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Cheap Summer Travel: 23 Best Places To Go Now – Forbes

Ashley Renne, an expert in sustainable travel, is pictured in Porto, Portugal, one of the best (and cheapest!) places to travel this summer.

Photo courtesy of Ashley Renne

Summer travel season is here, which usually means big crowds, inflated prices and higher airfares. The good news is that in 2019, gas prices are on the decline. But that only gets you so far. Where you go is a major consideration when it comes to saving money. I tapped into a number of travel experts who shared their tips for the cheapest places to travel this summer. Their choices for budget-friendly vacations prove you don’t have to break the bank if you pick the right spot. See the full list, below, of the cheapest places to travel in summer 2019, and compare it to the most affordable summer spots for 2018 and 2017. Now, spin the globe and start planning that cheap and easy summer vacation.

Antigua, Guatemala is just one of the cheapest places to travel in summer 2019.

Photo courtesy of Sarah Funk

Where: Antigua, Guatemala

Chosen By: Sarah Funk is a travel host and video producer who runs SarahFunky.com and a YouTube channel, both dedicated to travel and NYC. She is frequently seen on Travel + Leisure’s Instagram showing viewers unique destinations around the world.

Why: With its diverse indigenous culture, rich Mayan heritage and colonial charm, Guatemala is a fascinating adventure spot for any type of traveler. A trip to the charming colonial city of Antigua is an absolute must. Once the capital of Guatemala, Antigua’s colorful streetscapes are nestled between three volcanoes. The most fascinating is Volcán de Fuego, which is active and continuously billowing smoke. This city is easily one of Central America’s most charming destinations and is even listed as a World Heritage Site. A perfect day in Antigua starts at De La Gente, where you’ll be paired with a local farmer who will show you the process of making coffee from seed to cup. Next, head to the Mercado Artesanal to buy Guatemala’s colorful woven clothing, bags or blankets. For the best city view, head to Cerro San Cristobal, a farm-to-table restaurant that’s as organic as it gets. As you wait for your meal, you can walk through gardens that grow all the ingredients. In the afternoon, head to Hobbitenango, a recreation of a hobbit village 30 minutes from Antigua. There are tons of fun things to do, including horseback riding and archery. Plus a great bar serves local beer and craft cocktails. Close out your day in Antigua at Welton Restaurant, which serves Guatemalan and international cuisine. It’s a romantic candlelit atmosphere with a pool covered with rose petals. For a nightcap, head to Ulew, a speakeasy craft cocktail lounge that is located inside the kitchen of an old mansion. The best part of it? Everything I mentioned costs less than $100 total.

READ MORE: “This 21-Year-Old Woman Claims She’s The Youngest Person To Travel To Every Country”

An aerial view of Freeman Park in Carolina Beach, North Carolina.

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Carolina Beach, North Carolina

Chosen By: Keryn Means is the founder of WalkingOnTravels.com, a resource for all things travel, food, culture, adventure and family. Follow her on Instagram @walkingontravels.

Why: Southeast of Wilmington, Delaware you will find a trio of beaches that cater to every type of traveler. Wrightsville Beach is for those who need to shop, stay at luxe hotels and have loads of amenities at their fingertips. Carolina Beach is in the middle, offering great food, a few hotels, a smattering of vacation rentals and a fun little boardwalk, plus one famous donut shop people drive in from Raleigh to enjoy. Kure Beach, the last and final beach, is where the vacation rental homeowners and regulars camp out. It has the best pier, a few restaurants, the NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher, but not much else. This is why we love Carolina Beach the most. It is smack in the middle of the action, so whether you want to go ultra-mellow or you need to head up north to get some shopping done and see a bit of civilization, you have that option. Since most people are still up at Wrightsville Beach, food prices tend to stay moderate and not overpriced in Carolina Beach. Britts Donut Shop, an institution in these parts, will always have a line out the door but makes for the cheapest breakfast and post-dinner snack in town. The small boardwalk that runs along the beach is also home to a few hotels, including the Courtyard By Marriott Carolina Beach, which looks right at the water. If you are lucky, a few dolphins will swim by while you sip your coffee on the balcony in the morning. You can’t put a price on that kind of natural attraction.

Monet Hambrick of TheTravelingChild.com by a cenote in Tulum, Mexico.

Photo courtesy of Monet Hambrick/@thetravelingchild Instagram

Where: Tulum, Mexico

Chosen By: Monet Hambrick is the mom behind The Traveling Child, where she writes about traveling with her 3- and 5-year-old, “baevacations” with her husband, girlfriend getaways and solo “momcations.” She is also a freelance writer for The Points Guy and Essence.com. You can follow her adventures on Instagram @thetravelingchild.

