In 2020, just about two weeks before I had COVID (and it wasn’t a “thing” yet), I crafted a list of budget-friendly destinations I planned to go for my 2020 travel adventures, reaching a goal and fulfilling a dream of mine and my grandmother’s. Of course, then I became ill and Covid-19 hit the rest of the world and that put the kibosh on all things travel.
This year isn’t looking so hot for travel either, though some places are opening up a little. So, instead of tying dreams and goals of hitting my 52+ countries in a given year, I’ve crafted a “post-COVID” travel list instead. I’ve been to some of these, though not all, but they’re all budget-friendly and highly “doable” for the average person, though you’ll need to learn some tips on cheap travel to actually do it all. That’s for another time and place, though.
Each budget-friendly destination on this list is either someplace I’ve been and would recommend others visit or is somewhere I’m planning on visiting during whatever year I hit that 52+ country goal. I’ll be posting longer descriptions and ideas for each on my personal blog over at ritajpike.com as the months unfold, but for now, here’s the breakdown of where and a brief why for each of these twenty-five unique places you may want to consider for your post-COVID travel dreams.
When most folks hear “Antigua,” they think of the island, which may not be a super budget-friendly destination for many. I’m talking about the colonial town in Guatemala, though. The cobblestone strewn streets, historical sites, fascinating history, beautiful churches, and easy access to mountains and volcanoes makes for a grand vacation spot that’s affordable and versatile enough for folks with many interests to enjoy.
I highly recommend learning some Spanish first, though, as most of the locals do not speak English, despite being a heavily touristed area.
El Yinque National Forest in Puerto Rico offers some incredible hiking, waterfall spotting, wildlife observation and more. On my whistle list for sure.
Another one for my “to visit” list, Santa Domingo offers history, ruins, and fascinating cultural points in a beautiful Caribbean atmosphere.
Yosemite National Park has been on my travel list for years – ever since I first heard of it from my best friends who grew up in the area. The waterfalls, the incredible hiking, the camping – all my cuppa tea and well worth the effort getting there someday.
In 2006, my family visited Zion for the first time. The incredible views as we drove down were the perfect follow-up to the Grand Canyon which we had visited just a few days prior. Here, you can hike, climb, and explore the natural wonders and learn a bit about the early history of the region as well. To make this a budget-friendly destination, consider camping nearby.
If you’re more into urban escapes, consider visiting the “middle of nowhere” town of Des Moines, Iowa. Here you’ll find an unexpected combination of “big city” and “small town” feels with a gorgeous skyline and plenty to keep the whole family engaged.
Offering incredible scenery by day and Dark Skies by night, Big Bend is one of the parks I’m most looking forward to camping in sometime in the near future. I plan to hike all day, then rest by the campfire, drinking in the Milky Way by night.
Near to Mt. Rushmore, you’ll find Keystone, South Dakota offers plenty of activity for cheap. Rent inexpensive cabins or pitch a tent, hike trails, explore grasslands, and learn about the fascinating history of the region, and, of course, go take a peek at the old presidents of the big carved mountain.
I’ve known of Missoula for many years, but in 2019, I was scheduled for my first trip there with a PR firm. Sadly, however, there were some mishaps behind the scene that caused the trip to be canceled. I’d already studied up on the location and was eager to hit the trails and see the small town sites. So, though I couldn’t go then, I plan to as soon as it safely makes sense now.
Despite being in Europe, Dublin is one of the cheapest places I’ve visited in the past. Admittedly, I camped, didn’t eat out save upon arrival and one special meal in a pub with live Irish dancers, and only did one day trip tour, but my best friend and I spent three glorious days there for under $100. We visited Dublin Castle, roamed the streets, did lots of window shopping, explored nearby County Wicklow via bus tour, and had a rousing good time overall.
