We all have that bucket list destination that we dream of one day visiting. Whether it’s to celebrate a special occasion or it’s just a beautiful place you’ve always fantasized about visiting, it might be out of reach due its significant cost. From airfare to average lodging costs, to entertainment and dining expenses, some destinations just simply aren’t very affordable for many. But that doesn’t mean you can’t experience comparable destinations that are just as amazing (if not more so) and for a fraction of the cost. In this blog post, we list some popular (yet expensive) travel destinations, in addition to cheaper, yet beautiful alternative options:
Cheaper alternative: Hawaii, U.S.A.
If you’re looking for a romantic and beachy destination, you might have your heart set on the Maldives. It’s not exactly the most cost-effective travel option, however. Located in the middle of the Indian Ocean, the island chain is quite a far trek from the United States. Requiring long connecting flights, in addition to seaplane flights to the resorts, it certainly costs a pretty penny just to get there. But even after paying for airfare, there are the significant costs of the lodging to budget for. With the Maldives offering almost nothing but luxury resorts (with the exception of the mainland, which doesn’t really offer that dreamy island paradise you’re thinking of anyway when you think of the Maldives), you can expect to usually spend at least a thousand—per night. This cost goes up if you want to upgrade and stay in one of the overwater bungalows.
Hawaii might not be as extravagant as the Maldives, but it’s certainly nothing to sneeze at, either. In fact, Hawaii can arguably offer a much more exciting vacation with its wide array of activities and beautiful scenery. The best part is that it’s only a fraction of the cost, and there are direct flights offered to Hawaii all throughout the United States. The flight is not only faster and much cheaper, but unlike the Maldives, there are plenty of budget accommodations throughout the Hawaiian Islands if you’re looking to cut back on costs.
Bora Bora, French Polynesia
Cheaper alternative: Phi Phi Islands, Thailand
With its azure waters and overwater bungalows, Bora Bora is another bucket list destination that is often compared to (and sometimes mixed up with) the Maldives. Flights to Bora Bora are a bit more accessible from the United States, but are usually very expensive, and this only includes flights to the main island, Tahiti. Once you’re in Tahiti, you’ll need to book another flight to Bora Bora, which adds another few hundred dollars to your trip (per person) and there is no avoiding this. Accommodations in Bora Bora can also range from a thousand dollars a night and up, with the cost of food, entertainment, and activities also being sky-high.
If you’re looking to an escape to a faraway and exotic destination, but for a fraction of the cost, skip the South Pacific and head to the Andaman Sea—to Thailand’s Phi Phi Islands, to be more specific. Flying to Asia will usually be the biggest cost of your trip, although if you have enough airline miles, you can easily score a discounted or free ticket; Asia frequently has a lot of availability when it comes to mileage redemption. Once you’re there, however, everything is very low-cost. From upscale lodging to delectable dining, you can spend several weeks in Thailand and the cost would probably equate to a day in Bora Bora.
Cheaper alternative: New Orleans, Louisiana
Paris is not only one of the costliest cities in Europe, but can also be one of the most expensive in the world. Doing Paris on a budget is certainly possible, but if you’re looking for a quicker, cheaper alternative, consider New Orleans. The city of New Orleans has its very own French Quarter, which offers some of the quaint charm that you’ll find in Paris. Because you won’t need to spend nearly as much money in airfare (or potentially avoid flying altogether, if you live close enough), you may even able to splurge and opt for luxury accommodations. This is also a great alternative to consider if you just want to visit a new, fun city, but don’t have a passport.
New York City, New York
Cheaper alternative: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
For travelers and residents alike, New York City is one of the costliest cities in the United States. It’s not easy to find budget accommodations in the middle of Manhattan, unless you’re content with closet-sized spaces that share bathrooms with other guests. Even then, you’re still possibly looking at a few hundred a night. Philadelphia is a much cheaper alternative that offers some of the same city experiences you’ll get in the Big Apple—in fact, it’s almost like a downsized version of NYC. Because it’s smaller and a bit more on the mellow side, you’ll feel less rushed and probably get to see more, too. And since New York City is a just a couple hours away, it makes an easy and cheap day trip from Philly—you can easily score a round-trip bus ticket for $20 or less.
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Nothing above is meant to provide financial, tax, or legal advice. You should meet with appropriate professionals for such services.