10 to Watch
Top Budget Travel Destinations for 2009
BudgetTravel.com reveals the best value hotspots for the New Year.
Memorable moment: The Easter season is a fine time to experience the country's culture up-close because of the often-exuberant ways that Mexicans celebrate the holiday. In San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, a Good Friday procession dramatizes key moments of Jesus's crucifixion, for example. And Easter Sunday commemorations end with participants exploding effigies of despised historical figures, including Judas Iscariot (internetsanmiguel.com, free).
Price check: Budget Travel's Web tool can help you pinpoint the Mexican resort towns that are linked to your nearest airport by nonstop flights (budgettravel.com/nonstopmexico). For example, an all-inclusive package at the Tesoro Resorts in Ixtapa—on Mexico's Pacific Coast—includes food, alcoholic and nonalcoholic drinks, and lots of entertainment, starting at just $170 per room, per night, and children under 12 stay for free (tesororesorts.com, 866-998-3767).
IN THE NEWS
Major events and anniversaries should keep Berlin and Vancouver in the spotlight for much of the year. Plan ahead to be a part of the action, and take advantage of the favorable economic climate, too.
Why in 2009: It's the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Plus, the city's been on a long construction spree: Berlin now has one of the world's most dynamic skylines, thanks to innovative buildings such as the swoopy O2 World stadium and the city's vast, sleekly modern main train station. Despite all the moving and shaking, Berlin remains a bargain. Even in the financially flush year of 2007, four- and five-star rooms averaged €130 a night; comparable rooms in Paris and London priced out at more than twice as much. Splurge by opting for a fancier hotel than usual. Swissôtel Berlin, our pick for best value hotel in Europe, has rooms from $188 (011-49/30-220-100, swissotel.com/berlin).
Main events: Throughout the year, Berlin will commemorate the fall of the Wall with concerts, memorials, and an open-air-exhibition in Alexanderplatz. On November 9, at the Brandenburg Gate, a symbolic wall of hundreds of five-foot-tall stones decorated by children will fall like dominos, launching a fireworks display (mauerfall09.com). Also in autumn, the rebuilt Neues Museum will open on Berlin's central Museum Island, displaying masterworks that include the world-famous bust of ancient Egypt's Queen Nefertiti.
Memorable moment: Take the official, self-guided Berlin Wall tour using the GPS-integrated WallGuide (mauerguide.com, $13). Among the sights is Potsdamer Platz, the city's central plaza, surrounded by showstopping buildings that include Renzo Piano's gorgeous, glass-and-terra-cotta shopping arcade (visitberlin.de, free).
Price check: Rooms in many of Berlin's three-star hotels will go for about $90 this year. Pension ABC, for example, is a squeaky-clean, family-run inn near Potsdamer Platz with doubles from $89 (011-49/30-2694-9903).
Why in 2009: Americans heading to Canada finally have the U.S. dollar back on their side. Exchange rates have rebounded to 2005 levels. And fares into Vancouver for the first three months of 2009 are down 24 percent from a year earlier, says Farecast. Meanwhile, the city has been busy glamming itself up to prepare for February 2010, when it hosts the Winter Olympics. It's spent lots of money to retool infrastructure and unveil cool new venues. The Vancouver Convention and Exhibition Centre, for instance, is now topped with a six-acre rooftop garden of 400,000 native plants and wild grasses that are partly irrigated by a sophisticated rainwater collection system.