Ah…summer! the smell of freshly cut grass, a dip in the lake to cool off, and all the BBQs you can handle. What’s not to love about summer? Since the kids are out of school, summer is also a great time to take off and experience a new place.
Summer Travel You Can Afford
Summer travel is often expensive, but there is plenty of new competition this year. Due to more flights being offered, airfares have remained lower, on average, than in past years. According to the trade group Airlines for America, it’s estimated that a record 246 million passengers will fly with U.S. airlines this summer. This is partially due to historically low airfares. Here are a few places where you can enjoy a summer trip that won’t break the bank.
La-La Land has great weather year-round, but summer is still the best time to visit southern California. The ocean warms up and the beaches are full of surfing, sports, and sunbathers. While in L.A., you can also enjoy a walk along the canals in Venice, eat a variety of food at the original farmer’s market, or enjoy an outdoor concert at the Hollywood Bowl.
Where to Stay: You’ll be right downtown with a room at Freehand Los Angeles. Rooms range from shared bunks to a suite. With a rooftop pool, you’ll be able to swim among the high rises.
Flights to Los Angeles: All domestic airlines fly to Los Angeles and it’s a hub for legacy carriers American, Delta, United, and Alaska. This means there are a large number of choices and low prices due to the competition.
Long Island-Islip, New York
Skip the muggy, overcrowded subway ride in New York City and fly a little further east to enjoy the beaches of Long Island. You’ll be far from the city that never sleeps, but can still take a Long Island Railroad train into the city if you wish. Situated in the center of Long Island, Islip airport is a great jumping off point for a visit to the Hamptons, Montauk, or Fire Island.
Where to Stay: If you want a central location on Long Island, don’t pass up the Hilton Garden Inn Islip/MacArthur Airport. You’ll have free airport transportation if you choose not to rent a car and be able to venture out on easy day trips to both eastern Long Island and New York City.
Flights to Long Island-Islip: For many years, Southwest Airlines has been the main carrier in Long Island. Recently, Frontier Airlines has been trying to change that. Frontier now offers many incredibly cheap fares to Long Island from the Midwest and Southeast. Keep in mind, there are extra fees for everything with Frontier, but overall flights are cheaper now that Southwest has some more competition.
This island in the Atlantic is a great place to enjoy snorkeling around shipwrecks, kayaking in pristine blue water, or visiting historic sites. Make sure to visit the Bermuda Aquarium, Natural History Museum, and Zoo for an all-around look at the natural wonders found in the Caribbean.
Where to Stay: Hotels can be pricey in Bermuda, so you may want to try a Bed and Breakfast like Aunt Nea’s Inn. You’ll feel at home inside a historic building with marvelous architecture.
There is nothing like summer in Minnesota. The land of 10,000 lakes (actually closer to 12,000, but who’s counting?) is full of summer activities for the whole family. Make sure you get on one of those lakes either on a pontoon boat or canoe. If you’re up for a road trip, check out Northern Minnesota. I’ve spent many summers enjoying the peace and tranquility of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness paddling and portaging with no motorized boat in sight. In Minneapolis, you can visit the Mill City Museum or the Walker Art Center, which is home to a fantastic sculpture garden.
Where to Stay: Many travelers choose to stay near the airport as the Mall of America is close by and it is relatively easy to get around the Twin Cities area from there. The Country Inn & Suites by Radisson offers affordable rates and is well rated. There’s an indoor pool (actually two), hot tubs, and free hot breakfast.
Flights to Minneapolis/St. Paul: One of Delta’s largest hubs, Minneapolis has long had higher airfares than other major cities. Low-cost airlines have flourished recently and Minneapolis based Sun Country Airlines has changed its business model to become more of a no-frills carrier. The big news this summer is the addition of JetBlue, which is bringing airfares down from much of the east coast.
Norway is a great place to explore this summer. Cruise through Fjords or discover the history of the Vikings. With plenty of daylight, you’ll have time to explore at all waking hours. If you have the time, a domestic flight up to the Lofoten Islands will give you some of the best scenery in the world.
Where to Stay: Enjoy a free evening meal while staying at the Clarion Collection Hotel Foketeateret. In fact, all meals are included with a buffet breakfast and afternoon sweets as well. You’ll be centrally located if you’d like to grab a more substantial lunch in Oslo’s city center.
Flights to Oslo: As a hub for Norwegian, the largest low-cost carrier to cross the Atlantic, Oslo often has fairly cheap flights. Flying airlines like SAS or Lufthansa may provide you with a better experience, so make sure you compare total cost and value when searching.