Why: While hundreds of thousands of tourist visit Cancun each year, Tulum is its more affordable, less touristy, more beautiful brother to the south. Stay in downtown Tulum at Casa de Piedra for as low as $67 a night for an entire apartment. Eat $4 amazing burritos and more at Burrito Amor or have a three-course lunch at La Chula for under $15. Experience the most beautiful sunset at Kin Toh in a bird’s nest-style in-the-air table, all for purchasing one drink at the bar. Swim in two of the 300 cenotes in Mexico for $10 or less at Casa Cenote or Gran Cenote. See how the Mayans lived at the Tulum Ruins or take free salsa lessons at La Zebra on Sunday nights. And, of course, relax by the turquoise blue ocean on the many public beaches of Tulum or hang out at the Coco Tulum beach club with a minimum purchase of $20. To top it off, you can enjoy a two-hour massage from Margo in Mexico for less than $120.

READ MORE: “Quit Your Job And Live In The Caribbean: 5 Cheapest Dream Islands”

Sustainable travel expert Ashley Renne in Porto, Portugal.

Photo courtesy of Ashley Renne

Where: Porto, Portugal

Chosen By: Ashley Renne is an on-camera host, content creator and keynote speaker with a professional background in media production. She is the founder of Hey Ashley Renne, a sustainable travel, vegan lifestyle and smart tech blog that shows others how to live an adventurously green life. Follow her on Instagram @heyashleyrenne.

Why: Porto surprised me: I wasn’t expecting to love it as much as I did. One of the things that I absolutely adored about Porto is its affordability. I was eating five-course meals for under $25. And it was really cool exploring the city that inspired a big chunk of the Harry Potter series, which was my biggest childhood obsession. It also has an authentic local vibe, plenty of outdoor activities, lots of architectural eye candy and a beautiful river with bridges where you can stand and admire the scenery. On your first day, I recommend taking a free walking tour with a company like Porto Walkers, which offers tours guided by knowledgable locals. It’s a great way to get to know the city before you explore on your own, and you’ll discover cool places that you would never find on your own. I also loved the restaurant Porta 4, a tiny hole-in-the-wall venue with exactly four tables. We had wine, several dishes artfully created by the very passionate chef and dessert for approximately $25 a person, and this is pretty much how we fell in love with Porto — through our stomachs. When I was there, I also used the Wells Fargo Propel Card to get three times the points on categories that I consistently use, including transportation and travel expenses. Then you can redeem those points for one cent each toward cash back, travel, gift cards and more. It’s a great way to stretch your euros even further.

Boise River Rafters.

Photo courtesy of Visit Boise

Where: Boise, Idaho

Chosen By: Katie Jackson is a travel writer from Montana whose work has been published by TODAY.com, The New York Post, USA TODAY, Fox News and The Sunday Times. She likes to say she’s cash poor but so experience rich she doesn’t even notice it. Her favorite places are Northern Thailand and Tenerife where she tries to spend a few months each year cycling, writing and asking people if she can pet their dogs. Follow her misadventures on Instagram.

Why: Boise’s nickname may be the “City of Trees,” but money certainly doesn’t grow on them. It doesn’t need to. Idaho’s capital city and outdoor recreation mecca prides itself on being as affordable as it is beautiful. Boise is just big enough to be serviced by discount airlines like Frontier and Southwest, offering cheap fares from major American cities. It’s small enough that it’s hard to find hotels for more than $150 a night. (There isn’t really a market for luxury travel although there is one AAA Four Diamond full-service hotel, The Grove.) Most travelers come to Boise to be outside. In the summer that means riding the mountain coaster at Bogus Basin (the area ski resort), cycling along Boise’s 25-mile greenbelt (which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year) and rafting on the Boise river, which runs right through town. For arts and culture, visit the free Freak Alley Gallery, the Northwest’s largest outdoor mural gallery or the Idaho Military History Museum which is also free. Popular cheap eats in town where you can get an exceptional meal for about $10 include Kibrom’s Ethiopian and Eritrean Restaurant, Guido’s Original New York Style Pizza and Mazzah Mediterranean Grill.

Iceberg spotting in Greenland.

PHOTO COURTESY OF PATRICIA STONE/@GLOBAL_ADVENTURESS INSTAGRAM

Where: Greenland

Chosen By: Patricia Stone founded Global Adventuress. She has traveled to 170 countries and shares her handpicked favorites for unique destinations for solo, girlfriends, couples and family travel. Her award-winning site has been featured in Forbes, the LA Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Toronto Star and USA Today. Follow her on Instagram @global_adventuress.

