Ready, Set, Save: 20 Affordable Trips to Take in 2020
The start of a new year means we're more than ready for some fresh adventures. To maximize our 2020 travels, affordability will be key, and luckily there are plenty of places to visit and activities to enjoy without having to dig too deep into our wallets. Visiting a more under the radar locale with similar qualities to their pricier counterparts is a solid way to save some bucks without sacrificing on your travel experience. And sometimes a splurge on airfare can land you in a culturally rich destination where you can eat, explore, and sleep like a king or queen, making it totally worth transportation hogging the majority of your trip's budget.
Whether choosing to stay closer to home while considering adventures you hadn't thought of before or opting to cut corners in one area to enhance the overall trip, your hard-earned money will be well spent on incredible travel memories. No matter what, there's a trip for every budget. Here are 20 affordable trip ideas for your 2020 bucket list.
. . . the country. Visiting an emerging destination is a great way to save some serious cash, and this small country nestled at the junction of Europe and Asia has a whole lot to offer. Get your historic city fix in the capital of Tbilisi, where you can stroll the old city riddled with ancient buildings and visit the famous sulfur baths. Roam the Caucasus Mountains in search of old monasteries and stretch your legs on epic hiking trails. At the end of the day, there will be wine to reminisce on your adventures.
Traveling in Georgia is relatively inexpensive, with good food for cheap, and guesthouse lodging options that are more modest in pricing than most of the nearby Balkan countries. Tip: if you have the option to add a meal while staying at a local guesthouse, do it. You'll get homemade, regional food, and plenty of it!
For U.S. travelers looking to explore a city in their own backyard, consider Louisville . . . a foodie destination on the rise. Offering much more than just the Kentucky Derby, this southern mid-western city has tons of distilleries and craft cocktail haunts with a solid appreciation for the arts as well. Accommodations are reasonably priced, and delving into hip neighborhoods like NuLu and the Highlands — as well as marveling at old Victorian homes in Old Louisville — will help you walk off all that amazing food. If you're feeling some schnitzel, Germantown is a hotspot, too.
While Scandinavia in general isn't cheap to visit, choosing to explore Sweden in lieu of neighboring Norway and Finland may be the way to make a Winter wonderland Lapland trip a possibility. Norway and Finland have both been hogging the spotlight as ultimate Winter destinations under the canopy of the northern lights, but Sweden has much of the same offerings while being a bit more affordable. A good base for activities is the city of Kiruna, or smaller villages like Abisko or Jokkmokk, where you can immerse into Sami culture, encounter reindeer, and whisk across arctic lands via dog-sled.
Don't want to spend all your pennies? Head to the desert. Scottsdale may be well known for golfing, sunshine, and cacti, but there's a plethora of budget-friendly activities to be enjoyed. Proximity to Phoenix's major airport makes getting to Scottsdale a breeze. With a range of accommodations available for various budgets, you can choose to stay on the cheaper end without a problem. Traveling during the shoulder season (October-December) will help with pricing as well. For affordable activities, head outdoors to explore the desert on foot. Hike the McDowell Sonoran Preserve to stretch your legs in the desert landscape, and fill up on cheaper eats via abundant food trucks afterwards.
Long, potentially pricey flight? Yes. But hear us out here. Once you arrive, you'll be spending very little day to day for incredible cultural, culinary, and adventure experiences . . . and oh boy, the history. Head north to Siem Reap to explore the Angkor Wat temples, with many options to stay in the town of Siem Reap on the cheap. Traveling domestically within the country is generally very affordable as well, whether by flight, private transfer, bus, or boats. Laze in a hammock on an island beach in Koh Rong and Koh Rong Samloem, kayak the river and explore pepper plantations in Kampot, and stuff your face with all the delicious street food that's wildly affordable.
An affordable trip to the Mediterranean? Enter Montenegro. Mountains, beaches, and medieval villages are just some of the highlights in this tiny Balkan beauty. As a still emerging destination on the Adriatic, Montenegro is a bargain vacation spot. Kotor's old town is a UNESCO World Heritage site where you can wander cobblestone streets by morning and take a boat to an island church in Perast by afternoon. Trek to the top of the city's fortress for sweeping views over the bay and make sure to indulge in the local seafood (you're on the coast, after all). Once you've had your fill of the city, the mountains and other port villages are calling. Venture to Stari Bar, an archaic Byzantine fortress city, check out Ulcinj, a beachside Albanian-influenced town, and go canyoning or white water rafting in Durmitor National Park, another UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Mountain cradled hot springs sound extra luxurious, and they are, just not money-wise in the outdoor wonderland of Idaho. The steamy Kirkham, Burgdorf, and Silver Creek Plunge springs await. Some are part of resorts and some are backcountry springs that require access by hiking or snowmobiling in the Winter, which just adds to the adventure! If you enjoy camping, this wilderness-cation will be even more affordable (some campsites are free). The Sawtooth Wilderness, Sun Valley, and Twin Falls are all recommended spots. And if you have some extra time, venturing into nearby national parks is an option as well - Yellowstone happens to be right next door.
