Affordable Yaycations: 8 Alternative Vacations

Can’t afford your dream trip this year? Try these bargain alternative vacations instead.

Money may be tight, but plenty of folks have chosen to cut back on lattes, gym memberships or new clothes rather than skip out on vacation. So you can’t afford your pre-recession dream trip right now. That doesn’t mean you can’t have a terrific alternative experience (that also happens to save you money). Here are a few ways to cut back—but not cut out—your vacation this year.

Pre-Recession Dream: Adventurous African Safari
Yaycation Alternative: Everglades Safari Adventure

Unless you live within an easy hop of Africa and have a truly no-frills style of traveling, satisfy your wildlife desire with a trip to the Everglades National Park. The 1.5 million-acre area, designated an International Biosphere Reserve, World Heritage Site and Wetland of International Importance, is the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States. The Everglades’ wealth of animals include endangered and threatened species, such as the hawksbill turtle, American alligator, West Indian manatee and Florida panther.

What to do? Start with a ranger-led activity, which range from tram tours to nature walks, full-moon bike rides to canoe explorations, starlight walks to kids’ programs. Afterwards, you can investigate on your own on the many trails and waterways within the park. Make it a true safari and camp (fees start at $12 per night, depending on where you camp and how many people in your party), or stay in a hotel in one of the communities that border the park.

Private vehicle entrance fee is $10 and is good for seven consecutive days.

Pre-Recession Dream: Chic Paris
Yaycation Alternative: Charming Montréal or Québec City

Paris may be on your mind, but you can save beaucoup by visiting Montréal or Québec City for your Francophile fix. While the Euro is worth $1.28 (down from $1.60 a year ago), the Canadian dollar is worth $0.79—cutting the spending down considerably.

Sure, you’ll miss the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame, but Montréal’s Biosphère and Olympic Park as well as Québec City’s Basilique-Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Québec should satisfy your appetite for cool architecture and Gallic cathedrals. Besides, think of all the chic cafés and French cuisine!

April hotel rates range from $54 to $235 per night in Montréal and $47 to $186 in Québec City. April round-tip airfares to Montréal start at $302 (from New York), $430 (San Francisco) and $486 (Los Angeles). Round-trip airfares to Québec City start at $274 (from San Francisco), $460 (Los Angeles) and $472 (New York).

Pre-Recession Dream: San Francisco High-End Shopping
Yaycation Alternative: Smart San Francisco Shopping

It’s cheaper to leave your heart in San Francisco than to leave your wallet there. With the abundance of shopping districts and cool Fog City neighborhoods, you don’t have to keep to the pricey Union Square area. While Union Square may have big stores with brand recognition (Macy’s, Nordstrom, Tiffany, Neiman Marcus), it’s the small, unique boutiques that will have frequent sales and items you can’t find everywhere.

Start in Chinatown for an eclectic mix of teas, home décor and make-as-you-watch fortune cookies. Then move on to funky Haight Street for a blast from the past with tie-dye shirts, punk gear and funky modern duds. Speaking of funky, next visit the Mission District (specifically, along Mission and Valencia streets) for Latin flair, offbeat boutiques and furniture shops. Finally, move on to swanky Fillmore Street, with its luxe mélange of eco-clothing stores, interior design boutiques and ritzy vintage clothing stores.

Pre-Recession Dream: Discover Nordic Nature
Yaycation Alternative: Northern Road Trip in Iceland

Iceland used to be considered one of the most expensive destinations in Europe, but due to the country’s economic collapse, prices are now 50 percent of what they once were. The best time to travel there is now, before inflation spurs price increases—and while Icelandair is offering some terrific package deals. Instead of taking a Nordic vacation in Denmark, Norway or Sweden—why not consider Iceland?

If you’ve got the time, a road trip around Iceland’s 830-mile Ring Road, the only route that circles the island, is your bet for adventure. With landscape ranging from bizarre to beautiful, you can see geysers, glaciers and even stop to soak in the Blue Lagoon, one of the country’s most-photographed places.

Pre-Recession Dream: Wine-tasting in Napa Valley
Yaycation Alternative: Taste Wine Close to Home

As much as I (and many visitors) love California’s Napa Valley, it’s not the only place to find great wine in the United States. Every state has a wine region these days. Visiting other area wineries not only allows you to discover new places, but may also allow you to save some money.

Washington’s wine regions (including the Columbia Valley and Columbia Gorge) together produce more grapes than any other state in the United States, after California. Oregon has 395 wineries, and the Willamette Valley is Oregon’s largest wine region. In Central California, the Paso Robles and San Luis Obispo wine regions have tripled in size over the past decade, offering more than 210 wineries. The New York Finger Lakes area has more than 100 wineries, many with lake views.

Pre-Recession Dream: Take a Bite of the Big Apple
Yaycation Alternative: Urban Adventure in Chicago

New York City may be the Big Apple, but you’ll save travel dollars by taking your big city dreams to the Second City, Chicago. The third-largest city in metropolitan area in the United States (after New York City and Los Angeles), Chicago is an urban giant.

The city has rich offerings in theater, architecture, museums and cultural institutions (such as the Field Museum, Adler Planetarium, Shedd Aquarium and Art Institute of Chicago), as well as simple fun stuff, like the Lincoln Park Zoo—which is free. Hit the Magnificent Mile for labels, or the trendy Wicker Park for local design flare, or grab a seat at Wrigley Field to see the Cubs play. Eat deep-dish pizza, or have a gourmet cuisine night on the town. Chicago has nearly everything you’ll need—for less than what you’ll spend in New York.

April hotel rates range from $51 to $416. Round-trip airfares to Chicago start at $215 (from Los Angeles), $217 (New York City) and $219 (San Francisco).

Pre-Recession Dream: Swank it Up in St. Barts
Yaycation Alternative: Romantic Caribbean Escape to St. Lucia

You dream of taking your sweetie to luxe St. Barts for a romantic Caribbean escape, but don’t want to look like you’re counting what’s left in the bank every time you order another drink at the bar? Travel to St. Lucia, just a little farther south, and save some money for those drinks with some serious resort deals.

The Landings resort is offering an Invest in Yourself package, which kicks $500 to $1,000 (depending on when you stay) back to you to use toward resort purchases. Similarly, Windjammer Landing offers a 50 percent resort credit, to be used towards dining, spa treatments, room upgrades and activities. In addition, St. Lucia pegs its currency to the U.S. dollar, so you don’t have to worry about changes to the exchange rate causing changes to your savings.

Pre-Recession Dream: Nepal Trekking
Yaycation Alternative: Yosemite Hiking

Want to go trekking in Nepal, but not enough moolah in your wallet to get to the other side of the globe? Satisfy your thirst for the great outdoors and discover the vast wilderness of Yosemite National Park. The area’s nearly 1,200 square miles contain majestic waterfalls, great meadows, deep valleys, granite cliffs and giant sequoia groves. On a journey from the valley floor to the alpine region, hikers can pass through six different vegetation zones.

Gear up and plan your hike in one of several areas of the park, with more than 750 miles of trail from which to choose. Whether your preference is the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir area with its isolated location, the variety of day hikes from Wawona and Glacier Point Road, or the steep waterfall-laden granite cliffs of the Yosemite Valley—there are plenty of choices for every type of trekker.

Campground fees range from $5 per person per day to a flat fee of $20 per day. Park entrance fee is $20 and is good for seven consecutive days.

Destinations: Chicago, Montréal, Québec, Saint Lucia, Iceland, Everglades National Park, San Francisco, Yosemite National Park

Themes: Urban Endeavors

Activities: Safaris, Shopping, Wine Tasting

User Comments

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