Between graduation and the "real world," there exists a magical time of total freedom — that is, if you don't sabotage it for yourself by spending those three months totally freaking out about finding a job. The months after you graduate college are likely the last chance you'll have for significant travel time before you start carving out your career path (let's hear it for American vacation policies), and if you really learned something over the past four years, you'll know to take advantage of that.
Sure, that's easier said than done when it comes to cost. Travel is expensive, and without the certainty of a job to come back to or impending paychecks to foot the bill, it can be nerve-wracking to head out of town for an extended period of time.
But this is exactly when should be traveling: you don't mind staying in cheap hostels, you're up for backpacking less-traveled locations, and you can probably still get away with using your student I.D. for discounts. In other words, it's the ideal time for budget travel. So before you start sending your resume in for every entry-level opening you can find, check out the best, cheap travel options below — because there's no time to explore the world like the present.
New Orleans: Not just for Mardi Gras, anymore. The Price of Travel's Backpacker Index ranks the Big Easy #2 in affordable North American destinations. Turns out Bourbon Street isn't just great for the nightlife, it's also great for your wallet — drinking and eating in New Orleans is cheaper than most of major cities in the States. You can also find cheap hostels in the area for around $20 a night, which is way, way less than what you'd pay at city hotels pretty much everywhere (and, chances are, they'll have more Southern charm than city sleaze to them).
Often overlooked, Portugal can make for a surprisingly cheap European destination. The 2014 Prices and Earnings report found that Lisbon's mid-range hotels ring up at an average of $80 per night, which is 50 percent less than the global average — and, let's be honest, you'd probably prefer a party-friendly hostel, anyway, which cuts your costs down even further. Portugal has a similar vibe to Spain, with less tourists and way less total expenses, plus more beaches. It also has a great wine region and prices: a bottle of wine can total less than five euros, which is exactly the kind of classy budget drinking you want post-college.
While some of Europe's more well-known locales are made for splurging (think luxury hotels in Paris and extravagant Italian meals), Dublin, Ireland is a somewhere you can get to relatively inexpensively and enjoy for under $75 a day, according to the Price of Travel's Backpacker Index. That's not to say the city isn't expensive — this is a destination that requires research in order to find the best deals, because it's easy to get caught up in tourist traps. But, if you're looking for a party town with history, Dublin is well worth the extra effort.
According to the Backpacker Index, Sofia, Bulgaria is Europe's third-cheapest tourist city, where you can get by on around $27 a day — a total that can offset higher airfare, since Bulgaria isn't the easiest destination to reach. It's a charming city, in the same vein of other Eastern European capitals like Prague and Budapest. But because it's not a typical pick, even backpackers can afford a little luxury here, which might be especially nice if you've been pinching pennies during a longer European adventure.
Shockingly enough, visiting Sin City is twice as cheap as vacationing in Honolulu or New York, according to TripAdvisor's TripIndex survey — the cost of one night in Hawaii can net you three nights in a Las Vegas hotel for almost the same price. And, while Vegas does have a reputation for causing tourists to shell out major cash on hotels, dining, and entertainment, you can actually score a ton of deals if you do you research. Vegas: Not just for bachelorette parties, anymore. Just steer clear of the craps table — one wrong move there, and you could blow your whole summer budget.
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