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Photos: Top Budget Travel Destinations for 2012

Your annual guide to the year's biggest savings—from deeply discounted tours to favorable exchange rates to the cheapest five-star hotel rooms around (as low as $112!)—in some of the world's most appealing vacation spots.

  1. This year is the 100th anniversary of the Titanic's sinking off the coast of Newfoundland. There's a full calendar of events this April in Newfoundland and Labrador, as well as in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where many of the victims are buried. The event calendar will include parades, concerts, reenactments, and a film festival.

    (Courtesy nsca/Flickr)
  2. The provinces lining Canada's eastern seaboard have always had plenty to offer the outdoorsy traveler—from scenic kayak rides around Prince Edward Island to whale watching in the Bay of Fundy to wilderness hikes in the glacier-specked Torngat Mountains.

    (Courtesy archer10 (Dennis)/Flickr)
  3. Taipei has an emerging culinary scene (world-famous chef Joël Robuchon opened a Taipei restaurant in November 2009) and plenty of snazzy new construction, while the surrounding countryside offers lush hot springs, majestic mountains, and golden-sand beaches.

    (Belliot/Dreamstime)
  4. The arrival in Taiwan of the first mainland Chinese tourists last June (not counting supervised tours) marked a turning point for this onetime Chinese territory—a sign that a longtime political stalemate might finally be thawing.

    (Elwynn/Dreamstime)
  5. Egypt is hurting for visitors, which means the price is right for a vacation. TUI, Europe's largest tour company, slashed $600 off the price of a recent Egyptian excursion, and average daily hotel rates have fallen 25 percent countrywide, dipping to about $107 per night.

    (Courtesy Ricardo Liberato/Wikimedia Commons)
  6. Go to Egypt during the shoulder seasons (March to May; September to November), when you'll encounter fewer, and less-sweaty, crowds. Summers in the country deliver 90-plus-degree temperatures and winters bring tourist throngs.

    (Ashok Sinha)
  7. Greece's economy is faltering—it's in the clutches of a massive debt crisis and on the brink of bankruptcy—but travel deals are going strong, especially in Athens.

    (Cubo Images/Robert Harding)
  8. Despite the recession, Athens is beefing up infrastructure with Greece's biggest-ever subway project, an expansion of the Athens Metro, which will make exploring the city even easier. New subway lines and stations—some stocked with ancient artifacts excavated during construction—will make roaming the city simple.

    (Marco Simoni/Robert Harding)
  9. Belize tends to be overshadowed by its neighbors: Mexico, Guatemala, and Costa Rica, which in 2010 saw twice the visitor arrivals than Belize did. Yet this English-speaking nation has plenty to recommend it, including a bounty of exotic birds, stunning Mayan ruins, and the world's second-largest barrier reef.

    (Courtesy archer10 (Dennis)/Flickr)
  10. Belize is one of the region's biggest bargains. In 2011, the dollar appreciated 1.3 percent against the native currency; as of September, the exchange rate was nearly two to one. The savings should last until December 2012.

    (Jessica Antola)
  11. The Azores, a chain of nine volcanic islands, lies 930 miles off the coast of Lisbon, but the distance hasn't protected the autonomous region of Portugal from the mainland's economic troubles—which means big bargains for American travelers.

    (Courtesy filipe pinheiro/Flickr)
  12. Hotel rates across Portugal have slid since 2010, with five-star hotel rooms averaging a mere $112 per night, and the Azores, which are dotted with baroque churches, black-sand beaches, and crater lakes, are no exception. Weather is mild year-round, but outdoor enthusiasts will dig October, when temperatures typically hit 70 degrees and daylight lasts 11 hours.

    (Courtesy Julen Iturbe-Ormaetxe/Flickr)
  13. With new airport terminals sprouting up from Warsaw to Gdansk, a hotel-construction boom that's drawing marquee brands like Hilton and Westin, and a growing economy (the Polish GDP has shot up 4 percent since last year), Poland is ready for its close-up.

    (Courtesy Shalom Alechem/Wikimedia Commons)
  14. In June, the UEFA Euro 2012 soccer tournament will descend on stadiums across Poland—but you don't have to be a sports fan to reap the benefits. South Africa, which hosted the World Cup in 2010, saw post-game price drops as high as 20 percent when premium rates vanished, and the same trend is expected in Poland.

     

    (Courtesy borkur.net/Flickr)
  15. America's seventh-largest city is best known for its 19th-century missions (remember the Alamo?), but San Antonio is staking a claim on the future with new construction: a massive expansion of its popular River Walk (shown here).

    (Erika Nortemann/Tandem)
  16. Best of all, room rates are down 5 percent from last year in San Antonio—the average four-star room goes for $100 per night—and the city's S.A.V.E. (San Antonio Vacation Experience) program promotes additional hotel deals year-round.

    (Courtesy Tim Pearce, Los Gatos/Flickr)
  17. With miles of picturesque Pacific coastline (perfect for surfing), only 10 inches of rain per year (ideal golf weather), and family-friendly attractions (Sea World, the San Diego Zoo, a LEGO-Land theme park), it's easy to see why San Diego is one of America's top 10 most-visited cities.

    (Ashok Sinha)
  18. Unlike northern neighbors Los Angeles and San Francisco, San Diego is offering bargains on everything from hotels—the average nightly room rate is $128—to rental cars, which are 3 percent cheaper than they were in 2010. Another reason to book a trip now: Hotel prices are expected to continue dropping through 2012.

    (Courtesy Padraic/Flickr)
  19. Thanks to arts-centric developments both large-scale and grassroots, Kansas City is fast becoming a hotbed of high culture. In September, the $326 million Moshe Safdie–designed Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts opened to host the Kansas City Ballet, the Lyric Opera, and the Kansas City Symphony.

    (Davel5957/iStockPhoto)
  20. Thankfully, Kansas City's prices haven't caught up to its highbrow reputation. Both hotels and rental cars are cheaper than they were in 2010, with rooms going for about $137 per night (a 3 percent drop) and cars averaging $55 per day.

    (Chuck Pefley/AGE Fotostock)

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