These days, it’s almost impossible to find a vacation to a tropical destination that includes airfare and lodging for less than $500 per person. Almost. Those who know where and how to look, however, can easily end up on a sunny beach, or sipping mai tais at the bar of an all-inclusive resort, without having handed over five Benjamin Franklins for the whole experience. Need a bit of guidance getting there? Below are seven tropical vacations with airfare under $500 per person.
Editor’s Note: The airfares, hotel rates, and vacation package prices in this story are sample prices only, and may vary depending on your specific travel dates.
|Destination||Hotel (Per Person/Night)||Flight||Total||Duration of Stay|
|Dominican Republic||$54||$250||$466||4 Nights|
|Puerto Rico||$67||$200||$468||4 Nights|
|Bahamas||$411||n/a||$411||8 Night Cruise from Baltimore|
|U.S. Virgin Islands||$70||$200||$480||4 Nights|
The Dominican Republic
The beaches of the Dominican Republic are as beautiful—and as safe—as any in the Caribbean, and round-trip flights to the island can cost as little as $250 from New York or Miami.
Choice Hotels’ Ascend collection includes two all-inclusive resorts in the Dominican Republic with incredibly low nightly rates: Travel during the off seasons—spring and fall—and you can nab a stay at Emotions by Hodelpa Juan Dolio for as little as $65 per person per night, or at Emotions by Hodelpa Puerto Plata from $54 per person per night.
Both are beachfront properties with a variety of all-you-can-eat restaurants, as well as outdoor pools, in-room fridges, microwaves, an on-site fitness center, and a location that’s within easy distance from the airport and major attractions. Members of the Choice Privileges Rewards Program also earn points by staying at either resort.
Pick the right dates, book a few nights, and do the math, and you’ll have gotten yourself a Caribbean vacation that includes airfare, hotel, food, and beverages (yes, even the alcoholic kind) for under $500.
Round-trip flights from Florida to Montego Bay can cost as little as $200, and room rates at the beachfront Royal Decameron, an all-inclusive property on Montego Bay’s lively strip, can dip as low as $90 per night per person for travelers willing to travel in the off-season, between mid-April and mid-December.
The Royal Decameron is within easy walking distance of the city’s best hot spots, shops, and restaurants, though all your food is already taken care of on-site. To stick to your budget, you can also stick to admission-free attractions in Jamaica—including Negril Cliffs and Castleton Gardens—and use local buses and taxis instead of renting a car.
You can often find round-trip flights from Miami to San Juan for around $100, and flights from other parts of the east coast are usually under $200 thanks to budget airlines like Spirit that fly there.
Vacation rentals are the most affordable route as far as accommodations go, and you can find several cheap options that are right on the beach – like this studio in the Condado Lagoon Villas that costs just $67 per person a night. Companies like CampoMar Van let you rent a camper to explore more of the island, at about $90 per person per night- giving you not only the accommodations for your stay but transportation as well. Park it near the beach for a beachfront property!
Budget airlines like Southwest and Alaskan have made trips to Hawaii affordable. Several times a year, these airlines have sales that bring flights to Hawaii down to less than $300. (Airfare sites such as Airfarewatchdog, SmarterTravel’s sister site, will alert you when fares drop.)
If you’re lucky enough to snag one of these low fares to Honolulu—or if you’re the lucky owner of a Southwest Companion Pass, which is actually fairly easy to get if you keep an eye out for associated credit card offers—Oahu has worthwhile low-budget lodgings that could help keep your tropical vacation total under $500, including the Coconut Waikiki Hotel, where rates start from just over $50 per person per night. Another option is the Shoreline Hotel Waikiki, where rates start around $65 per person per night.
Once you’re there, Honolulu doesn’t have to be expensive, since the city has plenty of cheap street food and affordable restaurants—Moose McGillycuddy’s is a favorite for low-cost breakfasts—and bus transportation is easy and much less expensive than renting a car. Plus, many of Oahu’s most worthwhile attractions are free, including hiking up Diamond Head, paying tribute at Pearl Harbor’s USS Arizona, and sunbathing on Waikiki Beach.
It’s always a good time to cruise to the Bahamas. And if you’re setting sail from Florida, you can, without too much effort, find a four-night cruise for about the cost of a single hotel night in any major American city.
A quick Expedia search brings up plenty of three- and four-night sailings from Florida that start under $300 per person, while Cruises.com offers a similar list. Cruise prices typically include all the food you can eat, live entertainment, and calls at ports such as Nassau, Freeport, and, often, private islands belonging to that cruise line. We even found an 8-day cruise departing from Baltimore, Maryland going to the Bahamas for $411 per person!
US Virgin Islands
Believe it or not, the US Virgin Islands can be affordable! Thanks to budget airline Spirit, you can fly to St. Thomas for under $200 from Fort Lauderdale.
With about $300 left in your budget, you’ll be able to stay at Lindbergh Bay Hotel and Villas for about four nights with rates averaging about $70 per person each night. The hotel is right on the water and features a pool and restaurant.
Americans looking to keep their tropical vacations under $500 don’t actually have to leave the contiguous part of their continent to laze on the beach while shaded by palm trees. Orbitz’s list of vacation package deals under $499 usually offers some worthwhile all-inclusive deals to Orlando. Likewise, Travelocity has a dedicated Flight + Hotel Deals Under $400 page that includes various packages to Miami and Orlando, with stays at properties like the Hilton Orlando and the Westgate South Beach Oceanfront Resort.
If you’d rather book airfare and lodging separately, check out Expedia’s round-trip fares to Orlando for less than $100. Couple that with affordable lodgings, like the family-friendly Grove Resort Orlando—around $160 per night for a four-person suite—and you’ve got yourself a memorable tropical trip with the kids that won’t break the bank.
Budget travelers could also opt for a Panama City Beach vacation, to enjoy that destination’s perpetual sunshine, Southern charm, and 27 miles of white sand beaches. Average round-trip airfare into Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport from Atlanta costs $218 per person. And rates at the condo-style Origin at Seahaven, across the street from the beach, can drop as low as $99 per night, making a two-night getaway here cost less than $500.
Tips for Finding All-Inclusive Vacations with Airfare Under $500
Wherever you choose to book your affordable tropical vacation, one key strategy to keeping it under $500 is to understand what average prices look like for where you want to go—and to be ready to buy the minute you see fares that are listed well below that.
“If you’ve been watching for a good fare and you find one, don’t hesitate,” says Jeff Klee, the CEO of CheapAir. “When you go away for a few days or hours to consult with friends, or just continue to shop around, you may be surprised to find that the fare has disappeared while you mulled it over.”
One other tip for keeping vacations under $500, from Klee: “Flexibility is your friend. Unless your trip is for an event tied to a specific set of dates, often just shifting your search dates by a few days can offer big savings. Remember that mid-week flights—Tuesdays and Wednesdays—are usually a much better value than those on the weekend.”
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