San Francisco and Sonoma County, California
San Francisco is not typically synonymous with affordable, but new flight routes and lower hotel prices make the Bay Area a great destination for an affordable summer getaway this year.
Flights: Round-trip flights from New York are well under $400 during the summer. CheapTickets.com found average air bookings to be $392 and StudentUniverse found rates as low as $279. Allegiant Air is beginning nonstop routes to Sonoma from Phoenix and Las Vegas, while Alaska Airlines currently offers direct flights from Los Angeles, Orange County, Portland, San Diego and Seattle. Include Oakland and San Jose airports in your flight search for even cheaper fares from more regional spots. Flying into any of these airports is convenient for both San Francisco and Sonoma.
Accommodations: On HotelTonight, the average daily hotel room rate in San Francisco is $205 per night and $199 in Sonoma County. Priceline.com classifies average hotel rates as moderate–around $215 per night, with rates as low as $86 per night at a three-star hotel in July and August. If you want to be really frugal, book your stay at the highly rated USA Hostels San Francisco with rooms starting under $60 per night.
Summer activities: Take advantage of the temperate summer weather in San Francisco and Sonoma with a biking or walking tour. This is a prime way to explore the area on a budget. Bike the Golden Gate bridge and explore Lands End (part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area) or the adorable town of Sausalito on the other side of the bridge. Visit local cafes and vintage shops while walking around Haight-Ashbury or see a Giant game at AT&T Park.
Located 30 miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge, Sonoma has more than 425 wineries, 100 organic farms and 50 beautiful miles of coastline. It’s a wonderful add-on to any San Francisco visit. Rent a bike and camping gear through California Touring Bikes and choose one of its multi-day route ideas, starting at $105 per day including camping gear. Vineyard Adventures offers free self-guided vineyard tours through seven different wineries in the area.
If you’re looking for a tropical paradise vacation and willing to gamble with weather, the Caribbean should top your list for summer. June marks the beginning of hurricane season, but that guarantees a plethora of off-season deals. The Southern Caribbean islands are more protected from hurricanes, but you should still opt for travel insurance. Aruba, Curacao, Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago are the safer bets if you want to avoid bad weather.
Flights: StudentUniverse found round-trip flights for less than $350 this summer from New York for Puerto Rico, Bahamas, Trinidad and Tobago, Bermuda, Aruba, U.S. Virgin Islands/St. Thomas, Dominican Republic, and Jamaica. CheapTickets.com found overall savings of 20 percent or more during the off-season for Dutch Saint Maarten, Aruba, U.S. Virgin Islands/St. Thomas, and Barbados.
Accommodations: A lot of hotels offer discount rates when you book more than one night and a lot of resorts offer good package deals.
Frenchman’s Reef & Morning Star Marriott Beach Resort in St. Thomas offers accommodations, a night kayaking tour or catamaran sail trip, admission to St. Thomas Coral World Ocean Park and access to private Morning Star Beach for just $257 per night. You can find hotel deals in Curacao and Trinidad for less than $150 per night. For example, the Floris Suite Hotel in Curacao starts at $89 per night and Coblentz Inn Boutique Hotel in Trinidad starts at $105 per night.
Cruises: MSC Cruises offers summer promotions for cruises from Miami to the Caribbean on MSC Divina with packages starting at $279 per person for three and four night cruises, and $499 for seven night cruises.
Summer activities: Enjoy the same activities you can the rest of the year, just at a fraction of the price. Snorkeling, scuba, and fishing tours are all much cheaper this time of year.
The Cayman Islands offers a “Summer Only in Cayman” promotion for deals up to 20 percent off peak season prices. Curacao has music festivals such as Viva La Musica Latina and Amnesia Curacao.
With the U.S. dollar stronger than the Canadian dollar, Canada is an easy, affordable destination for Americans right now. Summer is an ideal time to visit Toronto due to favorable weather and lots of outdoor events.
Flights: The average cost for a roundtrip ticket in the summer from New York is $163, according to CheapTickets.com. Priceline.com reported that August is the cheapest month for flights. Toronto is a quick flight from the Northeast and Midwest, making it easy for an international weekend getaway here.
Accommodations: HotelTonight’s average nightly hotel price in Toronto is $158. The Omni King Edward Hotel is offering many promotions such as 20 percent off summer stays. Stretch your budget at the trendy HI-Toronto hostel, with rates starting lower than $40 per night and bike rentals and free city tours available for guests.
Summer activities: With Taste of Toronto and Toronto’s Festival of Beer Toronto is the perfect summer destination for foodies. South by Southwest’s counterpart, North by Northeast (NXNE) also takes place here over the summer.
