K.C. was a featured writer for Yahoo! Travel before joining trips to discover in 2013. She is the author of Best Travel Guide for First Time Visitors to Ireland, an Amazon bestseller every year between 2013 and 2016. She has been a featured expert on Newsweek, Travel + Leisure, Travelocity, among others.
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If you haven’t already planned a vacation this summer season, it’s not too late. Many people wait until the last minute, and while you may not have as many options, particularly when it comes to accommodation, by choosing the right destination, you can make it happen without having to pay exorbitant prices. Sometimes you can even find some great last-minute deals too.
Don’t automatically rule out Mexico just because you think the heat will be too overwhelming. It’s a huge country and conditions can vary significantly. Northern Baja near the U.S. border will be sizzling hot, but further south along the Pacific coast, ocean breezes prevent the area from becoming unbearable, and as this is off-season here, you can often find some great deals too. The peak season for tropical storms (and less likely, hurricanes) in August and September, so try to aim your trip for July. Bring plenty of sunscreen and spend your days sipping drinks under shady umbrellas and swimming in the bathwater-warm, crystal-clear turquoise waters at beach resorts without having to battle the crowds.
On the Caribbean side of Mexico, it’s going to be more humid, but you’ll find plenty of ways to stay cool in Cancun while having a good time and paying less than you would during the tourist season. Book a seaside resort in Cancun and enjoy your days around the water, at the pool, and in the crystal clear turquoise Caribbean. This is also the peak season for participating in baby sea turtle releases. Families can join the Seadust Cancun Resort’s Turtle Preservation Program, which helps protect hatching sea turtles while offering guests the opportunity to learn more about the animals. Rangers will be available to answer questions and ensure the hatchlings are handled appropriately.
If you’re thinking about visiting the Greek Islands this summer, the archipelago’s most famous, like Santorini and Mykonos, are likely to be jam-packed with people, and most rooms are sold out. Naxos, also in the Cyclades, isn’t as well-known, and you’ll have a decent chance at finding a great deal. You might even discover that in addition to the tranquility, the island offers everything you’re looking for and then some, including some of the very best white sand beaches in Greece, mountains for hiking, charming traditional villages and fascinating ancient ruins.
As the largest city and capital of Idaho, you’ll be able to enjoy plenty of exciting attractions in Boise, with a wealth of outdoor adventure nearby. It hosts a great aquarium where you can feed sharks and rays, as well as theaters, museums, and a fantastic public market. It’s also home to the infamous Idaho Penitentiary, open to visitors who can explore the old prison cells, experience what it was like to stay in solitary confinement, and hear some haunted tales – it was even featured on the Travel Channel’s “Ghost Adventures” show. Nearby Hulls Gulch Reserve is a great place for a hike and wildlife watching, with some 150 miles of trails at the base of the foothills just north of downtown.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines lie in the West Indies at the edge of the hurricane belt, which means the islands aren’t as much at risk for a big storm, yet the summer is off-season here, meaning few crowds and lower rates. The island of Bequia is still relatively unknown, providing an idyllic Caribbean vacation without all the tourists. Enjoy peaceful stretches of sand and some of the best snorkeling around, along with little beach bars for feasting on fresh seafood and sipping rum punch.
There are a ton of family-friendly things to do in the Black Hills. Rapid City is the gateway to Mount Rushmore, and you’ll find a wealth of outdoor adventures in nearby Custer State Park. Paddle and swim in beautiful Sylvan Lake, go horseback riding or even go on a wildlife safari to view animals like bison, elk, pronghorn, deer, coyotes, prairie dogs, eagles, and wild burro. Just minutes away is Hill City, where you can hop on the 1880 Train, a vintage steam train similar to the ones that helped settle the American West. The two-hour, 20-mile runs to Keystone and back.
The town of Buffalo is tucked into the foothills of the Bighorn Mountains in northern Wyoming. Its downtown district is lined with historic buildings like the 140-year-old Occidental Hotel, which has hosted many famous guests, including Butch Cassidy and President Teddy Roosevelt. The Jim Gatchell Memorial Museum showcases over 15,000 artifacts from the American Old West. There are multiple historic sites throughout the area, as well as opportunities for outdoor activities like fishing, hiking, horseback riding, boating, camping and more.
Situated near the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Greenville is not only an inexpensive destination for a vacation, it’s been called the “next major food destination,” and it’s bursting with things to do. It has a charming downtown with all sorts of shops and boutiques, galleries and theaters while being surrounded by mountains, rivers and lakes. The city’s 22-mile-long River Walk and its zoo are favorite attractions, while Falls Park on the Reedy is a picturesque place to enjoy a picnic.
Mammoth Cave National Park is focused on the world’s longest cave system. The limestone caverns can be navigated with the help of park rangers, with options for all ages and interest levels, including a muddy, darker route for the more adventurous. While accommodations close to the park tend to fill up quickly for summer, you can usually find plenty of budget-friendly options only a short drive away.
The site of the last great Colorado gold rush is a high-elevation mountain town that sits on the west side of Pikes Peak. It feels like taking a step back through time, with lots of buildings that date to the late 1800s, when the population was booming with over 50,000 residents. Today, visitors can get a great taste of the Old West and gold rush history. Descend a thousand feet underground on the Mollie Kathleen Gold Mine Tour, take a ride on the Cripple Creek and Victor Narrow Gauge Railroad and catch a melodrama at the Butte Theatre. There are some great museums and trails for hiking throughout the area too.