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These days, cost-conscious travelers have more options than ever. The question is no longer “Where will we go?” but “How cheap can we get there?” Rest assured, we’re here to tell you the answer: pretty cheap! As evidence, we’ve compiled a list of the ten most budget-friendly travel destinations to watch out for in 2014. These places show it’s totally possible to plan an unforgettable trip to a unique, accessible, and culturally interesting destination, and still feel like you’re getting a deal. Trying to fit all these fabulous trips into a single year? Well, that’s another question…
1. Singapore It’s telling that Singapore Airlines spent the better part of this fall introducing over two dozen brand new 777-300ER planes into its fleet. The national carrier, consistently recognized as one of the top airlines in the world, is simply catering to demand as more and more visitors flock to this verdant Southeast Asian hub. Scores of new hotels are opening all over the city – many of them artfully designed and, best of all, reasonably priced. But it’s not just affordable lodging that keep travelers coming back. The city’s treasure trove of cheap hawker centers (food stalls), diverse ethnic neighborhoods, and abundant green spaces (Gardens by the Bay, for one) show why it’s becoming one of the region’s most accessible, yet endlessly entertaining modern metropolises. (See also: Off The Beaten Path In Singapore)
With the Millennial generation growing up, the travel industry is beginning to see a gap in the market for sophisticated young travelers on a budget. Budget-chic brands such as CitizenM and Marriott’s Moxy, which offer high design and low price points, are booming, while budget brands such as Radisson are undergoing a design-focused overhaul. The result is that the high-end experience is being redefined: luxurious is no longer synonymous with expensive. That’s good news for travelers of all generations; gone are the days when a low budget meant bland and basic accommodations - as the following worldwide hotels prove.
New York City: Playland Motel
Located way out in Rockaway Beach in Queens, the Playland Motel, which opened in summer 2013, restored a 19th -century building and engaged 12 artists and designers to curate each of the guest rooms. Each season, artists and designers will update the rooms’ designs according to their own aesthetic. Rooms currently available to book include Kate Pane’s Coconut Castle room, which the artist describes as “a hot and heavy girlhood frolic with glitter sunburns, ponies and wet swimsuits.”
The Playland Motel is also home to a popular bar, diner, and pizzeria. The scene is young and the music loud. Rooms (with shared bathrooms) go for around $160 a night.
New York City and Mexico City both teem with traffic, culture, amazing food, and beautiful architecture. But for the next year, these two metropolises will have more in common. The two cities recently announced their first-ever city-to-city partnership that includes a one-year agreement aimed at boosting tourism in both destinations. The best part? As part of the agreement, Aeromexico is offering $399 round-trip flights between the two cities, including flights on the 787 Dreamliner, through March. (Book by November 22.)
Even if you can’t take advantage of the special fare, you can enjoy some of the cities’ similarities just by visiting one or the other. Here are some related places that we love both in the Big Apple and south of the border…
In Mexico City: Downtown México
Downtown México is one of several Mexico City hotels that pare part of the design-savvy Grupo Habita. This one, in the heart of the city’s historic center, occupies one of the city’s few remaining 17th century palaces, and is just a short stroll from Zócalo, the main square. Habita’s typical contemporary design blends with original features such as high ceilings and a brick faςade. The hotel has two courtyard restaurants, as well as a rooftop bar and pool.
Every year, the hype surrounding Halloween seems to get bigger and bigger, but in many Mexican cultures, one of the season’s liveliest celebrations falls on November 1 and 2. Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, blends indigenous and Catholic influences, with the most traditional celebrations taking place in cemeteries in central Mexico. There, families gather at gravestones to honor deceased loved ones, but the tradition has become more popular in the U.S. as well, especially in places with thriving Latin American populations.
At the heart of the celebrations are ofrendas – altars or offerings of food, drink, and alcohol – which are believed to guide the spirits of the deceased back to Earth to spend time with their family and loved ones. Día de Los Muertos celebrations also include processions, musical performances, and tons of great, skeleton- and skull-inspired art – and, a refreshing break from the over-the-top commercialism of Halloween. What’s more, they’re almost always free, too. Here, five great places to get into the spirit of the Day of the Dead.