Why: Greenland — an autonomous nation within the Kingdom of Denmark — is an adventurer’s paradise. With 16 villages and 17 cities, the population numbers less than 60,000 in the largest non-continental island on earth. Global warming is impacting its ever-changing landscape of glaciers and icebergs (the last remains of the Ice Age), so the time to visit is now. Outdoor enthusiasts will find a multitude of things to do, including wilderness tours, wildlife spotting, hiking, kayaking, fishing and hunting. In summer, whales often come close to shore in Nuuk or Ilulissat. Music and sports fans can enjoy many concerts and events for free. Adventurers who love to hike and camp will find plenty of space to roam in the backcountry, countryside and wilderness. Visit a small settlement, meet with hunters, fishermen and learn about Greenlandic history. Forage for berries and herbs or catch your own fish or buy organic, exotic and top-quality meats from local hunters at a great price. Take a day hike from Oqaatsut to Ilulissat. Where to stay? At Ilulissat Guesthouse, Kasper and his family will ensure you have a comfortable stay. Or connect with the Greenlandic people through a homestay or traditional kaffemik in a local’s home. Check out the special deals from Air Greenland. Another tip: Save up and splurge on a flight with Air Zafari and see aerial views of the icebergs and glaciers.

Travel expert Amanda Mactas in Zagreb, Croatia.

Photo courtesy of Amanda Mactas

Where: Zagreb, Croatia

Chosen By: Amanda Mactas is an editor at BELLA Magazine and freelance writer based in New York City. Her work has been featured in PureWow, Wine4Food and The Daily Meal, and she also runs a lifestyle blog, Manhattan with a Twist. You can follow her travels at @ManhattanTwist.

Why: The capital of Croatia has all the charm one has come to expect from a European city. Far enough away from all of the Game of Thrones fanatics flocking to the coast, this Eastern European city is busy without being crowded. A multitude of small cafés are strewn about on its cobblestoned street, with as many people sitting down drinking coffee at any time of the day. Most of the sightseeing here doesn’t even require a wallet, including visiting the Trg Band Jelacica (the main city center), taking in the scene at the Dolac Market in the morning, watching the canon shoot at noon at Lotrascak Tower and wandering the grounds at the stunning Mirogoj Cemetery. A visit to the unusual Museum of Broken Relationships, which only sets you back about $7.61 (or 50 Croatian Kuna), is a must. Here, you will experience the heart of humanity, a place for us to share and move on from heartbreak. A meal next door at the Brokenships Bistro wouldn’t be a bad idea, either. Weave your way through the Upper and Lower towns, taking in magnificent sites like St. Mark’s Church, the botanical garden, Cathedral of Zagreb, the Stone Gate, plentiful street art and all of the lush parks. A less than $1 ride on the Zagreb funicular is worth it solely to say you’ve been on the shortest funicular in the world. Satiate your appetite at Rougemarin City and follow it up with a drink or two at the whimsical Swanky Monkey Garden. A room at the most prestigious hotel in the city, Esplanade Zagreb Hotel, has prices starting at just $125 a night, so there’s no reason not to book a trip.

The view from Boston Common of the city skyline at sunset.

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Where: Boston

Chosen By: Tiffany Dowd is a global luxury hotel expert and luxury travel influencer known as “Luxe Tiffany” and founder of Luxe Social Media. Follow her at @LuxeTiffany on Instagram and Twitter.

Why: Boston is the perfect place to enjoy an affordable summer in the city. The 24th season of Shakespeare will take place in the Boston Common, a free outdoor summer event in July and early August. Walk the historic Freedom Trail, a 2.5 miles route of historic sites including the Paul Revere House. Take in a Red Sox baseball game at the iconic Fenway Park, the oldest park in Major League Baseball. Visit Boston’s James Hook & Co. restaurant on the waterfront for double stuffed clams and fish chowder. Spend a day at the Museum of Fine Arts and marvel at the vast collection of Claude Monet’s artwork, the largest outside of France. Enjoy live waterfront entertainment at the Boston Harbor Hotel during their Summer Entertainment Series, featuring live music and movies from June to August from a floating barge. The Inn at St. Botolph is a charming spot with a great location and good value in the Back Bay area of Boston. Or splurge on the XV Beacon Hotel near Boston’s gold-domed State House — the staff will arrange a picnic in the park for guests along the Charles River Esplanade or Boston Common, complete with fresh Maine lobster rolls. For an extended getaway, head to the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts, just a few hours away by car, where you can see the Boston Symphony perform at Tanglewood and visit the Norman Rockwell Museum for a touch of Americana.

Old meets new in Colonial Williamsburg.

Photo courtesy of Visit Williamsburg

Where: Greater Williamsburg, Virginia 

Chosen By: Emily Kaufman is The Travel Mom, a pioneer in leisure travel who has appeared on broadcast TV since 1994 as a national contributor to shows including the Steve Harvey Show, Harry Connick Jr, The Today Show and Good Morning America, as well as a trusted resource for over 30 local television shows in top markets throughout the country. You can find The Travel Mom on Facebook here.

