Get the most bang-for-your-buck with a trip to these top value destinations this year. For months we’ve tracked dozens of destinations around the world to find vacation-worthy spots that won’t break the bank. From a cool West Coast city to a Mediterranean Island, here is where you should be going in 2018 if you’re looking to save some money.
Best Value Destinations 2018: The Methodology
To determine the best value destinations for 2018, we first pulled airfare data from our sister site, Airfarewatchdog; we compared average low fares from a shortlist of destinations between 2017 and 2018. For hotel nightly rates we compared booking price data from our parent company, TripAdvisor, for nightly hotel rates comparing year-over-year prices for each destination between 2017 and 2018.
After analyzing these trends, the destinations selected were further valued by other travel industry round-ups as well as their Big Mac Index, KAYAK Travel Hacker, City Costs Report from The Post Office, Price of Travel – Backpacker’s Index, the World Economic Forum’s Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report, and currency conversion rates currently and over time. From the shortlist of destinations, 10 were selected and ranked based on their values across these categories.
Editors’ Choice Winner: Los Angeles, California
Cross-country flight prices to Los Angeles have steadily declined over the past year, with average round-trip fares coming in under the $350 mark in 2018. Just as noteworthy, most of these routes are now direct, thanks to a crop of new routes. Low airfare, coupled with lower nightly hotel rates (on average, four percent cheaper this year compared to last), make Los Angeles the ultimate—and most easily accessible—value destination for 2018.
Downtown Los Angeles is experiencing a rebirth as the metro area’s cultural hub, with free museums, galleries, and outdoor shopping areas, too. The city’s affordability, coupled with year-round sunshine, urban beaches, and a plenty of outdoor activities makes this year your best bet for a So-Cal vacation.
Editors’ Choice Finalist: England
The ripple effects of Brexit still remain to be seen, but speculation led to a steadily dropping pound last year. While its currency is starting to bounce back, the U.S. dollar is still much stronger than it was two years ago. And this isn’t even England’s best value argument; thanks to WOW Air, Norwegian Air, and new-to-the-market- Primera Air, transatlantic airfare is at an all-time low. These cheap routes aren’t likely to last much longer, so take advantage of the competitiveness and sales while you still can in 2018.
While you can still travel to London on a budget, look to cities like Manchester, Liverpool, and Birmingham for more value-per-travel-dollar. Easily accessible via rail, these cities have musical, industrial, and art histories as rich as London’s.
Editors’ Choice Finalist: Malta
If you’re looking for an island getaway in the Mediterranean, head to Malta for the most value this year. Located just south of Sicily, the island of Malta is known for its fortresses and historic sites and its capital, Valletta, is celebrating its year as a European capital of culture. Average nightly hotels rates are under $100 and go up to about $150 in peak summer season. Compared to most other Mediterranean islands, this is a steal. Accessible via a stopover in Istanbul or Frankfurt for around $600 from the U.S. East Coast, Malta is a great value if you’re willing to make the trek. You can also easily island hop to the country’s two other islands, Gozo and Comino. Another bonus? Malta is on the euro, which has been on a flat line so far this year.
Valletta is also one of the first European countries on the Price of Travel’s Backpacker Index for 2018, ranking for value over Athens, Madrid, and even our winner for best value destination last year, Lisbon. If you’re really looking to save, visit in September once the high season is over, but while temperatures are still in the 70s and 80s.
With its favorable exchange rate for U.S. travelers, the Philippines stands out as a value destination for 2018. With the recent temporary closure of Boracay Island, look to Palawan or Cebu, or even Manila, which ranks in the top 10 cheapest places to visit on the Backpacker’s Index.
Arizona, in particular, the Phoenix-metro area, is attracting travelers more than ever in 2018, and it’s more affordable now than in years past. Whether you’re looking to book a national park adventure or a desert retreat, you can expect lower prices for flights and hotel stays—average airfare to the region is down two percent over last year, and there are plenty of cool but cheap hotels in Phoenix.
Semi-Finalist: Puerto Rico
Add even more value to your trip by using your tourism dollars to help Puerto Rico rebuild post hurricanes. There are plenty of benefits: You don’t have to worry about any exchange rates, flight prices are down almost 25 percent this upcoming summer compared to last year, and many hotels are offering “construction discounts.” Beaches and airports are fully operational, so you don’t have to worry about inaccessibility. Note that summer is hurricane season, but that shouldn’t stop you from booking a trip to this value destination.
Despite safety concerns, Mexico continues to attract travelers with its beauty, accessibility, and value. Explore a seaside destination, or, If the beach isn’t your thing, head to Mexico City or Guadalajara. Guadalajara is KAYAK’s top pick as a wallet-friendly destination this year, with average hotel nightly rates under $80 and round-trip airfare in the $350 range (outside of the holiday season).
Editor’s Note: The U.S. State Department lists Mexico as a level two threat due to crime. Read the full travel warning, here.
The Southwest Effect is alive and well, with the rise of lower airfares to Hawaii in anticipation of Southwest’s entrance into this market. So far, we know the airline has a revocable permit for Honolulu’s airport and has filed a permit for the airport in Lihue on Kauai. With the carrier already stirring competition, 2018 is the year for cheap flights to the Hawaiian islands. Make the most of this value destination and avoid resort fees by booking a vacation rental instead.
Both Goa and Delhi rank in the top 15 cheapest cities on the Backpacker Index, and with cheap flights due to airfare sales, low expenses on the ground thanks to a favorable exchange rate and inexpensive hotel prices, a dream trip to India offers remarkably good value in 2018.
Semi-Finalist: Hong Kong
Thanks to a new route by Hong Kong Airlines from the U.S. West Coast and an overall lower exchange rate, 2018 is a great time to book an affordable Hong Kong trip. While its currency is linked to the U.S. dollar, your costs during your time in Hong Kong are about the equivalent to a vacation in a major U.S. city. Hotel nightly rates have also been on the decline, with many options available under $150 per night. So with the right planning, this bucket-list destination can be a great value.
— Original research and reporting by Ashley Rossi