Raleigh is full of great museums such as the Museum of Natural Sciences or Marbles Kids Museum. There’s also plenty of charming parks and art galleries to keep you busy. Head over to Durham for a visit to Duke University, which has a picturesque campus including gardens and a spectacular chapel.
Where to Stay: By staying at the Embassy Suites by Hilton Raleigh-Durham Airport/Brier Creek, you’ll be 20 miles from either city and able to explore the entire area from a central location. Enjoy modern rooms with the space you need, an indoor pool, and complimentary breakfast.
Flights to Raleigh: Frontier has expanded rapidly by bringing nonstop flights from many cities you wouldn’t expect. Fares are super low on Frontier, but flights may only be operated a few times a week and fees are abundant. Southwest and Delta also have a good amount of flights with more regular service.
A culture capital, Barcelona is an exciting destination to consider this summer. The Basilica of the Sagrada Familia is a must visit. Construction on this architectural marvel began in 1882, and is still in the final stages of building. The original architect, Antoni Gaudi, has several other creative buildings to see in the Barcelona area. Day trips to the Montserrat Monastery or to the beach are also within reach from Barcelona.
Where to Stay: A night at the NH Barcelona Barri Gotic will give you a comfortable stay at the edge of the Gothic district and a short walk to La Rambla. The staff is superb and the décor is artistic.
Flights to Barcelona: Low-cost carriers Level and Norwegian both cross the Atlantic with flights to Barcelona. Iberia, American, Delta, and United have lowered fares in response and flights to Barcelona are among the cheapest from North America to Europe.
The Rocky Mountains are even better in Canada and Calgary is a great jumping off point to get there. Banff National Park is about two hours west of Calgary. Canada’s oldest national park is one of its true gems. There is plenty of hiking with the chance to view all kinds of Canadian wildlife. Calgary also hosts the Calgary Stampede in July. More than just a Rodeo, the festival also has live music, chuckwagon races, and agriculture showcases.
Where to Stay: The Regency Suites Hotel Calgary is in a great location close to downtown. Affordable and spacious rooms will make you feel at home. All rooms come with a kitchen so you’ll be able to save money by self-catering.
Flights to Calgary: WestJet calls Calgary home and has brought nonstop flights to Calgary from all over North America. WestJet is also launching an ultra-low-cost subsidiary, Swoop, in June. Although Swoop won’t initially have flights to Calgary, Flair Air has responded by adding more flights this summer. Frontier is also launching service to Calgary in June, which will discount flights from the US as well.
If you want to experience nearly 24-hours of daylight, head to Iceland this summer. Take the classic Golden Circle tour to see amazing waterfalls, like Gullfoss, and Thingvellir National Park, where two tectonic plates are joined allowing you to walk between two continents. There is so much natural wonder in Iceland, you’ll be glad you have so much daylight. After all the exploring, you can relax in one of the many hot springs located around the country.
Where to Stay: Although flights are cheap to Iceland, hotels tend to be more expensive than you’d expect. The Hotel Reykjavik Centrum is a great value place to stay in the center of town. Simple, clean, and comfortable rooms with a bar/lounge to kick back after a day of sightseeing.
Flights to Reykjavik: Since WOW Air has expanded to many cities all over the US and Canada, Reykjavik has become the place for a cheap flight across the pond. Even after bag fees, you’ll get a great price on WOW on modern aircraft. Always compare prices on Icelandair, Air Canada, Delta, American, and United, which have all added flights to Iceland recently.
You can’t forget about Orlando for a cheap summer trip. Visiting Disney World is on almost every child’s bucket list. And even though the entrance may cost more than your flight, it’s worth it to see that smile the first time your kid encounters Mickey Mouse. Other than Disney, Orlando is also nearby the Kennedy Space Center, where you can have lunch with an astronaut. There are plenty of other theme parks from SeaWorld to Universal Studios. Orlando truly is a summer playground.
Where to Stay: Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort allows you to get up close with some larger than life sculptures of a few popular Disney characters. It’s an affordable hotel close to the Disney parks, which will allow you to save some money for your activities. There is a large outdoor pool area, which also has ping pong tables.
Flights to Orlando: Flights to Orlando are cheap thanks to a lot of competition from budget airlines such as Frontier and Spirit. Allegiant also flies to nearby Sanford (SFB) airport. The other airlines all have comparable fares if you need to bring more luggage, so make sure to check Southwest, JetBlue, and Delta as well.
Above image by Sunny studio via Shutterstock.