Why: Greater Williamsburg (Jamestowne, Williamsburg and Yorktown) is known for amusement parks and history, but there’s so much more for budget travelers. It’s also the perfect summer vacation destination with something for the whole family to enjoy — adventure, museums, shopping, spas and many great outdoor activities like hiking, biking around historic streets or along the 50-mile Virginia Capital Trail, paddleboarding, kayaking, ziplining, free outdoor concerts and movies, strolling through the historic campus of William & Mary, enjoying the Yorktown and Jamestowne beaches and more. You can purchase a seven-day combination ticket with unlimited admission to Jamestowne Settlement, Historic Jamestowne, Colonial Williamsburg, Yorktown Battlefield and the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown for less than $14 per adult, $6 per child per day (under 6 are free). Dining options are varied, with many cheap eats from nearly two dozen pancake houses and coffee shops like Aroma’s Coffee House and Carrot Tree Kitchens to a variety of sandwich shops and restaurants including historic tavern dining. Spots like Aleworks, The Virginia Beer Company and Amber Ox — all part of the Williamsburg Tasting Trail — will quench anyone’s thirst. Accommodations are very affordable and there’s something for everyone, from historic inns and guesthouses to sprawling resorts like Kingsmill to popular chains such as Best Western, Fairfield Inn & Suites, Holiday Inn and more, all a short drive from the top attractions.

A cabin at YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park, Colorado.

Photo courtesy of YMCA of the Rockies

Where: Estes Park, Colorado

Chosen By: Heather Mundt is a freelance writer and editor, who specializes in writing about family travel on her site, www.momfari.com. As a native Coloradan, she especially loves writing about her adventures around her home state. Her work has appeared in TravelAge West, Colorado Parent magazine, 5280.com and more.

Why: Surrounded by the pristine wilderness of Rocky Mountain National Park, Estes Park is the go-to headquarters for families wanting to explore Colorado’s high country this summer. Perched 7,500 feet above sea level, just 90 miles northwest of Denver, this charming mountain town features historic main drag Elkhorn Avenue, which includes saltwater-taffy and souvenir shops, restaurants and a lively Riverwalk. And just a 10-minute drive outside of town, families can find affordable lodging at one of the best budget destinations in the state, YMCA of the Rockies. Located on 860 acres bordering Rocky Mountain National Park, the property offers a summer camp-like experience for both kids and adults with daily activities such as archery, miniature golf, roller skating, swimming, rock climbing and more. With plenty of lodge rooms and pet-friendly cabins — plus buffet-style dining in the dining hall (read: no meal-planning) — there’s something for everyone at this Rocky Mountain haven.

Minneapolis downtown skyline and Third Avenue Bridge above Saint Anthony Falls and Mississippi river on a summer evening.

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Where: Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota

Chosen By: Ashlea Halpern, editor-at-large for AFAR; regular contributor to Condé Nast Traveler, Bon Appétit, New York Magazine, and Airbnbmag; and co-founder of Minnevangelist, a site dedicated to spreading the gospel of Minnesota’s greatness.

Why: My partner, Andrew, and I moved to Minneapolis in 2018 after traveling the world for 3.5 years. We chose the Twin Cities because they’re culturally rich, surprisingly diverse and civically engaged — but also because there is so much to do. Reserve one of seven contemporary rooms at Alma, a boutique inn located above a critically acclaimed New American restaurant and cafe of the same name. From here, it’s a 5- to 10-minute walk to Father Hennepin Bluff Park and Minneapolis’ iconic Stone Arch Bridge, which spans the mighty Mississippi River. Green spaces are a big part of what makes Minneapolis and St. Paul so great, especially in summer: Rent a set of wheels from Nice Ride Minnesota and bike along the 50-mile Grand Rounds Scenic Byway, which takes you past the beautiful Chain of Lakes and out to scenic Theodore Wirth Regional Park, or roam amongst the lush tropical plants at the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory in St. Paul. Snap photos in front of Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen’s famous Spoonbridge and Cherry sculpture at the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden and take advantage of the beautiful patio weather with two-for-one draft beers and wine by the glass at Geek Love Cafe, located in the beloved indie bookstore Moon Palace. Other must-visit shops include Hazel & Rose for reversible jumpsuits and dreamy lucite bangles, Arlee Park for nostalgic brassware and vintage Turkish rugs and the Northrup King studio of avant-garde milliner Celina Kane. (She’s open the first Thursday of every month from 5 to 8 p.m., or by appointment.) General admission to the excellent Minneapolis Institute of Art is free, but it’s worth shelling out $20 bucks to see “Hearts of Our People,” a first-of-its-kind special exhibition showcasing 117 works by undersung Native women artists. Lastly, no visit to the Twin Cities would be complete without indulging in our diverse — and amazingly affordable — cuisine. Let the face-stuffing commence with mouthwatering tacos at La Alborada, slow-roasted jerk pork at Pimento Jamaican Kitchen, Vietnamese banh mi at Lu’s Sandwich, a platter of Ethiopian tibs and wots at Ghebre’s and Thai rolled ice cream at Sota Hot and Cold. It is summer, after all.

