It’s official: Americans have the travel bug. According to the U.S. Travel Association (USTA), Americans logged 1.7 billion “person trips” for the primary purpose of leisure in 2014. The USTA defines a person trip as “one person on a trip away from home overnight in paid accommodations, or on a day or overnight trip to places 50 miles or more [one way] away from home.” That works out to 5.33 leisure-focused trips for every single man, woman, cash-strapped college student, sulky teenager, wiggly child, and brand new baby in the country.
How cheap is it? Mexico’s huge, it’s right next door, and each of its 31 states has something to offer. You’re gonna take your best cheap shot? Aim for the mezcal and gastronomy capital: Oaxaca, in the south. In the capital, Oaxaca de Juarez, feast on the regional specialty: tlayudas, an oversized crisp tortilla heated on a grill, topped with lard, beans, veggies, salsa, and meat, (think combination of pizza and taco in the best possible way). It is to be eaten from a street vendor in the early hours after a night of drinking, and will set you back all of $4. For daytime noshing the markets are stacked with small vendors who serve sublime homemade moles that cost around $8 for a full portion including rice and soup. Lodging is cheaper than a movie ticket in the States; Hostel Don Nino alongside Parque Llano charges $14 per night, which includes Wi-Fi, a computer station, filtered water, clean showers, and breakfast. For free activities, there are plenty of colorful markets to stroll and art galleries to wander. The ruins of Monte Albán and the ancient Tule Tree cost around $20 for round-trip transportation plus entrance.
What to do: Stroll through the mile-long Lady Bird Johnson Grove, a mossy jungle of sky-high sequoias — some of them 2,000 years old (kids can crawl through the hollow ones). See if Roosevelt elk are grazing in Elk Meadow, then pick up the path to Trillium Falls and be on the lookout for yellow banana slugs along the way. There are coastal trails too: Take guided tide pool walks to discover anemones and sea stars. Note: your best chance of spotting whales is from December through April.
Where to stay: Stay in comfort and convenience under the canopy of the Carolinian Forest in a Parks Canada oTENTik. An oTENIK is a cross between an A-frame cabin and prospector tent on a raised wooden floor for families or groups of up to six. It’s like the luxury “glamping” options springing up across the country, but you bring your own food and bedding, and prices start at just a little over U.S $100. These are the most popular travel destinations in Canada.
13. Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FloridaCost-burdened middle-class households: 38.6%Median single-family home value: $263,245Median household income: $51,362Homeownership rate: 58.3%The majority of homes in the Miami metro area are worth over a quarter-million dollars. As a result, many middle- and low-income area residents spend more than they can afford on housing. ddmitr, Getty Images/iStockphoto
NORWEGIAN AIR: By far the biggest of the new European low-cost carriers, Norwegian flies a staggering 53 routes to Europe from 14 U.S. airports that range in size from Newburgh, N.Y., to Los Angeles. With a mix of Boeing 787 Dreamliners and Boeing 737s, Norwegian has the most diverse set of options for U.S. fliers. It offers some point-to-point routes (like Newburgh-Bergen) as well as connections through bigger airports like London Stansted, Oslo and Paris. Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren, special to USA TODAY
Chosen By: Emily McNutt, associate editor at The Points Guy, where she is responsible for reporting on travel news across a range of topics — from aviation to loyalty programs, general travel news and credit cards. At TPG, McNutt is not only an expert in the travel and points and miles space in the newsroom, but also puts that expertise to work by reviewing aircraft products for the site. With a lifelong passion for travel, McNutt has visited more than 40 countries.
The toughest part about being a pint-size tourist in Costa Rica is that many of the activities are often — literally — out of reach, with size, weight or age restrictions. Instead, peg your adventure to nature. Manuel Antonio National Park, which stretches from the Pacific coast up into the mountainous rainforest, is brimming with wildlife: Hundreds of species of mammals and birds live within its 1,700 acres. (If you don't spot a few white-headed capuchin monkeys, you aren't looking.) Visitor numbers are capped, so start early, and take the flat, easy main trail. Pack a swimsuit for this family vacation: Off the trail is the famous Playa Manuel Antonio, with warm blue waters and a crescent-shaped ivory-sand beach. (Note: The park is closed on Mondays.)
