ShermansTravel's Top Budget Destinations of 2023
Each year, the ShermansTravel team hand-picks our favorite bucket-list-worthy budget destinations. Now, we're excited to reveal our top picks for 2023, which include a sunny SoCal hotspot, a historic South American city, and a (yet-to-be) uncovered slice of Italian paradise.
Keep reading for a closer look at ShermansTravel's top budget destinations for 2023.
Ligurian Coast, Italy
The French Riviera gets plenty of press; however, what feels a bit more unknown is the Italian side, often called the Ligurian coast. Here you'll find fewer tourists and affordable food and drink offerings — albeit just-as-stunning vistas.
Make the seaside town of Ospedaletti your home base for exploring the region. While there aren’t a ton of hotels here, travelers can select from a handful of wallet-friendly vacation rentals, most of which clock in under $150 per night, depending on the season.
While Ospedaletti offers tons to see, do, and eat and drink — don’t forget to check out other nearby towns like Lerici (famous for its beaches), Santa Margherita Ligure (known as the gateway to Portofino), and Porto Venere (known for its scenic trails and charming streets). Larger towns like San Remo, Ventimiglia, and Bordhighera — which boast gorgeous beaches and loads of (actually affordable) beach clubs — are close, too. No day here is complete without indulging in a pre-dinner drink or two: and, fortunately, there are a handful of incredible apertivo hour deals (think: Italian happy hour) to choose from.
To cut costs even further — while also avoiding the summer crowds — consider visiting in shoulder season (generally fall and spring, with the exception of holidays or school breaks).
Palm Springs, California
Just two hours from Los Angeles lies picturesque Palm Springs. This dreamy desert locale — best known for its vibrant arts, culture, architecture, and design scene, along with its postcard-worthy surroundings — attracts swaths of A-listers and Hollywood elite, and for good reason: which is why you'll be pleasantly surprised to find out that it’s also a budget destination in disguise.
If you love a good deal (and don’t mind the scorching California heat!), visit in the summertime for optimal savings and can’t-miss deals on vacation rentals and hotel rooms. Regardless of which one you opt for, we suggest staying in a property with a pool so that you can easily cool off, then nap in the air-conditioning during the afternoon, as most mornings and evenings will be pleasant. (Just be sure to stay hydrated and wear lots of SPF) Our personal pick? The new Trixie Motel! Helmed by renowned drag queen Trixie Mattel, this pink-hued hotel offers over-the-top themed rooms, a lovely non-touristy location (right off of Palm Canyon Drive and near a ton of old celeb homes), and all-around, feel-good vibes.
Also, don’t forget to take advantage of great happy hour deals at local favorites like Zinc American Bistro, Bootlegger Tiki, Revel Public House, and Chicken Ranch, to name just a few. Meanwhile, nearby attractions like the Palm Springs Art Museum and the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway can be enjoyed for under $20 and $30, respectively. You can also embark on one of the many scenic hiking trails; go window-shopping down Palm Canyon Drive; or take a self-guided mid-century architecture tour.
From historic ruins to beautiful beaches, Honduras offers plenty to see and do — that is, without breaking the bank. Consider visiting this budget-friendly Central American nation during the rainy season (May through October). During this time, you’ll find fewer crowds and cheaper prices on airfare, accommodations, tours, and flights, the latter of which are available for less than $400 round-trip from Miami.
On the idyllic island of Roatán, travelers can take advantage of ample diving and snorkeling opportunities thanks to vibrant coral reefs and shipwrecks. Alternatively, soak up the sun from one of the white-sand beaches. Meanwhile, history buffs can admire centuries-old Mayan ruins at the Copán Ruins Archeological Site, and wildlife enthusiasts can check out the Macaw Mountain Bird Park or Lake Yojoa.
As the lira continues to slip against the US dollar, there’s never been a better time to visit Turkey. With this in mind, budget-conscious globetrotters can expect incredible value when it comes to accommodations, food and drink, and activities.
While Istanbul is always a good idea — and it’s no secret that this historic city has tons to offer — consider tacking on Pamukkale to your trip, too. (Plus, it’s just a one-hour flight from Istanbul, and airfare clocks in at under $50.) This southwestern Turkey locale feels like an Instagram dream come true with its mineral-rich thermal pools and white travertine terraces, which are accessible for a cool $11. You’ll also gain access to the Hierapolis ruins, which are magnificent in their own right.
When it comes time to rest your head, check into one of the nearby high-end hotels, which hover around $100 per night, depending on the season. A few of our favorites include Adempira Thermal & Spa Hotel, Richmond Pamukkale Thermal Resort, and Colossae Thermal Hotel.
