Take Your Dream Trip: 5 Surprisingly Affordable Destinations for 2013

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5 Luxury VacationsOne of the most common savings goals we hear from our readers is travel.

We tend to think that we need to save up thousands of dollars in order to justify taking those vacation days and heading out of town. But we might not need quite as much as we think.

Even with a tight budget, you can still score amazing travel memories at a great price–you simply have to choose the right place.

We combed the globe for memorable escapes that won’t require you to take out a second mortgage. They run about 20% to 70% cheaper than marquee destinations, with just as much to see, do and enjoy.

1. Lisbon, Portugal

Lisbon, Portugal

Lisbon is a sumptuous European capital–at a discount.

With the façades of many of its buildings decorated with azulejos–tiles painted in flowery, intricate blue designs–Lisbon rivals the beauty of many other European capitals, and you’ll pay about 20% less for lodging.

The local economy is still reeling from the country’s financial crisis, which means that hotels are offering deep discounts on rooms to lure foreign tourist dollars. Despite the austerity, the city feels sumptuous, with its well-restored colonial-era castle, Castelo de São Jorge; colonnaded plazas and countless art galleries and museums.

Best Bargain: Lisbon has a major sweet tooth and is well known for its pastries. The typical price of its signature custard tarts will only set you back 0.75 euro (about $1.10). You’ll pay a little extra for the version of the dessert called pasteis de Belém at the city’s famous Antiga Confeitaria de Belém.

2. Québec City

The Fairmont Le Château Frontenac hotel is a designated historic site in Quebec City.

This Canadian city offers stellar French cuisine and architecture for much less than Paris. The U.S. dollar is roughly equal to the Canadian dollar, so prices for our neighbor to the north are alluring when compared to the euro–the exchange rate of which puts a 30% premium on everything in France.

Inside Québec City’s centuries-old walls, you can check out glass-blowing factories, shops like La Petite Cabane à Sucre de Québec that sell maple syrup and the annual winter festival of Carnival, when towering ice sculptures and horse-drawn sleighs take over the city.

Best Bargain: Get a bird’s-eye view of the city by riding the finicular for just $2. The steep railroad line is open year-round, and shuttles visitors between the cliff-top portion of the city and its port town, known for having some of the oldest streets in North America.

3. Roatán, Honduras

Roatán, the biggest of Honduras’ Bay Islands, is a favorite scuba destination.

The word is getting out about the first-class diving, ecotourism and zip-lining adventures available for discount prices in Roatán, a Bay Island off the coast of Honduras.

In November 2012, American Airlines began direct flights from Miami, and many other carriers have been increasing flights to its pink-and-white sand beaches via connections in the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa. Once in Roatán, expect to pay approximately half the price of lodging on a higher-profile Caribbean island.

Best Bargain: A scuba dive in the local bay waters–through a tropical hallucination of colorful fish in the world’s second-largest barrier reef–typically costs a mere $40, roughly half the cost of an underwater plunge in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Image Credit: Flickr.com/hankplank

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  • Mel

    This is such a timely article. I thought I would have to save 2k to travel well for the first time in my adult life, but I realized that there are a ton of options out there, and that I could probably budget for 50% less and still have a load of fun.

    That being said, the single supplement fee is a killer :(
    There are a few companies that specialize in solo travel but I don’t know what a ‘good price’ is because I’ve never traveled by myself before. I’m interested in going almost anywhere. Any advice?

    Also has anyone ever taken one of those Groupon All Inclusive trips offered? Were they any good?

    Thanks!

    • Lourdes Garcia-Calderon

      Not sure where you are but out of NY there is a company Dynamic Outdoors http://www.dynamicoutdoors.com/ that does trip all over and they don’t charge a single supplement because they will match you up with a roommate. We went to Egypt with them a few years ago and the value was excellent. They do other domestic trips too.

  • Wsweenie

    Belize should be on this list

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/YZHIGWDACRPZZTXR5L7CW4HMRI Anne

    If you are interested in visiting Roatan, National Geographic just launched a terrific site with an inter-active map highlighting points of interest and unique local businesses: http://www.gobluecentralamerica.org. All of the businesses highlighted adhere to globally recognized
    criteria for sustainable tourism. I highly recommend it!

  • LiMarie

    We were just in Riviera Nayarit and loved it! Bucerias is smaller with more peaceful waves and just a bit away is Sayulita with some of the best seafood.  Highly recommend heading there!

  • KatyD

    One note on Albuquerque: if you want to attend the Balloon Fiesta – which is a very cool event – you need to book your hotel room several months in advance, and be prepared to pay for it. Rates are lower than in many other cities, but you may still find yourself paying more for rooms than they are really worth. Virtually every hotel room in town can and does book up completely for that week! The first year my husband and I went–admittedly on a spur-of-the-moment road trip–there was not a room to be had and we wound up staying at a Motel 6 in Gallup NM almost 2 hours away (an experience that I would not wish on my worst enemy for reasons too numerous to go into here!) Make your hotel reservations well in advance, or perhaps check out airbnb or Craigslist for private rooms to rent.

    Oh and if you love barbecue, you must make a trip to Rudy’s for lunch or dinner – best barbecue on the planet IMO!