Just how cheap is it? The aftershock of the debt crisis can still be felt at plenty of Greece’s tavernas, restaurants, and supermarkets (though not so much in touristy areas). On a popular island such as Mykonos, you’re likely to spend at least €25 or more on a lush evening meal -- but you can also get a bottle of godly nectar and cook at your Airbnb or hotel kitchenette for a sliver of that. On smaller, less touristy islands and in some parts of Athens you’ll feel less of a wallet pinch, especially when it comes to accommodation.
Just how cheap is it? Poland’s economy is swinging upward, but the price of traveling here is still indulgently cheap compared to other EU countries (that could change, though, so don’t dally). In its bigger cities -- Warsaw, Kraków, Wrocław -- you can get a centrally located, one bedroom Airbnb for $30 all to your lonesome. Polish food is notoriously cheap and filling, especially if you’re dining on pierogi and goulash in no-frills milk bars (cafeteria-like relics of Communist times). In Warsaw, you could ball out on craft cocktails at bijou bars (or just drink $1 Polish beers and vodka shots for that matter). Or treat yourself to a two Michelin star meal at Atelier Amaro, where the six-course meal is a reasonable $70.
Thailand has it all: good food, friendly people and a fascinating culture. Start a Thailand Family Holiday in Bangkok, where you can ride through the city’s famous canals and see the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. In Kanchanaburi, stop for the night where two rivers converge (they were featured in the film, Bridge on the River Kwai). Head north to Chiang Mai to visit a temple (you may hear Buddhist monks chanting at the end of the day). Kids will like the Northern Thai Doll Museum, where over 400 handmade dolls represent Thai culture and dress. Later, tour one of the biggest aquariums in Southeast Asia, Sea Life Bangkok Ocean World, and shop in Bangkok for everything from Jimmy Choo shoes to flower garlands and live crabs.
Another affordable European destination for this summer is Budapest. Here, you’ll get two cities for the price of one — Buda and Pest, separated by the Danube River. With new routes from American Airlines launching this summer to/from Philadelphia, competition is driving airfare prices down. Average airfare from New York and Boston for the summer is under $700 round-trip; I also found deals under $600 round-trip from Chicago.
Why you’ll love it: This cosmopolitan Canadian city is just a 90-minute trip from 60 percent of the United States, so it’s easy to reach. Once you’re there, kids will have memorable time catching a baseball game right under the CN Tower (you should take a trip up to the top of the tower for the amazing views, too) and riding a moving sidewalk through a shark tank at the neighboring aquarium. Hop on a ferry to explore Toronto’s islands; one is an amusement park! There are also free beaches downtown to catch some summer rays.
Why: Zanzibar may sound like an expensive, bougie honeymoon island, but take it from this solo affordable adventure traveler; it's more budget friendly than you think. Not to mention, absolutely beautiful. You can take the ferry from mainland Tanzania to Zanzibar for only $35 ($50 if you want a VIP seat), but flights to and from there are usually less than $100. Yes, there are many luxury resorts like Tulia Zanzibar and Melia Zanzibar that you should definitely splurge on if you can. (Tulia has a jungle waterslide and pool floaties. Enough said.) But there are also budget options. In fact, I found an Airbnb called the Surf Escape that was only about $40 per night, right on the beach, and had on-site surf, paddleboard and wind-surfing lessons.
Chosen By: Patricia Stone, founder of Global Adventuress. She's traveled to 157 countries and seeks out unique, off-the-beaten-path destinations for solo travelers, girlfriends, couples and families. Her site has been featured in the L.A. Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Toronto Star and was nominated by USA Today as a Top 20 Travel Destination site.
Just how cheap is it? Here $20 can last a day or even two if you’re feeling tapped. Your dream beach vacay awaits for lunch-money prices: In Goa, comfy waterfront bungalows go for around $30, but if you forgo housekeeping and some space, basic huts can be had for $15 (often, with breakfast). If you don’t mind skewing rustic, the beach town Gokarna, a two-hour train ride away, is even more budget-friendly. Rooms go for around $5 (a little run-down but clean), and you can shop flowy pants, dresses, and trinkets for $3 a pop, assuming your haggling is on-point.
San Jose del Cabo, Mexico: You’ll find savings and a favorable exchange rate in Mexico this summer. Skip out on party-centric Cabo San Lucas and head to “the other Cabo,” San Jose del Cabo, instead. Low airfare to Cabo stands out this season; the average cost of a round-trip flight to/from Los Angeles is around $300 and $500 to/from New York City. Getty Images/iStockphoto
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* This is the largest savings for simultaneous booking of flight and hotel from July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2016, and not the discount rate or amount for your booking. Savings calculated based on the cost of a Flight + Hotel booking on Travelocity.com as compared to the aggregated price of the full published fare given by the airline and the cost of your hotel for the same travel products for the same travel dates when made separately. Savings will vary based on the origin/destination, length of trip, stay dates and selected travel supplier(s). Savings are not available on all packages. Please confirm the actual discount rate/ price on the booking page.
