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magazine | Travel | Destination Guides

We Found the Most Affordable Destinations for Your 2019 Travel List

Somewhere between setting financial goals for 2019 and travel goals for 2019, it became apparent that somehow the two would need to collide. As such, we’ve decided to go the frugal route with (at least some of) our travel plans this year and put together this list of 2019’s most affordable destinations. There’s plenty to see and do right here on American soil, but there are also some international destinations that are so affordable once you’re there that they justify the cost of the flight. Here’s all the info we’ve gathered so you can make traveling a realistic, attainable priority this year.

Reporter: Alyssa Brown
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Ecuador

Ecuador
Flights from the States to Ecuador cost well under $1,000 and once you get there, you don’t have to exchange any money because they use the US dollar. Even the most extravagant meals won’t set you back more than twenty bucks and finding a fancy-ish resort on a budget is totally doable.
Photo: David Santori
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Baltimore

Baltimore, Maryland
Another East Coast stop that’s great for art fans, most of the museums in Baltimore offer free admission. Also free: touring the botanical gardens and the Inner Harbor’s historic ships. Lots of local breweries offer free tours too.
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Great Smoky Mountains

Tennessee & North Carolina
This national park is the most biodiverse park in the entire National Park system, with over 19,000 documented species calling the Great Smoky Mountains home. A visit to the park is entirely free and includes access to 800 miles of hiking trails, various waterfalls and extensive forestry.
Photo: Kate Joie
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Slovenia

Slovenia
Rather than stress about how far your budget can stretch in nearby Switzerland or Austria, head to Slovenia for a more affordable, relaxed vacation. Check the calendar for free, open-air festivals throughout the summer and get used to eating brunch on the daily.
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Salt Lake City

Salt Lake City, Utah
SLC might be one of the most affordable places to visit, simply because of all the free activities in town. Wander the Gilgal Sculpture Garden, take a tour of Temple Square, visit the governor’s mansion, or marvel at the Hill Aerospace Museum all sans admission costs. Plus, the city’s light rail is fare-free downtown.
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Denver

Denver, Colorado
Denver is a major travel hub, so flights to this city are usually easy to score and relatively affordable from other American cities. For the outdoorsy types, Rocky Mountain National Park is a quick drive away and a one-day pass to drive through is only $25. If you’re more interested in the city’s many restaurants, breweries and museums, you’ll have tons of affordable options too.
Photo: Marvin Meyer
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Maldives

Maldives
We’ve always thought of the Maldives as a place that’s only for the uber-wealthy resort types, but there are a ton of smaller boutique resorts popping up on islands like Maafushi and Rasdhoo with stays that cost less than a hundred bucks a night. In our books, that’s pretty darn good for a dream vacation.
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Boston

Boston, Massachusetts
If you love museums, Boston is one of the best cities to visit for an affordable vacation. The Museum of Fine Arts, Institute of Contemporary Art and the MIT Museum all offer free admission days once a week. Wandering the city’s diverse neighborhoods on foot is a great way to see the sights. And, don’t forget to pack a picnic and head to one of the many local parks and gardens for a nice afternoon in the sunshine.
Photo: Erik Tamo
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Albania

Albania
You can enjoy the Mediterranean lifestyle at a fraction of the price tag in Albania, where the beaches sparkle and the food tastes divine. Like nearby Greece and Italy, there are tons of great opportunities to see historical sites and ancient towns as well as beautiful vistas and hiking trails.
Photo: Peter Conlan
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Argentina

Argentina
The costs of traveling in Argentina yo-yo as much as the local economy does, but it’s currently an affordable option while the dollar is down. So go on and book a stay in the Mendoza region or stay near Iguazu Falls. Art buffs, make your way to Buenos Aires to see why Art Basel hosted a whole week’s worth of festivities here last year.
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Myrtle Beach

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
If you’re looking for a low-key beach weekend filled with sunshine, cocktails and swimming pools, Myrtle Beach is a shining gem of the southeast coast. If you want to break up the beach time with a hike or bike ride, head to nearby Myrtle Beach State Park for just $5 admission.
Photo: Pradeep Gopal
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Southern Nile Valley

Egypt
If history and archaeology interest you in any way, shape or form, the Southern Nile Valley should be at the top of your travel bucket list. For the most affordable ways to visit, we recommend booking a tour that includes admission to a few temples and tombs so you’re guaranteed to get into all the spots on your priority list. If you’re up for a cruise or flight from Europe, you’re likely to save on travel over to Egypt as well.
Photo: misstonnes
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Houston

Houston, Texas
Though Austin gets all the attention from followers of travel trends, Houston is the true destination gem of Texas. As it’s a major airport hub, getting to H-Town is cheap and easy. And once there, you’ll have activity options that include hiking and biking Buffalo Bayou’s trails, visiting a 64-foot-tall water wall, enjoying an outdoor performance at Miller Outdoor Theater, or entering a 155-acre nature sanctuary at Houston Arboretum and Nature Center. If you’d rather check out the local music scene, there’s always plenty on deck in bars and venues throughout the city. And with Houston’s diverse population, affordable eats can be found in all different neighborhoods too.
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Cleveland

Cleveland, Ohio
Getting out onto the lake is a high priority for visitors to Cleveland, with eight parks that have lake access and plenty of options to rent kayaks, canoes, stand-up paddleboards and more. There’s also a bustling art scene and there's a beautiful national park just 20 minutes away.
Photo: James Walsh
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Las Vegas

Las Vegas, Nevada
Okay, so it’s easy to spend every penny you’ve got in Vegas if you go big. But, hear us out here; if you’re willing to skip gambling, there are tons of free activities around. Start with the morning circus performance at Circus Circus, walk through the Bellagio Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, eat all the chocolatey kisses at Hershey’s Chocolate World, and play pinball for a cause at Pinball Hall of Fame. Get away from the Strip for meals, but head back for the evening’s grand displays of fountain shows and exploding volcanoes.
Photo: Alex Iby
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Fort Myers

Fort Myers, Florida
If a beach vacation is calling your name but you don’t have a huge budget to pull it off with, Fort Myers is a solid option. With seven miles of white sand coastline, the beach is the number one draw. If you’re lucky, you might even get to swim with the dolphins that frequent the area.
Photo: Liz Dufour
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Cincinnati

Cincinnati, Ohio
Take a mural tour, go on a carousel ride at Smale Riverfront Park, check out the California Woods Nature Preserve or pop into one of the many awesome breweries this town has to offer. Hot tip: the Cincinnati Art Museum is always free and opens up after hours once a month, which makes for a great excursion that doesn’t include spending boatloads of cash at a bar.
Photo: Adam Jones
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Lodz

Lodz, Poland
While Warsaw and Krakow are often on Poland’s top destination lists, it’s Łódź that currently has our attention. Not only is this town the center of the Polish film industry and an incredible hub of the arts, but it’s also home to a lot of industrial warehouses that have been transformed into cool spots.
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