Celebrities are known for their lavish vacations. But just because you can't gain access to a private Caribbean beach doesn't mean you must always resign yourself to road trip when you're seeking vacation bliss. The following four vacations provide some of the key features of a celebrity vacation, but are available at a price the non-elite can afford.
- Pristine Caribbean Waters: Bonaire, Netherlands Antilles
The Caribbean is known to attract the celebrity set, especially cachet locations like Barbados and St. Bart's. But, while you may not be able to spend your winter at a $25,000 per night villa, you can still enjoy the white sand and clear blue waters of this area. (For more pointers on scoring a cheap trip, see Vacation Savings Tips.)
One of the "ABC Islands" of the Netherlands Antilles, Bonaire is located in the Dutch Caribbean, about 50 miles north of Venezuela. It's a relatively tiny place with only about 14,000 inhabitants, but it packs a major punch in terms of a holiday deal, particularly for active vacationers. Although Bonaire doesn't offer much in the way of white sand beaches, it is consistently ranked as one of the best scuba and snorkel destinations in the world thanks to its relatively pristine stretch of coral reef and the Bonaire Marine Park that protects them.
Bonaire is also a great place to hike, bird watch (there are sometimes more pink flamingos than people) and windsurf.
Plus, it's a very cheap way to enjoy the crystalline waters of the Caribbean - the very best hotels here top out at less than $400, and you can get reasonable accommodation for as little as $100 per night. And, according to Caribbean Travel and Life Magazine, the island is also attracting its share of passionate Dutch chefs, contributing to a limited but stimulating dining scene.
- A Touch of Old-World Class: Dubrovnik, Croatia
This Croatian city on the Adriatic Sea coast is one the most prominent tourist destinations on the Adriatic. But that hasn't forced it into elite status – yet. The city boasts a mild climate, some beautiful beaches and incredible, old world architecture. In fact, the city is a UNESCO World Heritage Center thanks to its beautiful Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque churches, monasteries, palaces and fountains.
This city is a popular destination among European tourists, but despite the seemingly palatial surroundings, it's a relatively inexpensive vacation destination. According to TripAdvisor.com, stunning, resort-style hotels go for up to $500, but there are several options for less than $100 a night. Plus, Croatian food tends to be fresh, local and relatively inexpensive. Plan to visit local monasteries, museums and palaces. Or, if you're really short on cash, you're sure to enjoy exploring the city by foot and relaxing on the beach. (With a little legwork and creativity, you can travel affordably to almost anywhere. See Globetrotting On A Budget for more insight.)
- French Colonial Elegance – and Food: Luang Prabang, Laos
Sure, Thailand still has inexpensive travel options, even at the resort level, but according to the "Lonely Planet" travel guide, the historic royal city of Luang Prabang is quickly winning over tourists seeking an Asian adventure. Its decidedly French charm only adds to its appeal; in 1893 France united the three separate Lao kingdoms under French Indochina and retained a measure of control until Laos gained its independence in 1954.
Thanks to its UNESCO Heritage status, you can sit and enjoy a baguette and a Lao beer as you marvel at this city's gleaming Buddhist temples and old French architecture. According to travelers on TripAdvisor.com, a "steep" hotel in this city goes for more than $180, although the site lists rooms for as high as $350 and as low as $70.
Plus, according to "Lonely Planet" you can feast on an authentic French picnic lunch for as little as $1. Other luxuries, such as a traditional Lao massage, are also available for a few dollars. (Vacations are sometimes more expensive than you'd planned. Find out how to discover these extra fees, read Hidden Holiday Fees And How To Find Them.)
- A Cosmopolitan South American City: Bogotá, Colombia
After years of civil conflict, Colombia is now (relatively) safe to visit. According to the U.S. Department of State, crime and violence should still pose some concern to travelers, and those who are thinking about traveling here should check for any travel warnings from the U.S. Embassy before departure.
But despite its violent past, the "Lonely Planet" now calls Bogotá one of Latin America's "urban highlights". In Bogotá, you can enjoy the city's bright night life, tour its colonial churches, or, if you're looking for a truly rich experience, check out the city's Gold Museum, which houses more than 34,000 pieces of gold from many of the city's ancient pre-Hispanic cultures. (Gold still holds much of the allure it did in ancient times. Check out 8 Reasons To Own Gold to find out why.)
According to TripAdvisor.com, the best hotels in Bogotá go for less than $400 a night, but most are considerably less than that. At the budget end, expect fairly nice lodging for as little as $100 a night. You can also find almost any type of food in this cosmopolitan city. The city's top restaurants charge American fares, but if you want to sample some of the local food, you can essentially fill your stomach with the change from your pocket.
- A Private Oasis: Siwa, Egypt
The New York Times described Siwa as one of the "most laid back spots in Africa". In fact, it's literally an oasis. The city is 350 remote and featureless desert miles from Cairo, but because it's built atop a network of natural wells, it's a beautiful refuge of date palms and natural springs – all of which can be visited for free.
Although tourism is quickly catching on, the city's top (and typically most expensive) ecolodge resort goes for about $400 a night. However, the city's other hotels tend to go for about $50 per night and are highly rated by travelers. Although restaurant options are limited, you can enjoy a full Egyptian meal for less than $10.
The Bottom Line
If you're willing to travel off the beaten path, you can enjoy a terrific vacation for much less than you'd pay to visit more common locales. Sure, these destinations may not have as much tourist infrastructure, but that may also mean that you'll be able to enjoy an authentic adventure – and a whole lot more peace and quiet. Celebrities are known for seeking vacation solitude. While you may not be able to pay your way to privacy, with a little creativity, you can land a stop on a deserted white sand beach all the same.
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