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20 Best Cheap Beach Vacations for Fun in the Sun

With this list of the world's best cheap beach vacations, you don’t have to spend a ton of money to have the time of your life

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Affordable beach vacations you’ll want to book ASAP

Nothing conjures up the word vacation like a long stretch of sandy beach. But if you think you have to spend big bucks to take an amazing trip, think again. Many of the best beach vacations are surprisingly affordable. From inexpensive family vacation destinations to romantic small towns to fun vacation spots for singles, there are plenty of cheap beach vacations for you to choose from, both in the United States and overseas—if you know where to look.

And lucky for you, the best place to look is right here! We’ve rounded up the best cheap travel ideas all around the globe—complete with suggestions for cheap beach hotels to stay in each area. That said, depending on your preferences, you might also want to check out these beach house rentals, vacation cabins, affordable Airbnbs and all-inclusive resorts.

So, what are you waiting for? Pick your favorite, book a flight on a budget airline and pack your bags. Paradise awaits!

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Coastline with boardwalk at Moonstone Beach in Cambria California
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Cambria, California

Why you’ll love it: The California coast may not immediately come to mind when you think of budget-friendly beach vacation towns, but it’s actually home to plenty of affordable hidden gems, including the captivating seaside village of Cambria. Located in San Luis Obispo County along the scenic California Highway 1 Discovery Route, Cambria is one of the best-kept secrets on the Pacific Coast. The town boasts architecture dating back to the late 1800s, as well as Moonstone Beach Boardwalk, a mile-long, ADA-accessible path along the beach. Other area highlights include Hearst Castle, 100 roaming Clydesdales at Covell Ranch and fantastic wineries like Stolo Family Vineyards.

Budget tip: Take an affordable audio-tour drive along the coast to explore Big Sur, and then head inland to sample some of California’s finest wine. Both will provide an elevated experience and make Cambria one of the best inexpensive beach vacations in the country.

Where to stay: There are no chain hotels in Cambria, but there are a number of wonderful, affordable lodging options. One of the best is Oceanpoint Ranch, located right at Moonstone Beach. There, you’ll find ranch-themed rooms featuring upscale touches like wood-burning fireplaces and vaulted ceilings.

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The view from the Cascade head trail, north of Lincoln City, Oregon
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Lincoln City, Oregon

Why you’ll love it: Lincoln City, Oregon, combines long stretches of sandy beach with unique attractions such as the Lincoln City Glass Center, where visitors can buy pieces of art or work one-on-one with an artist to create their own glass masterpiece. The same artists also make the glass globes for Lincoln City’s Finders Keepers, a program in which gorgeous glass floats are placed on the beach for lucky tourists to find and take home. Lincoln City also happens to be one of the best spots for surfing. If you didn’t bring a surfboard, you can rent one and even take lessons at Safari Town Surf shop; they also rent kayaks, fat-tire bikes and more.

Budget tip: After a day on the beach, be sure to stop by The 101 Burger (located on—you guessed it—Highway 101) to enjoy the best hamburgers in town. Opt for one of the 101 Wheeler Deals to get fries and a burger for a great price!

Where to stay: This affordable beach town has numerous options for lodging, including beach-house rentals and hotels at a variety of price ranges. One of the best places to stay is right on the beach at the Surftides Lincoln City, which has amenities like a restaurant, sports court, fire pits, an indoor pool and a Jacuzzi.

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Aerial View of Activity on the Beach of Padre Island National Seashore
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Corpus Christi, Texas

Why you’ll love it: Texas is full of wonderfully cheap vacation spots, but Corpus Christi stands out for having an incredible selection of truly terrific beaches, affordable lodging options, beautiful parks and loads of free activities. While you’re there, explore the largest undeveloped barrier island in the world, the Padre Island National Seashore, where you’ll find more than 70 miles of shoreline, beaches, dunes and lagoons. Local highlights include the free Texas Surf Museum, tours of the museum housed within the USS Lexington, and the South Texas Botanical Gardens and Nature Center.

