Sure, we’d love to book round-trip flights to Paris and Rome, or jet-set halfway across the globe to Beijing and Tokyo. But we’re not exactly a millionaire, so we’re always looking for ways to satisfy our insatiable wanderlust (and ever-growing bucket list) on a dime. According to the travel experts at CheapAir.com, it can definitely be done. Here, ten of the most budget-friendly destinations for 2018. And they’re not shabby at all.
Move over, Croatia. Central Europe’s most budget-friendly destination is still its best-kept secret. Bordering the Adriatic Sea across from Italy’s boot heel, Montenegro—with its rugged mountains and coastal churches—lacks the crowds and cost of its popular Game of Thrones and Star Wars filming-location neighbor but comes with similarly gorgeous scenery (aka a win-win) and affordable konoba, the locally owned restaurants serving up delicious kebabs and stuffed cabbage leaves.
According to CheapAir.com, flights for Madrid and Barcelona in early 2018 are trending cheaper than they were last year at the same time. The hotels are also pretty reasonable throughout the country. Plus, ya know, it’s Spain—it’s basically all-you-can-eat-and-see tapas and Gaudi. So it’s time to brush up on your Spanish (and Catalan).
San Francisco, California
We know, kind of a shocker. But the Golden City has tons of free attractions and public spaces (think: Golden Gate Park, Lombard Street and Chinatown) and is especially great for families traveling on a budget. Plus, there are many affordable flights from most U.S. hubs, easy-to-use public transportation and plenty of bargain hotels.
If you’ve been dreaming of Thailand since your college roommate raved about the heavenly bowl of tom yum goong she ate while studying abroad in Bangkok, then 2018 might be your year to go. With its inexpensive (and delicious) cuisine, accommodations and transportation, Thailand is still one of the best bang-for-your-buck destinations. Plus, its diverse landscape—from relaxed beaches and dramatic karst islands to bustling metropolises and quaint villages—means you get to experience so much in one place.
Las Vegas, Nevada
Save your money for the Blackjack table. Most major airlines have affordable flights to Sin City year-round, so getting here won’t cost you those slot-machine nickels you’ve been saving up. Plus, some of the top tourist attractions in Vegas are completely free (the Bellagio fountains, the free shows in major casinos each day and the Las Vegas Strip). But maybe Lady Gaga’s new residency is worth the splurge?
Still one of the cheapest international vacations of all time, the spectacular country offers world-class food, inexpensive airfares and budget-friendly hotels. From the beaches of Goa and the majesty of Rajasthan to the bustling streets of Mumbai and, of course, the white marble magnificence of the Taj Mahal, the possibilities are endless. Since the country is enormous and diverse, start by picking one or two close regions to plan around.
This sparsely populated southwest African country has enjoyed stability and safety since gaining independence almost 30 years ago. Due to its relatively low tourism numbers, however, Namibia offers much better prices for safaris (we recommend the flying ones to see the vast deserts, 1,000-feet-tall sand dunes, wilderness parks and rugged coastline in one fell swoop) than many other African countries, which can reach upwards of $1,000 per person.
Our nation’s capital definitely boasts some expensive real estate, but its many free attractions, including all the national monuments, National Portrait Gallery, the Smithsonian Museum and Zoo (which you could honestly get lost in for centuries) and easy-to-use public transportation make it one of the best budget- and family-friendly destinations in the country. And while things might get busier during early spring, witnessing the cherry blossom blooms brings a much-needed serenity amid a heated political backdrop.
According to CheapAir.com, low current exchange rates for New Zealand make the land of the Kiwis even more appealing for U.S. travelers than ever before. Plus, who needs to spend money when they’re in Middle Earth? The stunning natural beauty of the landscape means lots of (free) hiking and sightseeing, while many alternative accommodations (like farm stays) can help keep trip costs low.
The Central American country has been gaining travel buzz in recent years for its beautiful colonial architecture in the capital of Managua, its peaceful political clime (it's one of the region’s safer nations for travel based on the Global Peace Index) and its eco-tourism and sustainable policies. But that doesn’t mean it’s not still affordable, with airlines offering cheap airfare from many major U.S. hubs. From beaches to volcanoes to lakes, there’s something for everyone on the Emerald Coast.