Akumal is a snorkeling and diving haven with numerous lagoons and natural parks. Mayans referred to this spot as the "Place of the Turtle" and today it draws droves of tourists hoping to catch a glimpse of these creatures in their natural habitat. Like the rest of the Riviera Maya, Akumal features a slew of affordable hotels, motels and all-inclusive resorts. (Getty Images)
What to do: Bring your passport, so you can view them from the Canadian and American sides; to visit both, just cross Rainbow Bridge. Board the Maid of the Mist boat from either shore to get right up to the raging water (they give you ponchos so you don't get drenched). By day you'll see rainbows; at night, the falls are dramatically lit, and there are fireworks too! If your kids aren’t afraid of heights, they’ll also love the bird’s eye view from Skylon Tower.
Why you should go: Because nature and mild danger make you feel alive. Victoria Falls has a bungee jump, one of the world’s most high-octane whitewater runs, and the Devil’s Pool, a natural rock pool at the literal edge of the falls. Forget TLC’s admonitions: Inching your body out over the precipice and looking down into one of the seven natural wonders of the world is one of the most unforgettable things you’ll ever do. - Sarah Theeboom, Thrillist contributor
Tulum: As Playa del Carmen has been the site of some troubling violence of late, the coastal town of Tulum to the south may be a safer alternative at present. It is also less touristy than other resort towns on the Yucatan Peninsula, offering well-preserved ruins of the former Mayan city walls and other historic structures right in town. The State Department has explicitly stated there are no restrictions on travel to Tulum or to Chichen Itza, the magnificent archaeological site just an hour up the road. Getty Images/iStockphoto
What to do: There's lots of free PG-rated fun in festive Jackson Square, where magicians, jugglers, mimes and jazz bands make the street their stage. Take in the lively scene from an outside table at Café du Monde, famous for its yummy beignets (warm French doughnuts smothered with powdered sugar). A quick stroll along the Mississippi River leads to the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas (little ones will love the touch pools) and the Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium (creepy crawly thrills include bug tasting). Hop the St. Charles streetcar to the lovely Garden District and the Audubon Zoo where the kids can check feeding giraffes off their bucket lists.
Once you figure out when you want to go on vacation, budget out what a reasonable amount of money to save looks like for your family. The amount you’re able to put aside will determine where you go and how long you can stay. You may need to sell things and make temporary lifestyle sacrifices. But don’t worry! There are plenty of ways you can save up cash quickly.

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.


Lara is a travel writer and editor with a closet full of musty thrift store finds from all over the world. Her ideal vacation is a big city one packed with live music and good food, but she admits there’s also a place for relaxing by the pool. Her all-time favorite getaway was a month hiding out in Brooklyn, getting the best museum, gallery and foodie fixes. The udon noodles at Samurai Mama still haunt her dreams...
Why you should go: For all the greedy reasons: Its landscape varies from world-famous Pacific surf beaches to strikingly beautiful inland mountains, you’ll eat the best Mexican food you’ll ever have, the city is packed with pure magic. And for a selfless one: After a brutal past year of political rhetoric in the States, now is a great time to show our neighbors to the south some love. Whatever scant bucks you spend will boost their economy and help preserve the many indigenous cultures that call Oaxaca home. - Tess Rose Lampert, Thrillist contributor
Where to stay: The Millennium Hilton New York Downtown is as close as you can get to the World Trade Center site without being in it. There’s a pool, and the property offers several packages for saving money on longer stays and getting discounts on admission to area attractions. Another good value is The Wall Street Inn where Wi-Fi and breakfast is free (not common in NYC), and reviews are really good for a three-star hotel.

Why: When it comes to cheap destinations, you can not beat Thailand. Phuket is a beautiful beach spot that is famously known for nice people, affordable hotels and amazing food. Low season is in the spring and winter. (Don't go during summer because it will rain everyday.) Once in Phuket, head to Patong beach at night: The nightlife is something to see, with loud music and constant entertainment. The next day you should head to Phuket Town. With its colorful buildings, Phuket Town looks like you stepped into Portugal. Stay at Andakira Hotel Patong for under $50 a night. Before you leave Phuket, make sure you take a ferry for around $30 roundtrip to the Phi Phi islands: It's a two-hour boat ride, but so worth it.
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