Budget tip: Corpus Christi is one of the best surfing destinations in the United States outside of California and Hawaii (and some even would argue it gives them a run for their money). Free beach activities will make this vacation even more affordable, and if you road-trip it there, you can also cut down on costs. If that sounds right up your alley, here are some Texas road trips to consider as well.

Where to stay: The Fairfield Inn and Suites Corpus Christi is centrally located—and just minutes from a number of beaches. It also offers budget-friendly amenities like free breakfast and a fitness center. But wherever you decide to stay and whatever you decide to do, don’t leave town without ordering fish and chips at Catfish Charlies. Trust us on this one!

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Lighthouse and Visitor Center in Biloxi, Mississippi
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Biloxi, Mississippi

Why you’ll love it: Biloxi is not only one of the best beach destinations in Mississippi—it’s also one of the most affordable. The highlight here is Biloxi Beach, where the sand is soft and white, and the Gulf of Mexico’s barrier islands ensure the warm waters are placid enough for swimming. Other draws in town include a plethora of casinos and historical sites such as the Biloxi Lighthouse.

Budget tip: The best money-saving tip on this cheap beach vacation might be to stay away from the casinos, but that’s entirely up to you. If that’s not in the cards (or even if it is), we recommend feeding your tummy at Shaggy’s, located right on the beach, where the shrimp tacos and oyster platters are fresh and affordable.

Where to stay: After a tough day of soaking in the sun and sights, rest your weary head at the La Quinta Inn & Suites by Wyndham Biloxi. It’s one of the cheap beach hotels in town, with amenities including free breakfast and access to the pool. Pro tip: Put your stay on one of the best travel credit cards to earn perks and save even more money on your trip.

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Bright colorful houses line the hills overlooking the beach in San Juan, Puerto Rico
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San Juan, Puerto Rico

Why you’ll love it: It’s easier to visit Puerto Rico than you might think. Since this beautiful tropical island is part of the United States, you don’t have to pass through customs or even bring a passport. Puerto Rico is home to many sublime beaches, but what’s even better is that those photogenic beaches in San Juan are among the most accessible, since the capital city is home to a major airport. You can make this vacation even more affordable by using your miles to get there and knowing the best time to book a flight.

Budget tip: While in town, be sure to explore the historic architecture of Old San Juan and Castillo San Felipe del Morro, a citadel built between the 16th and 18th centuries. Entry to both is extremely affordable, especially compared with museums and historic sights back in the continental United States. For another fun and frugal activity, spend a couple of dollars on bird seed and feed the birds in pigeon park, or buy a bag of kitty treats at a local drugstore and stroll around to see the many Save a Gato cats being cared for on the streets of Old San Juan, especially down by the water. Finally, when you’re ready for lunch, try a tripleta, a sandwich of marinated meats, from one of the city’s food trucks.

Where to stay: At the end of the day, head to the Tryst Beachfront Hotel. This surprisingly affordable boutique hotel is located right on Condado Beach, where the most prized amenities include beach chairs with umbrellas, under which guests can sip cold drinks while burying their toes in the sand.

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Storm cloud over lake Ontario at Olcott, New York
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Olcott, New York

Why you’ll love it: This lively family destination located on the shores of Lake Ontario is a great destination for fishing, and it’s just a short drive to the beautiful waterfalls at Niagara Falls State Park. While in the area, don’t miss the caramel corn from Bye’s Popcorn. There may be a line, but it’s worth the wait!

Budget tip: One of the best ways to have fun on a budget during this East Coast vacation is by spinning around and around with (or without) kids on the Olcott Beach Carousel Park. This vintage carousel costs only a quarter to ride! You’ll also want to peruse the adorable, colorful and quaint Lakeview Village Shoppes on the boardwalk.

Where to stay: Head to nearby Lockport for the most affordable options. The Best Western Plus Lockport, for example, has a pool, a breakfast buffet and other family-pleasing amenities such as free bicycle rentals, all for under $150 a night (and sometimes well under that price), even during peak season.