Of all the places in Europe that I’ve visited, the Isle of Arran was my absolute favorite. “Little Scotland” as it’s known, has castles, beautiful bays, ruins, charming marinas, highlands and lowlands (thus the nickname), waterfalls and beautiful hiking trails, and lots of lovely little B&Bs and boutiques. Plus, if you’re a cheese lover, the locally made cheese will keep you returning whenever possible.
I haven’t made it yet, but Bucharest, Romania, is definitely on my visit list! This amazing city offers intriguing historical sites, tasty food, beautiful architecture, and delightful entertainment.
This stunning island off the coast of Portugal offers amazing cuisine, scenery, outdoor sports, and more. Plus, if it’s still at all like it was 50 years ago, it’s actually a bit more like the world was several hundred years ago with its pastoral lifestyle and unique island culture.
This city combines life under a rock with beautiful Spanish countryside. I haven’t been yet, but I’m eager to experience the unique city that’s literally built under a rock!
If you’re fascinated with pastoral islands and World War II history, Guernsey is worth a visit. The unique history of the island includes invasion by the Nazis – who left behind many artifacts you can still see today – and a rich background of rural island living for centuries.
Since watching the film, The Decoy Bride, featuring a British favorite, David Tenant, and the delightfully talented Kelly Macdonald (voice of Merida from Disney’s Brave), I’ve been fascinated by the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. Since researching and writing some pieces for Travel Awaits magazine back in 2019, I’ve particularly been keen on making my way to the unique Gearrannan, Scotland out there. The once-abandoned village is now open for “tourism experiences” primarily, with a look back into life as it once was in these harrowingly wild places of Scotland.
One of the smallest countries in Europe, Andorra offers amazing sight-seeing, hiking, mountain climbing, exploration, shopping, and more. It’s definitely on my next visit to Europe list.
A charming, urban area of England with loads to do while taking it as easy as you like. In other words, a spot for an actual vacation where you won’t get bored but you won’t have the busy rush of so many other locations around the world.
Here, history comes to life from so many periods and cultures. Take a guided tour or wander on your own. The whole place is packed with historical sites, intriguing adventures, and a beautiful culture.
I wasn’t able to stay for long, thanks to being on a tour with a concert show choir in 2002, but the beautiful city made it to my “return one day” list – a rarity. Explore the history of the incredible town, wander the countryside and peek into strange and macabre locales nearby.
Hobart’s my favorite city in Australia. It’s got this amazing homey “brown” feeling to it that makes it so comfortable and safe. And nearby, there are mountains, nature preserves, animal sanctuaries, a temperate rainforest, and Alpine territory within a couple hours. Just watch out for the kebabs in the city. They taste amazing, but they were the only thing that’s ever given me food poisoning.
Another one of my favorite spots in Australia is Darwin. The city is intriguing, filled with art, museums, historical sites (WWII anyone?), and wildlife. Plus, it’s within an hour or two of Litchfield National Park with an easy smooth drive for someone not used to driving on the left side of the road. Plus, you might just spot some sugar gliders in the wild in the area.
This was one of my grandmother’s favorite spots on her journey around the world. It’s a truly fascinating city with history, rich colors, fascinating culture, and tremendous beauty.
There are many of these fascinating structures made from living trees. They’re primarily in more remote areas of India where the bridges are needed for daily travel. And they’re well worth the hike getting there. I haven’t been yet myself, but the amazing history, the photos, and the many reviews I’ve read have easily moved these into my top five sights for my jaunt into India in the near future.
The whole region is unique and fascinating, whether you’re into shopping or exploring the wilds. And, while you’re in the area, you can take a long cable car over the mountains up to the famous Golden Bridge and the French provincial theme park while you’re around.
So, whether you’re going to make it to international spots or more local sites, you can do any of these on a budget. Most of them are on various apps and websites that help you find super cheap ways to get around each locale or where to find the best cheap hotels, hostels, campsites, etc. As I’m able, I’ll be doing that very thing on my own blog.