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18 Affordable Summer Vacation Destinations

Travel is expected to surge this summer as more people receive the COVID-19 vaccine and strive to get out of town and take a long-awaited vacation. A recent VRBO survey found that 65% of Americans plan to travel more this summer than they did pre-COVID.

If you’re one of the many that plan to head out, remember, you don’t need to break into your savings just to take an amazing vacation. In fact, there are a lot of beautiful places to visit that won’t break the bank or leave you coming home to a massive credit card bill.


Summer Trip to Africa

Home to the ancient pyramids, the Nile River, and the Sahara Desert, Africa is steeped in ancient history. With more than 50 nations to visit, it can be challenging to decide where in Africa to go, so here are some suggestions.


Marrakesh, Morocco

U.S. News calls the ancient Moroccan city of Marrakesh one of the best places to visit in Africa. 

“Marrakech buzzes with life: Performers vie for your attention in Jemaa El-Fnaa (an open-air square in the heart of the Medina of Marrakesh) while vendors hawk aromatic spices, homemade textiles, ornate lanterns, and more at the bazaars along the alleyways,” writes U.S. News. 

Since Morocco is on the northwestern coast of Africa, it’s close to Europe. That means it’s easier and cheaper to fly to than other African countries. 

If you’re willing to backpack, Indie Traveler says Morocco has a growing network of backpacker hostels. That’s one way to save money. Even if you’re looking for something a little cushier, Indie Traveler estimates you’ll spend about $60 per day in Morocco.

Plus, the exchange rate between the U.S. dollar and Moroccan Dirham is very favorable.


South Africa

Located at the southern tip of Africa, South Africa is home to some of the most stunning beaches in the world.

Admittedly, it’s expensive to fly there. You’ll need to make some stops along the way if you’re traveling from the United States, but South Africa is very affordable once you get there.

According to Be My Travel Muse, “The exchange rate alone will do you a big favor.”

Be My Travel Muse goes on to say, “Any hostels/guesthouse/tourist accommodation in South Africa is called a ‘backpackers’, and they are typically in beautiful settings and each has a unique personality, not to mention affordable too.”

Food can be expensive in South Africa, so check out the local grocery stores whenever possible. You’ll also want to stick to public transportation in the major cities like Cape Town and Johannesburg.

Much like Morocco, the exchange rate between the dollar and the South African Rand is very favorable.


Asia

While some places in Asia (think the Maldives and Japan) are extremely expensive to travel to, other places will fit well within your budget.


Bali

With beautiful beaches and amazing scenery, Bali is an affordable paradise. While flying direct to Bali can be expensive, flying to someplace like Singapore and then catching a connecting flight to Bali can make things much more affordable.

Once you’re there, picking the right place to stay and the proper transportation can make the entire trip very affordable. For complete details on how to have a good time in Bali without spending all your savings, check out this previous post.


Laos

According to Indie Traveler, think of “Laos as Thailand but without the mass tourism.” Visiting Laos is the perfect trip for someone who likes to commune with nature. There’s hiking, climbing, kayaking, and ziplining, all at affordable prices.

Indie Traveler says the mid-range budget traveler will spend just $40 per day visiting Laos.


Myanmar

Commonly known as Burma, Myanmar is filled with ancient pagodas and Buddhist temples alongside beautiful beaches.

The writers at Half Half Travel say they wish they could have extended their stay in Myanmar, where “…a budget of $35 per day (on average) got us private, spacious rooms with big beds in hostels like Baobabed Inle Lake, cocktails on rooftop bars in Yangon, and private tuk-tuk tours in the temples of Bagan.”


Bonus: Fiji

While technically closer to Australia than Asia, Fiji is still a prime tourist destination that won’t break the bank.

Blogger Nomadic Matt writes, “Fiji, unlike its expensive island neighbors and sharp marketing by Fiji water, is actually relatively cheap to visit. While there are many $1,000-a-night resorts in the country, you can manage to enjoy pristine beaches, world-class diving, tasty seafood, and friendly locals without having to mortgage your home.”

Nomadic Matt says there’s a backpacking community that’s emerging in the country that will help you find affordable accommodations.


The Caribbean Summer Vacation

The island nations in the Caribbean are beautiful getaways during the summer months. Not only do they have gorgeous beaches, but also unique cultures for you to experience.


Curacao

According to U.S. News, summer is Curacao’s low season, which means you’re going to find the best travel deals in the summer months. The beaches are a must-visit. Be sure to bring along your snorkel and flippers to see the underwater sights.

For a bit of sightseeing, visit the country’s capital of Willemstad.


Montego Bay, Jamaica


If all you’re looking for is a few weeks away at the beach, then Montego Bay in Jamaica will fit the bill and keep you under budget.

According to Money Under 30, “For beach lovers, Montego Bay will seem like paradise. Snowy beaches and crystal-clear blue waters make for a relaxing day of sunning and swimming. It’s one of the few places where an all-inclusive package doesn’t just make sense, it’s also incredibly affordable. You can get a four-night stay in a hotel with a waterpark, spa, masseuse, all of your meals included, and round-trip airfare for as little as $650. From surfing lessons to snorkeling, there’s plenty to keep you entertained and relaxed.”


