With international travel at an all-time high for Americans, there are many fantastic options for curious travelers with limited cash in the new year. We looked at flight and accommodation cost, as well as quality of available activities to come up with our top picks for the best budget destinations in 2019!
Thailand is a country easy to navigate as a tourist, with world-class beaches in the south at Phuket, ancient ruins and ornate temples in Chiang Mai and surrounding countryside, and a buzzy nightlife and fine dining found in the cosmopolitan city of Bangkok.
Airfare: Flights for around $500 from New York (JFK) and Los Angeles (LAX) on China Eastern.
Accommodation: Budget accommodation in the capital of Bangkok starts at around $20/night, but other destinations around the country have rooms for far less.
When to Go: The rainy season that falls between March and September is the best time to score cheap airfare and accommodations.
The Far East is still an exotic daydream for a lot of Americans, but the low prices should help you make this dream a reality. China has so many amazing sights – and the Chinese government, actively promoting tourism, generally offers bargain basement prices for huge trips. If you travel as part of a package deal, you can usually get airfare and accommodation for under $500 from just about anywhere in the country, but you’ll be trotted through a dizzying array of state-sponsored “souvenir mills” as the price of admission for the deep discounts.
Airfare: Nonstop flights on Air China from Los Angeles (LAX) as low as $300 and from Boston on American from under $600.
Accommodation: If you book your travel on your own, 3-star hotel rooms can generally be found in the $20-30/night range.
When to Go: High season is summer, with spring and fall offering the best airfare pricing.
Canada is a fantastic option for the budget traveler. The flights are reasonably priced from most U.S. gateways and the proximity of our neighbor to the north makes it an easy destination to access. Mind-blowing nature your bag? Banff and Vancouver Island delivers. Cosmopolitan cities more your thing? Check out Toronto or Montreal. There’s a little bit to tempt every kind of traveler and it’s just a hop to get there.
Airfare: Budget flights from most gateways in the U.S. from under $300 can be found easily.
Accommodation: Budget accommodation in major cities like Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal can generally be found in the $50-75/night range. You’ll even find budget digs in popular ski destinations like Banff.
When to Go: Because of Canada’s popularity as both a summer and ski destination, there really isn’t much of a low season, per se. Best prices for flights and accommodation can generally be found after the holidays and just before spring hits in full force.
With most of Europe a pricier proposition, Spain offers travelers great value and style. Spanish culture, food and architecture will not disappoint, and the warm hospitality of the Spanish people make this country a favorite vacation home spot for its neighbors in Europe.
Airfare: Flights for under $500 from San Francisco (SFO) on American Airlines and for around $600 from New York (JFK) on Norwegian Air.
Accommodation: Accommodation can be surprisingly low for Europe, even in cities like Madrid and Barcelona. Basic, comfortable rooms start around $25/night in the off season.
When to Go: Avoid high season months of July and August for the best deals.
The sunny little Dutch-Caribbean island of Curaçao has colorful and charming colonial architecture in town, and some of the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean. Add those two items to some world-class diving and a system of expansive coral reefs and you’ve got a recipe for a beautiful vacation. All this, but Curaçao maintains a rather low-profile in the Caribbean – keeping costs down for U.S. vacationers.
Airfare: Flights from the east coast can generally be found for around $300 for most of the year. Flights from San Francisco on American start at around $500.
Accommodation: Budget hotels start at around $80/night.
When to Go: May to November is off season in Curaçao, when hotel rooms can often be 50% less than in other time of the year.
The remote location of the Maldives in the Indian Ocean, coupled with it’s well-earned romantic bonafides may make you wonder how it found its way onto our list. But we decided to include it because its one of those beautiful places that – once you get there – can be heartily enjoyed on even a shoestring budget. Go for the beaches and unparalleled natural beauty.
Airfare: China Southern Airlines offers flights for under $1,000 to Male from Los Angeles, and you can squeak out flights for around the same from most gateways in the United States. Qatar Airways currently has a flight out of JFK for just over $1,000 as well.
Accommodation: The Maldives is known for it’s luxury, over-the-water resorts but there are many budget offerings on the island as well. You can book rooms for well under $100/night.
When to Go: Low season is May to October, but make sure you’re willing to take the risk of some rainy days if you decide to book.
Montenegro has been on all the up-and-coming travel lists for a few years now, owing mainly to its “under-the-radar” status in the Baltic region. The country has scenic beaches and mountains, and the cities carry old-world charm. Don’t miss the medieval town of Kotor and Durmitor National Park!
Airfare: Flights will be the most expensive part of your trip, but you can still get airfare for around $700 from the east coast on Turkish or Austrian Airlines.
Accommodation: Hotels in Montenegro are quite inexpensive. Basic rooms start as low as $15/USD.
When to Go: The best weather and lower prices can be found in shoulder season, May – June and September – October.
Nicaragua has become quite the backpacker’s destination in recent years – a sure sign that it’s a frugal traveler’s dream. And it is. There’s a wide variety of things to do – explore colonial cities like Leon, hike one of 19 volcanoes the country, learn to surf on one of the many gorgeous beaches, and explore the San Juan River by boat!
Airfare: Flights from Los Angeles (LAX) on Spirit from as low as $333 in March.
Accommodation: Hotels and hostels are so inexpensive in Nicaragua as to be almost negligible. You can easily get a basic room for under $10 in almost any town. Hotels and Airbnb properties for $20 and up.
When to Go: May to October is the rainy season in Nicaragua, so while you could experience some wet weather, this is when you’re bound to get the best prices overall. Having said that, the country is generally quite a bargain any time of year for U.S. travelers.
Vietnam is rich in history and culture. The country is a mélange of delicious food markets, natural beauty, devastating history and warm people. From the northern Hill tribes who live a simple life to the conservative capital city of Hanoi; from the beach city of Nha Trang to the bustling metropolis of Ho Chi Minh City in the south, you’ll never forget the varied sights and sounds of Vietnam.
Airfare: Flights to Ho Chi Minh City for under $500 on China Eastern from San Francisco and for around $600 on Air China from New York (JFK).
Accommodation: Western-style and standard hotels throughout Vietnam are plentiful and extremely inexpensive. Rooms from under $10/night in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh, and for even less are found in smaller towns around the country.
When to Go: March – April and September – October are the best time to fly for budget travelers.
Situated in north Africa at the crossroads of the Middle East and Europe, Morocco is a land of fascinating culture, stunning scenery and bargain shopping (start with the medina, of course)! Use Marrakech for a home base as you explore the wonders of this budget-friendly destination.
Airfare: Flights to Africa aren’t inexpensive in general, but you can find quite reasonable round trip airfare from the U.S., especially from the east coast. Flights from JFK start at around $650 round trip on Iberia.
Accommodation: Tastefully appointed rooms can be found for as low as $40 USD in the city center.
When to Go: The Best airfares are March – April, and September to December.