The weather outside is frightful, and a springtime trip sounds delightful — until you start considering cost. Fortunately, there are many ways to cheaply visit a city. We’ve rounded up five destinations, giving examples to show how far $1,000 can get you this spring. Estimates for airfare were compiled by averaging flight costs from New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Chicago. Hotel prices are quoted from popular websites and are for five nights. Further savings can be found on websites such an Airbnb.com.
1. New Orleans
Falling perhaps a little too early to be considered a “spring break,” New Orleans and Mardi Gras are popular destinations every year. This year, Mardi Gras is on Tuesday, March 4. Parades and events start as early as February, but things really ramp up in early March. On Travelocity, the average flight to New Orleans arriving Monday, March 3 and returning Saturday, March 8 is approximately $287. The cheapest was from Atlanta at $227, and the most expensive left from LAX, $398.
One room, shared by two people averages $165 per night, according to Travelocity, but better deals are also available. Right now, it is possible to stay at The Blake Hotel New Orleans for $99 per night, which would be $565 for five nights after taxes, or $282.50 per person.
With just under $600 spent on travel and lodging, that leaves $400 to be spent in New Orleans however you want. If you end up spending more than you care to admit on partying, New Orleans has a host of free attractions. You can browse the French Market, visit historic city parks, try on Mardi Gras masks in the French Quarter, or visit the St. Louis Cathedral.
2. Washington, D.C.
Another event that draws springtime crowds is the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C. The dates for the festival this year are March 20 through April 13. Roundtrip travel costs average $226, but flying from Los Angeles is significantly more expensive, at $306 roundtrip.
Prices vary wildly depending on where you stay. The further away from the city you are, the cheaper the price. However, you’ll also end up spending more time and potentially more money commuting in. The average price is $262 per night. Most hotels that come in under $100 per night on hotels.com are outside of the city in Virginia or Maryland. The Holiday Inn in Greenbelt Maryland, for example, is $98 per night for 2 people. This would work out to about $245 per person for five nights. Since museums, monuments, and sightseeing can be had for relatively little, you may want to spend more of your budget on the hotel.
The festival, like many other Washington, DC attractions is free. Museums in D.C. that do cost money include the International Spy Museum ($21), the Newseum ($23), and Mount Vernon ($17). Tours of every type are available, including river cruises ($14).
For a trip to this traditional spring break city, it might be best to book your flight, and hotel at the same time on a travel site, in case a discount is available for booking both at the same time. A trip between Wednesday March 26, 2014 and Monday March 31, 2014 from New York City will cost about $492. This includes airfare, and a standard room at Hotel Hacienda de Castilla.
Traveling during the same timeframe from Los Angeles to the same hotel is $471, from Chicago it is $486, and out of Atlanta the trip is about $473. All prices came from Expedia, and the hotel room was based on two adults.
Once travel costs are taken care of, you could have roughly half your budget left for five days in Cancun. The website Cancun Adventure lists a number of tours you might take, and can help you figure out which experiences you would like to spend money on. If you wanted to sail away to Isla Mujeres for the day, the cost would be $63. This includes snorkeling, a shopping tour of Downtown Isla Mujeres, and lunch. For about the same price ($69) you can rent a speed-boat for 45 minutes, and zoom through channels along the Cancun Lagoon. For about $140, you can swim with dolphins. Getting away from the water, tours of Mayan ruins are available as well, and are generally under $100.
4. Las Vegas
Getting to Vegas will cost approximately $319, not including Los Angeles airports, where roundtrip flights run about $100. This is the price of flights for a stay between March 26 and March 31. Once there, a hotel room for two people can be as little as $24 per night. One popular hotel on Travelocity is the Riviera Hotel and Casino, which would cost about $109 per person for the entire stay.
Rounding up for taxes and potential baggage fees, around $450 has been taken out of the budget. While some people will want to set aside a large chunk for gambling, Las Vegas has other attractions you may want to spend your money on. Tickets to popular shows can frequently be purchased for under $50. A walking gourmet food tour costs $200, and bus tour prices start at $26.
5. Grand Canyon
The closest airports to the Grand Canyon are in Las Vegas and Arizona. The flights to Arizona may be slightly cheaper depending on location. For LA, it was more expensive at $130, and the average for the other airports remained the same at $319. From there, you will either need to budget for a car rental, or find a bus to take you to the canyon.
The cheapest way to stay at the Grand Canyon is to camp. Group sites are available for $50 per night, or a charge of $18 per night, per person for a non-group site. There is also an entrance fee for the park. This is either $25 per car, or $12 if entering on foot, bicycle, or motorcycle. Admission lasts for seven days, and applies to the North, and South Rim.
The park provides a list of things to do and fees. There are free programs you could take advantage of. There are also bus tours, which range from $22 to $65.