San Juan, Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico is a tropical island, which means there’s going to be humidity and rain for a good portion of the year.

Travel + Leisure says June is an ideal time to visit San Juan. That’s when prices are lower, but hurricane season hasn’t arrived yet.

Highlights of a visit to the U.S. territory include the Yunque National Forest and Old San Juan. If you’re looking for surfing and whale watching, head to Rincon. Or, head underground to the Parque de las Cavernas del Rio Camuy.


European Vacation

One of the cool things about Europe is once you get there, it can be easy to get around. There are cheap flights on discount airlines like Ryan Air. There are also Eurail passes which allow you to travel from country to country with ease.

If you’re still looking to save, consider a road trip. I took a look at some great road trips through Northern Europe in this previous post.


Bosnia-Herzegovina

If you’re not sure which country you want to visit, consider Bosnia-Herzegovina. According to Via Travelers, the Eastern European country and its capital Sarajevo are beautiful and affordable.

“In Sarajevo, you can have a decent dinner in a restaurant for less than $10 (no alcohol), but you can have street food for just a few [dollars],” writes Via Travelers.

There are free walking tours in Sarajevo and Mostar, though you’ll want to have a little money to tip the guides. Via Travelers says $25 a day will get you a day filled with activities on top of a bed in a hostel and street food.


Portugal

Of all the countries in the European Union, Portugal is one of the most affordable. A heady mix of the old world and the new world, Portugal offers a glimpse into the history of Europe.

While summer is peak season, there are still ways to save money on your trip. Couchsurfing is one of the easiest ways to save money. If couchsurfing isn’t your thing, eat at local cafes and shop at local grocery stores to save a buck. For complete details on saving money when visiting Portugal and what to do once you get there, check out this previous post.


Romania

While most people know Romania as the home of Dracula, the country has much more to offer to people than vampire stories. There are medieval villages to visit, gorgeous parks to tour, and historical sites aplenty.

Be My Travel Muse says hostels in Romania can run as little as $10 per night.

Besides visiting Dracula’s castle, be sure to spend some time at one of the beaches along the Black Sea. You’ll also want to see the monasteries in Bucovina, the Palace of Parliament in Bucharest, and walk through Romania’s famed haunted forest.


Spend the Summer in North America

If you’re looking to stay closer to home, look no further than these three destinations.


Cancun

According to Travel + Leisure, Cancun is the place to go for a deal in 2021. Airfare to the Mexican city is cheap right now and doesn’t seem to be going up.

Cancun is known for its gorgeous beaches, near-perfect weather, and of course, tequila.


New Orleans, Louisiana

As long as it’s not during Mardi Gras, New Orleans is a relatively affordable place to visit. Hotel rooms can be low-priced, provided you’re not trying to stay on the famed Bourbon Street.

Two Scots Abroad suggests taking a streetcar to see some of the city’s historic mansions, checking out the live music that seems to pop up on every street corner, and hanging out in the French Quarter.

You’ll also want to try the food. New Orleans is famous for its beignets, po’boys, and gumbo, among other things.


Montreal


The warm weather makes summer the perfect time to explore Montreal. Take a walk through Mount Royal Park or the Montreal Botanical Garden. Tour the Notre Dame Basilica and the Musee de Beaux-Arts de Montreal before you stop at Jean Talon Market for some of the freshest produce in the city.

If you have the time, visit the Barbie Expo, which features nearly 1,000 different forms of the iconic doll.


Take a South American Adventure


Home to the Amazon River, the Andes Mountains, and Tierra del Fuego, South America has a little bit of everything for travelers.


Argentina


The exchange rate of the U.S. dollar to Argentine Peso is an ideal reason to visit Argentina now. The city of Buenos Aires is filled with culture and food at an affordable price. Take in a show at the Teatro Colon or walk through the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes.

Grab some food at Palermo Soho and then walk through the Palermo area to catch a glimpse of Buenos Aires’ past.

If you venture outside of the city, Half Half Travel suggests you go west.
“If you venture westward toward Cordoba and the Sierra region, you’ll find that Cordoba, Argentina’s ‘second city, has some unique things to do that travelers often overlook, and you can rent a car to road trip to small towns with scenic views,” writes Half Half Travel.


Bolivia

While Argentina spans the southern tip of South America, Bolivia is more central. One of only two landlocked countries in South America, what Bolivia lacks in beaches, it makes up for in other activities.

While in La Paz, pay a visit to the Iglesia de San Francisco and then take a walk to Calle Sagarnaga for some shopping. Then stroll to Calle Jaen offers a glimpse of what South American life was like under Spanish colonial control.


Skyscanner reports that the food and drink in Bolivia are some of the best in South America, and it’s a bargain because of the favorable exchange rate between the U.S. dollar and the Bolivian Bolivianos.


Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Brazil is home to another favorable exchange rate, making a trip to Rio de Janeiro well worth the price of air travel.

July is one of the colder months of the year in Brazil, so the weather will be ideal. The beach will be warm during the day and cool at night. Also, since it’s not considered “peak season”, hotels are affordable.

While in Rio de Janeiro, be sure to make the trek to see the famed Christ the Redeemer statue. If futbol (soccer to Americans) is more your cup of tea, then head to Maracana, where the soccer superstar Pele played.


Written by Erika Towne

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