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24 safe budget getaways for spring

By Kaeli Conforti
January 12, 2022
Sunset Beach
Laura Brown
​​Feeling the urge to embark on a socially distanced road trip or book a staycation closer to home this spring? You’re not alone.

According to a recent study by vacation rental search engine HomeToGo, bookings are up by 46% compared to last year, with travelers opting to stay within 257 miles of home. Hotels and campgrounds are getting in on the action, with Hilton offering up to 20% off rates at certain properties and free night deals at Sun RV Resorts in Arizona, California and Texas when you book by March 7 and travel by March 31. If remote cabins or unique camping experiences are more your style, check Vacation Renter and RVC Outdoor Destinations for more off-the-beaten-path ideas.

If you’re willing to wear a mask, practice social distancing and follow health and safety protocols, spring might be a good time to venture out, especially with hotels and destinations doing all they can to keep employees and visitors safe. Here are 24 socially distanced trips you can drive to this spring, all under $200 a night.

New York

Save on a Finger Lakes stay at 1795 Acorn Inn, located near Canandaigua Lake about five hours from NYC. Mention the Winter Weekend Package to unlock nightly rates from $130, daily breakfast and a free third night when you book a two-night stay Thursday through Sunday by April 25.


Pennsylvania 

Choose from cabins, cottages, yurts, bungalows, villas, RV and tent campsites and a 52-room lodge at Lake Raystown Resort, about 3.5 hours from Philadelphia or 2.5 hours from Pittsburgh. Bike or hike the 400-acre property’s scenic trails, visit the WildRiver Waterpark or Proud Mary Showboat and dine by the water at the Marina Café. Nightly rates start at $139 for bungalows and villas, $124 for cottages, $94 for cabins, $89 for lodge accommodations and $30 for tent campsites.


 Washington, D.C.

The Cherry Blossom package at The Ven at Embassy Row includes a cherry blossom themed amenity, hand-painted postcards designed by a local artist, a commemorative lapel pin and a $15 rideshare app credit, with rates from $154 a night when you book and stay through April 30.


Virginia

Head to Southwest Virginia for fewer crowds and beautiful natural surroundings roughly 2.5 hours from Charlotte or six hours from DC. Bring your bike and take on the 35-mile Virginia Creeper trail, hike to the highest point in the state at Mount Rogers or see the wild ponies in Grayson Highland State Park. At The Sessions Hotel in Bristol, the Birthplace of Country Music Museum package includes breakfast for two and admission to the museum, from $194 a night. Nearby, rates at The Bristol Hotel, which makes its home in a restored 1925 landmark building, start at $139 a night.

Near Shenandoah National Park in Northern Virginia, the Vacationing on the Clock package at Massanutten Resort comes with two complimentary cups of coffee, nightly rates from $195 and your choice of lift tickets or waterpark passes when you book and stay at least two nights Thursday through Sunday in a one-bedroom condo by March 7. 


South Carolina

Visit Myrtle Beach, home to more than 60 miles of Atlantic beaches and 50 mini-golf courses. Stop by the LW Paul Living History Farm, stroll through Brookgreen Gardens or treat yourself to a private kayak tour with Black River Outdoors to enjoy the area from the water. Stay at Island Vista, where each room has a balcony overlooking the beach (from $87) or Hotel BLUE, home to South Carolina’s first swim-up pool bar (from $75).

About 30 minutes from Charleston, Wild Dunes Resort, a Hyatt property in Island of Palms, offers plenty of outdoor space, tennis courts, a fancy 36-hole championship golf course and opportunities to fish or try stand-up paddleboarding. Rates start at $160 a night this spring.

History buffs will love the Olde English District, located about an hour’s drive from Charlotte or Columbia, where you can learn about the area’s African American heritage and Revolutionary War history at a living history site, enjoy the great outdoors at Goodale State Park or get a bird’s eye view by sailplane with Bermuda High Soaring. Nightly rates at the charming East Main Guest House Bed and Breakfast in Rock Hill start at $129.


Florida

Celebrate Tampa’s Cuban heritage with a staycation at Hotel Haya, located on 7th Avenue in the heart of Ybor City. The Grab & Go Breakfast package, available from $174 a night, includes a homemade guava pastelito, a can of traditional con leche and fresh fruit. 

Between Pensacola and Panama City Beach, Hotel Effie Sandestin’s location within the Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort and proximity to Silver Sands Premium Outlets make it a great base for those in need of a round of golf or a shopping spree, with rates from $189 a night. 

In the Florida Keys, you’ll save 20% on weeknight vacation rentals or motel stays of at least two nights at Pelican RV Resort & Marina in Marathon (from $165) or Riptide RV Resort & Marina in Key Largo (from $150) when you book by April 30 and stay Sunday through Thursday by May 31.


Mississippi

Calling all Elvis fans: Whether you’re heading to Tupelo as part of a larger road trip from Memphis or Nashville or just enjoying the city’s history, music and foodie scene in its own right, there’s a lot to see here. Tour the King’s birthplace by bike, take a scenic drive along the Natchez Trace Parkway and camp lakeside at nearby Tombigbee State Park, with cabins from $60 a night and fully equipped vacation cottages from $75 a night.


