4. Albuquerque, New Mexico
Hiking high in the hills is a cost-effective (and heart-healthy) getaway, but many of America’s most famous parks are located in hard-to-reach spots. The solution: Head to Albuquerque, a town in central New Mexico whose well-connected airport is a mere half-hour away from scenic parkland.
Trails cross vistas of red rock and aspen forest, Native American pueblo homes and fascinating desert plant life. Get the lay of the land by riding the Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway, which breezes visitors between the town’s northwestern corner and the top of the Sandia Mountains, lifting you 6,000 feet above the city skyline. Another don’t miss: the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, which is host to hundreds of hot air balloons each autumn.
Best Bargain: Artsy hotels in Albuquerque, such as the Andaluz and Hotel Parq Central, charge rates that are usually one-fourth less than the price of comparably stylish properties in major U.S. cities–delivering a touch of glamour at a discount.
Image Credit: Flickr.com/hanroanu
5. Riviera Nayarit, Mexico
Our southern neighbor has always been a relative bargain, but the U.S. dollar’s exchange rate against the Mexican peso has become especially favorable over time, improving by about 30% over the past decade.
Your money should go far in Cancún, with its colorful beach resorts, as well as in Oaxaca, the gastronomic heart of the country. But you may find the best bang for your buck in lesser-known Riviera Nayarit, a Pacific resort area that’s north of Puerto Vallarta and a four-hour flight from Chicago. The 180-mile coastline has undergone a building boom in the past two decades, but its American visitor numbers are still down from 2007 highs, prompting locals to dish out discounts to woo visitors to their beachside resorts and whale-spotting boat tours.
Best Bargain: All-inclusive offers deliver the most value here. You can get condo-style lodging, all meals, local transport and flights for a single price from reputable travel agencies like Apple Vacations. Now get packing!
Image Credit: Flickr.com/GrandVelasResort