Want more expert tips and vacation inspiration? Subscribe to SmarterTravel on YouTube!
These days, finding vacations under $1,000 seems like a tall order. But it’s far from impossible. There are plenty of places, and types of journeys, that fit the bill. To help kickstart your travel planning, here’s a roundup of spectacular getaways that let you keep your trips under $1,000 per person—or sometimes even per couple.
At press time, winter flights to Paris from San Francisco or New York City were available for less than $350 round-trip on Priceline. To save money on accommodations, you can sleep in a hostel dorm room for as little as $20 per person, per night, or book an Airbnb room in someone’s home for a similar nightly rate. Alternatively, most hostels have no-frills private rooms that don’t cost too much more per person than a bed in a dorm.
If you’re a member of HomeExchange, you can take a two-week vacation to Paris with your whole family, and accommodations would run you just $150 total (the cost of an annual membership on the site). Et voila! A full French vacation for ridiculously little.
When it comes time to eat, pick up a baguette, a slab of brie, charcuterie meats, and a bottle of inexpensive but delicious local wine. Then find a place at Champs de Mars or in Bois de Boulogne, spread out a blanket, and enjoy a memorable pique-nique. Street vendors and outdoor markets offer cheap but delicious fare throughout the city. As for getting around town, the Metro is easy and affordable, and there are few better cities for walking than Paris.
Luckily, Paris boasts loads of free and timeless attractions, including Jardin du Luxembourg, Jardin des Tuileries, the Musée d’Art Moderne, and the Fragonard Perfume Museum. Admission to the Louvre is just 15 euros. And strolling through the fancy boutiques of the Champs d’Elysee, the art stalls of Montmartre, the bridges over the Seine, or the romantic scenery of the Left Bank all cost absolutely rien.
Check Prices for Hotel Joke – Astotel in Paris
Japan doesn’t exactly top most people’s mental lists of places to vacation affordably—but it’s possible to find surprisingly cheap flights there from the West Coast, including some for less than $500 round-trip on sites like JustFly. (Avoid the spring and fall high seasons for lower fares.)
If you’re not opposed to sleeping in a capsule hotel—hostel-like facilities with tiny private rooms and shared bathrooms—you can nab nightly rates around $50. And if you’re willing to put in some elbow grease, like cleaning or gardening, some hostels let you stay for free.
Are you a fan of sushi or ramen? Good. Eating in Japan will be easy and cheap. And Japan’s version of dollar stores are the famous “100-yen” shops, where you can also pick up meals.
Getting around Japan is a bit trickier on a budget. Avoid taxis and high-speed trains, unless saving time is more important than saving money. You can buy a Japan Rail Pass for about $275 per week, which will grant you access to some, but not all, of the country’s high-speed trains.
A Grutt Pass—less than $20—buys you affordable access to many of Tokyo’s museums and temples. Many of Japan’s other museums are free or almost free.
(More interested in traveling to Southeast Asia? Use frequent flyer miles to get there. “Once your tickets are taken care of,” says Gary Leff, who cofounded InsideFlyer and runs the popular View From the Wing blog, “you want to fly far away to where costs are low. That way you can stretch your dollars without feeling like you’re stretching your dollars. Indulgences like spa treatments can cost around $35 an hour if you go to the better local places in Bangkok, and meals, lodging, and transportation are comparatively cheap.”)
Check Prices for Sotetsu Fresa Inn Higashi Shinjuku in Shinjuku, Japan
If it’s a quieter vacation you’re after, take a trip to Finland—a country that has “silence, please” as one of its slogans. Flights from New York to Helsinki were $320 in mid-September, a lovely time of year to visit, though airfare is often even cheaper in January, if the cold never bothered you anyway.
Finland is famous for its natural attractions, so if that’s your thing, you’ll find campgrounds around the country, offering accommodations that cost less than $30 per night. Otherwise, stick to hostels or Airbnb rentals, where you can book a night’s sleep for as little as $20 per night.
Buy a Helsinki Card (less than $80 for a three-day card), which covers all your public transportation needs, entrance fees to popular attractions, and bus and boat sightseeing tours. Buffets are a great way to get a lot of food for not a lot of money in Finland—for about $15 you can load up on traditional all-you-can-eat fare, helping you stick to your goal of keeping your trip under $1,000.
