Travel Destinations That Won't Break the Bank

Just because you don't have any money doesn't mean you can't find ways to GTFO.

beach people

Image via Getty/Roberto Noa

beach people

Finding ways to travel on a budget feels harder and harder these days. With flight prices equating a down-payment on a Kia Sonata, remembering you have student loans, or reveling in the fact that you chose a less-than-lucrative career like writing—it can be hard to find the time and money to travel. 

Luckily, different locations have alternating high/low seasons depending on when the city sees the most foot traffic. So thanks to me, you can peruse a few vacation options that won't require a "I swear I'll Venmo you when we get home." 

Phuket, Thailand


Phuket, Thailand, the island beach get-away on the Andaman Sea, is one of the go-to destinations in Thailand. If you're not already sold on the white sandy beaches, the vast supply of delicious Thai food, and the number of spas per capita, it's worth remembering that Thailand has one of the richest cultures on the planet, and that extends to this island. Phuket is also known for its bustling nightlife, where people from all over the world come and enjoy the many discotheques, bars, and clubs the city has to offer. 

Ok I know what you're thinking, it is not cheap to fly to Thailand. While that may be true, once the flight has been booked, you can experience all of Phuket's luxuries without spending even close to what you would in nearly any other beach town. That includes lodging, food and yes, spa treatments. 

Flights: During the month of May, airfare from New York City ranges from $708 to $920. From Los Angeles airfare ranges from $484 to $779. 

Where to stay: Crowne Plaza Phuket Panwa Beach (~$120/night)


This internationally recognized 5-star hotel oozes luxury, and thus has all the amenities you need for some good ole r&r—from the glistening outdoor pool, to the top-rated in-house spa. Not to mention the price listed above is for a full-size King room overlooking the Andaman Sea. So when I say you can get by on very little, I wasn't being facetious. The Crowne Plaza is located right on the beach, so you won't need to travel very far for some salty vitamin-D. 

The Plaza, while it's incredibly fabulous, is not located in a city center since it's more of a resort location. For those of you who want to be able to throw a rock and hit the nearest discotheque, the West side of the island is more your pace. 

Where to stay: Cape Sienna Hotel Phuket (~$104/night)


Right next to the famed Bangla Road, this 5-star luxury resort is one of the most stylish places to stay on the island. The Personal studio room is heinously cheap if you consider your private deck, spa-grade shower, and plenty of wiggle room. Perhaps the most stunning highlight is Sienna's Plum Steakhouse, where there are no walls or windows standing between dinner and breathtaking views of the Andaman sea. Small seating pods overlook the open ocean as some of the finest beef is cooked to perfection. 

What to do: Visit the Wats (Buddhist Temples), Dancing on Bangla Road, Get a Spa Treatment


Visit the Wats: Wats are Buddhist temples that can be found all across Thailand, Cambodia and Laos. One of the many reasons Wats are so mesmerizing, other than their spiritual importance, is the many aesthetic intricacies, usually in the various depictions of Buddha, that take many different shapes and forms on any give Wat. Wat Chalong, one of the most famous Wats in all of Thailand, is located in Phuket and has gained infamy primarily because a splinter of one of Buddha's bones is buried within the temple. The island boasts 29 Buddhist temples, some of which include Wat Phra Thong and Wat Khao Rang. Big Buddha, a 150-ft landmark, is another one of the island's highly visited cultural artifacts, as it sits atop one of the most beautiful view points of the island. 


Dancing on Bangla Road: Once the families and resort-confined tourists head to bed, the rest of us will meet on Bangla road. The string of bars and clubs looks like one continuous neon street, where all the music and all the lights seem to blend together as one, until that is, you pick your poison. Many of the key spots to hit are within party-complexes of sorts, like Soi Hollywood or Soi Seadragon, where each bar/club has a different domain within a bigger party space. Upon walking into Illuzion Phuket, the most well known disco in Phuket, you get a very Ibiza-vibe. A culturally diverse crowd congregates to watch internationally recognized electronic headliners like Steve Aoki and hip-hop household names like Soulja Boi grace the club's stage. However not every venue is a Illuzion, there are also well known beer bars like Aussie Bar and two dozen bars within Tiger Disco. 