The good life in Puerto Escondido, Mexico.

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Where: Puerto Escondido, Mexico

Chosen By: Meagan Drillinger is the founder of Vaera Journeys, an organization that runs retreats for entrepreneurial women on the verge of new ideas.

Why: A nature lover’s paradise, Puerto Escondido, along the coast of Oaxaca, is known for its epic surf, miles of unspoiled beaches, lagoons with bioluminescent bays and secret coves that are entire worlds away. The cuisine of Oaxaca thrives in the back streets and along the shoreline, and the sunsets are among the best in the world. It’s a notable surf spot that attracts wave-riders from as far as Australia, and as such has a charming bar and restaurant scene along the main beach, Playa Zicatela. Still, what visitors find is a sleepy beach break that lures travelers in, and often keeps them there much longer than they ever intended. This is paradise in the summer because it is low season, making already one of the most affordable destinations in Mexico even more affordable. It’s also rainy season, though not at all in hurricane territory, meaning that there are fewer crowds. The surf is up in July and August, so there are always plenty of surfers and surf culture, but the crowds that one usually sees around Christmas and Easter are few and far between.

A view of Quebec City’s Festival d’été de Québec .

Photo courtesy of André-Olivier Lyra

Where: Quebec City

Chosen By: Megan Eileen McDonough is an award-winning photojournalist and founder of Bohemian Trails, a blog for female travelers. Megan has traveled to more than 60 countries, with her work appearing in Fodor’s, BravoTV, Teen Vogue, Bustle, Uber, in-flight magazines and more. She’s co-hosting a writing and wellness retreat in Guatemala later this year. Find her on Instagram @BohemianTrails.  

Why: With its romantic cobblestoned streets, charming neighborhoods, natural wonders and a rich cultural scene, Quebec City is a natural for a summer vacation. It’s also well-priced, thanks to Canada’s favorable exchange rate. I visited Quebec City to attend the Festival d’été de Québec and it was easily one of my favorite trips as a solo female traveler. I previously worked at an indie record label, so it was a treat to discover new acts and see a few of my favorite bands, like Ellie Goulding and Bruno Mars. The festival is older than Woodstock, and there are 10 different venues and hundreds of performances in every genre. Ticket prices are super affordable: The cost of a pass is about $78 and covers all 11 days (and is transferable). I was able to further cut costs by snacking at the festival grounds (the Plains of Abraham) rather than dining out every night. The concerts all take place in the evenings, so days are free to explore Quebec City and check out areas like the neighborhood of Saint-Roch, bohemian hub for avant-garde art, and Quartier Petit Champlain, which is filled with art galleries and boutiques and is believed to be the oldest commercial district in North America. 

The entrance to Morey’s Piers in Wildwood, New Jersey.

Photo courtesy of Morey’s Piers

Where: Wildwoods, New Jersey

Chosen By: Laura Begley Bloom, author of this column, travel expert and longtime resident of New York City.

Why: Once known for its party scene and honky-tonk vibe, the Wildwoods is a beach community on the Jersey Shore that has experienced a transformation in recent years but remains a well-kept secret among travelers looking for an affordable (and fun!) getaway. The main town is Wildwood, but the whole area is referred to as the Wildwoods, since it’s made up of a cluster of beach towns with the word “Wildwood” in the name (Wildwood Crest, North Wildwood). The heart of the area is Morey’s Piers, a family-owned boardwalk amusement area with more than 100 rides and attractions, water parks, restaurants and more. While some Jersey Shore boardwalks have a seedy element, that’s not the case here. Besides swimming, the sprawling beach hosts concerts, the world’s largest kite festival and an annual vintage car race. The area’s Doo-Wop architecture and mid-century Modern motels feels like 1950’s Miami Beach. You can easily find an affordable room at places like the nautical-chic Port Royal or the retro Starlux Boutique Hotel, which has its own mini-golf course. If you like seafood, Wildwood is your spot. On the boardwalk, the open-air Joe’s Fish Co. serves crab cakes and a lobster bake with an amusement-park view. And don’t miss the legendary Curley’s Fries and the frozen custard from Kohr Brothers, a boardwalk classic since 1919.

Biking through The Palm Beaches.

Photo courtesy of The Palm Beaches

Where: The Palm Beaches, Florida

Chosen By: Jennifer Agress is a Miami-based food and travel writer who has called South Florida home for 32 years. She is City Editor of DiningOut Miami, and a regular contributor to Thrillist, Orbitz, Travelocity, INDULGE, Time Out, Modern Luxury Weddings, Gio Journal, Jezebel, The Culture Trip, Recommend, Haute Living, Preferred Travel, Canadian Traveller, Private Air Luxury Homes Magazine and more. When she’s not writing about what’s on her plate, she’s likely jetting off on her next adventure — follow her on Instagram at @jenniferagress to see where she lands.

