BUDGET TRAVEL TIPS
Dream Trips You Can Actually Afford
Think dream trips like Europe and Hawaii are totally out of reach? You'd be surprised how many affordable packages are out there to help. Here's our ultimate list of dream trip adventures—plus, the travel deals to help you get on your way.
Machu Picchu, Peru
I have to admit, this was the number one thing on my personal dream trip list, and I was finally able to do it in April of this year thanks to a super-affordable vacation package by G Adventures. The Machu Picchu Adventure 8-day tour starts in Lima, where you'll get a chance to soak up the food scene—try the lomo saltado, a delicious dish made of tender beef, veggies, rice, and french fries, or stick to ceviche—and take a walk by the Pacific after dinner. Then, you'll board a one-hour flight to Cusco and spend the next five days exploring the sites of the Sacred Valley, visiting ruins in Ollantaytambo, relaxing in the hot springs of Aguas Calientes, and of course, taking a bus ride up the mountain to view Machu Picchu at sunrise, definitely a memorable experience. You'll love hearing about the legends and stories of the Inca from native Quechua guides and locals along the way—all that stuff you've learned in school about the Conquistadors doesn't quite sink in until you see places where they demolished once-beautiful Inca temples and built gigantic churches on top of them. Plus, with G Adventures, you'll have a great mix of guided tours and free time to explore the cities of Cusco and Lima on your own, as well as exclusive access to a traditional Quechua women's weaving cooperative and restaurant, experiences with the locals that you'll never forget.
Book It: Machu Picchu Adventure, G Adventures, from $1,349 per person, land only.
Home to beautiful beaches, vibrant cities, and a wealth of historical sites, Vietnam definitely deserves a spot on your dream trips list. World Spree offers a 12-day tour that includes airfare from San Francisco (or L.A., Chicago, Dallas, Atlanta, D.C., and New York City for an addtional charge), making this amazing county more accessible than ever. The trip also gives you time to explore Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Hue, Hoi An, Hanoi, and takes you on a cruise around scenic Halong Bay at the end. All transfers, ground transportation, and intra-Vietnam flights are also part of the package price, as are most meals, a comprehensive sightseeing itinerary, and the services of English-speaking guides throughout. Several optional tours are also available for a little extra, including a half-day trip to see the infamous Cu Chi Tunnels ($40) and a half day historic tour of Hanoi's "Old Quarters," the "Hanoi Hilton," and a traditional water puppet show ($50), but you'll have a number of guided tours along the way that are included as well.
Book it: 12-Day Amazing Vietnam, World Spree, from $1,799 per person including airfare from San Francisco.
Ah, a place that's probably on everybody's dream trip list. So much so that my parents' dream was to live on Oahu, a beautiful place they'd lived after they first got married, and where we lived from 1994-2001. I'm not going to lie, Hawaii is a pretty expensive place, but like everywhere else, there are ways to get around it. Check for flash sales and other discounts offered by Hawaiian Airlines, which just started flying non-stop from New York City two years ago, so no more excuses, east-coasters! Their website even offers bundled vacation packages combining several nights' accommodations with airfare and other island activities on Oahu, Maui, Kauai, and the Big Island. If you're a cruise-lover and can only spare a week of vacation time, you're in luck! Norwegian Cruise Lines offers a 7-day cruise onboard the Pride of America, taking you around the Hawaiian Islands with stops in Kahului, Maui; Hilo and Kona on the Big Island; and on Kauai before returning you to Honolulu, a great way to get a taste of the islands.