Texas

Try a Texas Hill Country getaway or day trip this spring to see the wildflower bloom in March and April, enjoy Barbecue Month celebrations in May or spend time wandering charming towns like Fredericksburg, which celebrates its 175th birthday this year. Aviation enthusiasts will love the Hangar Hotel in Fredericksburg, a quirky hotel built to resemble a 1940s WWII hangar (rooms from $149), while an hour away in Dripping Springs, Lucky Arrow Retreat offers luxury yurts and cabins (from $159–$199) next door to the Bell Springs Winery and Brewing Company. 

Families near Dallas can enjoy early access to the Hilton Anatole’s new JadeWaters waterpark, which will be open to hotel guests on weekends from April 30 to May 31 before opening fully on Memorial Day weekend. Packages offer a $50 daily credit or complimentary breakfast, from $169 a night.

About 90 minutes from Dallas in East Texas, the Deer Lake Cabins Ranch Resort in Mount Vernon offers more than 800 acres of trails and lakes so you can really get back to nature. Spend your days hiking, fishing, feeding farm animals, horseback riding or cruising around on a UTV, and your nights at a cowboy cookout or on a hayride, with cottages from $189 a night.


Ohio

The Mohicans Treehouse Resort & Wedding Venue, roughly 90 minutes from Cleveland or Columbus, is offering discounts through March 16 on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday treehouse stays. Use promo code BUDGET2021 to unlock $200 nightly rates for the Moonlight, White Oak, Little Red, Old Pine and The Nest treehouses and $250 rates for the Tin Shed, Silver Bullet, The View and El Castillo.

In Columbus, check out the Chihuly collection at Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, wander the historic German Village district, take on the largest free outdoor climbing wall in the country at Scioto Audubon Metropark and get some air along the 253-mile Scioto Mile. Springtime rates at Moxy Columbus Short North start at $91 a night, while the Work Anywhere Stay Pass package includes early 6 a.m. check-in, late 6 p.m. check-out, complimentary Wi-Fi and a $10 food and beverage credit.


Illinois

Those seeking a pet-friendly staycation should check out the Radisson Blu Chicago’s VIPup package, which includes a doggie bed, as well as a welcome toy, portable food and water bowls, gourmet treats, a food and drink mat and a waste bag dispenser, with rates from $149 a night.


Wisconsin

There’s plenty of outdoor fun to be had in Door County, just 45 minutes from Green Bay and two hours from Milwaukee. History buffs should head to the Heritage Village living history museum in Sturgeon Bay, which will be reopening in May, as well as the Door County Maritime Museum to learn about the area’s shipbuilding past. Stay at Eagle Harbor Inn, a charming bed and breakfast in Ephraim, with rates from $98 a night.

Nearby, the Fox Cities area offers many outdoor attractions — head to High Cliff State Park near Lake Winnebago to hike one of the park’s seven historic trails or try your hand at making maple syrup in Bubolz Nature Preserve. Stay in Appleton and book the CopperLeaf Boutique Hotel & Spa’s Winter Warmer package — you’ll get complimentary hot chocolate, two handcrafted stoneware coffee mugs, two mini bottles of Dr. McGillicuddy’s liqueur and a $50 credit toward dining or spa treatments, from $174 through March 31 — or the Girls’ Night on the Town package, which includes a bottle of wine and a $20 minibar credit (from $150). 


South Dakota  

The Badlands and Black Hills are full of scenic outdoor spaces worthy of a road trip, like Badlands National Park, Crazy Horse Memorial, Mount Rushmore National Memorial, just to name a few. Visit Custer State Park to see the buffalo roam, then stay onsite at Custer State Park Resort, where you can save 20% and receive a $20 credit on two-night stays (or save 25% and receive a $25 credit) when you stay between April 26 and May 22 and mention the Stay and Save This Spring package. Rates for lodge and cabin rooms start at $140 a night. 


Colorado

Those booking two weekend stays in Arrowhead, Bearclaw or Foxtail cabins at the River Run Resort in Granby will get one free weekend stay when they book and travel by March 28. Two-weekend packages start at $520 (which breaks down to $130 a night) and come with six free bowling games, plus you can add extra nights for 20% less if you want to stay longer.

Back in Denver, The Curtis has a great package for groups who want to enjoy a safe getaway together. The Choose Your Adventure package lets up to 24 guests take over an entire floor — that’s 12 guest rooms at double occupancy — from $2,000 a night, which breaks down to about $166 per room or $83 per person. You’ll also get to book your choice of socially distanced adventures, like laser tag, a silent disco or murder mystery game night, among others.


Washington For an epic outdoor escape with a luxury resort twist, head 90 minutes from Seattle to Suncadia Resort, a Hyatt property situated among more than 6,000 acres of beautiful mountain scenery in Cle Elum. Spend some time hiking or biking more than 40 miles of trails in Wenatchee Washington National Forest or trying your hand at archery or axe throwing, among other activities, with rates from $171 a night.