For an affordable jaunt to Central America without skimping on beach bliss or culture, head to Nicaragua. Admire architecture in Granada, go volcano boarding (yes, volcano) at Cerro Negro, explore the Somoto Canyon, or take a cheap surf lesson at Playa Maderas. This diverse country has a lot to offer by way of relaxation, cuisine, city and night life, and adventure. Oh, and the beautiful landscape doesn't hurt either.
Note:Recent travel advisories mean you should exercise caution when planning and booking a trip to Nicaragua, to ensure you're traveling to the safest regions.
European city escape on a budget? We're lookin' at you, Budapest. There are enough free activities in this charming, historical destination that you can spend your money on other important things . . . like food. Take a free self-guided city tour, gawk at St. Stephen's Basilica, and stroll Castle Hill, a Danube Riverside UNESCO World Heritage Site riddled with cool medieval things like Buda Castle, an underground labyrinth, Mattias Church, and more. With public transportation options, you can choose to get around for cheap as well. Lodging and eats can be affordable if you lean towards hostel-ing or grabbing meals at places like the Central Market Hall. Booking your travel out of the peak season window (May-September) will help with pricing, too.
Greenville, South Carolina
A foodie destination that won't break the bank? Greenville, South Carolina is certainly on the rise and for good reason. The downtown district is host to amazing eateries that you can hit up before cycling or hiking in the area. Rent a bike (or bring your own) and glide along the Swamp Rabbit Trail, a 20-mile ride skirting the Reedy River. Bike rentals are reasonable, and packing a picnic lunch will have you save as well. Chill at Falls Park on the Reedy, and head to The Swamp Rabbit Brewery and Taproom to quench your thirst. Farm-to-fork, southern soul food, and the ever-affordable food truck scene are just some of the culinary categories here. Favorite food haunts include Biscuit Head (because, biscuits) and Fork & Plough. Or, just sign up for one of the city food tours and see what treats your tastebuds are in for!
A country wedged between Europe and Asia, Armenia is emerging into an incredible travel destination. Since it's still under the radar for tourists, Armenia is very budget-friendly. The capital city of Yerevan, also known as the "pink city," is rich with history and buzzing with life; check out Republic Square and the history museum. Branching out to the rest of the country, visit the scenic Sevan Lake, drive the Selim Pass/Orbelian's Pass (part of the Silk Road), and explore the mountainous region where you can uncover a plethora of monasteries, including Etchmiadzin, which is said to be the first cathedral ever built. Guesthouses are recommended for lodging, as they are not only cheap, but also a more authentic experience. Food is very affordable, allowing you to fill up to the brim on good local food like lavash (bread), dolma (minced meat in grape leaves), and fresh fruit like figs and peaches.
The Adirondacks, New York
Upstate New York is not only an affordable adventure waiting to be had, but the region is host to seemingly endless endeavors to delve into. Embark on a portion of the famous Adirondack Canoe Classic route, which stretches from Old Forge to Saranac Lake. Bring your own canoe or rent one at a local outfitter, and don't forget to pack some camping and picnic gear for a cheap few days in nature! If you're looking for a quick jaunt above the trees, hop on a seaplane for a soar above the Adirondacks. Interested in camping? Payne's will drop you off and pick you up via flight transport. The sky's the limit in upstate New York.
Although the flight may be on the pricier end (new flight routes have opened up so a good deal is possible!), this is a destination that's very affordable on the ground (you can reach the city by high-speed train from Tokyo in under four hours). You'll get a lot of bang for your buck in traditional experiences in Kyoto. Buddhist temples, Japanese gardens, and Shinto Shrines are just some of the fantastic attractions to take in here. Japan is known for being an expensive country to travel in, however, Kyoto is an exception. Taking public transportation will cut down costs and staying in a ryokan (pension guesthouse) will offer an authentic and affordable stay, as will a backpacker's hostel for even cheaper slumbering. Delicious food is a bargain, and culturally, tipping is not customary so there's another savings opportunity. Other than entry costs for temples, there is much to see without spending extra money. Fall foliage and cherry blossom seasons will be pricier times to visit, so consider traveling just before or after those peak times.
