We’ve been doing this list for Halongbay for five years now and in the spirit of keeping things fresh, I switched up the format and asked all my travel experts to name two places: a destination with a nostalgic draw and somewhere they visited recently that they are telling all their friends about.
The goal is to highlight budget travel destinations that are a bit off-the-beaten path. They don’t necessarily have to be cheap destinations but they should be places where you can vacation without breaking the bank. That could be a country where Americans have strong purchasing power or a place that is far away but offers a good value in terms of experience.
So, without further ado, here is the official list of best budget travel destinations for 2018 from some of my favorite travel experts. All responses are in their own words.*
1. San Antonio, Texas, the United States of America
Whether you’re craving Tex-Mex or authentic Mexican food, San Antonio has it. Before my family could afford international destinations, we’d road trip from Houston to San Antonio for the weekend. From strolling along the San Antonio River Walk to chasing thrills at Six Flags Fiesta Texas, we always had a blast. There are also plenty of historic sites that you can visit like the San Fernando Cathedral, which hosts nightly light shows at no cost.
If you find yourself visiting San Antonio during the weekend, be sure to wander through the farmer’s market at the Pearl Brewery. After graduating from college, I spent two years living in San Antonio and the Pearl Brewery was the first stop for my out-of-town visitors.
2. Puebla, Mexico
I spent a month traveling throughout Mexico last January and I found Puebla to be a pleasant surprise. The city is a UNESCO heritage site and it’s easy to see why. Architecture lovers could spend days exploring the historical center and marveling at what seems like an endless amount of churches.
Despite this being Mexico’s fourth largest city, you’ll hardly see any other tourists. It felt like I had the place all to myself. It’s one of those cities where you can just soak in the tranquil atmosphere. The region is known for its Mole sauce, which you can’t miss while visiting.
3. Hawaii, the USA
I go to Hawaii every year. I’ve been going for years and love all of the islands. Flights to Hawaii from the mainland are generally pretty cheap, especially in the past few years. Although it isn’t the most inexpensive when you arrive, it is well worth it because you get the South Pacific feel with the comforts of America… and a shorter plane flight.
I particularly recommend Maui, perhaps my favorite places in the world, and the little visited island of Lanai.
4. St. Helena
I visited St. Helena earlier this year and it blew my mind. It’s a trek to get there in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean but it’s a relatively cheap destination once you arrive. It’s very off-the-beaten path, but with great hiking, fascinating English mixed with island culture, good food and even the world’s most remote golf course. The airport alone makes it worth a visit as they basically shaved down a mountain to make it possible.
5. Province of Laguna, the Philippines
I’ve traveled to 121 countries in the world but I’ll always be proud to say that I grew up here! The Philippines is already popular because of our white sand beaches in Palawan, Cebu or Boracay; the surfing in Siargao, the mountains in the north but Laguna Province is less well-known.
If you have a few days stopover in Manila, I’d recommend a visit to the Province of Laguna. It has hot springs as well as San Pablo City, also known as the City of Seven Lakes. My favorite lakes to visit are Pandin Lake and Yambo Lake. Most of these attractions are easily accessed by car rental or taking the local public transportation called tricycle, which costs less than $10.
I might be biased, but if you live in the Province of Laguna, or even visit, consider yourself blessed! You get to experience and enjoy the fresh air, the wonderful structures, great delicacies and warmth of the people in the province.