If your 2019 goals include traveling more without spending a fortune, good news. Not only are there a number of under-the-radar vacation spots that offer unique sights, great food and budget-friendly prices, but even some traditionally pricey destinations, like Hawaii, are more affordable, thanks to new flight routes.
Here are eight well-priced destinations worth setting up an out-of-office response for this year.
Instead of Austin, try Tulsa, Okla.
While it was once known as the Oil Capital of the World, Tulsa has recently reinvented itself with new attractions and eateries on par with major U.S. destination cities’ offerings. It also has mostly mild weather (except in mid-summer) and a higher-than-average number of sunny days. Even better? An Instagram-worthy boutique hotel in the heart of downtown—like The Campbell—can set you back less than $200 a night, and you can find flights from L.A., Chicago, or New York, for between $200-$400.
Check out the Gathering Place, which opened in September 2018, a brand new 100-acre, riverfront park, then see a show at Cain's Ballroom, a one-time auto garage transformed into one of the preeminent music venues in the country. For food and drink, try Mother Road Market, a new food hall located directly on Route 66—where you can get a good meal for around $10—and Vintage Wine Bar, called one of the most beautifully designed bars in the country by Architectural Digest.
Instead of Las Vegas, try Henderson, Nev.
Located just 15 minutes from The Strip and with more than 20 hotels to choose from, you can easily get in on the Las Vegas fun without having to pay a premium to stay right in the action. Check out the Westin Lake Las Vegas Resort and Spa (starting at $101 per night), which was named of the “World’s Best Hotels” By “Travel + Leisure.”
For families (and kids at heart), Henderson offers attractions like the Cowabunga Bay Water Park, which has multiple slides and a wave pool, as well as The Lion Habitat Ranch, home to the big cats and other animals like llama, giraffes and a variety of bird species. There are also eight championship golf courses nearby (including Chimera Golf Club, Rio Secco and The Revere) and the Hoover Dam to check out.
Instead of Napa Valley, try Willamette Valley, Ore., or Traverse City, Mich.
Located near Eugene, the Willamette Valley is filled with outdoor recreation, affordable wine tasting and lodging that won’t cost an arm and a leg.
You can hike, cycle and kayak along the Willamette River by morning, then take your pick from the hundreds of world-class wineries and vineyards in the area, many of which offering tastings for under $10. (Seufert Winery, The Four Graces and Erath are some of the more noteworthy spots.) A stay at centrally-located The Vintages Trailer Resort starts at $115 per night and offers refurbished trailers, a pool and a clubhouse.
For those located in the middle of the country or out east, check out Traverse City, home to the National Cherry Festival, the Traverse City Film Festival and Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, which was recently voted the most beautiful place in America by “Good Morning America.”
There are 40 great wineries in the city to sample. Stay at the newly renovated, dog-friendly Falling Waters Lodge in Leland (a short drive north of both Traverse City and the Sleeping Bear Dunes and a charming little town in itself to visit), which offers modern, bespoke rooms starting at $150 per night.
Instead of the Maldives, try Hawaii
While Hawaii is known for being a pricey destination, this year, new air routes are making travel way more affordable—making it a good choice to consider over other expensive tropical locales. Southwest Airlines plans to begin four nonstop routes from California to Hawaii, which has helped drive prices down, as other airlines prepare for the competition.
According to Andrew Hickey from Scott's Cheap Flights, if you're looking to travel a little further and use Hawaii as a stopover, Hawaiian Airlines offers stellar return fares from East Asia and the Southern Hemisphere, including direct flights from Australia, New Zealand, Japan and China. (For instance, Auckland to Honolulu on Hawaiian Airlines was recently going for just under $400.)
You can save further by opting for a vacation rental instead of staying at a resort. Many of the properties on AirBnb and VRBO, particularly in upscale areas like Princeville, Kauai, are actually timeshare apartments that come with the same perks you’d find at a hotel, like pools, beach access, gym, activities and dining.
Instead of Brazil, try Argentina
Similarly, an increase in direct flights on United and Aerolíneas Argentinas has made travel to Argentina more affordable, Hickey says. In 2019, flights under $600 (compared to $1,000) to Buenos Aires, Córdoba and Mendoza from Florida and New York in particular could help ease travel budgets.
Once you’re there, hotel rooms in Argentina typically cost about $30 a night, according to budget travel pro Nomadic Matt, while a full apartment on Airbnb can usually be had for under $60. (And a nice steak dinner will only set you back around $12.) These savings balance out the cost of seeing the sights, with multi-day tours of Patagonia going for nearly $250 per person.
Instead of the British Virgin Islands, try Colombia’s Caribbean
According to travel pro Ryan Shauers, author of "Big Travel, Small Budget," Colombia shouldn't be overlooked as a destination. "Colombia has always been affordable, but the exchange rate of approximately 3,200 means the dollar goes further than ever," he explains.
Budget hotel rooms start at $15 to $25 per night and full meals—choice of meat or fish, rice, potatoes or plantains, small salad and fruit juice—cost roughly $4, he adds. If you’re looking for something fancier, check out Hotel Dann Cartagena (part of a well-respected local Colombian chain) at the end of Bocagrande in El Laguito. “Prices range from $110-$130 a night and it’s a four-star hotel with a pool, beachfront and breakfast included,” he says. “And it’s a 2 to 3 mile taxi ride from the colorful old city of Cartagena, which everyone should check out.”
While the country is known more for being a budget backpacker paradise, Colombia’s coast (most popularly Cartagena and Santa Marta) include some truly stellar beaches—and equally sunny weather—putting the country on par with more expensive locales when it comes to getting some seaside rest and relaxation.
Instead of Prague or Paris, try Tel Aviv
Trade European charm for Mediterranean magic by traveling to Tel Aviv. Filled with history and ancient sites, which are accessible without entrance fees, the city also boasts gorgeous beaches, great food and walkability—there’s no need for a rental car to get around.
Recently, the new Ramon Airport opened in the southern city of Eilat, making it easier to fly direct from many European countries, while low-cost airline Ryanair recently announced major plans to expand the fleet of planes traveling to Israel.
Luxury hotels start at roughly $200 per night, with price-slashing deals to be had on travel sites. (In mid-February, TripAdvisor shows the swanky Dan Tel Aviv—usually $1,000+ a night—at just above $200 per night.)
When to go? This May, the city will host the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest, which is anticipated to be one of the best parties of the year. Tel Aviv Pride Week 2019 will also take place shortly after in June, attracting many LGBTQ travelers to the region.