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Budget Travel Lists

24 Socially Distant Getaways and Staycations You Can Do This Winter

While many are staying home because of the pandemic, U.S. hotels and destinations have continued to carefully reopen, with contactless check-in and other cleanliness and hygiene protocols in place to help keep visitors and employees safe. A recent study by vacation rental search engine HomeToGo found that U.S. travelers are seeking more private, rural getaways with the family, with lots of short last-minute trips being planned — 44% to warm places by the beach and 24% to winter-weather destinations. The study also showed a 594% increase in searches for rentals near the Smoky Mountains compared to last year, indicating a preference for escapes to remote locations in the great outdoors this season. Whether you’re craving some quiet time in nature or an urban staycation closer to home, there are still plenty of options for those willing to travel safely — that means wearing a mask, practicing social distancing and adhering to local health and safety regulations. Here’s a look at 24 socially distant trips you can book this winter, all for under $250 per night. Maine In Camden, Hartstone Inn & Hideaway’s two-night package includes a tasting menu for two, daily breakfast and your choice of winter amenities — snowshoe rental, tickets to Gardens Aglow at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, a personalized Hartstone Inn cookbook or half-day lift tickets to nearby Camden Snow Bowl — from $199 per person. Use promo code Winter and book by March 31, 2021. New Hampshire The Sailmaker’s House in Portsmouth is offering a Skate & Stay deal now through February 28, with rates from $119 per night and two adult ice skating passes to nearby Puddle Duck pond available as a package add-on for $25. Vermont Stoweflake Mountain Resort’s Sensational Snowshoe Adventure package gives you complimentary parking, Wi-Fi and access to the Sports Club, one-day snowshoe and Nordic pole rentals for two and vouchers for breakfast or dinner at Charlie B’s. Rates from $224 per night based on double occupancy; book by April 14, 2021. Save 20% on accommodations, onsite dining or spa treatments at The Essex, Vermont’s Culinary Resort and Spa, in Burlington when you book by March 31, 2021. You’ll also receive hot chocolate and fireside s’mores each night of your stay. Note that you must charge dining at The Tavern or Junction, cooking classes at Cook Academy or spa treatments to the room in order to receive the 20% discount. Rates from $119 per night. Want to stay longer? Weekly rates are available from $109 per night for stays of at least seven nights through August 20, 2021. Connecticut The Inn at Middletown’s Sensational Family Winter Escape package includes a $40 room upgrade to a boutique one-bedroom suite, free Wi-Fi, one complimentary rollaway per room (based on availability) and snow tubing passes at Powder Ridge when you book and stay by April 30, 2021. Rates from $156 per night. New York The Rose and Thistle Bed and Breakfast in Cooperstown has a two-night package that includes two country breakfasts and a bottle of wine for $200 when you stay Sunday thru Saturday by March 31, 2021. Just mention the package when booking. Also in Cooperstown, The Curl Up and Unwind package at The Otesaga includes daily breakfast, complimentary Wi-Fi and parking and a signature hot cocoa mix kit created by the property’s culinary specialists. Book by March 31, 2021, to access rates from $149 per night. The Lake George Winterfest is happening every weekend in February and you can save 15% on area hotels by buying a $30 adult Winterfest Wristband for activities like axe throwing, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, dog sledding or fat tire biking (kids’ tickets cost $15 each), bringing most area hotel rates below $200 per night. Washington, D.C. Thompson Washington D.C.’s Popcorn & Pints package treats you to one in-room movie, two bottles of Atlas District Commons beer and one bag of Capitol Kettle Corn, as well as perks like late 1 p.m. checkout and free parking. Rates from $199 per night when you book by March 31 for stays through April 4, 2021. Maryland The Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Golf Resort, Spa and Marina in Cambridge, Maryland, is offering a 15% discount on rates and daily breakfast for two as part of its Getaway Winter special. Use promo code GET19A to unlock rates from $144 per night