It was once common knowledge that a trip close to home was always cheaper than travelling far away. But as the world becomes more interconnected, the price tag of a vacation abroad now, that was always on your bucket list, might surprise you — in a good way. You only have to know when to look.
If you’re looking to jet outside for your bucket list vacation, we compiled a list of international destinations that won’t break the bank. If you know the perfect times to book, a trip to Vietnam might actually fit well within your budget this year.
With the help of analysts from Kayak, we’ve determined when your money will go the furthest on airfare and hotel stays around the globe. Typically, if you’re looking to save money, you’ll want to plan your trip around a destination’s off-season. Although it may seem like you won’t get the full experience, in many cases, the exact opposite is true. You could end up having a more authentic travel experience when you aren’t jostling your way through overcrowded tourist sites.
Whether you’re dreaming of a vacation as far away as Australia or Toronto, the actual cost of a well-thought-out itinerary could surprise you.
Add these affordable destinations to your bucket list
Often mistaken for the Canadian capital, Toronto is sometimes known as “Hollywood North” for its slew of celebrity residents. If you’re looking for food, head to Little Italy, one of several Chinatowns, or Little Portugal for a gastronomic jaunt around the world. Catch a hockey game, sample some craft beers, and take a trip to the CN Tower to see Canada from above.
The cheapest month to visit Toronto is August, according to Kayak. Hotels are cheapest in January when you can expect to pay around $140 (Rs 10,388) per night for a three-star hotel. Toronto is most expensive in May when the average hotel rate is $254 (Rs 18,848) per night.
The region of Alsace is a cult favourite among French travellers. It doesn’t attract nearly as many visitors as Paris or the Cote d’Azur — which makes it a favourite among countrymen. The French once voted Kaysersberg (located in the region) as their favourite local village. Kaysersberg exemplifies many of the characteristics that have endeared Alsace to French travellers. It’s got architecture that dates back to the 13th century, world-renowned wine caves, and hearty Alsatian cuisine.
Fly to Strasbourg in March for the best price. Hotels are also cheapest in March, when one night at a three-star should only set you back $94 (Rs 6,975), according to Kayak.
Another bucket list vacation destination, Armenia has undergone a resurgence over the past few years, thanks to a more liberal government. The country has one of the fastest-growing economies in the post-Soviet Union, creating a growing luxury scene in Yerevan, the capital. There’s theatre, shopping, and history museums packed with treasures. But no trip to Armenia is complete without stepping into the gorgeous and rugged countryside. Khor Virap is a monastery that dates back more than 2,500 years. The mountainside views and the ancient architecture make for a breathtaking combo. Make a stop at Garni Gorge, a Roman temple located on top of a perilous gorge.
Winter is the low season, with deals available from January through March. You can expect to find a steal for hotels, with the average costing only $77 (Rs 5,713) per night, according to Kayak.
The capital of Queensland on Australia’s east coast is very quickly cementing itself as Australia’s capital of design. Drop by the Queensland Art Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art, (QAGOMA) or the Institute of Modern Art (IMA) to get a sense of Asian-Pacific art. Go shopping in the Fortitude Valley district, where you’ll be able to pick up pieces from local (and international) designers. And, of course, because it’s Australia, it’s easy to get in touch with the local wildlife. Visit the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, just about 20 minutes from the city, to hang out with more than 130 of the emblematic critters.
The cheapest month to book a flight to Brisbane is May, according to Kayak. The median hotel price in the city is $147 (Rs 10,908). If you wait until May, nightly prices go down to only $82 (INR 6,084) a night.
It’s been 600 years since the discovery of Madeira. And the Portuguese archipelago is still astounding visitors with its natural beauty. Trek along miles of rugged coast to see the Atlantic at its most paradisiacal. The capital of Funchal is quickly becoming home to a number of new hotels, offering glamour, glitz and a good, stiff cocktail. Speaking of drinks — be sure to check out the famous 18th-century fortified wine named after the island where it was made.
According to Kayak, a hotel will likely set you back $101 (INR 7,494) per night.
If you’re looking for a cheaper Mediterranean bucket list vacation destination, hop to the south side and try out Tunisia. The country boasts history (with a Roman coliseum some believe is even better than Rome’s); miles of beautiful, sandy beaches; and bazaars with carpets, ceramics, and metalwork. The best part is that exploring Tunisia won’t break the bank.
Budapest gets the majority of Hungary’s visitors for good reason. But if you want to delve deeper into Hungarian culture, drive 18 miles west of the capital to Etyek, often called the “vineyards of Budapest.” This area has been producing grapes since the 18th century and has been likened to Champagne for its excellence of crisp wines like Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. The town is also a pilgrimage for film buffs, with huge movies and shows shooting there. “Blade Runner 2049,” “The Martian,” and “The Borgias” were all set up in the town.
Etyek is about a half-hour’s drive outside of Budapest. Come October, the average hotel will only cost about $69 (Rs 5,120) per night, according to Kayak.
The Grenadines were the last of the British colonies in the Caribbean to gain their independence (only in 1979). It could be why the islands have lagged behind other big players in drawing tourists. But that doesn’t mean they’re any less gorgeous. In fact, you’ll be grateful for the lack of crowds when you’re greeted with empty beaches and clear hikes up the sides of dormant volcanoes. And with a smattering of new hotels opening, now is the time to visit the Grenadines. A new airport with direct flights to and from New York City opened on the island of St. Vincent in 2019 and it’s only a matter of time until everyone else finds out about it.
Visit the Grenadines in March or August, just either side of its busy winter tourism season. The average hotel will set you back $122 (Rs 9,053) per night.
Panama City, Panama
Panama may have become known for passing through it (cheers, Panama Canal), but now visitors have more reason than ever to stay in the capital city. Meander through the old colonial quarter where Spanish-style houses line cobblestone streets. Eat your way through Panamanian cuisine, including fine dining at Laborotorio Madrigal, helmed by Michelin-starred chef Andres Madrigal. And then top it all off with a tour of the city’s growing cocktail scene. The rainforest is easily accessible from Panama City if you’re looking for a true jungle trek after time in the urban jungle.
Visit Panama City in the low season from September through November to take advantage of the best deals. A hotel is likely to cost around $128 (Rs 9,498) per night. In July, average nightly hotel prices drop as low as $74 (INR 5,491).
Guatemala is consistently ranked a Travel + Leisure reader favourite for its combination of natural beauty and historic wonders. Upon arrival, you’ll be able to wander through ancient Mayan ruins, hike the mountains and jungles, or explore the UNESCO World Heritage Site colonial streets in Antigua. Guatemala also boasts a thriving art scene, perfectly preserved Spanish architecture, and unique cuisine like chuchitos (Guatemala-style tamales).
Book a trip for August when it will be the cheapest to travel to Guatemala City. The average hotel will only set you back $102 (Rs 7,569) per night.
Hoi An, Vietnam
Hoi An is one of those charming types of towns that you didn’t think could possibly exist anymore. The “ancient town” has buildings that date back to the 15th century, with pagodas, shrines, and tea houses dotting practically every street. Be sure to chat with the extremely friendly locals for their genuine recommendations on where to get the best banh mi and silk clothing while you’re in town.
A three-star hotel will only cost around $72 (Rs 5,342) per night.
This story first appeared on Travel + Leisure India.