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Monday, April 22, 2024 71° Today's Paper


Travel

‘Destination dupes’ and other ways to save money in 2024

TRAVEL PENTICTON / NEW YORK TIMES
                                Penticton is located in southern British Columbia’s wine-growing Okanagan Valley in Canada.
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TRAVEL PENTICTON / NEW YORK TIMES

Penticton is located in southern British Columbia’s wine-growing Okanagan Valley in Canada.

DESTIN-FORT WALTON BEACH / NEW YORK TIMES
                                A view of the ocean from the Destin-Fort Walton Beach area on the Florida Panhandle. The area has also been working hard to connect visitors to nature, including installing eight artificial snorkeling reefs since 2019 that attract grouper, snapper, sea turtles and, in summer, tropical fish.
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DESTIN-FORT WALTON BEACH / NEW YORK TIMES

A view of the ocean from the Destin-Fort Walton Beach area on the Florida Panhandle. The area has also been working hard to connect visitors to nature, including installing eight artificial snorkeling reefs since 2019 that attract grouper, snapper, sea turtles and, in summer, tropical fish.

VISIT MODESTO / NEW YORK TIMES
                                The almond blossom season in Modesto, Calif., is in February and March, when 1.5 million acres of almond trees are awash in pink and white flowers.
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VISIT MODESTO / NEW YORK TIMES

The almond blossom season in Modesto, Calif., is in February and March, when 1.5 million acres of almond trees are awash in pink and white flowers.

TRAVEL PENTICTON / NEW YORK TIMES
                                Penticton is located in southern British Columbia’s wine-growing Okanagan Valley in Canada.
DESTIN-FORT WALTON BEACH / NEW YORK TIMES
                                A view of the ocean from the Destin-Fort Walton Beach area on the Florida Panhandle. The area has also been working hard to connect visitors to nature, including installing eight artificial snorkeling reefs since 2019 that attract grouper, snapper, sea turtles and, in summer, tropical fish.
VISIT MODESTO / NEW YORK TIMES
                                The almond blossom season in Modesto, Calif., is in February and March, when 1.5 million acres of almond trees are awash in pink and white flowers.

While others focus on New Year’s resolutions, my family and I come up with a dream list of where we want to go. Places we missed the previous year (Thailand and the Cook Islands) often get rolled over, but we always add new places (this year, South Korea) that can — with careful planning — be done affordably.

In 2024, more than half of American travelers plan to go where the cost of living is less expensive than their hometown, according to the online travel agency Booking.com. Sixty percent said they would look for “copycat vacations” or cheaper alternatives to expensive places.

“Consumers more and more are expanding their appetites to trying new destinations, which spreads them out to experience places that are less traveled and more affordable,” said Brett Keller, CEO of the online agency Priceline.

Exchange-rate darlings

A stronger dollar buys more abroad. Instead of heading to typically expensive U.S. spots, like Hawaii or New York, take your buying power to an affordable destination for a bonus.

Mexico, where $1 is worth more than 17 pesos, has long been a bargain for Americans and remains the most popular international destination, drawing more than 33 million visitors in 2022 (the last year for which National Travel and Tourism Office statistics are available).

The U.S. State Department warns travelers from visiting several states in Mexico because of crime, but not Nayarit on the central Pacific Coast, just north of Puerto Vallarta.

There, travelers can now visit Islas Marias, a biodiverse archipelago about 60 miles offshore and designated as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. The government recently began offering trips to the former penal colony, which has been refashioned as an environmental and education center. For now, weekend-­only trips run via ferry from San Blas and cost about 5,000 pesos (roughly $300) a person, including meals, tours and two nights in former prison cells that have been updated. The no-frills trip offers opportunities to spot rare species such as the yellow-headed parrot and the Tres Marias raccoon as well as migratory whale sharks.

Costs in Canada are about 25% cheaper when paying with U.S. dollars. Head off the beaten track to the city of Penticton in southern British Columbia’s wine-growing Okanagan Valley, where there are new one-hour flights from Vancouver and a new Four Points by Sheraton hotel, with rates starting around 135 Canadian dollars (about $100). After a bike ride on the dramatic Kettle Valley Rail Trail that skirts Okanagan Lake, visit the wineries in scenic Naramata (tastings cost CA$10 at Chain Reaction Winery).