when you book by February 28 for stays thru April 3, 2021. Virginia Get your cabin-in-the-woods escape with a stay at James Riverfront Cabin, a cozy spot by the James River that’s within driving distance of the Appalachian Trail, Blue Ridge Parkway and some of the area’s best breweries and wineries. Rates from $159 per night, with enough room for up to seven people. At The Cabin on Back Creek — where rates start at $175 per night with a minimum two-night stay required — you’ll have two rooms to stretch out in and the chance to see or even help the owners make maple syrup. It’s nice and remote, too, about a three-hour drive from Richmond and 2.5 hours from Roanoke. ATV fans should check out The Real McCoy Cabins, a luxury campground located near the Pocahontas and Hatfield McCoy ATV trails, with rates from $139 per night. Train lovers can stay in a refurbished 1926 C&O Caboose, complete with Wi-Fi, access to streaming services and everything else you’ll need for a comfortable stay in the Virginia wilderness. Rates from $195 per night. Florida For a South Florida beach getaway, book now through February 12 to save 21% on rates all year long at SLS Brickell, SLS LUX Brickell, Hyde Midtown Miami and SLS South Beach during SBE Hotels’ winter sale. In Central Florida, Margaritaville Resort Orlando is offering rates from $149 per night through its Stay in Paradise package, which includes a one-time $50 resort credit and daily breakfast for two when you book at least two nights. Illinois The historic Drake Hotel in Chicago is celebrating its 100th year anniversary by offering 100 days of $100 rates when you book and stay by April 10, 2021. Nearby, The Drake Oak Brook offers an ideal wintertime escape, with more than 10 acres of gardens perfect for snowman-building and a cozy spot to warm up as you sip cocktails and play vintage board games by the fire. Rates from $158 per night. Want to take your beloved fur baby along for the ride? Hotel Zachary at Gallagher Way’s Bark & Park package comes with food and water bowls, a dog bed, a branded welcome amenity just for your pup, waived pet fees and free parking. Rates from $154 per night when you use promo code ZJ5 and book by November 24, 2021. Ohio The Mohicans Treehouse Resort & Wedding Venue, located about 90 minutes from Cleveland or Columbus, is offering special discounts on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday treehouse stays now through March 16, 2021, when you use promo code BUDGET2021. With the discount, rates for the Moonlight, White Oak, Little Red, Old Pine and The Nest treehouses start at $200 per night, while rates for the Tin Shed, Silver Bullet, The View and El Castillo start at $250 a night. Tennessee If you’re in desperate need of a girlfriend getaway this winter, the Margaritaville Hotel Nashville’s Girls Just Want to Have Fun package comes with complimentary margaritas from Fins Bar, an in-room party pack, a $25 resort credit and late check-out when you book at least two nights. Rates from $174 per night. Wisconsin Give snowshoeing a try at Nine Mile Forest in Wasau or High Cliff State Park, about 45 minutes south of Green Bay. Lake Winnebago makes the perfect place for ice fishing, while the Dane Co CamRock Trail outside Madison and WinMan Trails at the North Lakeland Discovery Center are ideal for fat tire biking. Check out the ice caves near Lake Superior or along the Apostle Island National Lakeshore, or even take on the waves in Lake Michigan — there’s a reason this area is known as the Malibu of the Midwest. Whatever you do this winter, base yourself at the Blue Harbor Resort in Sheboygan, with rates from $161 a night that include access to its onsite 54,000-square-foot indoor waterpark. Colorado If you’ve always wanted to try winter trail running, ice climbing, backcountry skiing, cross-country skiing or snowshoeing, head to Estes Park, a lovely town 90 minutes from Denver that’s smackdab in the middle of Rocky Mountain National Park and Roosevelt National Forest. Stay at the YMCA of the Rockies, which rents out budget-friendly cabins and double rooms from $109 a night. Wyoming Head to Cheyenne to try your hand at wintertime activities like ice boating and ice fishing at Curt Gowdy State Park; snow tubing, sledding, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing at Pole Mountain; and ATVing at Terry Bison Ranch. Little America Hotel & Resort Cheyenne is close to all the action, with cozy Western-style rooms from $96 per night for up to four people.

