Photos and Compact Guides
Spectacles, Arches National Park, Utah, USA.
Best value vacation destinations in 2014
According to a recent British Post Office report on Worldwide Holiday Costs the cheapest vacation destination is currently Bali, Indonesia.
The lowest cost countries in Europe are Portugal, Czech Republic and Spain.
Also worth a budget visit are Turkey, South Africa, Vietnam and Mexico.
The cheapest island in the Caribbean is Jamaica (though still not very competitive compared to the previous countries listed), followed by Dominican Republic and Tobago.
The priciest countries are, in Europe, Italy
and worldwide New Zealand, followed by Australia, Singapore, China and Canada.
Culebra Island, off Puerto Rico, the Caribbean
The Americas, May - June
Beaches in southern California such as Los Angeles should be reaching perfect highs of around 77F (25C) and lows around 60F (15C) while on the other side of the country in Miami, Florida, temperatures could be heading towards toasty highs of 90F (32C), with lows of 74F (23C), the last months before the weather starts to get really muggy and oppressive. Still, two great months for southern USA beaches.
For those who yearn for a Caribbean experience on the cheap then May is recognised as being the most cost-effective month as the region is theoretically entering the rainy season (May-December) but generally the sunshine lasts well in May and the prices are waaaay down. Puerto Rico is the easy choice for Americans as US citizens don't need passports or visas to travel there.
If you're determined to avoid any chance of precipitation then take a look at ABC and T, Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao and Tobago, islands that are below the rain belt and usually good in June too.
This is a great season to be travelling around the USA as school is not yet out so competition for rooms/views/restaurants/parking spaces is negligible but the weather - at least in central/southerly regions - should be brilliant. We are especially fond of the canyon country east of Las Vegas, aka The Grand Circle, a perfect destination for an American road trip in a rental camper (RV).
If you're looking for 'exotic' travel then Mexico is, like the Caribbean, heading towards the rainy season so May should be a good value month for seeing the Yucatan sights with a small risk of clouds/rain. June will be even cheaper but risks of unpleasant weather are ramping up.
Further south in Latin American then May should be fine but not June in Argentina, the Galapagos Islands, Guatemala, Peru and of course Mexico. The weather in the remainder of the South American continent is at its worst.
Lake Geneva, Switzerland.
Europe, May - June
Gather ye rosebuds! No guarantees of course but May is the start of European season and these months are generally fine, with warm weather, occasional showers, lower prices, cheerful staff and fewer travellers competing for services, so if you don't have children at school make hay while the sun shines.
However, the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea will still be very cold - actually the Atlantic waters are always cold! - so beware if you fancy a beach holiday. In addition some summer services may not go into action until June, such as beach cafés, ferries and marine activities in places like the Greek Islands.
Côte d'Azur beaches will definitely be starting to hum in May, even if it does always seem to rain during the Cannes Film Festival. Perhaps some greater power than Hollywood disapproves?
The south of Spain is another beach area that will be fully ready for action in May and definitely warm veering to hot.
Otherwise most European cities are a delight May - June (even if some are suffering a bit of a pollution problem at present, specifically France and especially Paris). Walking between museums, art galleries, palaces, parks and shows are a grand way to spend time in this ancient part of the world. Some of our favourite cities - that will be packed and hot in the summer months but not so much during May/June - are Florence, Rome (already hot!), Prague, Paris, London, Vienna, Berne, Lucerne, Barcelona and Cadiz (both with nice beaches too), Lisbon (beaches nearby), and Amsterdam.
An Etosha National Park waterhole, Namibia
Africa, May - June
North Africa will be getting decidedly hot in June and impossibly hot later so this is the last chance for reasonably comfortable travel in this colourful region, unless you want to hang out on a beach or head for the mountains. Morocco and Egypt's Sharm el Sheikh offer incredible value and should present blue skies. Morocco will be primarily for desert, wacky cities and exotic exploration while Sharm or Dahab are about beaches and snorkeling/scuba/boarding in the Red Sea.
Petra/Wadi Rum in Jordan and Israel generally are also fine in May but getting OTT in June.
Central Africa is not so good but South Africa's varied attractions, from beaches to wildlife to wines are at their best in Autumn, as is Namibia's incredible mix of massed animals and massive dunes.
A Hair School in Papua New Guinea.