Why: Spread across 47 miles of golden beaches along South Florida’s east coast, The Palm Beaches is a true Florida gem. Made up of 39 towns and cities, from posh Boca Raton to quiet Jupiter, “America’s First Resort Destination” is the perfect place for travelers of all ages to have some fun in the sun. Spend your days and nights boating on the Atlantic Ocean, snorkeling through 150+ artificial reefs, visiting world-renowned art museums, golfing on one of 160 courses, kayaking or paddle boarding on the Intracoastal, exploring dazzling Worth Avenue and more. For a local treat, do a three-course progressive dinner in Delray Beach with Craft Food Tours (it’s just $79 per person), or get the celebrity scoop behind Worth Avenue when you take a $10 walking tour with historian Rick Rose. While temperatures might be hotter in the summer, that’s when budget travelers will get to experience the best of The Palm Beaches on the cheap. With rooms as low as $115 per night and hotels offering free-night stays on bookings of two nights or more, do as the stars do and stay at one of its iconic luxury resorts — like The Breakers, The Brazilian Court Hotel and The Colony Hotel — and see why everyone who’s anyone is talking about The Palm Beaches.

Bethany Beach boardwalk at sunrise.

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Where: Bethany Beach, Delaware

Chosen By: Keryn Means is the founder of WalkingOnTravels.com, a resource for all things travel, food, culture, adventure and family. Follow her on Instagram @walkingontravels.

Why: When Washingtonians can’t stand the swamp that is D.C. for another minute, they hit the beaches of Delaware. Many people have heard of Rehoboth, which is one of the largest and most developed of the southern Delaware beaches, but a bit farther down is quieter Bethany Beach. The Bethany Beach Ocean Suites Residence Inn dominates the waterfront but doesn’t block the view of the surrounding vacation rental homes. It also offers a fabulous complimentary buffet breakfast with every room, which can save families a bundle on meals, especially those with teenagers who can eat their body weight in waffles. The proximity to great seafood and that small-town beach life we all crave after a hectic year working in the city make it worth the drive out to this part of the state. Cheap fun comes in the form of the Baldcypress trees at Trap Pond State Park, just 45 minutes outside of town. Bring your kayaks to paddle back into the cypress groves, or hike along the lake to see a few trees along the shore. And of course, you can’t get much freer than playing in the sand at the beach. Pack up your beach chairs, kites and sand toys, for a few days of sun worship and R&R.

The quiet beauty of Finland.

Photo courtesy of Visit Finland

Where: Finland

Chosen By: Katie Jackson is a travel writer from Montana whose work has been published by TODAY.com, The New York Post, USA TODAY, Fox News and The Sunday Times. She likes to say she’s cash poor but so experience rich she doesn’t even notice it. Her favorite places are Northern Thailand and Tenerife where she tries to spend a few months each year cycling, writing and asking people if she can pet their dogs. Follow her misadventures on Instagram.

Why: The Scandinavian countries are notoriously expensive. If you’re going to visit one this summer and money is a concern, opt for Finland. It’s the cheapest Nordic country. On PriceofTravel.com’s 2019 Backpacker Index of cheapest cities to visit in the world, Helsinki is 117th, Stockholm is 125th, Oslo is 128thand Copenhagen is 129th. Another great reason to visit Finland? It’s the happiest country in the world. For two years in a row, this country nicknamed the “Land of the Thousand Lakes” has been deemed to be the world’s happiest, according to the United Nations. There are more than 40 national parks to visit as well as cathedrals, castles and even Santa Claus Village, located right on the Arctic Circle. To save money on food, eat blinis – basically a Russian crepe – or look for kebab shops. When it comes to accommodations, it’s actually not that hard to find rooms for under $120 a night. A double room with a shared bath at CheapSleep Helsinki starts around $49 per night (and it includes breakfast). A private room with two twin beds and a city view at Holiday Inn Helsinki City Centre starts around $111 per night.

A castle in Scotland.

PHOTO COURTESY OF PATRICIA STONE/@GLOBAL_ADVENTURESS INSTAGRAM

Where: Scotland

Chosen By: Patricia Stone founded Global Adventuress. She has traveled to 170 countries and shares her handpicked favorites for unique destinations for solo, girlfriends, couples and family travel. Her award-winning site has been featured in Forbes, the LA Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Toronto Star and USA Today. Follow her on Instagram @global_adventuress.