Spa Treatment: If you're on the Eastern part of the island and you find yourself feeling in need of a good makeover, I bring you Ton Mai Spa Rawai, With their massages, nail salon, waxing treatments and facial options, you'll literally leave feeling like Laney Boggs walking down the stairs to "Kiss Me" in She's All That. If you're on the Western side of the island, closer to Bangla Road and Patong Beach, you could also head over to the newly renovated Oasis Spa. You can spend over 3 hours getting both a massage and a facial, all for only $200. Just to put it into perspective, spa treatments in New York are so expensive I willingly chose to be ugly every day of the year. 

Miami plays an important role in pop culture, particularly its reputation as the seaside sin city. Whether it's Rihanna's "Wild Thoughts" music video or seasons 1 and 2 of Netflix's Narcos, what's depicted is a clichéd Miami Vice that memorializes the era of Cocaine Cowboys. While the nightlife is spectacular, Miami doesn't simply provide an impulsive escape filled with blonde bombshells. Cultivating one of the most innovative art scenes in the country, growing one of the best culinary scenes, and maintaining one of, if not the most, diverse demographics in the South—Miami is an eclectic force to be reckoned with. Not to mention, flying there is jaw-droppingly affordable. 

Flights: During the month of August airfare from New York City ranges from $200-$300. From Los Angeles airfare ranges from $200-$400. Depending on when you're booking and the month you want to travel, airfare from both cities can be as cheap as $150 roundtrip. 

Where to stay: Delano South Beach (~$300/night)


Since you so responsibly bought an affordable plane ticket 2 months in advance, you have room in your budget to splurge on a beautiful hotel room at Delano South Beach. Located on Miami's famed Collins Avenue, you not only have everything you need in terms of luxury, you also don't have to drunkenly travel back to the mainland after a long night out. With two unique in-house dining experiences, Leynia and Umi Sushi and Sake, and a swimming pool leading into the ocean, it's almost as if winter never happened. 

Delano also offers The Suite Life by SBE, which is code for the ultimate VIP experience. As if the personalized mini-bar wasn't enough, a car service will drive you to/from the airport, you'll gain preferred access to all sbe restaurants, nightlife and events, and you'll be welcomed with a complimentary bottle of champagne. What I'm trying to say is you will have become the happy couple you always see featured in ads for Carnival Cruises™. 

What to do: STK, Byblos, Wynwood 

STK: Since you probably spent all day at Delano lounging with your personal poolside bucket of Peroni, it's time to eat. And when I want to eat, I mean really go there, I immediately think of a steak. What better place to get a hunky piece of meat than at STK? You could go to the club, but then again men aren't really there for you the way expensive food is, ya know? 

With happy hour specials that'll knock your socks off and filet that melts in your mouth, it's an obvious choice. Also located on Collins Avenue in South Beach, you won't have to travel far from Delano to stumble into this chic lounge. While maintaining the allure of a traditional steakhouse, STK is "not your daddy's steakhouse." The restaurant embodies the chicness often associated with Miami with its modern decor, flavorful yet innovative menu and younger clientele. If you're not into beef, the fish options are just as mouthwatering, I mean you are in Miami. 



Byblos: You're probably hungover after all the Veuve you enjoyed yesterday evening, so it's likely time to recuperate by enjoying a luxurious hangover meal at Byblos. Similarly located on Collins Avenue, Byblos offers an array of Eastern Mediterranean delicacies including but not limited to Turkish manti dumplings, tah dig and rock shrimp rice. With a family style mantra, Byblos has no preference towards one Eastern Mediterranean cuisine over another. Here, they're all fused together to create this diverse yet cohesive menu, that also includes traditional cocktails with interesting twists. 

In addition to the menu, walking into Byblos feels like walking into a Art Deco Grecian Versace mansion, navigated by the soft blue color scheme and gold accents. So if you like to play Instagram model, this is definitely a photo op. 


Wynwood: You can't go to Miami without walking the streets of Wynwood. Appealing to both tourists as well as locals, the Wynwood Walls are the heart of Miami's booming art scene with murals painted by some of the world's most famous street artists. In addition to the public views, there are over 70 galleries and and museums that have paved the way for Miami's recognition as one of the leading artist hubs in the U.S. 

In between your gallery tour, there's also a number of great eateries in Wynwood. And since I'm assuming you'd like to try a little bit of everything look no further than The Wynwood Yard. A pop up foodie hub brings together various cuisines and entrepreneurs who want to try out their salacious experiments in an upscale food truck environment. 

