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All Contents © 2020The Kiplinger Washington Editors
By Amanda Gokee
| June 7, 2017
Travel lovers can agree that it just takes one glance at Instagram to feel inspired by beautiful photos of destinations featured in your feed. Yet, just as common is some apprehension about how much these luxurious destinations must cost. White sandy beaches and cabanas on the beach look great, but can you actually go on this kind of trip without breaking the bank?
While these places may seem inaccessible at first glance, the truth is, there are often ways to make even the most coveted destinations work on a smaller budget. Here is a slide show of some hot destinations, with tips on how to travel there on the cheap.
A common wedding and honeymoon destination, Hawaii's beautiful beaches and lush jungles don't have to be inaccessible to budget travelers. First, you'll want to plan your airfare strategically to keep costs down. Alaska Airlines is one carrier to watch for sales on flights from California to Hawaii. Also check with Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, and United Airlines, the main carriers flying into Hawaii, according to Skyscanner. Discount airlines like Virgin America also offer flights to Hawaii.
To get low rates, avoid planning a trip during high-traffic travel times such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, and mid-July to late August. According to USA Today, the cheapest times to visit Hawaii are April (just after Easter) to mid-June, and September to mid-December.
Once you get to Hawaii, there are plenty of budget accommodations that have as much character as the luxury resorts your favorite Instagram personality has been posting about, at a fraction of the price. Instead of all-inclusive extravagance, check out low-key guesthouses or listings on Airbnb for budget-friendly options from $50 a night.
Hawaii's public beaches and many of its hiking trails are free, so choose your activities with this in mind.
In the middle of the Indian Ocean, the Maldives are a group of ring-shaped coral islands, known for their extensive reefs and white sand beaches. The combination is all quite dreamy, with the exception of the big price tag that so many people associate with this destination.
However, there are ways to travel to the Maldives on a budget. The trick is to stay away from expensive resorts that charge hundreds of dollars a night.
You may not have the overwater bungalow that you saw posted on your favorite Instagrammer's profile, but there's more to the Maldives than glass-bottom bungalows. While there are no hostels on the islands, thanks to a change to tourism laws a few years ago, residents are now allowed to open their own guesthouses. This has created a slew of budget-friendly accommodation options. By staying in these types of places, you'll also help put some of your travel dollars into the pockets of local people, rather than luxury resorts owned by foreign hotel chains.
Private rooms in guesthouses begin at $40, which you can book through Airbnb. Guest Houses in Maldives is another website that lets you book accommodations, which, although called guesthouses, are actually more like affordable hotels. Both of these types of accommodations usually include meals in their nightly price.
Your flight to the Maldives is the other big expense. One way to cut the cost is to fly first to an Asian hub, and then catch a discount flight from there to the Maldives. You can find good rates from Malaysia on AirAsia. Other good Asian departure points include Colombo, Sri Lanka; Bangkok; and Singapore.
Another option is to fly on Emirates Airline from North America, which could be a good way to plan a layover in Dubai.
Once you've arrived, you can do some cheap island hopping by using the public ferry system, which costs as little as $2 per person. That can save you hundreds of dollars you'd otherwise spend on domestic flights or expensive speed boat rides to connect to different islands.
Depending on where you are traveling from, airfare to New Zealand can be pricey. You can trim costs by traveling in the spring and fall, when rates are cheaper than summer. Keep in mind that seasons in New Zealand are the opposite of the northern hemisphere. Check out carriers such as Hawaiian Airlines, Qantas, and Emirates Airline for sales on fares from the U.S. The most common (and often, the cheapest) departures leave from Los Angeles or San Francisco. If you are traveling from somewhere else in the United States, you may want to book a flight to one of these West Coast cities separately on Southwest Airlines or another discount carrier to save on the total flight costs.
Once you arrive, camping is the best way to travel for cheap while enjoying the stunning scenery of the land where Lord of the Rings was filmed. New Zealand is full of beautiful and affordable camp sites. A tent can usually be pitched for as little as $14 a night for two people. Or, you can stay in one of the more than 950 huts located along the country's backpacking trails. Basic huts cost a few dollars per person, per night. Those along the well-trod Great Walks trails are $22 a night and must be booked in advance.
Camper vans, also known as caravans, are also a popular way to see the country. Including insurance and taxes, you can expect to pay around $70 per day for a basic van that sleeps two, or $84 a day for a van with a toilet and shower. The latter may end up being more affordable, since it will allow you to stay in free camping areas that don't have bathroom facilities. Otherwise, you must stay in more expensive campsites that average about $25 per night for two people. Most camper vans come with some sort of kitchen setup, which can help you save money on meals.
With the strong U.S. dollar and lower airfares, 2017 is shaping up to be a great time to make your Italian travel dreams a reality. Round-trip airfares to Rome are down between 20 and 35 percent for travel between now and September, according to The New York Times. Competition among low-cost European carriers is driving those prices down.
For accommodations, Airbnb is a good way to find a place to stay for less. But as hotels try to compete with short-term rentals, they're dropping prices, too, according to Italy travel expert Erica Firpo, as quoted on Forbes.com.
You can visit lots of sights like the Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon for free, and walking the streets often feels like perusing an open air museum. You can also book affordable "Grape Escape" tours in the Tuscany wine region with Italy On a Budget. Swirl, sniff, and sip your favorite Italian vintages while enjoying the rolling hills of the romantic Tuscan countryside.
New York is a notoriously expensive destination, but there's no reason you can't visit the Big Apple on the cheap. Since the city is an international hub, you can often find promotions on cheap airfare into one of the three area airports (LaGuardia, Newark, and JFK).
Once you arrive, check out accommodations in Brooklyn or one of the city's other outer boroughs, as opposed to more expensive hotels in Manhattan. Jersey City and Hoboken also offer more affordable accommodations and are one or two train stops from downtown or midtown Manhattan.
Pick out just a few museums at the top of your list to visit, since they can add up fast (entrance to the Whitney is $22, for example), and mix in some free sightseeing, such as walking through Times Square, Central Park, or along the High Line park in Chelsea. Brooklyn Bridge and Brooklyn Bridge Park are other must-see, free activities.
For theater, follow the time-honored tradition of lining up at one of the TKTS Discount Booths for same-day tickets that are up to 50 percent off. For those not married to the idea of watching a top Broadway hit, you can get great deals on excellent off-Broadway and funkier off-off-Broadway performances.