spring Break – if you know where to look.

We love shopping for cheap travel! We’ve learned a lot over the years, and it’s become one of our favorite hobbies. We hope our guide to cheap vacations has been helpful for you and that it has opened your eyes to a few new destinations you may not have thought possible. Most of all, we hope we’ve given you at least a few new ways to save money on travel so that your dream trip can become a reality.

Good luck and happy traveling!




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  1. I am all about Southwest vacation destinations. They’re so affordable. We did the Southwest for our honeymoon because we thought international travel was really expensive. We went to Punta Cana for our one-year anniversary and spent so much less! Ha!

    1. Yeah, anytime you can fly there on Southwest, chances are good that you’ll be able to save money. Flights are so cheap, that it’s almost a no-braniner for us.

  2. Wow what an awesome guide! I like to build up travel rewards points so bookmarking this page will be a must to make sure I use my points most efficiently. Thank you for all the great tips and ideas.

  3. I love using WowAir to get cheap flights to Iceland and Europe. Love New Orleans as well. Pensacola is right next to Gulf Shores, also a decent option if they\’re booked up.

    1. New Orleans is fantastic. I’ve never stayed in Pensacola, but we’ve done both Gulf Shores and Orange Beach multiple times. Beautiful area!

  4. Great guide Greg! We’re all about cheap travel, especially having kids. It requires a little extra work when you have multiple kids, but it can definitely be done. As you pointed out, if you do a little bit of work you really have a good number of options for destinations.

    1. Totally agree. Just a little extra work can help you save hundreds (or even thousands) of dollars every time you travel. That means you can take even more trips, if you have the time to do it!

  5. I like that you’re addressing the ways that travel hacking and good old fashioned bargain hunting can work together. Sometimes, I think we travel hackers get way too focused on getting the total costs down as close to $0 as we can. Nothing wrong with spending some dollars when they get you good value.

    1. Absolutely. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Combining bargain hunting and travel hacking can help you see more places for cheaper!

  6. Great tips! We have enjoyed off-season discounts for near-Cancun destinations. We’ve also dreamed of going to Phuket, but never thought of Alabama. It’s good to get new ideas.

    1. Awesome! We also love near-Cancun destinations…particularly Playa del Carmen. We’re actually there right now, and staying in a condo. It’s a great place.

      If you’re looking for a low-key, American beach that is absolutely beautiful, the Alabama Gulf Coast is fabulous. There are few crowds and it is very family friendly!

  7. Being Italian I vote for ROme always but in ITaly there are some lovely gems absolutely low cost!!!

    1. I absolutely love Rome! It’s probably my favorite place in the entire world. Frankly, Italy is simply amazing. While it can be a very expensive trip, there are certainly ways to save.

  8. Just got my Chase Sapphire Preferred in the mail last night! Can’t wait to start racking up the points!

  9. Rome is so beautiful – especially off-peak when there is more room with fewer tourists. I hope y\’all make it there.

  10. Hello,

    We hope to visit London about New Year…

    And I hope, too, your advices obtain us nice and cheap staying. :)))

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