These 10 spring getaways are so gorgeous and inspiring, you (almost) may not notice how affordable they are.
You mission, should you choose to accept it, is to get out there and savor everything a spring vacation has to offer. We’ve rounded up some of the best beaches, parkland, and cities where your dollar will go further this time of year—that means lodging well under $200/night, and an accessible array of food and activities that won’t break the bank. From the South Pacific to the Caribbean, from the Gulf of Mexico to the Rocky Mountains, the only problem you may have with this top 10 list is choosing just one trip.
1. Dominican Republic
Punta Cana, Dominican Republic (Binu777/Dreamstime)
If your idea of a perfect spring break involves affordable all-inclusive resorts and perfect beaches, the Dominican Republic offers just about everything you might want. We love Punta Cana—just a two-hour flight from Miami—for reliable resorts like the Majestic Colonial Beach Resort and Bavaro Beach with gorgeous white sand, clear Caribbean waters, and an offshore coral reef. Or head to the charming off-the-beaten path fishing village of Las Terrenas, in the Samaná province, for “secret” gorgeous beaches and good deals. Exploring the DR’s natural wonders is a must as well: Los Haitises National Park is the place for kayaking the lagoons and mangrove canals and viewing wildlife such as pelicans and iconic leatherback turtles; the Cordillera Septentrional Mountains are a magnet for hikers.
2. Oahu, Hawaii
Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii (Izabela 23/Dreamstime)
With Southwest (winner of the 2018 Budget Travel Award for Value Airline) now flying to Honolulu, there’s no better time to hop over the Pacific to get to know the Hawaiian Islands, starting with Oahu, the most populous and accessible of the islands. The weather is almost always perfect on Waikiki Beach, and you are an easy drive from nearby mountains (including iconic Diamond Head) and an array of beaches where, depending on the time of year and the weather, you may witness “monster” waves and the professional surfers who challenge them. As much as we love Honolulu’s accessible beachfront and affordable lodgings such as Hotel Renew, we also urge you to make the 15-minute drive to the mountain side of Diamond Head to get to know Kaimuki, a residential area we named one of the best budget destinations in America where you’ll find amazing seafood, Japanese fare, and tasty regional dried fruits, among a wide array of other delights.
3. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming (Jaahnlieb/Dreamstime)
At 147 years old, Yellowstone (nps.gov/yell) is the world’s oldest national park, but it still has a trick or two up its sleeve. A 3,472-square-foot swathe of land straddling Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana, it’s busiest during the peak summer months, especially between July and August, when 55% of the park’s annual visitors descend to take in the geysers, wildlife, history and more. But the park’s roads begin to open in mid-April, and nature lovers would do well to consider a springtime visit. From May to June, in particular, young elk, bison, and pronghorn calves are finding their legs, wolves are on the prowl, and momma bears and their cubs are on the hunt. To catch the animals on parade, your best bet is to wake up before the sun—wolves and bears get moving early—though, with mountain goats, bighorn sheep, and birds out and about later in the day, there’s action to be had even if you’re not a morning person. June is prime wildflower season, and the park’s waterfalls are seriously impressive then too, thanks to snowmelt runoff that sends 63,500 gallons of water per second over the Yellowstone River’s Lower Falls. Plus, with substantially fewer visitors during the spring months, deals on accommodations abound, and you won’t have to jostle for position around Old Faithful.
4. Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama
Orange Beach, Alabama (Courtesy Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism)
The mention of Alabama probably sparks thoughts of the civil rights movement, football, fried green tomatoes, and Lynyrd Skynyrd, who made it sound like everybody’s sweet home. But for spring travelers, Alabama should also mean the Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, 32 miles of silken sand along the Gulf of Mexico. With April temps reaching mid-70s, it’s not quiet beach-lounging time yet, but the area provides a bounty of things for spring breakers to check out, an assortment of 200 local restaurants not least among them. Families can prepare for summer with classes at Sand Castle University (sandcastleu.com) for a crash course in building the impressive palaces out of sand. To explore the area’s natural treasures, the 28-mile Backcountry Trail (backcountrytrail.com) in Gulf State Park covers a tapestry of nine ecosystems that are best explored on bike or a guided Segway tour. And to fully immerse yourself in the rich landscape, made a reservation at the Lodge at Gulf State Park, which opened at the end of last year and features 350 Gulf-front rooms.