Budget Travel Lists

The budget guide to Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe sits on the border of California and Nevada, and offers beautiful scenery, hiking, beaches and winter sports. It is a perfect location for adventure travelers, photographers, and winter sports enthusiasts. Here is our guide to getting the best deals at Lake Tahoe. Getting There Lake Tahoe has its own airport, which can easily be accessed by flying through Denver. For the cheapest rates, look to Southwest Airlines, Frontier Airlines, or Alaska Airlines. The nearest major city is Reno, Nevada. Where to Stay Accommodations are one of the areas where you can save while visiting Lake Tahoe. By choosing your hotel wisely you can make room in your budget for more days on the slopes. Given that there are majestic views around every bend in the road in Lake Tahoe, your hotel room will simply be a comfortable place to lay your head at night. Worth considering, is the Postmarc Hotel Spa and Resort boasts recently renovated rooms and the majority of them feature a spa tub. Listed on their website is a special for 20% off their published rates which makes this place even more endearing. Rates vary from $90-$100 without the applicable discount. If snowboarding is your sport of choice then staying at the Forest Suites Resort at Heavenly Village is convenient. The resort is right by the ski gondolas which take you to the top of the Heavenly ski slopes. The hotel is advertising a holiday sale with 30% off and a winter sale with 40%, these are some serious savings. Rates are currently $100 a night before applicable discounts. The Northern shore of Lake Tahoe is much quieter and made up of residential neighborhoods. The Tahoe Vistana Inn located North offers many amenities that make the stay even sweeter. The facilities offer a grill as well as firepits for guests to use on those cooler nights. The Inn offers its guests free usage of their bikes, paddleboards and kayaks which is a huge perk. Rates are currently $95 a night. What to Do When you arrive at Lake Tahoe head to one of the multiple Visitor Centers to look for brochures that may contain coupons for kayaking, boating and the countless number of water activities available at the lake. Lake Tahoe is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. Every single viewpoint in Lake Tahoe is scenic. During the summer, you’ll gravitate to the lake and all of the water activities you can take advantage of. Kayaks and paddleboards can be rented right next to the lake, right on any beach. One of the most beautiful beaches to kayak is Sand Harbor. Hiking the Lake Tahoe area is another beautiful way to spend your day. There are multiple hikes to waterfalls in the area. Some of the most beautiful waterfalls in the area are Cascade Creek Falls, Eagle Falls and Horse Tail Falls. It’s essential to pack a lunch on your hike to one of these impressive waterfalls. Sprouts Natural Foods Café has sandwiches packed chock full of the vegetables you need to nourish you as you hike. Driving out of Lake Tahoe heading South you can take a quick hike before heading home. You can hike a small part of the Pacific Crest Trail (which extends from Canada to Mexico) by hiking the Frog Lake trail. This dog-friendly trail takes you through lightly wooded forests as well as through rocky terrain. Your ultimate reward is the small lake when you reach the top and the beautiful views you get from there. Hiking frog lake is the perfect way to end your exploration of the Lake Tahoe area. Male skier skiing downhill on powder snow, Lake Tahoe, California, USA. ©Succes'S IBC/Getty Images Winter Sports The extraordinary views as you are skiing or snowboarding down the slopes are what makes Lake Tahoe such a unique place to ski. Unfortunately, affordability is not what Lake Tahoe is known for. Lift tickets can cost upwards of $130 during peak seasons. Luckily, Lake Tahoe has fifteen ski resorts which allow the budget-conscious skier to compare prices as well as the types of terrain and runs they wish to ski. When it comes to skiing, going during the week is your best bet for finding a deal. If avoiding the crowds sounds like a good idea then resorts like Homewood and Diamond Peak are under $100 during the week. Both of these resorts are family-friendly with Diamond Peak being the friendliest. At Diamond Peak children under six are free and they also offer an interchangeable ski ticket that can be used amongst the two parents. If your heart is set on the Heavenly Resort, which is the top-rated resort in Lake Tahoe, then you need to be prepared to spend a bit more. Currently, a one-day ski pass is $133 a day at Heavenly, with an Epic Day Pass. This includes 20% discounts at select quick-service restaurants at the ski resort as well as discounts on lodging.