Check Prices for Anna Hotel in Helsinki
Portugal is one of Europe’s most affordable countries for travelers. Lisbon’s hotels and restaurants are markedly less expensive than those in other iconic European cities—and you can slash your travel expenses even more by staying at a hostel or family-run inn called pensão.
Those looking to keep their vacations under $1,000 should keep in mind that the most affordable time to visit Portugal is outside of its summer high season. These months are also less crowded, though the weather remains lovely through much of spring and fall. And even winter offers warm-ish days; January is the cheapest time to fly into Lisbon, though it’s not a stretch to find mid-September flights there from New York for around $325 round-trip.
Portugal offers plenty of worthwhile free attractions, including churches. Many of the country’s museums are free on Sundays and occasionally at other times as well; check in advance to find out when. The country has 17 UNESCO World Heritage sites, with generally affordable admission fees.
Portuguese transportation options, including buses and trains, are efficient and budget-friendly. It’s also easy to get around on foot or by rental bike as well. Add all this up, and you’ve got a European slam dunk for those who refuse to let their strict $1,000 budget interfere with having an amazing vacation.
(Tip: Whenever you’re in Europe, EasyJet is a fantastic way to get from city to city or country to country—the company offers flights from $40 all over the continent.)
Check Prices for Ibis Lisboa Saldanha in Lisbon
Puerto Morelos, Mexico
Fly into Cancun—round-trip fall fares from Houston were less than $180 in a recent search—and head 15 minutes south to Puerto Morelos, where great beaches and affordable food await.
Velas Condos offers accommodations for two starting around $60 per night, or stay at Posada Amor from just $43 per night. You’ll be close to one of the world’s great dive sites, so pack bring your own snorkeling equipment or rent a set for $8, then prepare yourself for the dazzling underwater sights.
While you’re here, go ahead and skip the touristy restaurants. Instead, walk or take a cab to where the locals eat and enjoy full meals of tacos, burritos, and pizzas for less than $10.
(If you prefer the Baja California side of Mexico, the Black Bass Lodge in Punta Abreojos rents rooms for less than $150 a night. The property is known for offering legendary surfing and fishing adventures.)
Check Prices for Posada Amor in Puerto Morelos, Mexico
Los Angeles, California
Even if you’re not driving in from elsewhere on the West Coast, Los Angeles can make for an affordable vacation. The City of Angels offers an official list of 100 free things to in Los Angeles, which includes some truly rich cultural experiences, like the Getty, the Broad, the California Science Center, and the Griffith Observatory (yes, of La La Land fame), as well as some more fun touristy things, like the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
It’s not difficult to find round-trip flights from New York City to LAX for less than $270; pair that with a two-night stay at a property like the Westin Los Angeles Airport, the Westin Pasadena, or the Westin Long Beach (all around $170 per night), and you’ve got yourself a dynamic couples’ vacation under $1,000, especially if you stick to cheap eats and the aforementioned free activities. At prices like these, even a family vacation is more affordable.
Check Prices for The Westin Long Beach in Long Beach, CA
You may have never considered taking a trip to West Virginia—but you should. Especially if you’re on the hunt for the best vacations under $1,000. And especially if you’re a fan of riding rivers.
A resort called Adventures on the Gorge offers the chance to raft Class IV rapids during an all-inclusive vacation under $1,000. Less than $600 gets you two nights in a cabin, plus most meals, a half-day of stand-up paddleboarding, a zip-line canopy adventure, and a full day of rafting Lower New River’s wild rapids.
In early June, American Airlines flies from Washington Dulles to Charleston, West Virginia, for around $340. But nearly half of the United States population is within driving distance of the Mountain State, so it’s a great option for a budget-friendly road trip—especially when the trees turn vivid colors in the fall and the waterfalls roar.
Along the gorgeous 180-mile Route 60 Midland Trail is a beachy, laid-back restaurant called Tricky Fish, serving up tasty seafood entrees for less than $15. On Interstate 64, Kenova’s Famous Griffith Pumpkin House is a vintage attraction that gets decked out with more than 3,000 jack-o-lanterns come October, and admission is free.