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Virginia Beach
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Virginia Beach, Virginia

Why you’ll love it: Home to 14 miles of sandy beaches and some of the best attractions in the entire state, Virginia Beach is dreamy—and a total dream for budget-minded travelers looking for cheap beach vacations. Aside from hitting the surf and sand, you’ll want to check out the Virginia Aquarium and the Ocean Breeze WaterPark, especially if you’re traveling with kids.

Budget tip: For excellent people-watching and so much more, head to the Virginia Beach Boardwalk, a five-mile-long oceanfront wooden promenade that takes you past museums, sculptures and parks. It doesn’t cost a penny, unless you want some ice cream and funnel cake! This can even be a quick trip, depending on where you live, of course.

Where to stay: There are lodging options for nearly every budget in Virginia Beach, from affordable Airbnbs to luxury hotels. The SpringHill Suites Virginia Beach Oceanfront is one of the most reasonably priced name-brand hotels here. Rooms have stellar ocean views, the beach is just steps away, there’s an outdoor pool, and you’ll save money by not needing to buy breakfast for your family because the SpringHill offers up a delicious spread of hot and cold choices for free every morning. A one-bedroom suite features two queen beds, a sofa bed and a private oceanfront balcony.

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Ferris Wheel In City Against Cloudy Sky On Myrtle Beach
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Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Why you’ll love it: One of the best destinations for summer travel, Myrtle Beach and its surrounding oceanfront area are home to more than 80 golf courses, numerous amusement parks and Ripley’s Aquarium. But most people flock here for 60 miles of sandy seashore and a mile-long boardwalk, key features that make this city one of the best cheap beach vacations in America. Myrtle Beach is also rich in arts and culture, and in fact, it hosts a number of music and arts festivals throughout the year, so check the schedule before booking!

Budget tip: Golfing in Myrtle Beach is value-priced, thanks in large part to the sheer volume of options. The same goes for mini golf, so amateur golfers can get in on the action too!

Where to stay: For an excellent value, check out the Holiday Inn Express Myrtle Beach–Broadway at the Beach. You always know what you’re getting with a Holiday Inn, and more than that, this one is all about location, location, location. It’s in the heart of the town on the Myrtle Beach Grand Strand, and during your stay, you’ll get free breakfast and have access to the pool to cool off before heading up to your room.

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St Augustine, Florida, USA
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St. Augustine, Florida

Why you’ll love it: There’s a reason people head to Florida for beach vacations, and while there are many spots to choose from, this one tops our list of wonderfully cheap options to enjoy year-round. The oldest city in America, St. Augustine is home to white-sand beaches, sapphire-blue waters and some of the most stunning architecture you’ll ever see. Highlights include strolling along St. George Street, with its cafes, antique stores, boutiques and ice cream shops, and visiting Fort Mose Historic State Park, the site of the first settlement for free Black Americans in the country.

Budget tip: Other can’t-miss, money-saving activities include visiting the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument and the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum. And, of course, you can’t leave town without dipping your toes in the sand at St. Augustine Beach, which has a splash pad and fishing pier, and doesn’t cost a penny to enjoy.

Where to stay: There are a number of fabulous, reasonably priced lodging options in town, including Villa Victor, an Ascend Hotel Collection Member. The hotel features large suites, and it’s located in the historic district, so it’s within walking distance of nearly everything.

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Blue Sky, Blue Lake, Mountains, Spring Hike, Lake Chelan, Lakeshore Trail, Chelan Washington
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Lake Chelan, Washington

Why you’ll love it: Lake Chelan is an incredibly popular vacation destination in Washington, and for good reason. The 55-mile-long lake is a stunner surrounded by vineyards and mountains. One of the most beautiful lakes in America for swimming, it’s also a big destination for camping, fishing and wine tasting. Other standouts in the area include Lakeside Surf, a surfing facility that’s home to the world’s largest standing wave.

Budget tip: Families will love spending a day or two at Slidewaters Waterpark, strolling the walking trails at Chelan Riverwalk Park and enjoying the delicious, affordable pizza pies at Local Myth Pizza.

