It’s that time of year again — school is out and you’re headed on your ultimate summer vacation. Whether you’re traveling with friends, family, a partner or solo, these 10 affordable summer destinations won’t disappoint. They may even leave you some extra money to save — or spend while you’re exploring the world.
Some general tips for affordable summer destinations: Travel on Tuesday or Wednesday for the cheapest fares; July 9 is considered the most expensive day to fly of the summer; airfare to Europe is cheaper than ever this summer.
If you’re headed to Europe this summer, Barcelona should be on your list as one of Europe’s most affordable summer destinations. With great weather and short, inexpensive flights to hotspots like Mallorca and Ibiza, it’s the perfect spot to spend summer. Yes, you’ll encounter some crowds, but prices are so low this year it’s still the perfect time to go.
Why it’s a steal: According to Kayak, flight prices to many Spanish cities have decreased this summer — Barcelona flights are 35% less than last summer, and median airfare is $695. An Airfarewatchdog search yielded flights from New York City to Barcelona under $500 for the months of August and September on Air Berlin and TAP Portugal, so check these airlines first for deals to one of Europe’s most affordable summer destinations.
On the hotel front, things are shaping up in travelers’ favor as well this summer in Barcelona. U232 Hotel has an average nightly rate around $200 for summer stays, according to Wander. Hilton Diagonal, only a 10-minute walk from the beach, is offering a pool package for those looking to relax in the sun. And, Generator Hostel Barcelona offers even cheaper nightly rates if you’re willing to share a room.
Don’t miss: Summer brings exciting festivals, including Pride Barcelona, the feast of St. John (Sant Joan), and the San Miguel Mas i Mas music festival.
Underrated and up-and-coming Pittsburgh is a family vacation-ready affordable summer destination this summer. Check out a Pirates baseball game, discover culinary treasures, and explore the esteemed Andy Warhol Museum. Outdoor lovers can hike Mount Washington to be rewarded by perfect sunset skyline views.
Why it’s a steal: Spirit Airlines starts non-stop flights to/from seven U.S. destinations to Pittsburgh this month, opening up competition and delivering affordable fares under $100 round-trip (as seen in searches on Airfarewatchdog). According to Kayak, flight prices are down by 12% compared to last summer. The Steel City is also a quick train ride from New York City, and is within driving distance from major Midwest cities like Cleveland.
Find an affordable boutique experience at the Hotel Monaco Pittsburgh, a Kimpton Hotel that opened just two years ago. Wander reports an average nightly rate for the summer months under $250, which is a great deal for all it has to offer — including pet-friendly rooms, daily happy hour, free bikes, a great location and an onsite fitness center.
British Columbia, Canada
Canada is celebrating its 150th birthday this summer, making it a festive time to visit one of Canada’s favorite affordable summer destinations. It’s a great time to go — summers in British Columbia are warm but not too hot, with average temperatures around 70 degrees Fahrenheit. And, the Canadian dollar is down by .5% compared to the U.S. dollar — great news for travelers from the States.
Why it’s a steal: Kayak reports up to a 12% decrease in flight prices to Victoria and Vancouver from the U.S. For even more savings, check out Kelowna, which reports a 23% decrease in flight prices compared to last summer. Airfarewatchdog searches yield prices around $200 round-trip from major West Coast cities, giving you even more reason to visit your neighbors to the north this coming season.
Canada has been promoting free admission to its national parks and historic sites, and hotels like Canadian Rocky Mountain Resorts are offering promotions for the big celebration. You can also find great off-season deals in winter ski destinations like Whistler — the Four Seasons Resort and Residences Whistler, for instance, has rates averaging $200 per night, which is a steal for the property.
Don’t miss: British Columbia is home to the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve near both Victoria and Vancouver. For a truly off-the-beaten-path summer experience, explore Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, a series of over 1,800 undeveloped islands that are known as “Canada’s Galapagos.”
You don’t need to be outdoorsy to appreciate the BC Ale Trail, a guide to the province’s many breweries. Or explore the urban epicenter of Vancouver, which is going big for the 1-5-0 with summer festivals and events, especially on Canada Day (July 1 to 3) at Canada Place.