Why: The U.K.’s northernmost country, Scotland is brimming with natural beauty (lochs, glens, mountain wildernesses) and things to discover (golf courses, vibrant cities, castles, whiskey distilleries, national parks and walking trails). We rented a car and spent two weeks exploring and found there’s plenty to do for free or minimal costs. Highlights included: hiking trails from Glencoe to Isle of SkyeVisiting castles for free or a nominal fee. Spending a day at the Balmedie Beach. A whiskey distillery tour at Glencoyne for as little as $15 for a wee tasting. Renting a bike at Outfit Moray and cycling the Moray Firth Coastal Trail. Strolling through old villages like Luss along Loch Lomond’s shores. Touring the Royal Yacht Britannia for only $20. Browsing art galleries in Edinburgh and Glasgow, as well as antique shops in Stockbridge. You can also hit the road with these ultimate road trips: Northeast 250 Route, which includes mountain passes, the Speyside Whiskey Trail, the rugged coastline, historic castles and picturesque seaside villages. Or drive the Northcoast 500, Scotland’s route 66, where you will see 500 miles of stunning coast in the Northern Highlands. In Stonehaven at The Bay Fish & Chips, locally sourced fish dishes start at around $5. Near Glencoe, stop at The Laroch for a delicious and affordable dinner. Where to stay? You can experience the Leslie family’s 12th-century Wardhill Castle at an affordable price. This is where the family’s daughter, Rose Leslie, and Kit Harington of Game of Thrones held their wedding celebration. It’s a grand castle set on 400 acres of woodlands with rates around $78 per night (based on a seven-night stay). Guests can even request a bagpiper’s welcome for an additional fee.

The waterfront in Stamford, Connecticut.

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Where: Stamford, Connecticut

Chosen By: Amanda Mactas is an editor at BELLA Magazine and freelance writer based in New York City. Her work has been featured in PureWow, Wine4Food and The Daily Meal, and she also runs a lifestyle blog, Manhattan with a Twist. You can follow her travels at @ManhattanTwist.

Why: A quick 50-minute train ride outside of New York City is the up and coming city of Stamford. Close to all of the beautiful nature that Connecticut is known for, mixed in with a faster-paced city mentality, this suburb is a great mix of both metropolis and country. Located in the prime downtown area, Hotel Zero Degrees offers boutique rooms starting at just $121, while other options like the Hilton Stamford Hotel and Crowne Plaza Stamford Hotel have rooms beginning at $103. Make sure to be there on a summer Thursday so you can partake in one of the annual Alive @ Five concerts, which only cost $20 and feature throwback performers like Shaggy, 98 Degrees, T-Pain and Travie McCoy. The burgeoning Harbor Point area is the ideal place to stroll along the waterfront, soak up the sun in one of their public parks, listen to live music, go for a run, or watch a movie in the park. Captain John’s Tiki Tours is a fun way to cruise the harbor, complete with tropical vibes, starting at just $55, or you can hop aboard on Tiki Tuesday for just $25. Make sure to stop by one of the best pizza places in the country, Colony Grill, for their hot oil pie, try a sandwich with some of Garden Catering‘s infamous potato cones and slurp down an over-the-top milkshake at Elm Street Diner. Round out your stay with some classic Spanish tapas at Barcelona Wine Bar, but know that you’ve only hit the tip of the iceberg on things to do in this small Connecticut city.

The pristine waters in Turks and Caicos.

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Where: Turks and Caicos

Chosen By: Tiffany Dowd is a global luxury hotel expert and luxury travel influencer known as “Luxe Tiffany” and founder of Luxe Social Media. Follow her at @LuxeTiffany on Instagram and Twitter.

Why: Turks and Caicos is known for having some of softest powdery white sand beaches in the Caribbean with crystal clear turquoise waters so warm it feels like a bath. Summer is the perfect time to enjoy this island for cheaper rates than high season, not to mention fewer crowds. Dine on cracked conch and rum punch with your toes in the sand at Da Conch Shack in Blue Hills, the perfect little beach bar, and have fun at the Thursday Night Fish Fry in the Bight for some traditional island food along with lively bands and local vendors. It’s a higher end resort, but The Palms Turks and Caicos is offering two nights free this summer through December 19The Sands Turks and Caicos is a good value for families.

Wild sunset over cactus field in Joshua Tree National Park.

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Where: Palm Springs, California

Chosen By: Keryn Means is the founder of WalkingOnTravels.com, a resource for all things travel, food, culture, adventure and family. Follow her on Instagram @walkingontravels.

