View over Lake Atitlan and Volcano from Cafe Sabor Cruceno, Santa Cruz, Guatemala

5 Affordable International Destinations for a Week-Long Trip from the US

I love travel research and planning, so I’ve curated a list of five affordable international destinations, perfect for a week-long getaway from the US.

These budget-friendly destinations offer great value, natural beauty, rich culture, and adventure, making them ideal for a memorable week-long trip. With shorter flight durations and affordable costs, these destinations allow you to maximize your vacation time without breaking the bank.

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Planning an Affordable Week-Long Getaway from the US: My Recommendations

  • Keep your flights short: When you only have a week, it’s crucial to maximize your vacation time. Choosing destinations with shorter flight durations minimizes travel fatigue and gives you more time to explore and relax.
    • I’ve included a European option in this list, since if you’re flying from the East Coast, you can reach Portugal in just under seven hours non-stop. I wanted to add this option because Portugal is a fantastic, affordable European destination.

  • Explore just one or two cities: Resist the urge to cram too much into your trip. Focusing on a few places allows you to dive deeper into the local culture and enjoy a more relaxed pace.

  • Keep in mind time zones: Adjusting to a new time zone can take a toll, especially if your getaway is short. Opt for destinations within time zones closer to your own to ease the adjustment and make the most of your waking hours.

  • Time of year: Consider traveling during shoulder seasons for the best weather and affordability. While off-season travel can be cheaper, it often comes with drawbacks like hurricanes or heavy rains, which can ruin your trip. I prefer finding a balance between the best time to visit a destination and staying within budget. Shoulder seasons offer a great happy medium, providing good weather, fewer crowds, and reasonable prices.

Pro Tip: If you’re doing any significant timezone jump I HIGHLY recommend the app Timeshifter. Using this app I practically had NO jet lag going from EST to ICT (Thailand time). Follow the recommendations closely. It works!

1. Mexico – Sun, Sand, and Culture

One of the best affordable international destinations for US travelers is Mexico, offering cheap vacation options and rich cultural experiences. Mexico offers a diverse range of experiences, from pristine beaches to ancient ruins and vibrant cities. Let’s look at some of my favorite spots:

Merida: Affordable Cultural Getaway

Dive into the cultural heart of the Yucatan Peninsula. This colonial city is your gateway to famous sites like Chichen Itza and Cenote Ik Kil, as well as a place to enjoy vibrant street food scenes and colorful architecture.

Bacalar: Budget-Friendly Lagoon of Seven Colors

Known as the ‘Lagoon of Seven Colors’, Bacalar is perfect for water enthusiasts looking for somewhere quieter than the bustling coastal resorts. Kayaking and sailing on the calm, multicolored waters make for perfect daytime activities. Explore tours and activities in Bacalar on GetYourGuide.

Affordable international destination - Bacalar's Lagoon of Seven Colors in Mexico

Isla Mujeres: Inexpensive Beach Paradise

Just a short ferry ride from Cancun, this island offers beautiful beaches, relaxed dining, and the chance to snorkel with vibrant marine life around the MUSA underwater museum. Here’s where we stayed on the most beautiful beach for only $78/night Find great accommodation deals on Booking.com.

When to visit Mexico: 

The best weather is from December to April, avoiding the heat and humidity of summer. Shoulder seasons are April to June and September to November, offering more affordable accomodation and fewer tourists.

Budget for Mexico:

  • Hostels: Expect to pay around $10-$20 per night.

  • Hotels: Mid-range hotels can cost anywhere from $50-$100 per night.

  • Meal Costs: Street food can cost as little as $2-$5, while a sit-down dinner might range from $10-$15.

  • Excursions: Entry fees for places like Chichen Itza are about $30, and cenote visits can be around $10.
Affordable international destination - Aerial view of Cancun beaches from the plane

2. Belize – Caribbean Bliss and Adventure

Next up on my list of affordable international destinations is Belize. This country is a hidden gem in Central America, offering pristine beaches, lush rainforests, and vibrant marine life.

Ambergris Caye: Affordable Caribbean Escape

Dive into the colorful underwater world of the Belize Barrier Reef, the second-largest barrier reef in the world, perfect for snorkeling, diving, and beach relaxation.

Caye Caulker: Budget Friendly island Life

Embrace the laid-back island vibes of Caye Caulker, where “go slow” is the motto, and barefoot living is the norm.

When to visit Belize: 

Ideal months are late November to mid-April, during the dry season when the weather is more temperate and conducive to outdoor activities. Shoulder seasons are April to June and September to November.

Budget for Belize:

  • Hostels: Expect to pay around $10-$25 per night.

  • Hotels: Guesthouses and budget hotels start at around $25-$50 per night.

  • Meals: Casual dining and street food are generally under $10 per meal.