Charleston will be one of the last places in the U.S. to experience the total solar eclipse on Aug. 21, and it’s also a remarkably affordable summer destination this year. While temperatures in August will be high, the deals are most definitely worth the heat, as this Southern city has been gaining notoriety this past year for its food and sights, and high prices won’t be far behind.
Why it’s a steal: Flights are down 13% compared to last summer, according to CheapFlights, with a median airfare of $308 from major U.S. cities (as reported by Kayak). Liligo shows flights around $200 from New York City, making this East Coast gem even more accessible.
Many Charleston hotels, like the Belmond Charleston Place, are offering special eclipse packages, so book early before they’re full. If you’re not going for the eclipse, check out the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel & Suites Charleston – Historic District for summer nightly special rates of $149.
Don’t miss: Charleston offers beaches, shopping, James-Beard award winning chefs at some of the South’s best restaurants, boat tours and beautiful plantations and gardens. Just beware that summer is also hurricane season, so consider these booking tips.
Bonus location: Nashville is another affordable summer destination to observe the total eclipse. Round-trip flights to Nashville average under $300, according to Kayak. Enjoy live music, barbecue and a totally cool celestial wonder all at the same time. Book the Embassy Suites Nashville South Cool Springs location with its Eclipse 2017 Package.
For more information on the total solar eclipse, visit NASA’s website and make sure to take safety precautions.
Terrorism threats and instability have put a dent in Turkey’s tourism numbers this year, making it an unusually affordable time to visit. Warm weather and cultural excitement make this coastal city a great international destination for your summer vacation. Go in early September to avoid peak season crowds and fewer lines at popular tourist sights.
Why it’s a steal: Airfare to Istanbul this summer remains extremely affordable, with round-trip fares from many major U.S. cities (including Los Angeles and San Francisco!) around $800 round-trip, as found on Airfarewatchdog.
Hotel prices are also extremely affordable, with five-star properties like Hypnos Design Hotel Istanbul and The Grand Tarabya averaging nightly rates around $100, according to Wander.
Don’t miss: Besides Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia and Grand Bazaar, check out the 45th Istanbul Music Festival, which will kick off summer; as well as ArtWalk Istanbul and Istanbul Shopping Fest. If you’re looking for an island escape, take the short ferry ride to the Princes Island, just off the coast of Istanbul.
Be advised that the State Department recommends that U.S. citizens should “Carefully consider the need to travel to Turkey at this time, and avoid travel to southeast Turkey due to the persistent threat of terrorism.”
Oakland sometimes gets lost in the shadow of tourist-favorite San Francisco, but it’s a stellar destination in its own right. Great summer weather, vibrant neighborhoods, an impressive culinary scene and family-fabulous attractions make it an affordable summer destination that offers both great proximity to nearby favorites — including San Francisco, Napa and Sonoma — and plenty of reasons to stick around and enjoy Oakland. Plus it has its own international airport that’s usually easier — and faster — to navigate than nearby SFO.
Why it’s a steal: More airlines are serving the Oakland and San Francisco airports this year, according to Tom Spagnola of CheapOair, meaning prices are lower, thanks to competition and low-cost carriers entering the market. Flights can be as low as $49 round-trip from other California cities, with average round-trip tickets into Oakland under $300 this year, according to Kayak.
For hotels, Hilton’s Garden Inn San Francisco/Oakland Bay Bridge has the perfect location between the two Bay Area cities. Summer rates are as low as $138 per night, and come with skyline views and a complimentary shuttle service to nearby attractions.
Don’t miss: Uptown, Temescal, Jack London … Oakland is at its best in its neighborhood retail, entertainment and restaurant districts. Savor the natural beauty that makes the Bay Area so irresistible with a stroll along the Bay at Jack London, a walk around Lake Merritt or a hike through the redwoods in one of the regional parks along Skyline Drive.
Impress the kids with a trip to Fairyland (best for kids under 6 or 7), the Oakland Zoo, Oakland Athletics’ baseball game, Chabot Space and Science Center and the Oakland Museum. Annual summer events worth checking out include free Pedalfest, Oakland Pride and Eat Real Festival. San Francisco is a quick BART ride away, and both Sonoma and Napa are about an hour by car.
Summer is the perfect time to explore everything Poland has to offer. Whether you’re experiencing Krakow’s music and film festivals or Wroclaw’s Market Square, cheap airfare and comfortable weather will make this affordable summer destination worth the longer flight.
