10 Surprisingly Affordable Trips You Can Take With Your Tax Refund
If you're among those receiving the average tax refund of up to $3,000, cruises, yoga retreats and even long-haul destinations are all within reach.
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Photo By: InsideJapan Tours
Photo By: Variety Cruises
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Topdeck Travel specializes in affordable trips for the 18-39 set. Although it’s only five days, $640 affords you a New Zealand itinerary that focuses on the North Island, from Auckland to Wellington. Along with 36 people total, you’ll experience a Maori cultural performance, visit geysers and waterfalls and learn how to make poi. Just know that many of each day’s activities are optional (and extra $), so factor that in when deciding whether you want to visit a glowworm cave, recreate your Lord of the Rings' fantasy at Hobbiton or channel a hamster by rolling down a hill in an inflatable ball (because, New Zealand). Hotels are included, with one night spent in a Maori complex, or marae. Some meals are also included, like the traditional Maori hangi that’s cooked in the ground. Local transportation is covered too; plan on spending about $1,000 on flights. Check for deals on Air New Zealand.
Topdeck Travel also makes Morocco accessible to younger travelers. Starting at $779, the Rockin' Moroccan covers a good bit of ground in just a week. After an introduction to Casablanca, the group is off and running to Rabat, Chefchaouen, Volubilis, Fes and Marrakech. Much of the country is a photographer’s dream, and the tour definitely encourages Instagrammers to get those shots. (Just be respectful that many souk vendors don’t appreciate having free pictures taken of them or their wares.) Optional activities to experience (and Instagram), involve enjoying downtime in a hammam. Otherwise, city tours are part of the package, and extend to poking around Roman ruins in Volubilis. The price covers hotels, with two nights in a traditional riad, plus guides and local transportation in a bus with no more than 15 people. Lunches and dinners are on your own dime. Currently, airfares can be found for less than $700 roundtrip on Royal Air Maroc.
Yes, Japan is notoriously expensive, and DIY budget trip planning can feel daunting for first-time visitors. While not a group trip, InsideJapan Tours offers a happy medium with its 7 Night Price Cruncher trip for $1,377. This week-long itinerary for two comes partially planned, complete with hotel bookings and attraction suggestions. Note that riding a bullet train and partaking in a traditional tea ceremony are included. Otherwise, follow a day-by-day schedule that starts in Tokyo, providing three days to explore at your leisure. Then it’s on to rural Hakone and an overnight stay in a traditional ryokan before hopping a bullet train to Kyoto for its famed temples and geisha culture. Food isn’t included in the price, but much of the local transportation costs are covered. Plus, it’s possible to find round-trip airfare from the West Coast for less than $1,000 on airlines like JAL.
Variety Cruises is one of the closest ways you’ll get to sailing on a private yacht, without the private yacht price tag. Ships are capped at 72 passengers, and the smaller size not only provides a more intimate experience, but also allows ships to bypass the busier cruise ports. If this sounds good, know that a summer sale offering up to 50 percent off puts these trips within reach of those receiving average refunds in 2019. Greece, Bali and the Seychelles are among the week-long trips that fall under $1,000 per person. Iceland is actually one of the most expensive, and drops to $1,359 a person with this deal. The cruise covers the famed Gulfoss and Godafoss waterfalls, small fishing villages, a seal colony excursion and hot springs. Flight deals for under $500 can be found on many major airlines, especially Icelandair, Delta and Air Canada.
Yoga retreats and Italy rarely fall into the bargain category, but this September Yoga Beyond the Studio is offering a seven-day yoga retreat in Tuscany starting at $2,399. Though the price doesn’t cover airfare, it does cover lodging at Il Tesoro Villas, a high-end farmhouse. It also covers a daily yoga class for beginners taught by co-founder Shayna Hasson, farm-to-table meals, a cooking class and two vineyard tours. Since this isn’t a detox retreat, a glass of wine accompanies lunch and dinner, and meals aren’t vegetarian or vegan unless requested. Downtime at the property means taking advantage of the pool and jacuzzi, hiking around the property or merely soaking up the natural beauty of the Tuscan landscape. Airfare deals can be found on TAP Air Portugal and Iberia.
