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7 Surprising Vacation Spots That Will Save You a Fortune

Sabah Karimi

If you've been delaying travel because it seems too expensive, maybe you need to review your choice of destinations. Several locations in the U.S. and throughout the globe are more affordable than most people realize. Booking in advance (or at the last minute) can typically save you even more on that travel package. Here are seven inexpensive destinations to explore.

1. Mexico

Mexico City, Oaxaca, Monterey and Ensenada are some of the most affordable destinations for a vacation in Mexico, while Cancun is home to dozens of resorts and venues that are perfect for a budget retreat any time of year. Mexico City ranks as the 11th cheapest city overall in the 2013 Shoestring Budget Travel Guide by Tripomatic. Whether you're going on a cruise or a road trip, or just hanging out on the beach, you will find affordable accommodations and plenty of free and low-cost activities to enjoy year round. Spend your days relaxing, exploring small towns or sampling local food from stalls and restaurants.

2. Slovakia

Many destinations in Eastern Europe offer more options for budget travelers than other parts of the continent, and they can be attractive venues for sightseeing, exploring historic towns and learning about the local culture. Slovakia boasts many beautiful natural sites, including the mountains and rugged terrain of the country's northern region. Spend your days visiting castles and other historic sites, or plan your trip around Mardi Gras to participate in the festivities in local villages. Bratislava, Slovakia is the eighth cheapest city in Europe's 2013 3-Star Traveler Index , which ranks 47 European cities based on a fixed set of typical expenses travelers encounter.

3. Thailand

Several destinations around Southeast Asia offer great value and provide plenty of opportunities to learn about the local culture and traditions, try new foods and see some of the world's most beautiful sites. The Shoestring Budget Travel Guide ranks Bangkok as the third cheapest city, behind Goa, India, and Hanoi, Vietnam, the first and second cheapest cities, respectively. You'll find it easy to stretch those travel dollars while enjoying some of the region's most luxurious accommodations and modern amenities. If you're interested in an adventure vacation, consider taking an eco-tour or trekking through the jungle.

4. The Bahamas

If you're dreaming about a Caribbean vacation this year, consider a trip to the Bahamas. The tropical climate and low-cost accommodations make this an attractive destination for a winter getaway or early spring retreat. You can find affordable cruise packages with departures from Fort Lauderdale and Miami when you book ahead or take advantage of last-minute deals. The Bahamas also are home to several free attractions and low-cost sites such as the Port Lucaya Marketplace, Cabbage Beach, Thunderball Grotto and Christ Church Cathedral.

5. New Orleans

New Orleans is home to dozens of historic buildings and great restaurants that cater to travelers ready for some Southern hospitality. You'll find several jazz clubs and low-cost music venues scattered throughout the city, and you can spend your days touring the historic district, shopping for souvenirs and sampling local cuisine. Just make sure to book your trip a few weeks before or after major events like Halloween, Mardi Gras and the French Quarter Festival if you want to get the best deals on flights and secure low rates at a hotel or vacation rental. In June, TripAdvisor TripIndex Cities ranked New Orleans as the sixth least expensive city in the U.S. based on combined costs for two travelers for a one-night stay in a four-star hotel with dinner and round-trip transportation. Even cheaper were Las Vegas, Miami, Dallas, Atlanta and Portland.

6. Phoenix

Phoenix offers plenty of options for budget travelers year round, especially if you like golf. You can also drive the Apache Trail, explore the art spaces downtown or spend a day hiking Camelback Mountain. If you're a real adventure enthusiast, you can head just outside of the city for a few days of camping, hiking and other outdoor activities at little or no cost.

7. Las Vegas

Las Vegas continues to be one of the most affordable vacation destinations for non-gamblers and gamblers alike. What most people don't know is you don't have to stay right in heart of Sin City to get the best deals - hotels and resorts off The Strip can provide affordable accommodations in a quieter setting. No matter where you decide to stay, you'll find plenty of free attractions throughout the major tourist areas, such as the Fremont Street Experience, the art collection at The Cosmopolitan and the circus performers at Circus Circus. Many hotels in Vegas also offer free transportation to local sites and other free amenities that can help keep travel costs low. The TripAdvisor TripIndex Cities ranked Las Vegas as the least expensive city in the U.S. In addition, Las Vegas ranked No. 1 in Hotwire's list of the top 10 destinations with the most four-plus star hotels under $100 in the U.S. for 2013.

Sabah Karimi writes for the consumer blog Wise Bread, where you can learn how to maximize your frequent flyer miles and other frugal travel hacks.

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