Most of us think of Miami and Orlando when we think of Florida, but neither of those are necessarily in the inexpensive travel category. But Tampa Bay, on the Gulf Coast, is a beautiful beachside city that offers lodging options at generally lower prices than the bigger cities. During festival season (Winter-Spring), there are numerous free activities to enjoy, as well as just relaxing on the beach, of course. If you're looking to take a break from the sand and check out some of the other main attractions, the Tampa Bay CityPass is pretty affordable at a touch over $100 and gives you access to Busch gardens, the zoo, aquarium, and others. For cheap bites, hit up the Taco Bus, Saigon Deli, or Mel's Hotdogs.
Rosarito, Baja California, Mexico
Drive-able from San Diego and has a wine country region? Enter Baja California, which is quickly becoming a popular destination for beach, food, and surf lovers on a budget. Inexpensive lodging and eats are readily available, as are the nightlife parties in town. Hit up Tacos El Yaqui for some good Mexican grub or head to Popotla, a fishing village with a market that serves seafood straight off the boat. Both will feed you for cheap, and you can slug a well-made margarita pretty much anywhere. If you're in the mood for a bit of shopping, stroll the main street or head to the town's mercado (market).
Note: Make sure you have the proper insurance for crossing with your vehicle into Mexico. Hiring a driver to visit the wineries from southern California is a possibility as well.
PNW Cabin Getaway
Not only can a cute little cabin in the woods make for an affordable trip, but they're ridiculously photogenic, too (perfect for your Instagram feed). An idyllic forest-infused getaway can be a short or longer trip without breaking the bank, especially when splitting the cost with others. Both Airbnb and GlampingHub are solid resources for finding cozy, unique properties within your price range. Although they're popping up seemingly everywhere, the Pacific Northwest has a fairly high concentration of incredible cabins, cottages, and treehouses. Use one as a base for sleeping and chilling in between adventuring in the lush wilderness while hiking trails and chasing waterfalls.
Texas Wine Country
Smack dab in Texas Wine Country is a town loaded with charm, German heritage, and, you guessed it, wineries. Fredicksburg, Texas is 75 miles from Austin and 70 miles from San Antonio, making it a relatively quick drive from two major airports. A town settled by Germans in the 1800s keeps the German influence alive and well, but the wine scene is pretty hefty, with over 40 vineyards in the area. (Anywhere you can get authentic Texas BBQ and a German sausage in the same day is a score in our book!) Stroll the historic Main Street, peruse shops, take a free, self-guided tour around the Fort Martin Scott historic site, and stop by Luckenbach, an old trading post turned music spot by famous singers like Willie Nelson. Make sure to plan your visit in April or May to see the vibrant wildflowers, and if you don't eat a fresh peach sometime during your visit, did you even go to Fredricksburg?
We all know New Orleans, but for a more undiscovered budget-friendly destination, consider Lafayette, Louisiana and the surrounding bayou, about two hours from the "Big Easy." Experience Cajun and Creole culture through food (gumbo and crawfish anyone?), history, people, and nature during a visit to the southern part of the state. Hop in a kayak or a swamp boat with a guide and tour the bayou for the day, or embark on a paddle/camping trip where you'll pass through parishes and several cities along the way. Visit the Delcambre Seafood and Farmers Market for some shrimp straight off the boat, and see living history in the village of Vermilionville. Hotels in the area will leave your wallet happily full.
Guatemala is a destination where your money can go the distance without sacrificing your overall experience. With Mayan ruins, volcanoes, beaches, and rainforest, there's more than enough to see and do. Venture to Lake Atitlan and hike the volcano at sunrise, join a free walking tour in the city of Antigua, admire the Tikal ancient ruins, and browse local markets. Local restaurants called comedores will have you eating inexpensively, and lodging options range in price but are generally very doable, especially if choosing a hostel or homestay. Taking the bus is also the cheapest way to get around.
With free activities, thrifty eats, outdoor exploits, and loads of live music to jam out to, Memphis is on the rise for popular Tennessee destinations. Walk Beale street, stumble upon free concerts, hop aboard the trolley, visit this extensive list of museums and main attractions on days that are free, or take in a glorious sunset over the Mississippi River. Reasonable pricing is available for lodging options, and culinary goodness can be indulged in for very little. Try Cozy Corner BBQ, grab brunch at Char, and enjoy a little mix-and-match slider action at Slider Inn. For live music, you can find it pretty much anywhere in the area, but we'd recommend Silky O'Sullivans or Young Avenue Deli.