Why it’s a steal: Round-trip flights from major U.S. East Coast cities are around $700 for summer, according to Airfarewatchdog. Since summer is peak season, this is quite the deal for trans-Atlantic travel.
Visitors can enjoy inexpensive nightly hotel rates thanks to the favorable exchange rate. Look at DoubleTree Hotel Wroclaw, Hilton Garden Inn Krakow or H15 Boutique in Warsaw — all which have average nightly rates below $150 for summer.
Don’t miss: Whether it’s the capital Warsaw or the Baltic city of Gdansk, Poland is earning itself a spot on many bucket lists this summer.
Hilo earns a spot as one of the best affordable summer destinations this year. Hilo’s lush, tropical surroundings offer a striking counterpoint to the otherworldly lava fields on display elsewhere on the Big Island, and visitors enjoy a more relaxed, local feel here. But take note: Hilo is quickly becoming a popular tourist destination for the islands, so visit before the crowds — and prices — rise.
Why it’s a steal: According to Cheapflights, airfare is down 13 percent over last summer, but Hilo has seen a 20% increase in travelers this year alone compared to last. Round-trip fares average $824 from U.S. cities, with lower prices available from West Coast locales like Seattle and San Jose.
Hilo has an affordable vacation rental market, with Flipkey properties starting as low as $99 per night for a one-bedroom rental. The conveniently located Grand Naniloa Hotel Hilo also has affordable nightly rates starting at $130 for the summer months — guests even get a free round of golf at the on-site nine hole course.
Don’t miss: Hilo is surrounded by waterfalls, beaches, rainforests, volcanoes and parks. Summer is one of the best times to go to enjoy the outdoors with fewer crowds than in winter and spring. Check out attractions like Rainbow (Waianuene) Falls, the Liliuokalani Gardens, Imiloa Astronomy Center and the nearby Kilauea Volcano.
A Caribbean getaway that’s worry-free from hurricanes, Cartagena stands out as an affordable summer destination. Summer is a great time to go, as July and August are part of Colombia’s dry season, so you can enjoy everything from the walled city to nearby rainforests with great weather. And with a favorable exchange and more airline routes than in years past, Cartagena won’t break the bank this summer.
Why it’s a steal: Kayak’s 2017 Travel Guide named Cartagena as the top wallet-friendly flight destination. Airfarewatchdog shows round-trip flights from Florida cities, Baltimore, Atlanta, Boston, D.C., and New York City under $400.
Nightly summer rates for Cartagena are also very affordable, thanks to the exchange rate. Relax poolside at a great price at the Hilton Cartagena Hotel, which is surrounded by the Caribbean Sea on three sides, and has nightly rates under $100 on TripAdvisor.
Don’t miss: There’s no shortage of things to do in Colombia and Cartagena during summer. From the city’s beaches to popular salsa dance clubs outside the walled city, Cartagena offers beach escapes with cultural flair. Popular day trips from the city include El Totumo, a mud volcano with fabled healing properties; as well as a ferry ride to the Rosario Islands, a 30-island archipelago.
While summer is always a popular time to visit Greece’s capital, this summer is one of the most affordable times to go. Head to Athens in late summer to beat the crowds and still enjoy historical sites and Mediterranean cuisine at a great price — falafel and tzatziki are calling.
Why it’s a steal: Airfare is down by 13 percent this summer compared to last year, according to Kayak, with round-trip fares under $800 from Boston, Toronto, Miami, D.C. and even Los Angeles found on Airfarewatchdog. Due to Greece’s struggling economy, you’ll spend less on food, attractions and accommodations this coming season.
It’s possible to find affordable hotel rates this summer. Check out the popular Hilton Athens — with views of the Acropolis — which offers a Cultural Weekend for Two Package with 30 percent of a two-night stay, including free tickets to popular Athens museums.
Don’t miss: Summer brings warm weather, island day trips and festivals like the Athens & Epidaurus Festival, which celebrates performance theater and local artists. Enjoy the city’s ancient history at popular outdoor sights like the Parthenon, and its trendier side at outdoor cafes and spaces like Technopolis and GazARTE in trendy Gazi.
Ashley Rossi, SmarterTravel.com/Via USATODAY