Budget Travel Lists

Budget Travel guide to the Florida Keys

If you’re looking for a road trip that combines nightlife, laid back beaches, and a little Key Lime pie, the four hour drive from Miami to Key West is the perfect adventure. The Florida Keys are a chain of islands just south of Miami that stretch 125 miles, and the most ideal time to visit is during the spring months from March to May or during the fall after hurricane season has ended on November 1st. But truly, visiting the Keys is a good idea no matter what time of year. Whether it's a family vacation, a girlfriend getaway, or a solo expedition, there’s something for everyone in the Keys. Read on for a guide to where to stay, what to do, and where to eat along the way. MIAMI If you’re flying into Miami, I recommend spending at least one night on South Beach. There’s a wide range of accommodations - the Fontainebleau Miami Beach (starting at $350) or the The Setai (starting at $530) are good places to spot A-list celebrities. But if you’re craving something a little more lowkey (this is Budget Travel, after all), book a room at Miami’s favorite hostel The Broken Shaker (starting under $30 a night for a shared room) or the Selina Miami (starting at $75) that’s tucked away in Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood. If you’re just driving through Miami and only have a few hours to spare, find a parking garage (street parking is notoriously hard to find), and stroll down Ocean Drive. Rent a bike, watch the bodybuilders, or snap a picture in front of one of the unique lifeguard stands For the full Miami experience, book a table at one of the many restaurants along Ocean Drive like the South Beach incon, A Fish Called Avalon ($$$). For something a little more understated, check out one of my favorite restaurants near Lincoln Road mall, Taqueria Bodega ($$). The tacos are authentic and the sodas are homemade. For a real treat, use the “secret door” in the back to enjoy a hidden after hours lounge. Big brown pelicans in the Florida Keys. ©romrodinka/Getty Images KEY LARGO Once you leave the neon lights of Miami, things slow down considerably. The keys have a laid back, hippie vibe that thumbs its nose at its northern neighbor. Located about 70 miles from Miami, Key Largo is the largest section of the keys and a gateway to the rest of the Florida Keys. You won’t find any highrises in Key Largo, but you’ll find a lot of RV campsites, kitschy souvenir shops, and billboards advertising a chance to feed alligators. Accommodations range from quiet luxury to bare bones. Check out the Playa Largo Resort and Spa (starting at $219) where you can lounge in a hammock on the white sand beach and order drinks from the poolside bar. But for something a little more off the beaten path, check into any one of the condos, airbnbs, or smaller hotels along the main highway like the Coconut Palm Inn (starting at $159). Key Largo is also home to John Pennekamp Coral Reef Park, which is great for scuba diving, snorkeling, and kayaking. Because of its small beach area, John Pennekamp is more suited for activities, so if you’re looking for a beach with a more sandy area to lay out on, try nearby Cannon Beach or Far Beach. Big Betsy the Giant Lobster is a featured roadside attraction in Islamorada. ISLAMORADA From Key Largo head south on US Highway 1 for about 17 miles to Islamorada. The area, named by Spanish explorers in the 1500s, means “Purple Isle.” And although it’s only 20 miles long, there’s still plenty to do. For a quick bite, stop by the food truck Taco Jalisco. Locals love the Mexican eatery, and you can order tacos and hang out next door in the Florida Keys Brewing Company beer garden and listen to live music. Across the street is Morada Bay, an open air restaurant directly facing the Florida bay. You can order from the more casual beach cafe side or eat the upscale Pierre’s Lounge. Either way, enjoy a stunning sunset while sipping a Key Lime Colada or Cucumber Martini. We highly recommend the Key Lime Colada - it's a must-have. Stop in Islamorada at the Rain Barrel Artist's Village for some local handmade crafts and boutiques. You'll know you've found it when you see Betsy the Giant Lobster out front. Another must see attraction in Islamorada is Robbie’s. The marina is a hub for water activities like parasailing, jet skiing, and paddle boarding, but the main attraction is feeding the tarpon. Walk through the vibrant open air marketplace to the back of the marina, and after paying the $2.25 admission, you can buy a $4.00 bucket of fish to feed the monster tarpon that can grow up to 8 feet long. After the adrenaline rush of Robbies, settled in for the 30 mile drive to Marathon. MARATHON The road between Islamorada and Marathon is lined with iconic stilt houses, nature trails, and some of the best beaches in Florida. In Marathon, get your swimsuits and cameras ready. I recommended visiting Bahia Honda State Park. There's a $8 per vehicle entry fee (plus a county surcharge), but the views are priceless. Step onto the fine white sand, and wade out into the crystalline waters or take the short hike up the beach trail and snap pictures off the Old Bahia Honda Bridge that was built in the 1900s. Other nearby beaches to check out are Sombrero or Cocoplum Beach. After splashing around, it’s time for the final stretch to Key West, just 50 miles away. Watch the sunset from Mallory Square. Photo by Laura Brown. KEY WEST One of the most spectacular views of the road trip is driving over the famous 7 mile bridge that starts in Knights Key in Marathon and ends in Little Duck Key. The commute feels like you’re driving across the ocean, and on a sunny day the sun glitters off the turquoise waters, making it hard to look away. If you need a jolt of caffeine, head over to the Cuban Coffee Queen. There are several locations, but if you want to announce your arrival to your Instagram followers with a picture in front of the “Greetings From Key West” mural, be sure to visit the Margaret street location (284 Margaret St). Once you reach Key West, head straight to the “90 miles to Cuba” buoy. The marker is a huge attraction, and lines can get long. If it’s your first time in the Keys, it’s worth getting a photo. Don’t let the long lines dissuade you - there’s always something to keep you entertained. People in Key West are talkative and friendly, and you can buy fresh coconut water or shaved ice from one of the street vendors while you wait. Besides you’re now on Key West time, which means everything is a little slower. Key West is made for walking, but there are several ways to get around town. I recommend parking in a lot for the day and then either renting a scooter or golf cart. Not ready to brave the roads? Hop onto the Duval Loop, a free public bus that will take you around downtown Key West. Make sure you catch a sunset from Mallory Square. You can also tour Ernest Hemingway's Key West house, known for its famous 6-toed cats. If it’s your first time in Key West, it’s worth it to check out some of the well known establishments like Blue Heaven restaurant or the famous Sloppy Joes and Hog’s Breath Saloon bars. But if you want something different, check out restaurants like Santiago’s Bodega, Mo’s Restaurant, El Siboney, or Bad Boy Burrito. Some lively options for bars include Tiki House, The Rum Bar. or Captain Tony’s Saloon. It’s not a trip to Key West without some Key Lime pie. While there are many places that claim to serve the best pie, you can’t go wrong with these three: The Key Lime Pie Company, Key Lime Pie Bakery, or Kermit's Key Lime Shop. My advice? At the end of a long day of exploring Key West, pick the closest one and enjoy a cool, tart slice of pie in one of the most beautiful places in the world. Explore the giant fortress at Dry Tortugas National Park. Photo by Laura Brown. DRY TORTUGAS Key West offers a launch point for people who would like to experience one of America's most remote National Parks. Dry Tortugas National Park is located 70 miles west of Key West, and can only be accessed by boat or sea plane, both of which leave from Key West and can be booked at https://www.drytortugas.com/. Those who make the trip to Dry Tortugas will get a day of exploring an old brick coastal fortress in Fort Jefferson, or snorkel the protected coral reefs. For an additional fee, you can camp overnight at Fort Jefferson, which offers some of the best stargazing options on the East Coast. You'll see several shipwrecks from old boats that hit the reefs, and get a new appreciation for the people who lived and worked in the Florida Keys.

