By Teal Pelish, Cheapism.com
Going international can turn an otherwise banal summer vacation into a lifelong memory. But is there such a thing as cheap international travel -- especially in a place like Europe, where the exchange rate hovers around $1.30? Here are some inexpensive ideas for students, couples, and families looking to visit an exotic place on a limited budget.Opt for a backpacking trip.
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Backpacking. For college students and 20-somethings, this method of independent travel is not only an affordable way to see many parts of the world but also a fun way to meet people, especially if you plan to travel solo. Backpackers congregate in hostels, where a dorm bed with a shared bathroom typically costs far less than a hotel room. Visit HostelBookers to read reviews and reserve cheap accommodation with no booking fee.
The classic destination is Western Europe, of course, but consider South America for cheaper international travel. The most affordable cities start at around $20 per day, according to Price of Travel, a database that tracks the cost of traveling on a backpacker budget. If you have your heart set on Europe, the site suggests looking eastward toward Poland, Budapest, Prague, and even as far as Istanbul.
Lodging may be affordable, but airfare is by no means cheap (taxes alone can total hundreds). A consultant who researched fares over nine months for The Wall Street Journal pinpointed the best time to buy a ticket to Europe: about two or maybe three months in advance. Any earlier than that, the airlines are still testing the waters to see how much customers will pay for a ticket. The idea is to wait until they lower prices to fill seats -- but not so long that increased demand pushes fares upward again.
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Romantic Getaways. Attracted to the city of love? Consider spurning the crowds of Paris in favor of a jaunt to less expensive Chartres, where the famous cathedral isn't Notre Dame but is nevertheless impressive. Venture beyond that charming city to the Loire Valley, one of Budget Travel's best cheap international travel destinations for 2013. You'll by no means be alone in July or August, but that's a testament to the appeal of this lush wine region, where you can get drunk on the French passion for romance at a fraction of the cost you'd pay in the capital. The 2012 Hotels.com Price Index pegged the average room rate at $128, a 19 percent drop.A cheap romantic getaway could be of interest.
The phrase "hurricane season" scares off many summer vacationers who might otherwise look to the Caribbean for cheap international travel. That means major discounts on lodging and airfare, even in places that lie outside the hurricane belt, such as Curacao. Water sports and beach enthusiasts will delight in this Dutch island and couples can spend time together over elaborate drinks made with the namesake liqueur. Cheap Caribbean consistently offers some of the best deals in the region.
Family Fun. Away.com applauds Belize as a family-friendly spot for cheap international travel. This Central American gem is well-established as a tourist destination but not yet overrun and English is the official language. While summer is the wet season, June and July are typically drier than August and promise similar off-peak discounts on lodging. In addition to beaches and scuba diving, the country houses wildlife preserves, Mayan ruins, and adventures for every age.
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If a tropical locale doesn't suit your fancy, U.S. News suggests Canada for an affordable family vacation. Even at the current exchange rate, cheap international travel is possible in a place such as scenic British Columbia (and children will get a kick out of the colorful currency). Free amusements in Vancouver include the Kids Market and waterpark at Granville Island and the urban terrain of 1,000-acre Stanley Park. Fly into Seattle to score cheaper airfare and make the easy two-hour drive to the border. You can also head north to Whistler, along the spectacular Sea-to-Sky Highway, and find off-season rates and summer activities in the picturesque ski-resort town.
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