My Ceviche: I know that you're so full, you don't want to return to the coveted pool at Delano, however you simply cannot go to Miami without eating Ceviche. Before the poke revolution swept across the U.S., there was this traditional Peruvian dish. Being on the ocean, and having such a prominent Hispanic cultural influence, Miami may just have the best ceviche outside of Peru. My personal favorite spot, is of course My Ceviche. With several locations, the first being a takeout window on South Beach, they have everything from seafood bowls, to fresh fish tacos, and even have some elote you can enjoy as a side!

Reykjavik, Iceland

northern lights

Iceland, known for its picturesque landscape and breathtaking national parks, is definitely a sight to see. With active Volcanoes and lava fields situated next to glaciers and snow-top mountains, Iceland just may well be the most geologically rich country on earth. Because of its diverse terrain, most of the beauty one experiences when traveling to Iceland has nothing to do with where you're staying or where you're eating, rather the country is unique in that it's about what natural wonder, that cannot be replicated for commercial gain, you're seeing and experiencing. 

And thanks to Icelandair, getting there just got a whole lot cheaper. As you might know, Icelandair offers a Stopover program, which allows passengers flying across the Atlantic the opportunity to stop in Iceland at no additional airfare. In honor of its 80th Anniversary, Icelandair is taking this popular program to the next level with the Stopover Pass, which offers free performances and experiences to passengers who chose to switch their average boarding pass into a stopover pass. Recent performances included a concert by internationally-acclaimed Icelandic band Sigur Rós at Reykjavík's Harpa concert hall, a private stand-up show with Icelandic comedian Ari Eldjárn (in the living room of a Stopover Buddy! with free wine and apps!) and an immersive theater performance of  "Ahead of Time" that went down on a London to New York via Iceland flight. 

Now, for the moment we've all been waiting for, how much coin do we have to fork up?


Flights: During the month of May airfare from New York City ranges from $338 to $514. From Los Angeles airfare ranges from $493 to $690. 

Where to stay: Canopy by Hilton Reykjavik City Centre (~$300/night)


When you think of $300 a night for a hotel in New York City, you realize that it gets you a small hole in the ground without free Wifi, and that's if you book two months in advance. However at Canopy by Hilton in Reykjavik, you can stay in a upscale hotel that comes with everything from a fitness center to free breakfast, and that happens to be located within walking distance of some of Reykjavik's best restaurants and museums.

If you're sitting here thinking, who the hell considers $300 a night to be on a budget? You're in luck. I was just trying to give everybody options, OK? 

Where to stay (seriously on a budget): Kex Hostel Reykjavik (as low as $44/night) 


The cutest hostel to ever be, Kex, which means "biscuit" in Icelandic, is right on the water and has branded itself as the "social hostel." Some people care more about the quality of a space rather than how much individual space you're actually given. Although it is a hostel, Kex is stylish, modern, and has all the amenities you need to have a comfortable stay in Reykjavik. There's a bar, delicious food, clean towels, and a lobby that makes you think you're in the ~coolest~ hostel in Reykjavik (which is more than most hotels can say).

What to do: OmNom Chocolate, Northern Lights, Glaciers, Blue Lagoon, I Never Knew I Wanted to Go Outside Till Now  

OmNom Chocolate Factory is a famous chocolate shop in Reykjavik, which delivers the delights of artisan chocolate to anyone with enough self control (or lack thereof) to go inside. The shop has events, and allows visitors to schedule their trip to OmNom, where they can try endless samples until they hate themselves a little more. 


The Northern Lights, the aurora of multicolored lights scattered across an illuminated sky, is one of the most beautiful things a person can experience. I know what you're thinking, 'but in New York we have the buildup of garbage on the sidewalk and there's also Times Square,' I know I know, they're one in the same, but nothing compares to this natural beauty. Iceland is one of the places in the world where you can see the Northern Lights most clearly. Although they're visible from Reykjavik, drive an hour or so outside of the city, maybe to Thingvellir National Park, where the lights are so bright you could pick them out of the sky. 


Vatnajökull Glacier is the largest in Iceland, taking up about 8% of the entire country. Although it is outside of the city centre (as most glaciers are), there are still places to stay, restaurants, and shops near and around Vatnajökull , because let's be honest, you're not that outdoorsy. However, since you would have to break the bank to find lodging near the glacier, it's pretty lucky that the country is smaller than the state of Kentucky, so day trips are highly encouraged. 