Budget Travel Lists

50 Budget-Friendly Black Friday and Cyber Monday Travel Deals

Whether you’re planning a staycation or an epic adventure, these Black Friday and Cyber Monday travel deals will help you do it for less, with rates starting under $200 per night and most travel dates extending through 2021. Note that blackout dates apply, most properties and tour companies have flexible cancellation policies and some links won’t be active until sales begin on November 27, 2020. Vacation Packages and Guided Tours Amtrak Vacations: This year’s round of “Track Friday” specials includes savings of up to $300 per couple on National Parks Rail Vacations and up to $300 per couple on private sleeper upgrades when you book at least five nights November 26–30 and travel in 2021. Apple Vacations & FunJet Vacations: Book November 25–December 3 for travel through October 31, 2021 to save up to $175 on trips of at least two nights within the continental U.S. (use promo code BLACKFRIYAY5) or up to $500 on trips of at least three nights to Hawaii, Costa Rica, Mexico and the Caribbean (use promo code BLACKFRIYAY4). Booking.com: Make up for lost time and book hotels through the site or app now through December 1 to save at least 30% when you travel by December 31, 2021. Cheap Caribbean: Save up to 75% on trips booked through December 1 for travel through December 2021. You’ll also save $75 on trips of at least five nights (use promo code CYBER75 and travel by December 31, 2020), $150 on trips of five to six nights (use promo code CYBER150 and travel January 1–December 31, 2021) and $250 on trips of at least seven nights (use promo code CYBER250 and travel January 1–December 31, 2021). Contiki: Now through December 3, travelers ages 18–35 can save 30% on tours happening April 1, 2021–October 31, 2022. Just make a deposit during the Cyber Sale and pay off the rest of it by March 31, 2021. Expedia: Save up to 50% on hotels and attractions all over the world by booking now through December 1—plus an extra 12% if you use the Expedia app—and traveling by September 12, 2021. Friendly Planet Travel: You’ll be able to save up to $1,300 per person on more than 60 guided tours including round-trip airfare, luxury accommodations and most meals by booking November 30–December 7 with a $99 deposit. G Adventures: Save up to 21% on select trips from January 1–December 21, 2121 when you make a deposit of $1 now through November 30. Pay the full deposit amount by January 31, 2021 and the rest of your trip fees at least 60 days prior to departure (120 days ahead for Expedition tours). Intrepid Travel: Save 20% on all international trips and 10% on all domestic trips when you book now through December 1 for travel January 1–December 15, 2021. Toucan Travel: Adventure travel fans can save 35% on 12 of Toucan Travel’s most popular guided tours by booking now through December 8. Best of all, travel dates extend through 2021 and 2022 so there’s plenty of time to plan your perfect trip. Hotels in the U.S. Aparium Hotel Group: Seeking a boutique hotel staycation? Look no further than the Crossroads Hotel in Kansas City, Detroit Foundation Hotel in Michigan, Hewing Hotel in Minneapolis, Hotel Hava in Tampa, the Surety Hotel in Des Moines and the MC Hotel in Montclair, New Jersey. Receive a $50 food and beverage credit each night when you use promo code THANKS, book November 27–30 and visit by February 28, 2021. Carter Hospitality Group Winery Resorts: Save 20% at Carter’s family-owned resorts in Temecula, California, and Texas Hill Country and receive a welcome bottle of wine when you book by December 1 and stay by September 12, 2021. Hyatt: Book a stay at Hyatt’s participating properties by December 6 and get 20% off when you stay by April 4, 2021. Sign up for the World of Hyatt loyalty program, as members can save 22% and earn rewards toward future stays. Kimpton: Sign up for IHG Rewards Club, then reserve a night at one of Kimpton’s hotels now through December 7 for travel through September 7, 2021 to save 25%. Kimpton’s also donating $5 per night to No Kid Hungry, so you’ll be helping to end childhood hunger while taking a much-needed break. Wyndham Hotels & Resorts: Save 25% on stays at more than 9,000 hotels in 90 countries with this week-long mobile app flash sale starting November 24. Download the app, enroll in the Wyndham Rewards loyalty program and book at least two nights by December 1 for travel through January 18, 2021. California Paso Robles Inn: Just 3.5 hours from Los Angeles and San Francisco, the Paso Robles Inn is offering savings of 40% on stays through May 27, 2021 when you book by December 2. You’ll also save 15% on gift certificates to the hotel, its sister property The Piccolo, Terro Rooftop Bar and The Piper Wine Bar. Casa Secoya: Use promo code BLACKFRIDAY to save 25% on stays through April 1, 2021 at this charming dog-friendly abode in Monte Rio, located along the Bohemian Highway and Russian River in Sonoma County. Pacifica Hotels: Plan a California coast staycation at one of 30 independent boutique hotels—and save 45% when you book November 27–30 and travel by March 31, 2021. The Meritage Collection: Save 21% on two-night Napa Valley stays, score a $21 daily food and beverage credit and donate $21 to the First Responders Children’s Foundation when you book by December 1 and stay by April 30, 2021. Fishing: Monterey Bay is an ideal fishing spot for finding "big fish" (Western Outdoor News). Embark from Old Fisherman's Wharf with J&M Sport Fishing and save more than 30% on a fishing trip. Colorado The Curtis: Plan a staycation in Downtown Denver at this retro-chic hotel known for its hyper-themed rooms. Track down limited rates from $53 a night during its Black Friday sale, happening November 27–30. Florida El Paseo: This charming Miami-meets-Mediterranean hotel, located along Española Way in South Beach, is offering 40% off stays in 2021 when you book now through December 4. Plunge Beach Resort: Use promo code Save50 to save 50% at this chic Lauderdale-By-The-Sea resort. Just book via the website (or call 754-312-5775) by December 1, 2020 and plan to stay Sunday through Thursday in 2021. Provident Hotels & Resorts: Save 25% at Crystal Palms Suites, Oceana Beachfront Suites and Sunset Vistas Beachfront Suites in Treasure Island—located about 20 minutes from St. Petersburg and 