Haven’t booked your summer vacation yet? Don’t worry, it’s not too late to book an affordable vacation and there are lots of exciting international and domestic destinations attainable at a discount this summer. To help identify travel targets for the budget traveler, we asked travel expert and agent Kevin Dern, to share some tips on planning a summer vacation that won’t break the bank.
First tip: Skip the tourist-heavy cities during the summer months to save some cash. “The big Western Europe tourist cities of Paris, Rome, and London are often overpriced in the summer, so it’s better to save that trip for the fall,” says Dern who has over 15 years of experience in the travel industry.
Once on your trip, Dern recommends eating where the locals eat or stocking your hotel room with food from a grocery store for inexpensive and easy breakfasts or lunches. “Another option is to buy packages from reputable travel companies that can save you a few hundred dollars per person on air and hotel combined,” says Dern.
Seeking out a local travel agent who specializes in the type of travel you want to do can help you create a more personalized itinerary and inform you about deals that might not be available through the larger travel sites.
When it comes to travel logistics, Kevin strongly recommends getting TSA Pre-Check, which for only $85 lets you fly right through airport security for the next 10 years. If you don’t have this already — get it! He also suggests buying a day pass to an airline lounge if you have an unusually long airport layover. For only $50-60 per person, you get access to a large, quiet lounge with tons of seating, free high-speed wifi, power plugs everywhere, and quiet work areas if you want to be productive. They also have free snacks, coffee, beverages, and sometimes beer and wine!
Now, let’s talk about where we’re heading.
1. Big Sky, Montana
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If you love the outdoors, Big Sky, Montana is a great and affordable choice for summer travel. Kevin recommends destinations that offer cooler temperatures, which can be a breath of fresh air during summer scorchers back at home. Since Big Sky is in the mountains it doesn’t get unbearably hot with average temperatures hovering around the 70s in July and August. Although Big Sky is known for its world-class skiing, it’s even more beautiful in the summer with its colorful wildflowers, scenic mountain ranges, and outdoor activities like hiking, mountain biking, zip lining and horseback riding. And don’t miss out on the incredible sights at Yellowstone National Park, which is only an hour’s drive away. As an added bonus, condo rentals, mountain lodges and traditional ski resorts are all reasonably priced during the summer. Big Sky is about an hour south of Bozeman International Airport, and there are direct flights available from many U.S. and Canadian cities.
2. Boston, Massachusetts
Boston is a great option for families looking to explore a charming East Coast city that’s not as bustling – or sweltering – as New York. With a walkable downtown filled with history, it’s easy to see the highlights over the course of a weekend. Catch a Red Sox game at Fenway Park, enjoy a picnic at Boston Common, a 50 acre public park, and explore Harvard University’s iconic campus in Cambridge. And if you’re craving a beach getaway, Cape Cod is a ferry ride or a manageable drive away. This historic city has been revitalizing its dining and hotel scene, with hip new restaurants and contemporary lodging options popping up every year.
3. Bologna, Italy
Although Bologna doesn’t always make it on the typical Italian travel itinerary, this beautiful Northern Italian city is filled with hidden gems, history, and plenty of attractions, most of which are open to the public and don’t require a tour.
The culinary scene is truly world class, as the region is home to many of Italy’s most famous delicacies – including Parmigiano Reggiano, balsamic vinegar, prosciutto di parma and the region’s famed sparkling wine.
Speaking of iconic, in the Piazza di Porta Ravegnana there sits the city’s most recognizable landmark, the Two Towers. Built to be twins, they are now incongruous, as one is leaning and has sunk into the ground. (You can still climb the other tower if you wish, the spectacular view is worth it.)
In the city center, you’ll find Basilica di San Petronio, a grand sight with an equally grand story. The church was created by private families to act as a civic center and housed several different chapels, each designed to a particular family’s specifications.
Accommodations are widely varied and generally affordable in Bologna, ranging from large chain hotels to more quaint B&B options.
4. Porto, Portugal
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Flights to Portugal are relatively reasonable in the summer months. Fly into Lisbon and take the train straight to Porto, a charming coastal city in Northwest Portugal. From its stunning historic train station to its cool bars serving Porto’s signature drink, this city is not overly crowded in the summer and offers the perfect mix of old and new. Walk the charming streets and take in the architecture and historic cloisters and churches. Bike along the Douro River and visit the Port Lodges across the river for a Port wine tasting. And finally, the food and drink in Porto are incredible and very affordable (we’re talking $3 bottles of wine and $15 multi-course meals).
5. Montreal, Canada
The second largest city in Canada, Montreal is temperate in the summer and filled with French architecture, cobblestone streets and an incredible food scene. Get a subway pass to easily get around the city and explore the new restaurants in Gay Village and trendy shopping in Mile End. Foodies won’t want to miss Les Premiers Vendredis, which happens on the first Friday of the month. The city’s most beloved food trucks gather for a food truck fest at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium. Summer in Montreal means street festivals, outdoor performances, pop-up markets and more. Don’t miss the Montreal Jazz Festival June 27 – July 6.