India’s low cost and affordable airfare means that you can easily spend two weeks here and remain within your budget. India-based Turban Adventures caters to all budgets and offers private and customized options for well under $1,000 per person. For example, a week-long tour of the Golden Triangle (a common tourist circuit between Delhi, Agra and Jaipur), plus a visit to the Ranthambore Tiger Reserve, starts at just $400 a person. The cost even covers luxury hotels, guides and a driver. You can further tailor a trip like this, or fully customize your own. Plenty of packages offer ideas to get started, whether you want to experience Holi, the colorful Hindu festival celebrating the end of winter; explore the Rajasthan desert; or embark on a spiritual journey. It’s possible to find round-trip airfare for around $800 on many major airlines, from Air India to Emirates.
Just hearing Queen Mary 2 conjures up notions of white-gloved service and ballroom dancing — and multiple dollar signs. But a week-long transatlantic crossing between New York and Southampton, England on Cunard is surprisingly affordable while still traveling in style. Case in point: An upcoming Transatlantic Fashion Week crossing, leaving July 28, starts at $1,429 for an inside room. In addition to covering meals in the main dining room, afternoon tea, performances and even a planetarium, this price also includes the fashion week theme. Expect runway shows, cocktail parties and lectures from industry heavyweights — and the chance to schmooze with shoe king Stuart Weitzman and Stephen Jones, one of Britain’s most famous milliners. As an added incentive, you only have to spring for a one-way international flight; budget fares can be found on Norwegian Air and Icelandair.
If you don’t mind long, busy days and traveling with at least 20 other people, than California-based Stunning Tours should be considered for affordable trips to Asia. The 10 Days Enchanting China trip starts at $799, taking the group to see the Great Wall and Tiananmen Square in Beijing and the Terracotta Army in Xi’an. A brief amount of time is also spent in Shanghai, Hangzhou and Suzhou. Included in the cost are modern chain hotels, some meals, all local transportation and guides. Optional activities incur an additional fee. It’s possible to find flights for less than $500 on Hainan Airlines; United, China Eastern and Air China fares can be found for under $800.
Spain by Vespa
Flash Pack specializes in solo trips for those in their 30s and 40s. If this resonates with you, then look no further than this four-day trip exploring the Spanish countryside on a classic Vespa. The journey starts in the Guadalajara region, less than two hours from Madrid, where riders get to know each other — and their Vespas. No prior experience is necessary; you just need a driver’s license. The group sets out from little-known Tamajón, overnights in charming Sepúlveda, explores the scenic Duratón Canyon Nature Reserve and winds down in medieval Pedraza. Along the way are plentiful opportunities to chow down on the likes of cod croquettes and sample local wine. Staying at a traditional posada, or inn, is another highlight, in keeping with the region’s medieval hilltop towns. All of this starts at $2,134 and covers everything, even food and wine. As for airfare, look for deals on Norwegian and Iberia.
Spain on Foot
If you desire more time in Spain, trade the Vespa for your own two feet. On Foot Holidays offers a self-guided 10-night trek along the remote Galician coast in northwest Spain for about $1,200. Not for beginner hikers, you’ll spend between four and seven hours a day navigating the Camino dos Faros, or Lighthouse Way, a newer trail defined by its empty beaches, steep cliffs and yes, lighthouses. Seafood is legendary in these parts, although only some meals are covered in the price. Luckily you can dine well without spending a lot: razor clams, goose barnacles and octopus dishes are among the local specialities. Lodging is included in the price, ranging from a village farmhouse one night to a modern hotel the next. And though self-guided, you’re not completely on your own — detailed maps direct you through the dramatic landscape and fishing villages, and help is just a phone call away should you decide to cab parts of the route. Either way, your luggage is transported from hotel to hotel, making the hike a bit easier. Affordable walking trips are also offered in Turkey, Greece, France and more.