Where to stay: There are plenty of reasonably priced hotels and motels in town, including the Apple Inn Motel. This charming spot features wood-paneled rooms, along with a pool, shuttle service and barbecue facilities for guests to use for free.

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Deserted beach with lifeguard chairs and trees in background on Presque Isle on Lake Erie
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Erie, Pennsylvania

Why you’ll love it: The best way we can describe Erie, Pennsylvania? It’s like the choose-your-own-adventure version of cheap beach vacation destinations. It’s a great destination for singles, couples or families—there’s really that much diversity here. The area is home to family-friendly attractions such as Waldameer Park & Water World and the Erie Zoo, but there are also wineries and museums in the region to appeal to adults.

Budget tip: Regardless of which type of vacation you’re taking, Presque Isle State Park is a must for your to-do list. This “park” is actually a 3,200-acre peninsula filled with sandy beaches, walking trails, trees and wildlife on Lake Erie—and it’s gorgeous and completely free to explore!

Where to stay: There are a number of cheap lodging options in this corner of Pennsylvania, including the Hampton Inn & Suites Erie Bayfront, located next to the Erie Maritime Museum. This affordable hotel offers free breakfast, a pool, a rooftop terrace and lovely views of the bay.

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View of amusement park with rollercoaster and ferris wheel
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Wildwood, New Jersey

Why you’ll love it: Visitors to Wildwood enjoy all the same amenities you’ll find at expensive beach towns—without the steep prices. Enjoy five miles of a very wide sandy beach and a two-mile boardwalk with shops and arcades. Here, you can get cheap, delicious fudge, slices of ooey-gooey pizza, fries and a new airbrush T-shirt to commemorate your cheap beach vacation on the Jersey Shore.

Budget tip: Head to Morey’s Piers and Beachfront Water Parks for waterslides and nearly 100 amusement-park rides with prices far cheaper than inland amusement parks in New Jersey.

Where to stay: One of the best values in town is the Riviera Resort & Suites. Kids will love the pool, but most important, it’s located right across from the beach.

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Lake Geneva
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Lake Geneva, Wisconsin

Why you’ll love it: Minnesota may be known as the Land of 10,000 Lakes, but neighboring Wisconsin is filled with some of the prettiest lakes in the country—and Lake Geneva is right at the top. It’s home to golden-sand beaches, and the shoreline is dotted with stately and stunning 19th-century mansions. Other highlights in the area include shopping at the boutiques and galleries downtown, golfing at one of the area’s many beautiful courses and, of course, spending time on the lake.

Budget tip: You’ll do your best house-gawking from the middle of the water on an affordable and thoroughly relaxing boat tour with Lake Geneva Cruise Line. It’s the best way to experience all the expensive glamour of Lake Geneva for a fraction of the cost.

Where to stay: Prices for lodging vary pretty widely, but there are many affordable options, including the Abbey Resort, located on the shores of Lake Geneva. The resort offers a pool, bicycle rentals and babysitting services to accommodate adults who want a little alone time—which will come in really handy if you want to book a few indulgent services at the on-site Avani Spa.

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Lake Superior Coast At Presque Isle Park Marquette Michigan
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Marquette, Michigan

Why you’ll love it: Nestled on the shores of Lake Superior, Marquette is home to 77 waterfalls, scenic Marquette Bay and stunning architecture. There are a number of sandy beaches here in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, including McCarty’s Cove and Little Presque Isle Beach, plus historic lighthouses, a symphony orchestra, museums and galleries, and charming shops.

Budget tip: Outdoor activities are your best bet for a budget-friendly visit. Hiking is a popular thing to do in Marquette, as is kayaking around the Black Rocks of Presque Isle.

Where to stay: It really depends on what you want. The area is home to a number of scenic campsites, as well as affordable hotels. The Superior Stay Hotel has reasonable prices, free breakfast and off-site activities like bowling and canoeing.

