There's a strange thing that happens to me every year as I start to feel the holiday season slipping through my fingers. I don't mean to sound dramatic, but I think it might be unavoidable. Once Christmas is behind us and New Year's Eve is around the corner, I sense a long stretch of cold, empty months ahead of me, and I sort of just feel dead inside. (I warned you it was going to be dramatic!) What happened to the PSL vibes of fall and the relentless cheer of December? Gone. I've found that the best solution is to plan a trip for the first few months of the year so that I have something to look forward to, and since my wallet is still hurting after buying gifts for friends and family, I'm glad to know that there are a variety of cool places expected to be the cheapest travel destinations for 2018.
A girl's gotta see the world, but a girl's also gotta stick to a budget — especially in light of those savings-related New Year's resolutions that I just had to make. While in my dreams I'm a millionaire who can jet set to just about anywhere on a whim, that's just not the reality. Thankfully, our wildly connected universe also offers tons of resources to help us find accessible travel destinations that won't break the bank. Here are a handful of suggestions for 2018 that seem the most promising.
Per Business Insider, you'll be able to fly nonstop, round-trip from East Coast cities to Honolulu for just over $600 in the first three months of the year, with prices dipping as low as $407 in January. Many thanks to the airlines for engaging in a pricing war in a way that is so beneficial to all of us. Aloha!
2. Montreal, Canada
Thanks to a very favorable rate between the American and Canadian dollar, travel to this city should be very affordable in 2018 for those of us who live stateside, according to Forbes. Experience great food, fun night life, and some serious European vibes without the high price tag or long flights typically associated with actual European cities.
3. Tallinn, Estonia
Named first on Lonely Planet's Best Value list for 2018, Tallinn is easily accessible with budget flights and offers fun activities and good eats at a low cost (think food trucks). You'll also see beautiful — and free! — views of the Baltic Sea.
Located smack dab in the middle of more popular destinations Thailand and Vietnam, Laos is sparsely populated and under-visited, per Indie Traveller, making it the perfect place to have a more authentic Asian experience. You won't find beaches or islands here, but if you dig outdoor activities like trekking, hiking, and kayaking, you can definitely keep yourself busy in Laos.
5. Houston, Texas
According to Forbes, Houston has one of the "most exciting food scenes in the country," and it's also buzzing with a great combination of well-known artistic institutions and a more underground arts movement. You should be able to find great deals on flights and lodging too.
The current exchange rate between the Mexican peso and other currencies is more favorable to international travel than it was a few years ago, so take your pick beach town, adventure hub, or cultural center and pack your bags. To stick to a budget, Indie Traveller suggests staying away from major resort towns like Cabo or Cancun. Consider instead lower-key areas like Tulum, Puerto Escondido, Zihuatanejo, or Mazatlan.
Per Lonely Planet, a recipe for a fun, affordable Arizona vacation is "simple roadside motels, then camp and hike." Check out Saguaro National Park, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, or Scottsdale's spas and golf courses.
8. Barcelona, Spain
Per Forbes, Barcelona is a great way to see Europe on a budget in 2018, with flight prices down 20 percent for the first half of the year compared to the same period in 2017. While any city in the Eurozone is bound to be a bit on the pricey side once you've actually landed, you won't regret shelling out some cash to see the beautiful architecture and museums and to enjoy the nightlife. Plus, it's free to visit the beaches!
You might be most familiar with Bali in Indonesia, but Indie Traveller recommends the adjacent Lombok and Java regions for a less expensive option.
9. Jacksonville, Florida
Jacksonville doesn't get nearly as much attention as other cities in Florida, but that's not because it doesn't deserve it. Jax features more than 20 miles of beaches, a large urban park system, barbecue restaurants, beachside cafes, kayak tours, and more. The best news? According to Lonely Planet, it has the lowest hotel rates in the state. Cha-ching!
While coastal areas of Croatia — as well as the country's western region Istria — tend to get the most play, Forbes notes that a recent visit to the capital city Zagreb proved both affordable and fun. For what it's worth, I've been hearing lots of great things about Croatia across the board.
11. Moab, Utah
"Moab provides the most incredible diverse views in a small radius," per Forbes. Once you arrive, you'll have access to two national parks within just 20 minutes of one another! Your best budget option is to camp, but if that's not really your speed, there are also "glamping" options available. More specifically, Forbes recommends Moab Under Canvas.
12. Hunan, China
Flights to China might not be what you would initially call budget-friendly, but traveling within China is pretty affordable, so once you arrive, you should be in good shape, according to Lonely Planet. Meals and accommodations can be less than $10, and there is tons to explore in Hunan: the world's longest glass bridge, the 250 weirdly shaped peaks at Zhangjiajie, and the historic town of Fenghuang, which literally hangs over a river.