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14 Cheap Vacation Destinations in 2024

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updated: June 18, 2024

Even if the account you use to save your disposable income isn’t terribly impressive, it’s still possible to book a cheap vacation. It just takes a little strategy.

Let’s take a look at some of the cheapest destinations to visit in 2024, while also weighing each location’s desirability. You can also check out our guide to the best travel credit cards, which can help lower the cost of your airfare and hotel stays. Here are 14 of the most  affordable international and domestic vacation destinations to consider. 

7 Affordable places to travel internationally  

Philippines

Exchange rate: $1 USD = 57.85 PHP

Many countries in Southeast Asia are inexpensive vacation destinations once you get there. But the Philippines is an extra-special archipelago that offers positively stunning land- and seascapes alongside some of the most hospitable and kind residents. From the “Chocolate Hills” in Bohol to the famously party-oriented Boracay, there are plenty of things to do that don’t require deep pockets. The Philippines even includes the island of Palawan—routinely voted the prettiest island in the world.

A U.S. dollar goes a long way in the Philippines. Expect to pay under $4 for a fast-food meal and less than $1.50 for a pint of domestic beer. You can also find many jaw-droppingly enormous Airbnbs for the same price as a low-end hotel in the U.S.

South Africa

Exchange rate: $1 USD = 18.07 ZAR

South Africa has long been one of the hottest destinations thanks to its wide offering of adventure activities (think cage diving with great white sharks, plenty of mountains to conquer, extreme ziplines, and more). But it’s also one of the top food and wine destinations—specifically Cape Town and nearby Stellenbosch (think Napa Valley).

South Africa’s also a bucket-list location for nature lovers. It offers many different safari opportunities—from guided jeep to balloon to even self-guided in your rental car (if you dare). The most recognized safari destination in South Africa is Kruger National Park It has more than 7,500 square miles of wilderness where you can spot the “Big Five” (African lions, rhinos, leopards, elephants, and African buffalo).

Thailand

Exchange rate: $1 USD = 36.32 THB

Back to Southeast Asia, Thailand is a massive tourist hotspot that’s Instagram-famous for its glitzy five-star properties all around southern beaches of Krabi, Phuket, and Koh Samui. As far as five-star resorts go, you can find some excellent deals. But if you’re on a tight budget, there are plenty of perfectly serviceable and unbelievably inexpensive  places to stay that are just footsteps away from some of the prettiest places on the planet.

For example, Chiang Mai in the north offers many solid accommodations for under $50 per night. Though farther inland, the region is filled with waterfalls, rice terraces, elephant sanctuaries, and more. It’s also the spot to go during the Loi Krathong festival (where thousands of people release floating lanterns into the sky). It’s Nov 14 to 16, in 2024.

Indonesia

Exchange rate: $1 USD = 16486.50 IDR

It’s not difficult to convince yourself that a trip to Indonesia is a good idea. Ancient temples in Ubud, stunning beaches and waterfalls in every direction, and plenty of five-star hotels for under $100 make this one of the best places to enjoy luxury on a budget.

The food is also quite cheap when compared to the U.S. For example, an inexpensive meal in Bali is often under $3, while a mid-range three-course meal hovers around $10, on average (expect prices to be higher if you’re eating at a popular resort restaurant).

All to say: Lodging and meals, normally two of the biggest expenses during your vacation, are extremely reasonable in Indonesia.

Yucatan, Mexico

Exchange rate: $1 USD = 16.49 MEX

Those who have been to the Yucatan before, especially recently, may not think of it as “super cheap.” That’s because many tourists tend to spend their time in Cancun’s “hotel zone,” which is essentially a town designed to quarantine tourists from local culture. Meander away from this area, and you’ll find incredible prices on some of the best food you’ve ever been privileged to ingest. Eating with the locals will stretch your money exponentially.

Venturing away from the beaches toward the Yucatan’s other features will help you to easily find cheap hotels and meals. For example, the pyramids and ruins of Chichen Itza (one of the New Seven Wonders of the World), is just a couple hours from Cancun Airport (CUN). You can get a nice room for under $40 per night  and a large meal for under $10. 

But don’t wander too far from tourism centers. The U.S. State Department’s Mexico Travel Advisory will alert you to known trouble zones, and Mexico has many.

Ecuador

Exchange rate: $1 USD = $1 USD

Ecuador has its share of UNESCO World Heritage sites, the most impressive being the Galapagos Islands (though a visit isn’t particularly budget-friendly). Mainland Ecuador has plenty to offer, and even houses a portion of the Amazon Rainforest. If you’ve got a thing for diverse wildlife, your mind will be blown with monkeys, jaguars, spectacled bears, pink river dolphins, and hundreds and hundreds more species.

Food and lodging in Ecuador is often very cheap, with a meal at an inexpensive restaurant costing around $3.50. It’s also not particularly difficult to find a five-star hotel for under $100,  though you’ll typically need to stick to cities like Quito or Cuenca.

Albania

Exchange rate: $1 USD = 92.15 ALL

Europe isn’t exactly known for its affordability, though there are a few countries that offer some steals, with Albania leading the charge. This may be in large part because its tourism infrastructure isn’t as developed as most other countries in Europe. For some, that may be a deterrent, but it’s a feature for others. If you like the idea of being the only tourist within shouting distance, Albania is for you.

