You would like to travel abroad, but would prefer not to cross an ocean to do it. Well, you are in luck! You can stay in the Western Hemisphere and still find relative bargains outside of the United States. Canada, Central America, South America and the Caribbean all have less familiar destinations that offer breathtaking scenery and free or reduced-rate activities. Here are five examples:
- Halifax, Canada – As you might expect from the capital of Nova Scotia and the economic center of the Maritime Provinces, you will be treated to excellent seafood. There are plenty of parks, museums, galleries and festivals around the area for outdoor activities, and nearby ski areas if you are visiting in the winter. As the colder months are considered off-season there, savings on room rates and other tourist-focused businesses in the wintertime can help offset the cost of a ski trip.
Transportation is relatively inexpensive, with FRED (Free Rides Everywhere Downtown) covering the attractions in the downtown area and nearby destinations.
- Cusco, Peru – Perched at an altitude of 11,200 feet, Cusco will take your breath away both literally and figuratively. The architecture of the Incas and the conquering Spaniards combine to give you plenty of rich sightseeing options. With a Boleto Turistico pass, you can gain access to multiple attractions – or if you prefer, partial passes are available. Both are reasonably priced – the cost is around $50 for the full pass. Spring or fall travel will provide lower rates.
Give yourself time to acclimate to the altitude, and remember to drink bottled water – try tap water at your own peril. Once acclimated, you can travel to nearby Macchu Picchu, the Lost City of the Incas, to see the ruins and temples.
- Quebec City/Montreal, Canada – For a taste of France without a trip across the Atlantic, try visiting Quebec City and Montreal. Stay in Quebec City and take a tour bus or RailCanada to nearby Montreal (around 150 miles). Montreal and Quebec City both have excellent public transport, negating the need for a rental car.
Both summer and winter are excellent times to visit. There are many seasonal festivals and attractions, along with interesting museums and cultural diversions such as the walls and atmosphere surrounding old Quebec City. While not the cheapest destination in North America, Montreal remains far more affordable than Paris.
- Costa Rica – This laid-back and relatively safe Central American destination offers a wide variety of outdoor activities and environments to choose from, ranging from excellent beaches to forests, jungles and volcanoes that provide breathtaking scenery and interesting wildlife for the adventurous hiker. You can balance this out with a trip to San José, the bustling capital city of this stable and environmentally progressive democracy.
For the best deal, exchange your money at the airport, but do not rent a car there. Renting a car in advance from a company outside the airport will save you significant money.
- Grenada – If you can time your vacation in late October or November, you can experience the wonderful beaches of Grenada with lower expenses and fewer crowds. Significant discounts are available in the offseason. Even without discounts, expenses are not bad if you can stay along Grand Anse Beach. Verify the currency when getting quotes – the Eastern Caribbean dollar is around forty cents in American dollars.
If you want to venture further out into the water, sailing options and tours are available, as well as scuba diving in pristine waters. Forests, nature centers, and hiking areas offer plenty of free land-based activities.
These are just a few of the travel gems to be found in the Western Hemisphere. With a little research, you should be able to find the perfect travel destination for your family. Exploring while you save money – that is a win-win situation. But don’t forget to check your passports! You may need time to get them renewed, or acquire them in the first place. Your exotic, foreign trip may start at your local post office.
Consider getting a credit card, which could earn you frequent flyer miles and rewards from airline and hotel partners.