With ongoing vaccinations, we’re close to reaching some semblance of normalcy (or whatever the post-pandemic normal will be), and you might be ready and willing to go anywhere after being cooped up for over a year. But given the financial challenges of the past year, expensive travel might not be an option for many of us. But if you have some flexibility, you might plan to make your getaway with a much lower cost than if you had a specific destination in mind. Here are some ways you can travel for cheap when the destination is anywhere.
Editor’s Note: In Australia, you’ll also have to contend with border closures and travel restrictions as appropriate.
Use travel sites’ “explore” feature
In the Netflix show Master Of None, Aziz Ansari’s character and his love interest go on a date using JetBlue’s “deals” feature, choosing to go wherever the cheapest deal led them. If location isn’t issue for you, such travel is actually realistic and fun — JetBlue and other airlines offer hotel and flight combination deals, holiday package promos, and featured destinations for cheap.
Similarly, Kayak’s “Explore” feature gives you flight deals with destinations around the world to choose from. At kayak.com/explore, the site uses your location as the starting point, the words “anywhere” are automatically included as the destination, and a map features flight costs for locations around the world.
You’ll also notice the timeframe says “anytime, any duration.” Once you click on a flight to view the details, the duration is selected randomly for the best deal. For example, when I click a flight from Boston to Atlanta, it’s $85 one-way, and when I click on the deal, the date auto-populates to May 20 to 25 this year. It’s an impulsive traveller’s dream, if you have the flexibility.
The Flight Deal is another option for cheap flights. Rather than dropping a pin on a world map, The Flight Deal gives you a list of locations offering cheap deals around the world. After clicking on a featured deal, the site gives detailed information on the flight and type of holiday you would have, including sample travel dates. For example, they currently feature a round-trip ticket from Los Angeles to Amman, Jordan, on Qatar Airways for $900.
Once selected, the site recommends checking out tourist attraction Petra and offers additional deals for other airlines, like $150 off economy class with Alaska Airlines for the same flight. They’ll also recommend the best dates for your trip.
Filter your search to stay in budget
Hostels are one of the cheapest ways to travel, but avoid communal stays during the pandemic. Fortunately, other cheap, private stays are easy to find with sites like Airbnb, VRBO, and regular travel sites like Expedia, Orbitz, Cheap Hotels, and more.
Airbnb’s “go near” section uses your current location to search nearby stays for getaways just an hour or two away; just choose a maximum spending amount and see what pops up. VRBO has similar options and filters to cater your search to your needs. On VRBO’s main page you’ll also see recommendations for family trips and types of stays (cabins, condos, cottages, and so on.)
How to budget for cheap locations
Even if the location doesn’t matter, it can still help guide your search. For example, Vietnam is an affordable and common destination with flights ranging from $500 to $800 one-way, and accommodations and food can run at a significantly low cost: Budget Your Trip estimates the daily cost for a trip to Vietnam as $50 a day, including accommodations. For locations like Vietnam, if you can afford the flight, you can get by with the rest on a tight budget.
If you have an idea where you would like to go, you can also use Budget Your Trip’s search function to calculate your daily costs in other places; it’ll offer a list of “Hostels and Budget Locations,” “Around the World Travel Guides,” and “Activities, Day Trips, and Excursions.” All of its categories are based on budget, allowing you to have a low-cost trip to faraway places you may not have previously considered.
New York Times best-selling author and travel writer Matt Kepnes (aka Nomadic Matt) offers several guides to travelling the world on an extremely tight budget. In his article, Cheap Holiday Ideas Kepnes writes, “Forget Mexico and go to Guatemala. Skip Paris and head to Budapest. Forget Italy and see Greece (it’s really cheap!). Ditch Brazil and take on Bolivia instead.” Kepnes suggests “contrarian travel,” avoiding large crowds and expensive activities by going against the grain. Kepnes also offers a list of affordable yet enticing locations for your next trip, including faraway places like Moldova, Thailand, and Fiji.
How to find cheap excursions
If adventurous activities fuel your travel desires, try finding cheap excursions with sites like Viator — just type in your location and dates to find local attractions and activities for low prices. Once you include a location and date, the results page offers categories for you to choose: “Food & Drink,” “Art & Culture,” “Outdoor Activities,” “Unique Experiences,” and more. For example, I searched St. Thomas and found a “sunset sail with cocktails and appetisers” for just $70 per person (with unlimited cocktails, by the way).