VACATION IDEAS

10 Best Budget Destinations for 2014

With amazing food, glorious public spaces, and unparalleled museums, theme parks, and beaches, the only thing “budget” about these world-class vacation spots is the price tag!

Penguins in South Africa

From penguins on the beach to unforgettable music, cuisine, and, of course, the "big five," South Africa—the country that Nelson Madela changed forever—offers a mind-blowing diversity of travel experiences. Oh, and hotel rates are down 8 percent!

(Photosky/Dreamstime)

Conditions are perfect for visiting these near- and far-flung, culture-rich locales: Price-wise, 2014 is their year. Dipping hotel rates, new attractions, and some perennially affordable sights and eats make these 10 cities ideal to consider for your travel itinerary this year.

SEE THE BEST BUDGET DESTINATIONS FOR 2014!

SOUTH AFRICA

The country that Nelson Mandela changed forever will change you, too

Why in 2014: Take your pick of locales to visit in South Africa this year: Hotel rates are down 8 percent across the country. Put wildlife at the top of your agenda, whether you're looking to see the big five on a safari or just want to hang out with the free-roaming penguins on Boulders Beach in Cape Town (careful, they bite). For a less risk-fraught animal excursion, Kruger National Park is one of the best on the continent. For an entrance fee of about $20, you can take in the South African landscape and keep your eyes peeled for both the big five and the little five (buffalo weaver, elephant shrew, leopard tortoise, ant lion, and rhino beetle). Beach lovers will flip for Cape Town's beaches, at the intersection of the Atlantic and Indian oceans. Go Atlantic (the western side) for sunbathing and watercolor sunsets; hit the Indian (the eastern side) for swimming and surfing. Many of the eastern beaches have lifeguards. Soweto township in Johannesburg offers numerous opportunities to absorb the city's prominent history, such as the Nelson Mandela Museum and the Apartheid Museum. When you're hungry, visit the restaurants on Vilikazi Street; the indigenous local food menus include tripe, morogo (boiled wild spinach), and ting ting (sour porridge).

Where to Stay: In Cape Town, the Parliament Hotel's helpful staff, free breakfast, and safe location next to a police station are key basic reasons to book your stay. Nearby, you'll find Company's Gardens, where you can marvel at an aviary and scope out the oldest pear tree in Africa, and the Slave Lodge Museum, which educates visitors about South Africa's history of oppression. (parliamenthotel.co.za, from $67)

VENICE

Yes, Venice! Hit the enchanting city of canals while hotel rates are down

Why in 2014: Put "floating down picturesque Venetian canals in a gondola" on your 2014 itinerary. Spending time in Venice is now more affordable than ever—hotel rates are down 7 percent from last year. Along with the iconic gondola trip, visiting the Piazza San Marco is a must: The Sansovino Library and the Ducal Palace stand at either side. You can't miss the two large granite columns from the 13th century that are topped with two symbols: the Lion of Saint Mark and a statue of Saint Theodore. Soak in the work of Venetian masters such as Vittore Carpaccio, Tiziano Vecelli, and Giorgione at Gallerie dell'Accademia, then follow it up with a dose of modern art at the Peggy Guggenheim museum, which showcases works from her personal collection by big names including Picasso, Dali, and Pollock. Ask your hotel's concierge about water transportation to Murano, where you can see traditional glass blowing on a small tour. Be aware that there's a hard sell at the end of the tour. They really want you to buy fancy glass.

Where to Stay: For opulent Venetian atmosphere, consider Hotel Al Ponte Mocenigo. Nice touches like Murano glass chandeliers and exposed beams add to the 1700s feel. (alpontemocenigo.com, from $115)

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

Affordable all-inclusive resorts put this island paradise within reach

Why in 2014: Growing more popular by the day, the DR is a go-to 2014 beach destination if you've been priced out of vacation spots like Cabo or aren't up for sharing sand with the fashion crowd in Tulum. The five-star all-inclusive Majestic Colonial Beach Resort in Punta Cana is surprisingly affordable, at about $212 per night for two people. For a more rustic trip, up-and-coming Las Terrenas, a little-known former fishing village in the Samaná province, is easy on the purse strings and heavy on pristine beaches. To get your nature fix, pay a visit to Los Haitises National Park, a protected virgin forest informally known as Caño Hondo. Rent a kayak for $3 (plus a licensed guide) and glide through lagoons and mangrove canals to spy on wildlife like brown pelicans and endangered leatherback turtles.

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Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.
 

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