We get it. Scanning through an endless feed of envy-inducing vacation photos and responding to invitations for spontaneous getaways with “TOO POOR :(,” is getting old. But don’t lose hope! Traveling around the world in your 20s is still possible, my friend. If you have a fairly flexible schedule and a few weeks to plan ahead, there are a number of amazing locations that you can visit for around $500 – airfare, lodging and food included. All you need is a passport and a few travel companions to be seaside in Tulum or hiking in the Fjords by October.
*Below are prices listed for weeklong vacations in September, October, and November. (These prices may vary, and be even lower, if you decide to travel in winter or early spring):
- Lodging costs are calculated for two people who would like to split the room evenly, but it’d obviously be less if you could convince more people to come along for the ride.
- To find international flights, I typically rely on SkyScanner to track prices because
- You are able to search from broad locations, such as the United States.
- You can search unspecified dates, including whole months or even the whole year
- You can see flight price changes on a minute-to-minute basis.
- It has the unique feature of allowing you to search “Everywhere” in the destination search box – a great feature if you’re feeling really spontaneous.
Let’s get away!
Tulum is one of the best-kept secrets in the world, but not for much longer. Located on the Caribbean Rivera, it’s the perfect combination of beautiful beaches, jungle forests and ancient Mayan ruins. Tickets from several U.S. hubs, including New York, Orlando, San Francisco and Miami, are all around $250 to Cancun, Mexico. From Cancun, you have the option to rent a car, take a taxi or take a shuttle bus to Tulum (prices range but are all around $75 round trip). Once you get to Tulum, you’ll find adorable seaside inns (breakfast included, ‘natch) from $46 a night.
Total cost per person = $486
San Jose, Costa Rica
Although the city of San Jose itself may not be on your travel list, it’s a great hub for other exotic Costa Rican locations like Santa Teresa or Tamarindo. Tickets from the U.S. start around $200 from Houston and are closer to $300 from other major hubs like D.C. or NYC. Upon arriving to your preferred beachside or mountainous locale, most B&B’s cost around $50 per night for a two-person room.
Total cost per person = $375 to $475
Iceland is one of the most geographically diverse destinations on earth and boasts geothermal spas, glaciers, geysers and volcanic lakes, among many other natural wonders. If you choose to go in the fall or winter, you also have a chance of seeing the northern lights. WOW Air recently began flying from D.C. and Boston and now offers direct flights to Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital. Flights are around $280 from both locations. In regards to lodging, Iceland can be a little pricier at $100 per night for a bed and breakfast or hotel. However, trendy Scandinavian apartments average around $50/night on AirBnB.
Total cost per person = $455
A whole vacation to Paris? For $500? Seriously? Yes, seriously. Flights to Paris from Boston’s Logan airport are around $450 for September, October and November. If you’re located in the Northeast but not that close to Boston, you always have the option of hopping on the train or Megabus for an additional $20-$50. Highly rated hotels generally run around $100 a night and many include complementary breakfast, while more basic, no-frills places can be closer to $75. Again, you always have the budget-friendly option of AirBnB’s from around $50 per night or hostels at $20ish per night.
Total cost per person = $500 to 600
The 1000-year-old capital of Norway sits on the southeastern coast of the country and offers awe-inducing green spaces and easy access to the famed Fjords. Flights from NYC and Oakland, Calif. start around $385, while a flight from Miami was quoted around $435. Similar to our other Scandinavian getaway, Iceland, Oslo is also slightly more expensive once you arrive at your destination. A good AirBnB is around $60 per night and a hotel will cost you around $75 per night.
Total cost per person = $595 to $645
Berlin is perfect for group travel because it has so much to offer, including endless beer, hundreds of years of history, inspiring art and architecture and a stellar music scene. In sum, you really can’t go wrong with a spontaneous trip to beautiful Berlin. Flights from D.C. and Boston will cost you around $450, while NYC flights fall around $485. A well-priced AirBnB averages $40/night per two-person room and cute and cozy B&B’s begin at $60 per night. Like many other European locations on our list, hotels average $100 per night.
Total cost per person = $500 to $625