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Dream destinations can become affordable travel locations with just a little planning. The world is your oyster — here's how you can save a few bucks so you can savor it all.
1. St. Barts
Ignore those photos of celebrities living it up on big yachts. The high-season glitz is but one facet of the friendly, casual Caribbean island of St. Barthelemy. Book a flight on economy carrier JetBlue into St. Maarten, just a 10-minute puddle-jumper ride from St. Barts (you'll also see it as "St. Barth's"). Rent a villa, and cook your own meals. Beach-hop the free public beaches with a picnic of bread, cheese and fruit from the supermarket or from one of the island's wonderful traiteurs (takeout joints). Visit during the annual soldes (sales), the twice-yearly official French sales seasons, for deeply discounted wares.
Yes, you can make the City of Light an affordable travel location. Here's how. Paris has plenty of reasonably priced one- and two-star hotels that are light on amenities but heavy on charm. Alternatively, rent a guest room in a Parisian's home through a rental agency such as Alcôve & Agapes, Airbnb or My Apartment in Paris. It's utterly free to stroll one of the world's grandest boulevards, the Champs-Elysees, or admire the blossoms in the Tuileries Gardens. Buy an economical Paris Visite pass for unlimited travel on the city's subways and buses. Dine the "bistronomy" way, in smart, relaxed bistros offering hearty three-course meals for under 40 euros.
Even pricey Hawaii can be an affordable travel location if you plan ahead. Buy tickets well in advance to snag the lowest airfares. Visit in the off-season (spring or fall), when airfares and hotel rates are lowest. Many of Hawaii's parks are free or dirt cheap, from the black-sand beach at Punalu'u Beach Park to the stunning black lava fields of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. And it costs absolutely nothing to relax on Hawaii's free public beaches and swim in its clear, jade seas.
4. New York City
If you think the Big Apple is beyond your budget, think again. You can stay in well-priced chain hotels (with complimentary breakfast) just steps from the city's top sights, and get around cheaply and quickly by subway or bus. Many of the city's attractions are free, including the urban esplanade known as the High Line; the Smithsonian's Museum of the American Indian; the elegant New York Public Library; and the incredibly moving 9/11 Memorial. And for fast, cheap eats, you can't beat a $1 slice of pizza or a genuine NYC bagel.
Venice may not be the world's most affordable travel location, but you can drink in many of its celebrated sights for free. You'll find moderately priced hotels and B&Bs in the Cannaregio neighborhood and on the Lido, a beachy island 10 minutes from Venice. It costs nothing to stroll and comb the city's storied calli (streets) and canals. Tour the splendid cathedral interiors of the Basilica di San Marco and Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute for free. Dine like the Venetians do in casual neighborhood cafes and bacari (bars) on delicious, inexpensive tramezzini (filled triangular mini-sandwiches) orcicchetti (tapas-style finger foods).