  • Excursions: Snorkeling trips cost around $30-$60, depending on the tour.

3. Panama – Tropical Paradise

From bustling cities to tranquil islands, Panama is a diverse and affordable destination for travelers seeking both adventure and relaxation.

Bocas del Toro: Inexpensive Tropical Retreat

Immerse yourself in the laid-back atmosphere of this archipelago, known for its stunning beaches, clear waters, and excellent surfing and snorkeling spots. The main island, Isla Colón, offers vibrant nightlife and easy access to various activities.

When to visit Panama: 

The best weather is from January to mid-April during the dry season. Shoulder seasons are May to June and September to November.

Budget for Panama:

  • Hostels: Prices are about $15-$25 per night.

  • Hotels: Ranges from $50-$150 per night, with higher-end resorts on private islands.

  • Meals: A typical meal will cost between $5-$15, depending on the dining area. Street food and local eateries offer the best value.

  • Excursions: Guided tours and activities range from $20-$50. Popular excursions include snorkeling trips, boat tours to see dolphins, and visits to the National Marine Park.

Some unique stays with great value in Bocas Del Toro:

4. Guatemala – Volcanoes, Culture and Adventure

From the cobblestone streets of Antigua to the shores of Lake Atitlán, this Central American gem offers a perfect blend of adventure and relaxation. Whether you’re hiking active volcanoes, exploring ancient Mayan ruins, or immersing yourself in local traditions, Guatemala provides an unforgettable experience for travelers seeking an affordable international destination.

Antigua: Budget Friendly Charm

Step back in time as you explore the cobblestone streets and colorful buildings of this UNESCO World Heritage Site, surrounded by volcanoes and lush coffee plantations.

Where to Stay in Antigua: Yellow House Hostel B&B. Great value, location and incredible breakfast.

Lake Atitlán: Affordable Natural Beauty

Relax on the shores of this serene lake, surrounded by indigenous villages and towering volcanoes, perfect for kayaking, hiking, and cultural immersion.

Where to Stay on Lake Atitlan: Hotel Casa Del Mundo. For as little as $64 per night you can stay at this incredible hotel perched on the edge of the lake. It is incredible value and one of the most beautiful places I’ve stayed.

Affordable international destination - Hotel Casa Del Mundo, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

When to visit Guatemala: 

The best weather is from November to April during the dry season. Shoulder seasons are April to May and October to November, offering a balance between good weather and fewer crowds.

Budget for Guatemala:

  • Hostels: Budget accommodations start at around $10-$20 per night.

  • Hotels: Mid-range hotels at $40-$70 per night.

  • Meals: Typically under $10, making it very budget-friendly.

  • Excursions: An ATV coffee tour costs around $50, and volcano hikes range from $50-$120. I would recommend spending a little more on the Acatenango hike and go with Wicho and Charlies. It is worth the price when doing a demanding hike like this.

Pro Tip: For more inspiration and to see the beauty of Guatemala, check out my post Guatemala Travel Inspiration: 45 Stunning Photos to Fuel Your Wanderlust

Affordable international destination - Santa Catalina Arch in Antigua, Guatemala

5. Portugal – Old-World Charm and Coastal Beauty

One of my favorite countries I’ve traveled to, Portugal stands out as one of the best affordable international destinations. Portugal has it all: rich history, stunning landscapes, vibrant culture, cheap wine, and great food. 

Lisbon: Affordable European Getaway

Lose yourself in the winding alleys and historic neighborhoods of Portugal’s capital city, with its iconic yellow trams, lively markets, and panoramic viewpoints.

Porto: Wine and Historic Charm

Savor the flavors of Portugal’s second city, known for its historic center, wine cellars, and iconic Dom Luís I Bridge spanning the Douro River. Discover tours and activities in Porto on GetYourGuide.

When to visit Portugal: 

The best weather is from March to May and September to November. These times also serve as shoulder seasons, offering mild weather and fewer tourists.

Budget for Portugal:

  • Hotels: Mid-range hotels from $50-$80 per night.

  • Eating Out: Enjoy meals at moderate restaurants for $10-$20, plus plenty of street food type options for under $10.

  • Excursions: Entry to attractions like the Belem Tower is about $9, and wine tours in Porto can be around $15-$30.
Overlooking Porto: An Affordable European Destination

Pro Tip: To make the most of your limited time, packing light is essential. Check out my 10 Pro Tips for Packing Light to streamline your travel experience.

Wrapping Up: Budget-Friendly Adventures Await

There you have it, five affordable international destinations for a week-long getaway from the US! Whether you’re seeking beach relaxation, cultural immersion, or outdoor adventure, these destinations offer something for every traveler. Each offers unique experiences at a fraction of the cost compared to other popular travel spots, making them ideal for budget-savvy travelers looking to maximize a short vacation period.

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