Blue Lagoon is an internationally recognized geothermal spa, not to mention one of the 25 wonders of the world, that uses the gifts of nature to sooth and relax. While everyone loves a good spa treatment, more than anything else the Lagoon is absolutely beautiful, with its blue water surrounded by natural steam. The panel deciding on the 25 wonders of the world didn't do so because of their spa packages. However, now that we're on the topic—think in-water massages, mud masks, a waterfall and a sauna. While there are many different options to chose from, that range in price, for $169 you can experience a mud mask spa treatment, and a complimentary cocktail while you're at it. 

(All prices subject to change and are estimated for the month of May, 2018)

As you daydream away in your cubicle, envisioning your toes beneath white sands on an empty, picturesque beach on the Pacific, mojito in hand, wearing a bikini that makes you feel absolutely snatched, you're unknowingly imagining the tranquility and sheer natural beauty of Punta Mita, Mexico. Located on a private 1,500-acre peninsula alongside the Riviera Nayarit, Punta Mita is the epitome of an idyllic safe haven. Just North of bustling resort village Puerto Vallarta, Punta Mita provides the perfect retreat for travelers looking to be close enough to a ~lively~ area, while still calling this former fishing village a home away from home. If you're hoping to achieve absolutely nothing while away, and by that I mean massages by the beach, swims in clear blue oceans, and luxurious r&r, then Punta Mita should be the next town on your bucket list.

While you're lounging on a seemingly empty beach, you may be unknowingly situated right next to celebrities like the Kardashians, Gwyneth Paltrow and Kate Hudson, and other undeserving individuals we blindly prop onto pedestals. Since the scenic getaway has caught the attention of this coveted crowd, the hospitality industry has had to react accordingly, bringing some of the worlds best and finest hotels and resorts to Punta Mita. Luckily for you and me, these resorts have high and low times, which make luxury affordable for common folk like us. 

Flights: During the month of September, flights from New York City range from $450-$550. Flights from Los Angeles ranges from $250-$300. 

Where to stay: Four Seasons (mid-late September rates can be as low as ~$243/night, whereas in August prices climb up as high as ~$1,500/night for the same room) 


Nestled at the center of this little piece of paradise, the Four Seasons, with hotels and resorts all over the world, maintain that they are the epitome of luxury, and luckily for you their Punta Mita location is no different. After being purchased by multi-millionaire Bill Gates in 2014, the hotel underwent a major renovation and has since become a palatial staple on this exclusive coast. This casita-style resort encourages you to put down your phone (even you Courtney) and sink into the benefits of total relaxation with 10 tennis courts, water sports, a surf coach and a fully equipped spa. Additionally, the four unique dining experiences, and especially the three in-house bars, will help in your mission to chill the hell out. 

The hotel has a personal cultural concierge, who will teach you all about the wonders of Punta Mita, and even teach you how to make your own tequila. Since this is your opportunity to let everything, look no further than the lazy river, so you don't have to go to that Splashtown off the highway next time you want to fall asleep in a moving chlorine-filled body of water. 

What to do: snorkeling in Las Islas Marietas, Malecon (Puerto Vallarta)


Las Islas Marietas: With the resort's excursions, you can take travel off the coast of this little peninsula by boat and go snorkeling in las Islas Marietas, a UNESCO biosphere reserve located just 15 minutes from your hotel room. More than anything, the islands are a national park and therefore completely uninhabited. Boasting their private beaches and breathtaking views has made them one of, if not the most popular tourist attraction within the area. While the above ground optics are definitely worth soaking in, if you're at the islands, you must see the marine life this little haven has to offer and that requires going a little closer towards sea level. 

When you're not chilling with the multicolored fish swimming around the underwater caves, go on a boat tour where a local will take you around these volcanic formed islas and show you all the wildlife, including whales and exotic birds, this little hideaway has to offer. 


Malecon, Puerto Vallarta: Malecon means boardwalk in Spanish, and this marks the center of the city of Puerto Vallarta. Located just an hour away from Punta Mita, it has more of an urban feel in case you get cooped up in the resort and need a bit of culture. With tequila tasting, shopping from local merchants, and art exhibits, you can experience the real allure of Mexico's Pacific coast. All of the walkways down this 2.5 mile stretch are paved with cobblestone which then turn into hillsides filled with traditional, elegant Mexican villas. 

The Malecon is located in "Nuevo Vallarta" which has been specifically planned to be a pedestrian-friendly, heavily touristic, area. The neighborhood boasts the liveliest entertainment, including nightlife and eateries, within the city of Puerto Vallarta. If you're a bike rider, this is the perfect part of town to explore on two wheels as the Malecon isn't situated on a car-friendly road. 

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