10 to Watch

Top Budget Travel Destinations for 2009

BudgetTravel.com reveals the best value hotspots for the New Year.

Memorable moment: Take a dip in the therapeutic hot springs of Budapest, which have drawn travelers for nearly 2,000 years. The Gellért Baths and Spa Budapest (H-1118 Budapest, Kelenhegyi út 4, 011-36/1-466-6166, gellertbath.com), an opulent 19th-century spa hotel with mosaic tiles and palm fronds, costs charges roughly $18 for a day in its pool. Browse spasbudapest.com for more options.

Price check: As business travel tanks, vacationers may score the best values by upgrading to hotels that traditionally serve corporate travelers. Budget Travel's pick for the city's best value hotel, NH Budapest (nh-hotels.com), recently offered rooms for $93 a night, about 41 percent off its average rate, according to TripAdvisor. City tours on foot or by bus are between $10 and $20 because guides cost about a third less in Budapest than in other Western European capitals.

REYKJAVIK, ICELAND

Why in 2009: The dramatic collapse of Iceland's currency, the kronur, has hung a 48-percent-off sign on virtually everything for American tourists. A hot dog (an Icelandic specialty) in downtown Reykjavik, for example, runs about 210 kronur—that's $3.50 in U.S. dollars at last year's exchange rates, but about $2 today. Meanwhile, in a bid to lure tourists, Icelandair has recently rolled out steep airfare discounts. Published fares to Iceland for early 2009 are down 22 percent from a year earlier, says Expedia.

Main events: Astoundingly, beer was illegal in Iceland until 1989. On March 1, Beer Day, Reykjavikers toast its legalization with parties at pubs, clubs, and restaurants (goiceland.org). On June 21, the summer solstice, locals cheer the midnight sun on the longest day of the year. Cuteness alert: Watch the island's adorable baby puffins as millions of them leave their nests in early August for that first oh-so-awkward attempt at flight. See the event as part of many organized tours (visiticeland.com).

Memorable moment: Soak in one of the city's seven hot pots—outdoor thermal pools. Save by purchasing a Reykjavik Welcome Card, which includes admission to the hot pots plus five museums, a family park and a zoo, as well as transport on city buses and a ferry trip to Videy Island (a noted spot for bird watching). A 24-hour card is about $11 at today's exchange rates (visiticeland.com).

Price check: Rates at the Park Inn Island Hotel, for instance, start from $87, and it has amenities that are roughly comparable with the ones offered at a Radisson in the U.S. Look to Icelandair.com for fare sales and air/hotel packages to Reykjavik. But shop aggressively for a rental car, which can be expensive in Iceland, by comparison shopping at metasearch websites such as Kayak.

MEXICO

Why in 2009: Our southern neighbor has always been relatively affordable, but this year is special. The U.S. dollar's exchange rate against the Mexican peso is at its most favorable point in 15 years. Prices should be down across Mexico, including in high-profile destinations like Mexico City, Oaxaca, and Cancun. Resort destinations that have become newly popular, such as Riviera Nayarit and Puerto Peñasco (Rocky Point) should be positively cheap this year.

Main events: Catch some sun in Riviera Nayarit, a trendy tourist region recently launched by Mexican officials. About 20 miles north of the Puerto Vallarta International airport, the new hotspot stretches along 100 miles of Pacific coast (rivieranayarit.com). March brings the 25th anniversary of the Festival de México, an 18-day celebration of arts and culture held in the country's vibrant capital (festival.org.mx, free and ticketed). Starting May 10, residents of Oaxaca come together for a week of dance and processions (oaxacainfo.com).

PEER INTO OUR CRYSTAL BALL…

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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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