40 minutes from Tampa—when you book November 27–December 4 for trips through December 23, 2021. Club Med: Save 60% off at amenity-packed resorts in the Caribbean, Mexico and Florida. Hawaii Kauai Beach Resort save more than $400 on regular rates and puts you in a remodeled room. Plus, with availability through June 2021, there's plenty of time to pack your bags and decide when to treat yourself to a Hawaiian escape. Massachusetts Hotel Commonwealth: Treat yourself to a staycation in Boston, with rates from $106 a night, complimentary parking and 6 p.m. check-out. Just use promo code Cyber6, book November 27–November 30 and visit by March 31, 2021. New Jersey Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa: Atlantic City lovers can save 10% and receive a $20 food and beverage credit by booking November 30–December 5 for stays through March 31, 2021. The Asbury Hotel: Head to Asbury Park on the Jersey Shore, where you’ll save 20% for one night, 30% for two nights, 40 for three nights and 50% for four nights. Use promo code MERRIER on November 27 to book stays through April 30, 2021. New York The James New York–NoMad: Save 50% on a trip to this NYC institution, located in the NoMad neighborhood of Manhattan, by booking your stay before December 7 and visiting through December 31, 2021. The Naples Hotel: Looking for an affordable wine-filled escape to the Finger Lakes? Use promo code NHBF2020, book November 27–30 and visit by April 30, 2021 to save 25% on one night. Note that a two-night minimum stay is required for weekend trips. North Carolina The Monte Vista Hotel: Whether you want a cozy winter getaway, refreshing spring escape or an early summer trip, you'll save nearly 35%. This cozy mountain retreat is a short walk from the local shops, museums and restaurants of Black Mountain and offers easy access to the Blue Ridge Parkway Oregon LOGE Bend 45% off at the newly opened LOGE Bend. Did we mention it’s valid from ski season into early spring and weekends are also included? Rhode Island The Wayfinder Hotel: Save 30% on rooms booked November 30–December 6 when you stay by December 31, 2021. Hammetts Hotel: It’s a buy-one-get-one-free sale at Hammetts Hotel in Newport. Book your stay November 27–December 1, either by using this link or calling 401-324-7500 and visit by April 29, 2021. Gurney’s Newport Resort & Marina: Save 50% on suites and 40% on hotel rooms when you book now through December 1 and stay visit by December 30, 2021. Providence Marriott Downtown: Enjoy perks like 2 p.m. late check-out, complimentary parking and two 30-minute spa treatments at the onsite G. Salon & Spa, plus rates from $199 a night when you book November 25–December 1. Note that stays must happen Tuesday–Sunday through February 28, 2021. Texas Hilton Anatole Dallas: Save 20% on Breakfast with Santa packages, with rates from $187 per night when you book through this link from November 27–30. You’ll get 1 p.m. check-out, a special breakfast for two adults and two children with the man himself and access to other holiday events happening at the hotel. Vermont Hotel Vermont: Enjoy an escape to Burlington with rates from $159 a night when you book on November 30 for stays January 1–April 30, 2021. You’ll also receive a welcome drink at onsite restaurant Juniper, one of the best places in town to find locally sourced meals. Virginia The Alexandrian: For a fun getaway from Washington, D.C., head to nearby Alexandria, and save 20% on stays from December 3, 2020 to March 31, 2021 when you book now through November 30 via this link. Sessions Hotel: Close to the Virginia and Tennessee border in Bristol, Virginia, this stunning Marriott property is offering king rooms from $129 per night with a $25 gift card to Southern Craft, its onsite BBQ restaurant. Book “The Winter Getaway” by calling 276-285-5040 November 27–30 and staying December 1, 2020 to February 28, 2021. Lansdowne Resort & Spa: About 45 minutes from Washington, D.C. in Leesburg, Virginia, Lansdowne Resort & Spa is a great place to unwind. Save 30% on stays in 2021 with promo code BFCM when you book November 27–30. Hotels in Mexico and the Caribbean AMResorts: Save on stays at more than 60 all-inclusive hotels and resorts in the Caribbean and Mexico, with rates starting at $55 per night at Sunscape Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic, $68 per night at Sunscape Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa and $92 per night at Dreams Tulum Resort & Spa, among a host of other offerings. While travel dates vary, most can be booked for stays through December 22, 2021. Bahia Principe Hotels & Resorts: Enjoy 75% off your next all-inclusive stay in the Caribbean, Mexico or Spain when you book now through December 3 and travel by December 17, 2021. You’ll also score $1,200 worth of resort credits for four-night stays or $1,630 in resort credits for seven-night stays, which can be used toward spa treatments, room upgrades, meals, golf and other perks. Karisma Hotels & Resorts: This year’s Mystery Mexico Sale lets you save up to 80% with rates at adult-only all-inclusives in Riviera Maya and Cancún from $99 per person per night and family resorts from $129 per person per night. Book now through December 5 and travel anytime in 2021. Renaissance Curaçao: Stay in the heart of Willemstad on your next trip to Curaçao with this deal that saves you up to 20% on stays through December 21, 2021 when you book November 27–30. Jungle Bay Dominica: This deal saves you 5% and brings starting rates at the luxury wellness resort down to $203 per night when you book November 27–December 26 and travel by May 1, 2021. Saint Lucia’s Cyber Monday Sale: Save up to 60% and receive complimentary upgrades and other perks at 17 participating properties, each with its own booking and travel dates, deals, promo codes and minimum-night stay requirements. Affordable options include Bay Gardens Hotel (from $82 a night), Bay Gardens Inn (from $87 a night), Bay Gardens Marina Haven (from $92 a night), Harbor Club (from $131 a night), Windjammer Landing Villa Beach Resort (from $141 a night) and Bay Gardens Beach Resort & Spa (from $152 a night). Ocean Club Resorts: Every third night booked at this Turks and Caicos haven November 27–30 is free as long as you reserve more than two nights, travel March 1–December 18, 2021 and use promo code BFCM.