5. Williamsburg, Virginia
ColonialWilliamsburg, Virginia (Aviahuismanphotography/Dreamstime)
Colonial Williamsburg is right up there with Disney World and the Washington Monument when it comes to iconic American sites that every family should have on its bucket list. But when it comes to grownup escapes, the greater Williamsburg region has no shortage of offerings, whether you’re reuniting with friends from high school or taking a second honeymoon. First, there are the restaurants. Farm-to-table is the norm here, and so is sea-to-table, what with Williamsburg’s location between the James and York rivers. Fresh oysters are the draw at Waypoint Seafood and Grill and Fat Canary is known for its creative dishes using ham and lamb from local farms. Where good food goes, drinks follow. Wine lovers can visit Williamsburg Winery (williamsburgwinery.com), Virginia’s largest, beer drinkers have their choice of breweries with taprooms, Copper Fox Distillery (copperfoxdistillery.com) is a small whiskey-making operation that pioneered the craft scene back in 2005, and in keeping with the area’s historic viewpoint, there’s even a meadery that produces the ancient style honey wine. Toss in posh spas, shopping, and a long-running comedy club and there you have it: a spring break for the history books.
6. Skagway, Alaska
Skagway, Alaska (Izabela 23/Dreamstime)
Skagway is a small town in southeast Alaska, along the Inside Passage, with a population of about 800, but in June, July, and August, that number swells to about 3,000. But before the many cruise ships dock here throughout the summer months, April and May are ideal times to explore the quaint, historic township. It’s one of the few towns in Alaska with a road directly into the continental U.S., albeit a long one. It’s about day-and-a-half drive from Seattle through British Columbia, but if you’re looking for a road trip, this is certainly a pretty one. Should you arrive by boat, you’ll sail through dramatic fjords that are merely a hint of the scenery you’re in for. Skagway is famous for its Klondike Gold Rush legacy, and that history plays out in the well-preserved buildings from that era, which are part of Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park (nps.gov/klgo/index.htm). There are also water adventures, like Ocean-Raft Alaska (oceanraftalaska.com), a high-speed group ride in a motorized boat, the Chilkoot Trail for hikers who aren’t afraid of serious incline, and brewpubs.
7. Savannah, Georgia
Savannah, Georgia (David M. Sacerdote/Dreamstime)
With stunning Gothic Revival architecture, ancient live oaks dripping with Spanish moss, and a picturesque location on the banks of the Savannah River, this Southern charmer offers a sophisticated yet accessible urban escape for all ages. A free walking tour will give a good overview of Savannah’s history, from its antebellum past to modern days. (Don’t forget to tip!) Stop for a photo op in front of Forsyth Park’s highly Instagrammable fountain, and sneak a peek at Girl Scouts founder Juliette Gordon Low’s birthplace and the Scouts’ first headquarters. Hungry? You’ll probably have to queue for brunch at the Collins Quarter, but between the short-rib hash and the brioche French toast, it’s worth the wait. Bernie’s Oyster House on River Street serves cold beer and fresh oysters by the bucket, while Bayou Cafe slings stiff drinks and Cajun fare with a side of live blues. For an upscale affair, check out the Grey, where James Beard Award finalist Mashama Bailey is turning out refined Southern plates in a beautifully restored art deco Greyhound station. (Stop by at happy hour for discounted wine, beer, and oysters before your reservation.) Savannah College of Art and Design is where aspiring Picassos from around the world come to hone their craft; it’s affiliated with a world-class art museum. In the Historic District, the Telfair Museum is the South’s oldest public-art museum, and the Jepson Center has a stellar modern collection; the model ships at the Ships of the Sea Museum are a must-see for nautical enthusiasts. There’s retail therapy on Broughton Street (we like the Paris Market for fanciful home decor and 24e Design Co. for upcycled vintage finds), and when you need a break from the city, the sandy shores of Tybee Island are just a few miles away.