Cheaper alternatives

Travelers seeking to avoid overtouristed and pricey places have long sought less pressured and cheaper alternatives, a trend newly popularized on TikTok as “destination dupes.”

In that vein, rather than viewing the cherry blossoms of Kyoto, Japan, or Washington, D.C., consider Modesto, Calif., the gateway to farming country in the Central Valley, during almond blossom season. In February and March, the region’s 1.5 million acres of almond trees burst with pink and white flowers. Visitors can take an almond blossom drive with an audio guide ($14.99) and listen to a Spotify playlist devoted to spring from the Modesto Symphony Orchestra.

While you’re there, take the new self-guided Street Art Audio Tour ($14.99) to see many of the city’s more than 100 murals. Accommodations range from chain hotels to Airbnbs that, on a recent search, started at $65 a night.

Cleveland and Indianapolis are both along the path of totality of the April 8 solar eclipse, which make them astral tourism destinations. But they can also be considered sports dupes for the Paris Olympic Games.

Before the Olympics, America’s best swimmers will gather in Indianapolis June 15-23 for the U.S. Olympic Swim Team Trials at Lucas Oil Stadium, the first time an NFL stadium has hosted an Olympic-size pool (tickets from around $56).

From July 12-21, Cleveland will host the Pan American Masters Games, an Olympic-inspired sports festival for athletes older than 30 years old competing in age categories up to 100-plus. More than 7,500 athletes from more than 50 countries are expected to compete in dozens of sports, including stand-up paddling, curling and track and field. Admission for spectators is free.

Affordable wellness

Wellness travel tends to skew luxury, but the popularity of things like forest bathing and meditation have proven that healthy practices don’t have to cost a fortune.

“In 2024, I predict the reemergence of social wellness,” said Yuki Kiyono, the global head of health and wellness development at the high-end resort group Aman. The company will open Janu Tokyo in March with extensive swimming and therapeutic pools.

Cheaper and closer to home, travelers can meet and soak at hot springs, including Glenwood Hot Springs Resort in Glenwood Springs, Colo. This year, the late-19th-century complex, about 40 miles north of Aspen, plans to expand with five new pools, two with waterfalls (admission from $32; rooms at the resort start at $179).

Connecting to nature

Most visitors go to the Destin-Fort Walton Beach area on the Florida Panhandle for the Gulf Coast’s white sand beaches. But the destination has been working hard to connect visitors to nature, including installing eight artificial snorkeling reefs since 2019 that attract grouper, snapper, sea turtles and, in summer, tropical fish. Running April to October, a program called Little Adventures offers educational excursions for children in snorkeling, fishing and surfing (free).

Eco-travelers should consider heading to southern New Mexico to be a part of the centennial celebrations of the Gila Wilderness Area. The first wilderness area in the United States was designated in 1924 after the visionary conservationist Aldo Leopold campaigned to set aside large regions, primarily for ecosystems to function with minimal intervention.

Its original 755,000-acre footprint is now split between the Gila Wilderness and the neighboring Aldo Leopold Wilderness, with more than 800 miles of hiking trails between them (access is free). Beginning in March, anniversary year events include guided hikes, stargazing and a film festival. And it’s all affordable, including lodgings priced under $100 a night in the nearby town of Truth or Consequences, according to the online travel agency Expedia.

Under-the-radar picks

Always consider the overlooked — for savings, of course, but also surprises.

Lonely Planet singled out Poland this year as a value destination (the dollar is worth about 4 Polish zloty), noting that the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw will open later this year.

“In Europe, we’re seeing interest in more unique destinations like Poland and Bulgaria bubble up,” said Bruce Poon Tip, the founder of the tour operator G Adventures, who visited Warsaw last year and praised its cultural offerings, including music. G Adventures’ seven-­day trip from Budapest, Hungary, to Berlin visits Krakow, Poland, and starts at $1,161.

Travelers interested in architecture and history should consider Tucson, Ariz., where its downtown neighborhood Barrio Viejo will receive National Historic Landmark designation this year, officially recognizing its colorful adobe houses built between 1860 and 1900.

Walk to the area from the Downtown Clifton Hotel, a stylishly updated 1948 motel (rooms from about $99), and tour it with a guide from the Presidio San Agustin del Tucson Museum ($30) or Airbnb Experiences ($50).

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