Why: As the desert heats up, most Californians head to the coast, which brings hotel prices down in Palm Springs and fewer crowds in Joshua Tree. While we don’t recommend venturing into Joshua Tree National Park midday, early morning and sunset are prime times to take in these Dr. Seuss-like natural anomalies. The Palm Springs Hotel, just a few minutes from the main drag, is a peaceful spot to set up camp when you are on a girl’s getaway or sneaking off with your partner, as there are no kids allowed at this little hotel with a heated pool and Rat Pack-inspired art in the rooms. Those traveling with kids can save money at the Omni Rancho Las Palmas Resort and Spa, just 20 minutes outside of town. Waterslides, a splash zone and five restaurants make this the place to be when you are in the desert with kids, and yes mom, there is a bar for frozen drinks. You will also find deals at local restaurants, spas and rounds of golf, too. If you are looking for a little more adventure, take advantage of cooler temperatures throughout the day when you take the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway to the top of the cliffs of Chino Canyon. Temperatures can be 10-20 degrees color on top of the mountain.

Local women in Ethiopia.

PHOTO COURTESY OF PATRICIA STONE/@GLOBAL_ADVENTURESS INSTAGRAM

Where: Ethiopia

Chosen By: Patricia Stone founded Global Adventuress. She has traveled to 170 countries and shares her handpicked favorites for unique destinations for solo, girlfriends, couples and family travel. Her award-winning site has been featured in Forbes, the LA Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Toronto Star and USA Today. Follow her on Instagram @global_adventuress.

Why: Called the “cradle of mankind,” Ethiopia is rich in Christian and Islam history, with 30,000 churches and a Coptic-style calendar offering 13 months of sunshine. Even the Queen of Sheba lived here. And it’s one of the most affordable destinations in the world. Dramatic landscapes abound, from arid plains to chains of lakes in the Rift Valley (visible from space). There’s wildlife like the Gelada baboon and bird watching with 850 species. Visit Lalibela to see the rock-hewn churches that date to 1200 AD. Discover Axum, a 3,000-year-old city. Explore the Omo Valley and visit tribal ethnic groups who live as they have for thousands of years. Trek to the Roof of Africa in Northern Ethiopia and the Simien Mountains, one of the most spectacular ranges in Africa. See the moon-like landscape at the Denakil Depression, one of the lowest and hottest places on earth. Take a boat cruise to Lake Tana, the source of the mighty Blue Nile River. Marvel at the fairytale castles of Gonder. Haile Gebrselassie’s Hotel is part of an affordable hotel chain owned by Ethiopia’s Olympic gold runner. At Old Abyssinia Lodge in Lalibela, tukul-style rooms with stunning mountain views start at $59 per night. For less than $10, eat like the locals and order injera, a spongy-like sour pancake with a variety of vegetable and meat toppings. Grand Holidays Ethiopia Travel & Tours — named one of the best adventure companies on earth by National Geographic — can help customize an itinerary within your budget. 

Queensland’s natural appeal.

Photo courtesy of Mount Mulligan Lodge

Where: Queensland, Australia

Chosen By: Katie Jackson is a travel writer from Montana whose work has been published by TODAY.com, The New York Post, USA TODAY, Fox News and The Sunday Times. She likes to say she’s cash poor but so experience rich she doesn’t even notice it. Her favorite places are Northern Thailand and Tenerife where she tries to spend a few months each year cycling, writing and asking people if she can pet their dogs. Follow her misadventures on Instagram.

Why: Australia is not cheap, but if you have a bucket list, it’s a must. The territory of Queensland is where your dollar will go the furthest. According to Price of Travel’s 2019 Backpacker Index, Cairns is the cheapest city to visit in Australia. Budget-strapped travelers can easy get by on about $62 a day. That estimate includes a dorm bed in a decent hostel, three meals, two public transportation rides, one cultural attraction and three cheap beers. Cairns is one of the gateways to the Great Barrier Reef and accommodations range from $36 a night for a private double room at Calypso Inn Backpackers Resort to $132/night for a luxury room at the city’s newest five-star property, RILEY. Brisbane, another Great Barrier Reef gateway and the second cheapest city to visit in Australia, can cost as little as $72 a day. It’s a great launching point for visiting the world-class public beaches on the Gold Coast. If you want to splurge at the end of your trip, treat yourself to a stay at Queensland’s newest luxury resort, Mount Mulligan Lodge. If you can swing four nights, you’ll get the fifth for free. Mount Mulligan is an all-inclusive in the middle of the Outback, so there’s nowhere to spend money – just nature to enjoy. Another great reason to visit Queensland this summer? It’s winter in Australia so you can take advantage of shoulder season rates. (That’s not to say it’s cold though because the average temperature in Brisbane in August is around 72 degrees Fahrenheit.) A roundtrip ticket from LAX to Brisbane on Australia’s national airline, Qantas, starts around $827.

READ MORE:

• “This 21-Year-Old Woman Claims She’s The Youngest Person To Travel To Every Country”

• “Quit Your Job And Live In The Caribbean: 5 Cheapest Dream Islands”

• “35 Countries Where Americans Are Most Likely To Get Kidnapped”

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