Sitting along the Adriatic and Ionian Seas (which are connected to the Mediterranean Sea), its coastlines may trick you into thinking you’re in Southeast Asia. But Albania's quaint towns like Gjirokastër and Himara are closer to an Italian Riviera vibe. If you’re able to spend at least $70 per night for a hotel, you’ll have no trouble securing a lovely four-star stay just about anywhere.

7 Affordable places to travel in the US (and Puerto Rico)

Washington, DC

Washington, DC, is one of the best vacations you can have without spending a dime on activities. Most of the sights are free, such as the Library of Congress, Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, National Archive museum, and National Museum of Natural History. To see everything, you’ll likely need to pay for a bike or electric scooter rental, even if you’re staying for several days.

Las Vegas, Nevada

If betting isn’t your vice, Las Vegas can be your oyster. There are plenty of fun things to see and do in Vegas, all reasonably priced to draw gamblers into town. Most stunning are the hotel prices at well-known casinos such as Excalibur and Luxor, which routinely charge $25 or less per night (though you’ll also typically pay resort fees).

Even better, Las Vegas serves as a good base camp for exploring nearby wonders. It’s close enough to sites like Death Valley (one of the best places on earth for stargazing) and Grand Canyon West for a day trip.

Rapid City, South Dakota

Rapid City has loads to offer, but it remains less touristy in demeanor. From Badlands National Park to Mount Rushmore to Custer State Park, it’s got an excellent mix of natural and manmade wonders. You may also be surprised by how well its atmosphere caters to foodies.

If your travels are during the off-season (between October and May), you can find chain hotels for as little as $60 per night.

San Juan, Puerto Rico

As a reminder, you don’t need a passport to visit Puerto Rico. And while its accommodations aren’t cheap enough to write your mother about, its beauty and architecture make it one of those places you can enjoy without the need to shell out for activities. For example, it offers some of the only bioluminescent beaches in the world. Walking through Old San Juan is itself an event. San Juan is also known for its street food and it’s generally much cheaper than eating at a restaurant.

Whitefish, Montana

Whitefish is all things to all people. It’s an excellent hiking destination in the summer, a ski destination in the winter, and a fireworks show of flora in between. With Whitefish Lake State Park a stone’s throw away, and Glacier National Park less than 30 miles away, there are lots of things to do without spending a lot of money. The area is also excellent for camping, where you can pitch a tent for under $30.

New Orleans, Louisiana

New Orleans is a popular destination for its music, cuisine, litany of annual festivals, and intriguing architecture. Similar to other locations on this list, walkability is its key money-saving attribute. The French Quarter provides its own theme music, as the narrow streets are almost always drenched jazz notes.

New Orleans is another hotspot for street food, making it a cost-effective destination. Just note that you’ll save the most money on accommodation by staying in neighborhoods not named “French Quarter.”

Savannah, Georgia

Savannah is a portal to the 18th century, with cobblestones, stately moss-covered live oak trees, and English-inspired buildings and homes. It’s a great place to go if you’d like to escape the ubiquity of restaurant chains and try local diners, cafes, and other reasonably priced mom-and-pop establishments.

You won’t get much of a break when it comes to hotel accommodation. But the city is rife with Airbnbs and other vacation rental options that are relatively cheap (and more quaint than most hotels, anyway).

TIME Stamp: Vacations don’t need to be expensive 

There are a few ways to go about sharply decreasing the amount of money you spend on a vacation. You can choose a country in which you buy exponentially more for your dollar. You can eat like the locals (instead of a tourist). You can choose a destination with stunning scenery and simply explore as your primary activity.

Vacation is important to keep yourself from burnout. Don’t neglect it because you don’t think you can afford it.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

What is the most affordable travel insurance?

Tin Leg offers an “Economy” package that covers 100% of your trip cost and $20,000 in medical expenses. At just $138, it’s one of the cheapest options among the best travel insurance companies.

What is the most affordable cruise insurance?

AIG Travel Guard offers one of the best cruise travel insurance policies for those on a budget. You’ll pay $196 for 100% of your trip cost covered in trip cancellation and interruption. You’ll also get $15,000 in medical coverage.

What is the most affordable CFAR Travel Insurance?

Cancel-for-any-reason  (CFAR) coverage can be added to many different travel insurance policies, but it’s not always cheap. John Hancock’s Bronze plan costs $396 with CFAR travel insurance and $264 without. That’s an additional $132 to cover 75% of your trip cost if you decide to cancel.

Which countries are safe to travel to?

The U.S. State Department issues travel advice for travelers throughout the world, ranking countries from 1 (Exercise Normal Precautions) or 2 (Exercise Increased Caution) to 4 (Do Not Travel). Mexico, for example, is currently Level 3 (Reconsider Travel) because of crime. However, the different states within Mexico have better ratings—that’s why we recommend the Yucatan, which is rated 1. Before you book your ticket, check your prospective trip’s caution level(s) at the Learn About Your Destination site. And look at the color-coded map for quick overall information.

The information presented here is created independently from the TIME editorial staff. To learn more, see our About page.

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