Check Prices for Adventures on the Gorge – Lodging in Lansing, WV
When you think of all-inclusive vacations under $1,000, Hawaii probably doesn’t come to mind first. But a round-trip flight from LAX to Honolulu or Kahului can actually cost as little as $350, while high-quality hotels like Honolulu’s centrally located Aqua Skyline at Island Colony—housed in Waikiki’s tallest building—offer sweeping ocean views, not to mention nightly rates starting as low as $109. Add up the flight and a two-night stay, and Hawaii starts to reveal itself as one of the most attractive vacations under $1,000 for couples.
More interested in staying on the Valley Isle? The Aston at Maui Banyan has rates starting around $170 per night, plus a swimmable beach within easy walking distance, two pools, a tennis court, and guest rooms with kitchens and laundry machines, helping to keep their guests’ trips under $1,000.
Tip: Both hotels listed above offer Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals that make it even easier to keep vacations under $1,000. Book on either of those days of the year and get 30 percent off the properties’ best available room rates.
Check Prices for Aston at the Maui Banyan in Kihei, HI
When you’re looking for vacation packages under $1,000, don’t rule out cruises. There are plenty of ocean journeys that fit the bill, especially if your embarkation port is within driving distance of your home, allowing you to avoid shelling out for airfare. As a result, you can turn any cruise deal that you find into an all-inclusive vacation under $1,000.
At press time Princess Cruises was offering Caribbean sailings from Fort Lauderdale starting at just $299 per person, as well as autumn trips to Canada and New England from New York City starting at $537 per person. These prices include all meals, select beverages, and a wide range of entertainment from theater productions to Zumba classes.
Or you can consider a cruise aboard one of the Maine Windjammer Association’s ships, which are perfect for solo travelers and start at $675 per person, a rate that includes lodging, all meals (including a lobster dinner), a daily hors d’oeuvres-packed happy hour, and the chance to steer the vessel.
To find great prices on cruises, and for your best chance at booking all-inclusive vacations under $1,000, plan to sail when kids are in school, or wait for last-minute deals when cruise lines are looking to fill empty cabins.
A Volunteer Vacation
Your travels shouldn’t just be about you. Ideally, your explorations should leave the places you visit—and the planet as a whole—better, not worse.
Enter International Volunteer HQ, a volunteer organization that has helped more than 100,000 travelers improve more than 50 places around the world, including Colombia, Croatia, Morocco, Ghana, Kenya, Fiji, and Nepal.
If you’re trying to plan trips under $1,000, this is a wonderfully meaningful way to do it. IVHQ’s journeys start from just $180 for a full week (plus a registration fee of $299). A weeklong program in Lima, Peru, for example, costs around $480, while a similar setup in the Philippines costs around $560.
The price includes lodging, food, airport transfers, and an orientation event to help you succeed in your volunteer work, which might involve teaching kindergarten, childcare, animal care, or construction work. Participants have the weekends free to explore their host countries at leisure.
The trick here is to get affordable airfare to wherever you’ll be headed, so don’t hesitate to call the airlines or a travel agency to help you find the best deal. To keep your vacation under $1,000, research the high and low seasons for travel in your desired destination; you’ll find cheaper fares if you fly at a time when most tourists aren’t visiting. See The 10 Best Flight Search Sites for Booking Cheap Airfare for guidance on where to search for flights.
What to Wear on Your Next Trip
Women’s Fall Outfit with Mustard Accents and Expensive Coat
Women’s Fall Dark Dress Outfit with Brown Bag
Men’s Casual Travel Outfit for the Fall
Men’s Cool Jacket from Everlane Outfit for the Fall/Autumn
Women’s Jumpsuit and Anti-Theft Purse Outfit
Women’s Super Stylish Yet Casual Fall Dress Outfit
Men’s Peach/Navy Outfit for Mexico
Men’s Jacket with Umbrella Outfit for the Fall
Women’s Amazon-Based Summer Dress Outfit
More from SmarterTravel:
- 7 Tropical Vacations Under $500, Including Airfare and Hotel
- The 7 Cheapest Caribbean Islands to Find Your Paradise
- 7 Affordable Off-the-Beaten-Path Beach Vacations
We hand-pick everything we recommend and select items through testing and reviews. Some products are sent to us free of charge with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions and do not accept compensation to review products. All items are in stock and prices are accurate at the time of publication. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.