Asia, May - June
These months are probably the best to view tricky China, too cold in winter, too polluted in spring, too hot in summer, but no guarantees, it's a moveable feast. Tibet is ready for action if you're ready for the altitude and Japan is also warming up rapidly; May is a fine month there and in Laos too. The East Coast of Malaysia is hot to trot, including Borneo and lovely Tioman Island but not Kuala Lumpur, the capital. The final great possibility is wild and wacky Papua New Guinea, though best with a competent tour operator, it's not a place for individual travelers. More PNG
Australasia, May - June
Northern Australia is terrific from May to October, meaning mainly the activities resort of Cairns, the Great Barrier Reef zone and Darwin, but Sydney's weather will be cool and probably damp. New Zealand is also heading into winter so less than perfect at this time.
Whatever, wherever, happy holidays!
Trek America discounts (USA, Canada, Central America)
Grand American Adventures (USA, Canada, Latin America)
Travel with bank cards
Buy goodies or pay bills (checks) with credit cards when on vacation as they provide insurance as well as delayed repayment but don't draw cash out from ATMs with them (unless it's a new-wave, no-fee card). Interest starts accruing immediately and bank exchange fees in addition to the ATM fee may be unreasonable.
It's better to buy foreign cash at home from a commission-free provider though, of course when you travel you'll have to carry a fat wad around, so the best solution depends on the security of your holiday destination. If you travel a lot and want to get cash from an ATM do some research on transaction fees and get the lowest fee debit (not credit card) card you can find.
Gap Year travellers might consider also acquiring a prepaid Travel Money Card (aka Currency Card) which can be loaded with any amount of any currency before travelling and then topped up by family or friends while the Gappist is still in the big nowhere. Compare prepaid Travel Money Cards.
And of course never pay for anything abroad in your home currency (the exchange rate will be absurd), insist on paying in local currency.
To summarise, buy stuff abroad with a credit card, but try to pay off the balance each month before interest charges blow the wheels off your trolley; get cash from ATMs with a debit card.
Finally, don't go short of travel insurance if you're going to be participating in any kind of marginally dangerous activity, or even a non-dangerous activity in a third world location, that's NOT the way to save money! Use your brain while it's intact!
Social networking on the road
Keep in touch with friends, family and colleagues while traveling abroad has become so much easier thanks to the internet and social networks.
Travelers logging onto social networks while abroad
should ensure that they properly log out before leaving an internet café or similar because in some areas of Africa, East Europe and India it's not unknown for a watcher
to access a tourist's Facebook (or similar) account after they leave and send a desperate message to family members about an accident/hospitalisation and needing money urgently. Money transferred of course disappears into a mystery account and no one's the wiser, for the time being.
Making calls to family and friends while traveling used to mean looking around for a phone booth, using phone cards and spending a fat wad, especially for international calls, but these days varied devices are used not only for keeping in touch but also booking transport, entertainment, restaurants, accommodation and more.
Best value communication abroad
1 - Cross-platform mobile instant messaging apps such as WhatsApp, WeChat, facebook Messenger and Snapchat which allows users to exchange messages or chat from anywhere worldwide free of charge, so long as each party has access to wifi. WhatsApp Messenger is available for smart phones, such as iPhone, BlackBerry, Android, Windows Phone and Nokia and uses the same internet data plan that you use for email and web browsing at no cost.
WhatsApp is not the only super-app on the planet, for example LINE has 50 million registered users in Japan and 300 million worldwide. LINE currently offers not only instant messaging but voice/video call for free. WhatsApp will soon allow voice service having been acquired by Facebook.
2 - Sign up with the new breed of free VoIP [Voice over Internet Protocol] providers such as Skype, Rebtel, Tango and Google Voice/Google+Hangouts which offer free or cheap international calls on a laptop/smart phone/or even iPod Touch.
These cost nothing user to user or a small charge for calling to non internet phones such as land lines or mobile numbers.
We're especially impressed by international video calls from an iPod Touch in a wifi zone to a PC via Skype, incredible sound quality and pretty good pictures, though the quality can be erratic depending on the strength of the signal. Use wifi or 3G connection where possible. Be aware that you cannot make or receive emergency services with VoIP.
3 - Travel with your own GSM cell/mobile phone if it works over the cellular data network type at your destination. Buy or rent a pre-paid sim card at home or on arrival and change the card over immediately.
The main drawback is the number will be new and you may have to own an unlocked phone so either get yours unlocked or buy an already unlocked extra phone. This system is convenient and you only pay for what you use if you buy the right package.
Alternatively check out your provider's deals for using the extended service outside of your registered country.
4 - Not a cheap options but if your purpose is limited to emergencies, buy or rent a prepaid phone, online or at the airport on your arrival.
5 - Old fashioned but check out the new generation phone cards to call just about anywhere, though public payphones are disappearing and so it's hard to find one that works properly when you need to make a call. Also others can't to reach you, unless that is precisely your point!
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