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Hotels and attraction along the shore in Daytona Beach
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Daytona Beach, Florida

Why you’ll love it: Daytona Beach may be famous for racing, but it’s also home to 20 miles of beautiful white-sand beaches that rank as some of the best beaches in Florida. In fact, visitors can even buy a pass to spend the day driving on the beach, because who needs a beach chair when you’ve got a car? Of course, it’s hard to ignore the legacy of racing here, since Daytona Beach is home to Daytona International Speedway, host of the Daytona 500.

Budget tip: Fun attractions off the beach include a disc golf course, zip line and pleasant walking trails in Tuscawilla Park—none of which will break the bank.

Where to stay: Hotels here are surprisingly reasonable, given the area’s attractions. The Boardwalk Inn and Suites is incredibly budget-friendly, and it has amenities like free parking, a pool and rooms with a view.

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Kantiang Bay Beach, Ko Lanta, Krabi, Thailand in summer
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Ko Lanta, Thailand

Why you’ll love it: It’s all about beauty and affordability on Ko Lanta’s Long Beach. And unlike many of the other beaches on the island, this one has none of the sharp rocks and sea urchins familiar to Thailand’s beaches. Instead, you get nothing but a soft, gently sloping beach perfect for swimming all day and night. But the main reason you’ll love Ko Lanta is the chance to scuba and snorkel Thailand’s finest reefs, islets and underwater caves.

Budget tip: Ko Lanta is one of the cheap beach towns that’s as perfect for adventurous backpackers as it is for families. Animal lovers will gladly pay roughly $7 ($4 for kids) to spend a couple of hours touring Lanta Animal Welfare to see cats, dogs and other animals that are being cared for and rehomed. And adventure seekers can hike through the jungle and down into Khao Mai Kaew Cave to see bats, frogs and more, with a guide and a headlamp, for under $9. Pack your best walking shoes and flip-flops to stay comfy—your feet will thank you!

Where to stay: The best deals on hotels in Ko Lanta can be found on the northern side of Long Beach and at Rawi Warin Resort & Spa. This stunning property is on the beach but stretches into the foothills of the Ko Lanta Yai and overlooks the crystal waters of the bay. Also, some of the best massages in Thailand can be found in the spa there!

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Casa Lajagua Pedasí, Panama
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Pedasí, Panama

Why you’ll love it: Dangling into the Pacific from Panama’s southern coast is the Azuero Peninsula, home to one of the finest stretches of sand in the country, as well as the charming town of Pedasí. Here, modern life has magically stayed simple and unspoiled. And given that this is Panama’s so-called “Tuna Coast,” it should come as no surprise that one of its big draws is fishing for yellowfin tuna. In addition to anglers, this area is beloved by divers, snorkelers and surfers. To live authentically while vacationing here, rent a surfboard and take a lesson to learn how to tame the waves.

Budget tip: In this up-and-coming tourist hot spot, you can enjoy wildlife refuges, national parks, intact Spanish colonial architecture and countless beaches. Most are free or charge just a few dollars to enter.

Where to stay: You won’t find any Marriotts or Hiltons in Pedasí (not yet, anyway), so choose the family-operated boutique hotel Casa Lajagua. Here, you’ll enjoy a pool, gardens, delicious home-cooked gourmet breakfasts (that include fruit smoothies) and colorful, clean, air-conditioned rooms with tropical-rain shower heads, as well as a hammock and chairs on your porch.

Puerto Vallarta Mexico
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Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Why you’ll love it: This small town on the west coast of Mexico has been dubbed “The Friendliest City in the World.” The locals are incredibly welcoming to all visitors, and since the 1960s, Puerto Vallarta has been one of the LGBTQ+ community’s favorite cheap beaches to visit all year long. While the art galleries, taco restaurants and beaches are delightful, you’ll likely remember Puerto Vallarta as the place where you got up close and personal with humpback whales. It’s one of the best spots in Mexico not only for whale-watching but also for seeing babies! Every year, whales come to the warm, protected waters of the Bay of Banderas to mate and give birth.