8. Sunny Isles Beach, Florida
Sunny Isles Beach, Florida (Pressfoto/Dreamstime)
Maybe you haven’t visited Sunny Isles Beach, Florida, yet? Maybe this is the first time you’ve even heard of this inviting family-friendly community between Fort Lauderdale and Miami? If so, that’s what Budget Travel is here for—introducing you to beautiful places you didn’t know you were missing. And you are in for an affordable world-class vacation in Sunny Isles. This decidedly lovely community on a barrier island in Miami-Dade County offers a 2.5-mile stretch of uncrowded white sand, fishing off Newport Fishing pier, exploring nearby mangrove preserves, and enjoying your proximity to Miami’s exceptional neighborhoods, parks, aquariums, and vibrant culinary scene. An array of local lodgings are offering spring deals, including Marenas Beach Resort, JW Marriott Miami Turnberry Resort & Spa, and Solé Miami, A Noble House Resort.
9. Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado
Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado (Cheri Alguire/Dreamstime)
Named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978 for an impressive concentration of ancestral Pueblo Indian dwellings dating from the 6th to the 12th centuries, southwest Colorado’s Mesa Verde National Park (nps.gov/meve) makes for a unexpected—and stealthily educational—spring destination. With more than 4,700 archaeological sites to explore, from cliff dwellings to mesa-top villages with pit houses and pueblos, the kids will barely notice they’re learning things on their time off. The self-guided Mesa Top Loop Road auto tour, open year-round, is a six-mile drive with 12 sites and scenic overlooks easily accessible via short, paved walking trails; ranger-guided tours of the cliff dwellings begin in mid-April (though they’re visible from various overlooks any time) and backcountry hikes and special tours begin in mid-May. The park’s only lodge opens in mid-April and campsites are available in early May, but the nearby town of Cortez makes for a good base of operations if you’d prefer to sleep off the premises. Granted, a springtime visit may require leaning into winter a little longer, as the Mesa Verde plateau’s altitude of more than 8,500 feet above sea level means that warm weather arrives a bit later here (snow storms in April have been known to interfere with the park’s operations), so be sure to check the weather forecast before you go, and stop at the visitor’s center when you arrive for the latest road and trail conditions.
10. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina (Sean Pavone/Dreamstime)
South Carolina’s most popular beach town ranks third among most-searched travel destinations in the world and draws about 19 million visitors annually. That’s liable to change soon because over the past year, in addition to sleek new condo buildings and hotels, exciting new projects are underway or already open for business already, likely bringing even bigger crowds. But before the beach bums set up camp for the summer, use spring break as a sneak peek at Myrtle Beach 2.0. October saw the opening of THEBlvd (theblvdmyrtle.com), a sprawling complex on the boardwalk with a concert venue, stores, and dining. The local arts scene is more active than ever, as evidence by the debut of the Grand Street Arts Trail (theartsgrandstrand.org), comprised of 18 galleries and three restaurants. The famously family-friendly destination got even friendlier in February with the opening of EdVenture (edventure.org/myrtle-beach), a new incarnation of the South Carolina Children’s Museum. Aviation and astronomy take the spotlight in the exhibits here, so kids can get an education on vacation. If you’ve got a getaway with your significant other or a group of friends on the calendar, Myrtle Beach has plenty of fun dining and drinking options. The sustainability-obsessed chef Heidi Vukov, long known for her cheery café Croissants, is expanding her local footprint Hook & Barrel, which focus on sustainable seafood. You can get local wine in Myrtle Beach, too. La Belle Amie Winery (labelleamie.com) is a farm-set destination known for owner and operator Vicki Weigle’s Twisted Sisters brand of wines.