Note: There is a chance that there may be no Grito in the Zócalo in 2013 as teachers are currently occupying the square in protest of educational reform. Even so, there are plenty of other places in Mexico City to celebrate (such as in the Coyoacán neighborhood), and, indeed across the world.
If you find yourself in Mexico City in the second week of September, you’ll see the city at its most festive and patriotic. National flags hang from buildings; novelty costumes, hats and Pancho Villa-esque moustaches are on sale on almost every street corner, and bakery windows are stacked high with colorful patriotic cakes.
The reason for this display of national pride is that September 16th is Mexican Independence Day, which marks the beginning of the Mexican War of Independence. The day is celebrated with parades and festivals, and with food prepared in the color of the Mexican flag, such as chiles en nogada made up of green chili pepper, white walnut sauce, and red pomegranate seeds.
It is the night before, however, that you’ll experience the most inspiring tradition of the Fiestas Patrias (patriotic holidays): El Grito. Read more
Big cities make for great vacations. The culture and palpable energy is a large part of why so many people gravitate toward the world’s great cities and put up with, even embrace, the hustle and bustle. Sometimes, though, even the most committed city traveler feels the need to check out of the constant stream of activity in, say, London or New York, and that is when they head to the quiet calm of a city park. Read more
In further proof that the world has not, in fact, ended, Karisma Hotels & Resorts has unveiled its Jackson Family Wines Culinary Series, a brand-new offering for 2013. Held at the adults-only El Dorado Royale and El Dorado Casitas each month, the weeklong program will highlight a different chef and winemaker from the Northern California winery, who will work together to create wine and dine experiences such as tasting and cooking classes, beachside wine parties, and a multi-course winemaker dinner prepared in a thatched roof “culinary theater.”
Sounds like a perfect backdrop for a Valentine’s Day getaway – or a reason to toast a trip to Mexico any other time of year. Read more
With summer — and school break — just around the corner, it’s time to start planning a great getaway for the whole family. These money-saving deals are suitable for a group, whether you’re taking the kids to Orlando for some theme park hopping, planning your next family reunion on a cruise, or hiding out at a Caribbean resort where little ones stay free. We found those deals and more, good for travel throughout summer and fall, starting from just $87. Book soon to lock in the best savings.
Great vacation memories spring from many sources: Photographs tell the literal side of the story, but those one-of-a-kind acquisitions – an intricate Colombian rug, an antique Mexican doorknob, a one-off dress by an Israeli designer – continue to live with us, transmitting their provenance through time. Since shopping districts the world over are becoming increasingly interchangeable with big-box stores, we sought out urban neighborhoods, some emerging and others longer established, where you can still find homegrown items that impart a true sense of place. Read on for our top 10 picks.
Southwest Airlines has announced the upcoming debut of its “International Connect” system in partnership with Mexico’s Volaris Airlines – passengers can now book flights on the two separate airlines and coordinate baggage transfers all through Southwest’s website. Southwest has also launched a bilingual call center with international customer service representatives on hand to facilitate travel on the new service. International Connect flights feature service to five sites, including Guadalajara, Morelia, Zacatecas, Cancun, and Mexico City – they can be booked in association with Southwest flights via the Los Angeles, Oakland, or San Jose airports for travel beginning December 1.
Good news for travelers to Mexico: American, Continental, Delta, and United are all increasing service and adding new routes south of the border to fill in some of the gaps that Mexicana left when it went bankrupt in August; many of the changes kick in this fall.
American is seriously bulking up its Mexico service, with additional flights to Aguascalientes, Cancun, Guadalajara, Leon/Guanajuato, and Mexico City, as well as brand-new routes to Queretaro and Veracruz launching this fall and winter.
Dallas will see a trio of improvements starting November 18, when the airline increases daily flights to Mexico City by one, bringing the total to four takeoffs each day; a second daily flight to Aguascalientes will also lift off November 18. Four flights, instead of three, will service Leon/Guanajuato from Dallas beginning December 16, and Queretaro and Veracruz itineraries start February 10.
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