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Ways to Save on Trips to 10 Popular Destinations in 2016
Keep travel costs low with these smart money-saving hacks.
With favorable exchange rates, low-cost airlines and economical lodging choices, the world's most popular destinations aren't out of reach for budget travelers this year. (Getty Images)
This year, you really need to go away for a while.
Airfares are cheaper due to historically low fuel prices. Meanwhile, the U.S. dollar holds strong against international currencies, making Americans poised to enjoy a period of budget-friendly international trips. And the savings don't stop there. Even in the hottest destinations, you can stretch the U.S. dollar further. Based on airfare searches for flights originating in the U.S. conducted on savvy travel app Hopper, here are the 10 most popular international destinations for 2016, along with some money-saving tricks for each of these trending locales.
Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
Cabo San Lucas, the clubby resort town synonymous with riotous parties and tequila-filled nights, has long lured West Coasters to its perch on the tip of the Baja Peninsula. And fortunately, flights remain affordable. Alaska Airlines offers service from $300 from Los Angeles and San Francisco while Spirit Airlines sells seats from Dallas for just $200.
However, Cabo's world-class resorts have an extravagant (read: expensive) flair. To bring costs down, skip the all-inclusive resorts and enjoy cheap, authentic meals at burrito shops and ceviche joints away from the property grounds. Also, make sure to book your resort early and consider planning a trip from March to June for discounted rates. Hacienda Encantada, for example, which is known for its sunset-facing suites and holistic spa, slashes rates by up to 30 percent if you book in advance.
If you've been eyeing the Emerald Isle, you're in luck: The euro and the U.S. dollar are nearly on par, and last year's favorable exchange rates seem to be sticking around for 2016. Admission to Dublin's most famous sights, from the interactive Guinness Storehouse to St. Patrick's Cathedral, become exorbitant if you buy them separately. For the best deals, grab a Dublin City Pass, which includes entry to more than 30 attractions plus a free airport transfer to help you save on cab fare. Another way to maximize savings: Rent local bikes instead of relying on taxis. Also, dine early (most restaurants offer specials before 7 p.m.), and seek out free entertainment at pubs. And stick to the area outside of Temple Bar to avoid tourist traps and the high prices that come with them.
Madrid and Barcelona, Spain
Spain's most popular cities brim with great deals. In Barcelona, you can enjoy vibrant nightlife and dining scenes and sample affordable tapas and cava varieties before exploring Gaudi's whimsical architecture. And in Madrid, you can tour dozens of galleries, mansions and museums, including the Museo del Prado, where you can admire masterpieces from Dali, Picasso, Goya and more, completely free of charge. Best of all, there are plenty of nonstop routes to Spain from the East Coast, making travel cheaper and easier than ever.
Thailand has always been a budget traveler's dream destination. Even luxury hotels in the city can be booked for under $200 USD. The most expensive part about a trip to Thailand is getting there, with no direct service from the U.S. But good deals can be found: China Eastern Airlines and Air China, for example, offer flights from the Northeast in spring for around $600 USD, while flights from the West Coast can be booked for around $550 USD for the same travel period. And after you arrive, you can sample cheap street eats at Bangkok's buzzing night markets and food stalls for less than $5 USD. As for lodging, resorts in the Krabi province can cost next to nothing. Aonang Paradise Resort, for example, offers spacious rooms, a cliffside pool and private balconies for just 2,400 Thai baht (or $65 USD) per night.
Equal parts artistic, historic and spiritual, Rome was the fifth most searched spot among Americans looking to travel abroad this year. And with strategic planning, you can save big on your Roman holiday. Many of the city's top sights, such as the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon and the Vatican, are free to tour. Plus, if you don't mind smaller rooms with fewer frills, economical hotels like the Hotel Navona Roma and Hotel Boccaccio are conveniently located in the city center. To slash costs at Roman cafes, drink your coffee while standing up at the bar. Sitting down to enjoy your cappuccino can cost as much as $6 more.
Tokyo is electric with energy, filled end to end with modern malls and ancient shrines. From Ginza's designer glitz to the Tsukiji Market's sushi sampling to Ueno Park's wandering paths, the city has endless affordable entertainment options. Spring visitors get a bonus during cherry blossom season when hanami (public festivals with live entertainment and parades) take place. And against the yen, the U.S. dollar still holds strong. For cost-effective accommodations, check out the Mystays brand, an urban chain of Japanese hotels with nine outposts in Tokyo alone. Properties come with kitchenettes and free Wi-Fi, and nightly rates start at around $100 USD.
This year, Paris is as popular as ever. Spring and early summer are high season for Europe, so consider a winter or fall getaway, when the weather and prices are generally more moderate and the city's museums, attractions and Michelin-starred restaurants are less crowded. Make sure to pick up an all-inclusive City Pass if you plan on visiting many top sights like the Louvre and the Arc de Triomphe. Plus, a City Pass includes unlimited Metro trips, making transportation easy and cost-effective. As for flying, a slew of new low-cost carriers are turning the City of Light into a surprisingly good deal. Check out Norwegian Air Shuttle, XL Airways France, Turkish Airlines and WOW Air for the best rates.
London's Heathrow Airport is known for its expensive prices, but the city's secondary airport, Gatwick Airport, is served by a number of smaller carriers, including Norwegian Air Shuttle and Icelandair. These low-cost options can cost as little as $400 USD. And, if your travel dates are flexible, midweek fares to London cost around $100 to $300 less than weekend flights. To trim lodging costs, ditch an expensive hotel stay for an economical Airbnb or HomeAway rental. Currently, studio rentals in Notting Hill and loft rentals in SoHo start at just $125 USD per night. Plus, access to a kitchen isn't only convenient – it's also wallet-friendly.
And at number one, the most highly searched spot for 2016 is beautiful Cancún. This popular spring break spot gets packed (and pricey) through winter, so if you're one of the many Americans eyeing a Mexico getaway, plan for February – or wait until late summer when prices will drop again. Also, consider staying just outside of Cancún itself to avoid steep all-inclusive rates. For example, Grand Residences in Puerto Morelos (a postcard-sized fishing town just outside Cancún) offers suites appointed with ocean views, kitchens and plenty of space for families. Grab ingredients at the market and cook your own in-room meal or pop into town for an inexpensive meal of fresh ceviche to trim costs. You'll save cash and avoid crowds without sacrificing luxury.
About En Route
Practical advice on the art of traveling smarter with tips, tricks and intel from En Route's panel of experts.
Contributors have experience in areas ranging from family travel, adventure travel, experiential travel and budget travel to hotels, cruises and travel rewards and include Amy Whitley, Claire Volkman, Holly Johnson, Marsha Dubrow, Lyn Mettler, Sery Kim, Kyle McCarthy, Erica Lamberg, Jess Moss, Sheryl Nance-Nash, Sherry Laskin, Katie Jackson, Erin Gifford, Roger Sands, Steve Larese, Gwen Pratesi, Erin Block, Dave Parfitt, Kacey Mya, Kimberly Wilson, Susan Portnoy, Donna Tabbert Long and Kitty Bean Yancey.
Edited by Liz Weiss.
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