Everyone likes to travel. But skipping town isn’t always cheap.
The good news: “The dollar is so strong right now that cheap destinations have gotten even cheaper, and expensive places are less expensive than usual,” says Tim Leffel, a travel writer and author of The World’s Cheapest Destinations. Finnaly —the coming year should be a great one for affordable foreign travel. At least there’s already one good thing about 2017.
But even if you’re staying close to home, there are some great domestic destinations where your money will go a long way, Leffel says.
Here are 10 places that should top your travel bucket list for 2017.
Some of the best values—and best times—are waiting for you in smaller American cities that aren’t obvious tourism draws, Leffel says. For the price of one night at a New York hotel, you could probably spend a weekend in the Motor City. Food and drink prices are low, the nightlife is vibrant and youthful, and gambling is legal. “Look beyond the obvious,” Leffel urges.
“Costa Rica without the crowds” is one of the cheapest beach destination in Central America, Leffel says. “Dollar beers and all that—just very reasonable.” San Juan del Sur is a great option for nightlife, surfing, and snorkeling. If you have more time, you could backpack from town to town for weeks and only drop a couple hundred bucks, he says.
PARK CITY, UTAH
If you haven’t skied the Wasatch Mountains, you don’t know what you’re missing. Assuming you don’t visit during the Sundance Film Festival, flights into nearby Salt Lake City tend to be dirt cheap, and Park City’s late-season rates are some of the best values in the country. Plan to visit the last week of March or early April, and some of the area’s top resorts—Deer Valley, Solitude, Park City—offer stay-and-ski packages up to 40 percent off.
“The best value in Western Europe,” Leffel says. “It’s sunny and warm all year, and the food and wine are cheap.” It’s also not as tourist-saturated as France, Italy, and the big Euro tourism mecca. Lisbon is gorgeous, but many of the smaller towns are stunning. (Google Image Porto or Aveiro.)
If medieval castles and churches are your thing—or you just want to see the birthplace of Dracula—Transylvania should top your list of destinations. Its rustic mountain towns and countryside are also great for hiking or cheap snow skiing, Leffel says. And the country’s Roma (gypsy) culture will open your eyes to new music, clothing, and crafts.
“The peso has been in the toilet for a while,” Leffel says. “So if you come down with dollars, and especially if you’re not staying in busy resort towns, you can really live like a king.” While every place in Mexico is cheap compared to the U.S., inland cities are the best values. Mexico City features a 13th Century Aztec temple—and all the cheap beer, tasty tequila, and mouth-watering local eats you could hope for.
All of Southeast Asia is a bargain, Leffel says. That’s been true for a while, but current exchange rates make this region an even better deal. Bangkok is an ultramodern city, but Thailand’s stunning beach towns—Ao Nang, Karon, Rawai—are the real draw.
“You never used to hear about people going to Nashville, but it’s a great inexpensive spot for a bachelor party or buddies weekend,” Leffel says. Like Bourbon Street in New Orleans, Nashville’s Lower Broadway is one long string of bars and restaurants—most of which feature live music. And like New Orleans, to-go cups are legal and allow you to take a drink from bar to bar.
Whistler’s skiing rivals anything you’d get in the Colorado Rockies. But with the Canadian dollar slumping compared to American greenbacks, you’ll get more runs and more nights for your cash by heading north of the border, Leffel says.
In all the ways that matter—food and drink prices, hotel accommodations, transportation—Bolivia is the cheapest country in South America, Leffel says. It also offers anything an adventurous traveler could want, from volcanoes and jungles to beaches and the Andes Mountains. You’re off the beaten path down here, so you need to keep your wits about you. But if you’re looking for an authentic experience, you can’t top it.