Tax Refund = Vacation! 7 Amazing Trips That You Can Afford Right Now
The average American will get almost $3,000 as a tax refund. Sounds like it's time for a vacation! Here are seven great trips to spend your rebate on—and don't worry, with prices starting at $818 per couple, you'll still have some money left over.
Portland, Oregon: $1,145 per couple
There's no denying the city itself has broad appeal: cuisine, culture (don't miss Portland Art Museum's Rothko exhibit through late May 2012), and our favorite: no sales tax.
Spring is a great time to visit the Rose City, when the extensive network of gardens is in bloom. At Lan Su Chinese Garden, you'll find Oriental classics like hibiscus and silk trees (lansugarden.org, $9.50). The Portland Japanese Garden, with its pagodas and stone lanterns as well as cherry blossoms and bonsai, is considered the most authentic outside of Japan (japanesegarden.com, $9.50). Refuel at one of several food trucks downtown: Nong's Khao Man Gai is famous for its poached chicken with soybean, garlic, ginger and chile (S.W. 10th and Alder, from $6.50). And you can't come to the Pacific Northwest without sampling the fruits of the local vineyards. Locals recommend Noble Rot, a fourth-floor wine bar where you can swirl delicate, homegrown Pinots whose cult status have become legend (1111 E Burnside St., 503/233-1999, noblerotpdx.com, wines flights from $12). Where to stay: Save big on transportation by booking a hotel along Portland's Max rail line. Hotel Deluxe is located just two blocks from the Jeld-Wen Field station, and is full of Hollywood-style glamour like black and white photos and regency furniture (729 SW 15th Ave., 503/219-2094, hoteldeluxeportland.com, from $149).
The audit: Airfare (from $356)* + 3 nights hotel (from $447) + gardens entry ($38 for two) + meals ($250) + wine flight ($24 for two) + transportation ($30 for three days of Max passes for two) = $1,145 per couple
*Based on round-trip airfare from Oakland to Portland for two people.
North Coast, Dominican Republic: $1,334 per couple
There are still plenty of beaches along the Dominican Republic's North Coast where you can escape the masses. The trick is to fly into quieter Puerto Plata.
Ditch the all-inclusive scene west of the airport and head east toward Cabarete, a coastal town that still retains a (somewhat) local feel. Dip your toes into Kite Beach, or take a day trip to Playa Grande, a scenic stretch of white sand that won't stay undeveloped for long. Try something new and book a surfing lesson—a two-and-a-half-hour course on Playa Encuentro is a great way to test the waters. Where to Stay: Go around the rocky bend just east of the main town to the deco La Punta Apartments. Even with a prime oceanside location, swimming pool, and large terrace, the rooms are a steal (011-809/571-0897, lapuntacabarete.com, from $64).
The audit: Airfare (from $762)* + 3 nights hotel (from $192) + surf lessons ($80 for two) + meals ($250) + transportation ($50 for cab fare) = $1,334 per couple
*Based on round-trip airfare from New York City to Puerto Plata for two people.
Amsterdam: $1,942 per couple
The Dutch capital is more affordable than other major Western European cities like Paris and London, and you can fly nonstop from 13 North American gateways.
Ask any local and they will tell you that the Renaissance architecture and winding canals of Amsterdam are best seen by bike. Secure your transport at MacBike for as little as $8 per day, pedal over to Vondelpark, an oasis of green where it seems the entire city comes to hang out. Amsterdam's wide variety of ethnic kitchens are great for the budget and are not short of flavor. Sari Citra is a flavor-packed Indonesian restaurant with dishes like Bali beef with green beans-the perfect complement to a long bike ride (52 bg Ferdinand Bolstraat, 011-20/675-4102). Where to Stay: The 26 rooms at Chic&Basic in the Jordaan district are just that, but the rate includes perks like free basic breakfast (cereal, juice, boiled eggs) and wireless internet. Be sure to request a room with a view of the adjacent canal (13-19 Herengracht, 011-31/205-222-345, chicandbasic.com, from $150).