If you’re looking to save money when going to Orlando’s amusement parks, look to travel in September during midweek and stay at a non-affiliated park hotel or one of the area’s campgrounds. Other money-saving tips for the parks include budgeting in a non-park day and instead relaxing at your hotel’s pool. If you’re a AAA member, you may also be entitled to hotel discounts and special packages with Universal Studios.
Why: The Greek Island of Karpathos offers much of the same allure as chic Santorini and Mykonos, but with the advantage of lower prices. Karpathos is the second largest of the Dodecanese Island chain, which includes better-known Rhodes. Karpathos dates back to the 5th century BC, offering history buffs a way to have two trips in one, combining sun and sand with a step back in time. Ancient ruins can still be seen at Aghia Anastasia, while the island’s history can be studied in more detail in the Archaeological Museum. Beyond lounging on white-sand beaches, active travelers can choose from a selection of sports: fishing, windsurfing, snorkeling, scuba diving and sailing. Away from the well-worn tourist path, Karpathos has hillsides covered in vibrant wild flowers and small villages like Arkasas to explore. The island’s capital, Pighadia, is a modern city, but in small towns like Olympos, traditional dress is still worn day-to-day and life has the authentic feel of the past. Karpathos has many apartments and studios to rent, resulting in real savings. There are plenty of budget hotels under $100. Multiple restaurants and tavernas dot the countryside, where you can savor traditional Greek dishes at low prices.
What to do? Hike! How else are you going to get close enough to touch an actual glacier? The Going-to-the-Sun Road (one of the most scenic in the world) is also fun to bike, but it's best ridden early or late in the season when car traffic is minimal. The popular, open-top Glacier Park red bus tours allow kids to see wildlife from a safe distance and you to photograph without worrying about pulling over and parking. If you want to get out on the park's many glacial lakes, rent canoes or kayaks or book a boat tour with Glacier Park Boat Co.
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Last Minute Deals and Packages: If you decide to take a last minute trip with the kids, look for savings and special offers, especially in the off-season. Lately we've been seeing major resort discounts even during high season, so once you decide where you want to go, call the hotel or resort directly and don't be afraid to ask for a package deal before you book. Offers can include room discounts, dining and activity credit, free transportation to and from the airport, and other perks. Most hotels will let you book connecting rooms so that you can keep an eye on the kids while still enjoying some privacy on vacation. If you are taking a weekend trip to a major city such as New York, Chicago, San Francisco or London, hotels usually discount rooms on weekends because there are no business travelers on weekends, so it's quite easy to find a last minute deal. In the Caribbean, look for all-inlcusive packages and affordable rates in the summer. Keep reading for more best family vacations.
Some of the top destinations for families are the Caribbean, Florida, California and Hawaii, attracting vacationers with their sandy beaches and colorful sunsets, especially during the colder months and in the summer when there is no school and kids can get away for a longer vacation. Many families enjoy cruises which allow them to see many destinations in a short span of time. Mega cruise ships offer a wide variety of activities, from pools and waterslides to rock climbing and kids' clubs. Consider the season - the destinations that work best in the spring and summer may not be as interesting in the winter. Resorts with water parks include the Arizona Grand Resort, the Lake Lanier Islands, the Gaylord Palms Resort. Unique getaways in the U.S. include The Cloister at Sea Island, The Bishop's Lodge, Hilton Hawaiian Village and Grand Wailea Resort.
The East Coast has it all: beautiful beaches, stunning vistas, historical importance, and some of the most famous cities in the world. First stop on your Eastern Seaboard getaway: the “Big Apple.” A trip to New York City means you get to see the sights that are talked about all over the world, like Lady Liberty, Broadway, and Central Park. If you want to delve into U.S. history, a Washington D.C. vacation filled with monuments, museums, and galleries is for you. Speaking of history, the American Revolution got its start in a city a few hours to the north. Your Boston vacation will bring you to one of the most popular spots on the East Coast. Indulge in some of the best clam chowder in the world, then walk back in time on the Freedom Trail, which hosts 16 sites that played a huge role in the founding of the nation.