Summertime in Arizona means desert heat–and incredible savings. With state parks, a growing culinary scene and swanky desert hotels, there are lots of ways to plan an affordable summer vacation to Arizona. It’s a quick drive from the West Coast and South, so a flight may not even be necessary.
Flights: A roundtrip flight from New York to Phoenix can be found for as little as $252 on StudentUniverse. According to CheapTickets.com, the average roundtrip price from New York to all Arizona airports is $322. Priceline.com reports that the cheapest flights from New York are in August.
Accommodations: CheapTickets.com found that the average nightly hotel rate throughout Arizona is $185. The average summer nightly rates are $79 in Scottsdale and $72 in Phoenix, according to HotelTonight.
Located just south of Scottsdale in Tempe, the Tempe Mission Palms Hotel, is offering 20 percent off as part of their “Summer Scorcher” deal with rates starting at $149 per night. Arizona Grand Resort & Spa has summer rates at starting at $89 per night. The new AC Hotel on Tempe Town Lake has a summer rate of $130 per night.
Summer activities: Tempe Town Lake is the perfect way to cool off from the desert heat. Once you’re done, explore over 100 shops, restaurants and bars in the Mill Avenue district in Tempe. Phoenix is an ideal home base for visiting Tonto Natural Bridge State Park and Slide Rock State Park (one of America’s famous swimming holes).
While the South Pacific islands require an overnight journey, a visit to this island paradise makes it well worth it. With new flight routes and a strong U.S. dollar, it’s even now possible to explore Fiji on a budget.
Flights: Fiji Airway offers direct flights from Los Angeles, Honolulu and now San Francisco to Nadi, with rates under $900 roundtrip. Right now, flights from Los Angeles and San Francisco cost $899 roundtrip. StudentUniverse found roundtrip fares from New York starting at $1,481.
Accommodations: Major resorts in the islands tend be more expensive, there are plenty of enjoyable hotels for less than $200 per night. Koro Sun Resort and Rainforest Spa is offering 40 percent off, The Warwick Fiji is offering 30 percent off and Wananavu Beach Resort is offering 50 percent off room rates. Fiji Hideaway Resort & Spa has rates starting at $119 per night.
Summer activities: With daily temperatures ranging from the mid-60s to the mid-80s, Summer is the perfect time to visit Fiji. Plus, it’s the dry season so you won’t have any typhoons.
Syracuse, New York
The rising affordable destination for summer 2016 on our list is Syracuse–this upstate New York gem is easy to access from both the Midwest and Northeast, has a rising culinary scene and beautifully warm weather during the summer. It’s a quick road trip and an easy, affordable flight from most places in the U.S..
Flights: According to CheapTickets.com, average prices from New York to Syracuse are $180 and StudentUniverse found roundtrip flights for as little as $147. According to Priceline.com, cheapest flights from New York to Syracuse are in July.
Accommodations: CheapTickets.com reports that average hotel prices during the summer are around $153. Priceline.com found rates at three-star hotels starting at just $84 per night during the month of August.
The old Hotel Syracuse is set to reopen as the Marriott Syracuse Downtown on July 4th, with rates starting at $219 per night. The iconic hotel has been restored to its original 1924 style and will be him to three new restaurants and street-level shops. The hotel once welcomed numerous notable people such as John F. Kennedy and John Lennon.
Summer Activities: Enjoy shopping, dining, visiting museums and galleries and watching Broadway shows or learn about Syracuse’s rich history on a self-guided walking tour. There are more than 40 golf courses, 50 parks, lakes and plenty of wineries and breweries.
More Affordable Destinations for Summer 2016
With seven major U.S. cities now offering direct flights, Portugal is becoming a popular European destination from the U.S. East Coast and is one of our top affordable destinations for summer 2016. Summer is the prime time to enjoy the Portuguese food, history and beaches of the Azores, Porto, Lagos and Lisbon. In its latest issue, Travel + Leisure named Lisbon as the least expensive capital city in the European Union.
Flights: StudentUniverse has fares starting at $691 round-trip from New York, and priceline.com found the cheapest fares from New York in July. New direct service routes include D.C. to Lisbon on United, Providence to the Azores on SATA, and JFK and Boston to Lisbon on TAP.
Accommodations: The average price for hotels during the summer is $81 in Porto and $104 in Lisbon, according to HotelTonight. Average nightly rates at three-star hotels in Lisbon start at $28 in June, $32 in July and $50 in August, according to Priceline.com. TripAdvisor keeps track of the latest hotel special offers in Lisbon and Porto.
