Top Budget Destinations for 2011
Panama City Beach, Florida
Although the BP oil spill has been cleaned up, this Gulf Coast beach town is still trying to recover from the devastating economic impact it had on the area. But things are looking up. In August, the Obamas spent a weekend vacationing here, proving to the country that the beaches were clean. This past May, the Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport opened for easier arrivals and departures. Plus there are lots of hotels with rooms priced at less than $100 a night. The Bay Point Marriott (where the Obamas stayed) goes for as little as $89 a night, or enjoy a beachside stay at the Palmetto Inn & Suites, where rates start at $60 a night. Go now before the annual spring break herds arrive.
Can't afford to fly to Paris? Montreal is easily accessible by Amtrak or bus from the Northeast, and by plane from all over the country. Montreal is a city made for walkers; spend your day strolling around the Old Port and shopping at the boutiques in atmospheric Mile End (grab an inexpensive eat at Montreal's famed St-Viateur Bagel). The city also has more than 300 miles of bike trails, so take a long ride and pack a picnic to enjoy in one of the city's many parks. Or pedal over to the Montreal Biodôme, where ecosystems from around the world are on display, and then head to the Botanical Gardens (Biodôme tickets include admission to the gardens). When you are worn out, check into the charming Auberge de la Fontaine, where rooms start at around $119.
Atlantic City, New Jersey
With the popularity of the new HBO hit Boardwalk Empire, this seaside New Jersey town known for its casinos and iconic boardwalk is enjoying a moment in the spotlight. However, that doesn't mean there aren't deals to be found. The Sheraton has a $99 Econo 'Me' Savings Package that includes accommodations, free parking, discounts on spa services and coupons for nearby shopping. The notable Trump Marina offers a $149 Feast package where you can enjoy a night's stay, a prix-fixe menu at a Trump restaurant and a buffet breakfast. Another bonus -- you might win big and come home with some extra cash.
The National Zoo, the Smithsonian museums, National Gallery of Art, and all of the memorials are just some places that are free of charge year round in this energetic political city. You can literally spend your day touring the city spending a dime. Looking for some evening entertainment? Every day at 6 pm there are free performances at the Millennium Stage in The Kennedy Center. Also, due to a large percentage of business hotels, many hotels offer discounted rooms during the weekend. Book a room at the St. Gregory Luxury Hotel & Suites with rates starting at $99.
After suffering a budget crisis and protests this past spring, this epic city now offers a lot for your Euro. Absorb the city's ancient history among the ruins and at the famed National Archaeological Museum of Athens. Stroll through historic Plaka, a neighborhood near the Acropolis (you can stay there as well -- the Plaka Hotel starts at around $115). Or get to know modern day Greek life at the atmospheric Athens Central Market, where you can grab a casual meal among the thousands of locals purchasing meat, fruit and vegetables.
Mexican tourism has decreased in the past few years due to the swine flu epidemic and the bloody narcotics war. Yet Cancun is still as stunning as ever, and you can find many discounts around this popular beach resort. With many airlines offering direct flights to Cancun, low rates can easily be found even during high season. Which means there's no reason not to enjoy a margarita on the beach by the Caribbean Sea. The Hilton Cancun Golf & Spa Resort has rates for around $129 a night while the all-inclusive Club Med Cancun Yucatan offers deep discounts for last-minute getaways.
Turks & Caicos
You don't have to be a celebrity to holiday on these picturesque Caribbean islands. Starting on February 17th, JetBlue will begin daily service from New York's JFK airport and seasonal flights from Boston's Logan airport to Providenciales in Turks & Caicos. Once you land, head straight to the many free beaches that line the shores. Stay at Grace Bay in Providenciales at the Caribbean Paradise Inn which has rates starting at $118 (don't worry about exchange rates since the US dollar is the official currency) and is within walking distance of 10 different beaches.
New Orleans, Louisiana
It's been more than five years since Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans is still trying to rebuild. However, the city has retained its charm and atmosphere and you don't have to break the bank on a trip to the Big Easy. The iconic attractions that define the city aren't costly -- a ride on a streetcar is just $1.25 and jazz shows are $12 at the historic Preservation Hall. And hotel deals are not hard to find, either. Rates at the Iberville Suites close to Bourbon Street in the French Quarter start at $99. Or stay at the posh Omni Royal Orleans hotel for $119.
If Colombia brings up images of drug lords or Gloria's less-than-bucolic childhood on Modern Family, think again. Cartagena is an emerging tourist destination and, since it's not on everyone's radar yet, there are many deals for folks on a budget. Spirit, Delta, and many other airlines fly to the area, making flights affordable, while hotels like the Hotel San Pietro start at just $85 a night. The city has a lot to offer as well, with stunning colonial architecture plus gorgeous beaches within reach.