Getting to Lima is easier and more affordable than ever now that American Airlines and SKY Airlines are adding more flights from Miami. Keep in mind that high season takes place around November and December, and February round-trip flights are usually the cheapest (starting at around $400 from New York and $300 from Miami).
Upon touching down in Peru's capital city, you'll be pleasantly surprised by the amount of wallet-friendly activities — which includes eating and drinking, of course. We especially love the Michelin-starred Central, which offers fantastic, multi-course meals for a fraction of the price you'd find here in the States. Alternatively, at Aries, an often-overlooked Miralores gem, you can enjoy a two-course meal with a drink for just over $3.
For a true taste of Peruvian culture, check out Lima's Miraflores and Barranco districts. Of course, no trip here is complete without visiting the Plaza de Armas, which is adjacent to the stunning (and free-to-visit) Cathedral of Lima. Also, the Historic Centre of Lima — a UNESCO World Heritage Site — boasts incredible architecture, while the Parque del Amor offers breathtaking views of the Pacific.
After a two-year closure, New Zealand reopened to international tourists, and its offerings are better than ever. Air New Zealand has greater connectivity to international hubs, including Chicago, Houston, and New York, making this long-haul destination more accessible.
While airfare isn't exactly cheap — direct, round-trip flights from Los Angeles and San Francisco start at around $1,500 — once you make the journey, traveling on a budget is easy and rewarding. Even in Auckland, the island nation's largest and spendiest city, nightly rates at acclaimed boutique properties like The Hotel Britomart are available for under $200 in high season.
While New Zealand's big cities have plenty of appeal, there are also a variety of less-visited destinations and experiences that are just as captivating. From Auckland, take the ferry to Waiheke Island (approx. $30 round-trip) to go vineyard-hopping; alternatively, book a small-group day tour to Rotorua. Easily (and affordably) jet from Auckland to other hubs, like Queenstown (aptly nicknamed the Adventure Capital of the World) from just over $100 round-trip. Or, leave the planning to the experts and book a multi-destination tour with New Zealand specialists like Down Under Answers: The nine-night Auckland, Rotorua, and Queenstown itinerary is available from $3,799 per person — including flights from Los Angeles.
Bowling Green, Kentucky
When you think of charming small towns in the South, Bowling Green may not be the first place that comes to mind — but it certainly should be. What's more, this dynamic destination, which tends to fly under the radar (for now, at least), is sure to please even the most selective of travelers.
Budget-conscious foodies can choose from a plethora of options, including Melissa’s Country Café (where diners can order a catfish special for around $10) or The Pie Queen at Alvaton’s Boyce General Store (which serves up decadent homemade desserts). Attractions also abound here: Lost River Cave and Mammoth Cave National Park are great for nature enthusiasts, while history buffs will enjoy Riverview at Hobson Grove and the Kentucky Museum. Meanwhile, car lovers can learn about the history of the Corvette at the National Corvette Museum. For a worth-it-splurge, burn rubber in a C8 Corvette at the NCM Motorsports Park.
There are also several places to stay in town, including the centrally located Fairfield Inn & Suites. On the other hand, boutique hotel enthusiasts need not look further than The Lodge at Olde Stone, which offers 12 Kentucky-inspired guest rooms and a nationally recognized golf course.
Niagara Falls, New York
Located just a half-hour drive from Buffalo, Niagara Falls, New York makes an easy escape from major cities across the Northeast, either by car or air.
Additionally, as America’s largest waterfall, Niagara Falls is rightfully listed among the country’s best natural wonders. It’s free to enter Niagara Falls State Park (if you’re parking, fees are from $10 per day), which also happens to be open all year long.
Beyond the majestic falls, there are plenty of free and affordable activities — especially for outdoor lovers: find yourself at a free summertime concert or festival; go birding; get geared up for hiking or snowshoeing; grab the bike and explore on two wheels.
In terms of accommodations, there’s a variety from which to choose, including historic properties like Red Coach Inn and The Giacomo. Best of all, rates can be found as low as $105 per night, depending on the season.
This Gulf Coast city is serviced by direct flights from 75 cities across the country on 14 airlines (however, keep in mind that the airport is in the midst of a major renovation and expansion). These include low-cost carriers such as Frontier, Silver Airways, and Breeze Airways — making it an affordable home base for nearby oceanfront destinations like Clearwater, St. Pete Beach, and underrated Dunedin.
Travelers can uncover Tampa’s buzzy food, drink, and art scenes (don't miss the Tampa Riverwalk, either!) Also nearby is Busch Gardens has world-class thrills that one could easily find in neighboring Orlando: that is, without the high price tag.
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