Summer activities: In June, the historic CP Portuguese Rail steam engine will begin service from Peso da Regua to Tua along the Douro River Line in Northern Portugal. You can enjoy this beautiful three-hour ride with some wine for less than 40 euros. Festivals such as the FORTE Festival, held in a castle in Montemor-o-Velho, Festival of St. John of Porto, in Porto, and Mare de Agosto on the Azorean Island of Santa Maria, are wonderful ways to enjoy the weather and experience Portuguese culture.
Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts
What better way to spend a vacation than lounging on the beach on a quintessential New England island? Martha’s Vineyard can give you just that. This relaxing, popular summertime destination is now more affordable and accessible than ever.
Ferries: Hop on the ferry from Hyannis, Wood’s Hole, New Bedford, New York City, or New Jersey to avoid summer traffic, not to mention it’s a beautiful ride. You don’t need a car on the island, as you can get everywhere via bike, taxi or Uber.
Flights: If you’d rather fly, Cape Air, Delta, American Airlines and JetBlue offer direct service to the island from most major Northeast hubs. Flying is quicker than the ferry and fairly cheap midweek and on non-holiday weekends.
Accommodations: Lark Hotels just opened a new location in Oak Bluffs, Summercamp, with opening rates starting at $149 and a 10/20/30 deal ($10 credit at “Camp Canteen” store, 20 percent off rooms, and $30 credit for future Lark Hotels stays) for its first season. If you’re traveling with a group, consider a vacation rental for more amenities at a lower price. Most rentals require a full week stay and run from Saturday to Saturday.
Summer activities: Spend as much time as you can outside! Explore Martha’s Vineyard’s many golf course, bike paths and beaches. Edgartown and Oak Bluffs also have wonderful bars, restaurants and shopping.
Lake Atitlan, Guatemala
Summer is the ideal time to visit Lake Atitlan, and little people know this. Summer is the region’s wet season, so there are plenty of discounts. Unlike most places in Central America, Lake Atitlan’s rainy season is accompanied by lots of sunshine. With a favorable exchange rate and cheap prices, Lake Atitlan is a perfect affordable bucket-list destination.
Flights: On StudentUniverse, roundtrip fares from New York to Guatemala City start at $337 in the summer, with cheapest fares being in August, according to Priceline.com. Low-cost carrier Spirit flies direct from Miami, New York, Dallas, Los Angeles, Houston, Washington D.C., and Atlanta.
Lake Atitlan is about three hours away from Guatemala City. You have the option of a shared van starting at $25 per person, or a private shuttle service at a higher rate.
Accommodations: The luxury hotel, Casa Palopo, in Lake Atitlan’s indigenous town of Santa Catarina, has rates starting at $154 per night. TripAdvisor lists many four-star hotels in the lake’s surrounding villages from less than $100 per night.
Summer activities: Walk or hike the nearby volcanoes. Take a boat to explore the dozen Maya villages around the lake. Take a horseback ride, go kayaking, or take a yoga class. Enjoy authentic local food at affordable prices–this area is popular for backpackers, so tourist prices stay affordable.
Asheville, North Carolina
Named one of SmarterTravel’s 10 Best Outdoor Towns in America, Asheville is a perfect summer destination with outdoor activities and easy access from the East Coast and South. It’s a day’s drive for over one third of the U.S. population, so a flight may not be necessary. Since it’s still an up-and-coming destination, prices are within reach for frugal travelers.
Flights: StudentUniverse found low fares starting at $266 round-trip from New York for the summer months, and Priceline.com reported average round-trip airfare to be lowest from New York in August. And, Allegiant Airlines just started a new direct route from Baltimore-Washington D.C. to Asheville for as low as $37 one-way.
Accommodations: HotelTonight averaged nightly hotel prices for the summer months at $123. Priceline.com found three-star hotel rates from $92 per night for June, July, and August. Check out TripAdvisor’s Asheville deals page for up-to-date summer deals.
Asheville is also a great destination to consider a vacation rental. Check out Carolina Mornings for rentals. Packages include a Biltmore Estate pass, zip-line ride, and white water rafting adventure.
Summer Activities: With the Blue Ridge Mountains to the north and south of town, rock climbing at Chimney Rock State Park, mountain biking in Pisgah National Forest, and rafting on the French Broad River, there is no shortage of outdoor activities. The Great Smokey Mountains National Park and town of Hot Springs are both a short drive away.
For a more urban experience, Asheville offers coffee shops, galleries, a music scene, shopping, wineries, breweries, and a growing culinary scene complete with a James Beard nominated restaurant, Chai Pani, which offers meals under $12 per person.
More from SmarterTravel:
- 10 Most Walkable Cities in America, Ranked
- 5 International Vacations You Can Fit into a Long Weekend
- The Best Time to Book Hotels for Summer Savings
Ashley Rossi, SmarterTravel.com | June 7, 2016