This summer is shaping up to be a doozie for air travel with loads of people jumping back into the air travel game, after sitting out the last couple of years so we’re thrilled to be able to offer our readers some fantastic bargains whether you’re staying stateside or heading overseas.
We put together this list with an eye for best value – when there’s an abundance of amazing scenery, cities, dining and experiences who says you can’t have it all!
Yellowstone National Park
Outdoorsy types may already be aware that 2016 is the U.S. National Parks Centennial. As part of the celebration, the parks system is offering free admission on select dates (August 25-28 in the summer). So why not pay a visit to the granddaddy of them all? Yellowstone’s admission is a bargain at just $30 (that’ll get you a week’s stay) and once you’re inside most attractions are 100% free. Not only are there countless hiking trails, flora and fauna, stunning vistas and attractions, ranger programs and evening campfire talks but your admission also gets you into 3 museums, including the Old Faithful Visitor Education Center and the Museum of the National Park Ranger. *Flights from Seattle to Jackson, WY on United for under $500.
Cancun/Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Wildly popular in the springtime, the greater Cancun area slows down quite a bit in the summer with the increased heat and humidity. The plethora of all-inclusive resorts make planning easy as it gets and the entire region is an adventurers playground. You can visit Mayan ruins on the cliffs above Tulum, dine on healthy, organically prepared meals and stay in eco-resorts if that’s your thing or hop a boat to Cozumel and experience world-class diving. Accommodation prices range from the very basic and budget all the way up to 5-star status. *Flights from Dallas to Cancun on American Airlines from $363 and Los Angeles to Cancun from $500 round trip on United.
Scottsdale is home to some of the most decadent and luxurious resorts in the world, and if you can stand the heat the pampering in the summer comes dirt cheap. The Valley of the Sun is a solid family-friendly destination with plenty of reasonably priced activities for tots to the teens in your group. It’s also coming up as a world-class dining destination, and dinners out are still refreshingly inexpensive. Phoenix & Scottsdale offer al fresco dining and patio seating tricked out with refreshing overhead misters to keep you cool as a cucumber. Hotel rooms that will set you back $500 plus at the toniest resorts in town from October to April go for $120/night on weeknights in the summer. *Flights from NYC on JetBlue from under $300 all summer.
Here’s the problem with Europe’s so-called summer “bargain” destinations. Most of what qualifies from June to August is relative to the crazy-expensive price tags of London, Paris, Rome and Berlin this time of year. Even formerly “under-the-radar” destinations like Prague and Dubrovnik command premium prices for dining and accommodation. But, as always, there are secret spots if you know where to go. One perennial favorite is Lisbon. Lisbon has a rich, storied history, quaint picturesque cobblestone streets, a relaxed vibe and inexpensive accommodation/attractions. Best of all, since it doesn’t have a laundry list of must-see sights, if you’re in need of some serious relaxation you can linger over that coffee or dinner without fear of missing out. Every year we think Lisbon is going to blow up for leisure travel, and every year it stays decidedly, blissfully low key. Go to Portugal and truly get away from it all. *Flights from New York on Turkish Airlines from around $1,000 round trip with a stop and on TAP Air Portugal from $1,200 nonstop.
Big Sur, CA
In recent years, Big Sur vacations have gained the rep of being a little on the upscale side, but that’s mainly because accommodation in Bug Sur is limited and (in some cases) has an astronomical price tag. If you don’t have $800/night to drop at the Post Ranch Inn, don’t despair! The stunning natural beauty is best experienced sleeping under the stars anyway. Campgrounds are plentiful, and book out months in advance. However, some of the best campgrounds are first come first served and will only cost you $15/night. If the thought of camping fills you with anxiety, we’ve got you covered as well. “Glamping” has come to Big Sur as well, and prices for luxury tents run anywhere from $110-140/night. We like the Fernwood Resort in high season. *Round trip flights from San Diego or Chicago into San Jose from around $250 on Alaska Airlines.
Nha Trang & Hoi An, Vietnam
If you’re dreaming of going to southeast Asia, a great value beach vacation can be experienced in Vietnam. Of course, the cities of Hanoi (to the north) and Ho Chi Minh (in the south) are amazing as well, but for some relaxing R&R, the resort town of Nha Trang and provincially charming town of Hoi An to the north cannot be beat. You can get by on less than $40 a day in both, and the region is chock full of amazing natural beauty, delicious food, traditional culture and architectural & historical sites. The small town of Hoi An, is known for its cottage industry of expert tailors. In fact, Aussie fashionistas have been making the pilgrimage for years to have fashion week confections replicated at a fraction of the cost in record time (24-hour turnaround is standard). Summer is the rainy season, so hotels and transportation prices are low. *China Southern Air has flights out of San Francisco (SFO) for just over $500 round trip. $600 from Los Angeles (LAX).
That’s all for now. We’ll be back soon with more posts on where to get the most value wherever your summer plans take you. You may also want to check out our handy tool that can help you decide when to buy based on your originating airport and destination. Please also check out our summer flights page for updates and tips on the best days to travel. If there are any destinations you’d like to see featured here, or you’d like to share your own bargain destinations/tips, please share in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you!
*Airfares include taxes and fees and are valid as of 3/14/16 on select dates between 6/1/16 and 9/21/16. Lowest fare seats are capacity controlled and may not be available on every airline, flight, or date. Fares subject to change without notice.