Budget tip: Every evening at 6 p.m. on the Malecón promenade, you can enjoy a free performance of an ancient ceremony called Danza de los Voladores, during which five acrobats dazzle crowds while atop a 30-meter pole. Art galleries also swing open their doors on First Fridays, and the Los Arcos Amphitheater hosts choirs, bands and dancers on Thursday and Sunday evenings. And again, you can keep your wallet in your pocket for all this.

Where to stay: The Playa Los Arcos Beach Hotel and Spa not only offers great value in Puerto Vallarta, but it also opens up directly onto Playa Los Muertos, a stunning beach teeming with restaurants and bars perfect for top-notch people-watching. This inexpensive beach hotel also has all-inclusive rates to make your cheap beach vacation even less stressful because you can eat and drink without worrying about the bill!

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Summer beach in Algarve, Portugal
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The Algarve, Portugal

Why you’ll love it: Situated on the western edge of Europe, Portugal is oh-so-close … and oh-so-cheap! The Algarve, Portugal’s southernmost region, in particular, is a pristine beach destination where you can soak up the rays while surfing, hiking, cliff walking, visiting caves and taking road trips to Lisbon, Porto, Sintra and beyond. When you want to cut loose at night, check out the neon, Vegas-lite nightlife on the Strip in Albufeira. This is Portugal’s liveliest (and rowdiest) party scene, with numerous clubs and bars lining Avenida Sá Carneiro.

Budget tip: Save money here by ditching the rental car. This area improved its bus service with the Vamus Algarve in 2021, which will cost you just 46 euro for a weeklong pass of unlimited rides anywhere in the network. You can get to and from the airport; ride to Faro, Albufeira, Lagoa, Portimão and Lagos; and take the Eva Cliffs Line to visit stunning coastal scenery, picturesque cliffs and iconic beaches.

Where to stay: The Aqua Mar Albufeira is minutes from the beach and a great value for couples or families visiting the Algarve. These large, comfortable apartments have full-size kitchens and dishwashers and are set on well-maintained grounds that feature two outdoor swimming pools, a children’s pool and plenty of lounge chairs and umbrellas.

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Dubrovnik Harbor
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Dubrovnik, Croatia

Why you’ll love it: Game of Thrones fans will fawn over the real-life King’s Landing. The show was filmed here, and you’ll recognize many of the sights, including the famous walls that protect the old town of Dubrovnik. This might just be the most picturesque place in Europe, thanks to some of the continent’s finest original and intact medieval, Gothic, Renaissance and baroque architecture. While a visit here can be pricey (think: $100,000-per-week yacht rentals), there are loads of budget-friendly options too. Spend two hours walking along the top of the city walls for incredible views of the Adriatic Sea and the orange-roofed buildings inside the Old Town, take in a Game of Thrones tour (of course) and even pop into neighboring countries Montenegro and Bosnia.

Budget tip: As with many foreign cities, the street food here is tasty, authentically local and affordable. The same goes for the morning market that pops up daily in the square in front of the Jesuit Stairs, the site of the famed Game of Thrones “Walk of Shame” scene. But there’s no shame in this game—you’ll get to indulge in fresh food and fruit for fair prices, and pick up some local souvenirs too. The best budget tip for visiting Dubrovnik is to avoid the peak summer season, when hotel prices triple and the number of tourists make the narrow old streets and city walls less pleasant to stroll around.

Where to stay: The Dubrovnik President Valamar Collection Hotel is a surprisingly affordable five-star hotel that’s the best of both worlds: on the beach but only a few minutes from the Old Town. Off-peak prices are very affordable, especially considering what you get here: impeccable service, plus a private beach with padded lounge chairs beneath wide umbrellas, a heated indoor pool, an outdoor infinity pool connected to a patio bar, and a hot tub in a courtyard. And a bus stop right out front of the hotel will have you at the gates of Old Town in 15 minutes flat!

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Additional reporting by Jeff Bogle.

Tamara Gane
Tamara Gane is a regular contributor to Reader's Digest. She's a travel expert who takes an average of 30 to 40 trips a year and covers vacation destinations, luggage, road trips, air travel and hotels.