6 Budget-Friendly International Trips You Can Take Using Your Tax Refund
When the IRS cuts you a check, that far-flung vacation you’ve been putting off may suddenly be doable. Enter the best part of tax season: enjoying the payoff! According to the IRS, as of February 2023, the average tax refund in 2023 was $3,140. That’s a nice chunk of change to add to your piggy bank or to treat yourself to a well-deserved vacation. If you do it right, you might even be able to do both!
For those who received less than the average — or who want to keep a little extra in their savings — you can get inspired by our itemized list of accommodations and attractions in cities around the world at varying price points. From $3,000 all the way to $500, we’ve got you covered if traveling is the way you want to spend that refund. If you ask us, the memories alone are worth it.
Note: the projected expenses listed in USD do not account for airfare. Each trip is meant to accommodate a maximum of two travelers for up to one week.
Destination: Sicily, Italy
Sicily has been home to a number of binge-worthy shows lately — most notably The White Lotus starring Jennifer Coolidge. The city boasts a backdrop of fervent volcanoes, magnificent mountain ranges, and a seemingly endless coastline. Lounge on the island’s gold-hued beaches in summer or glide down the ski slopes on Mount Etna in winter. You can also take in the allure of ancient historical sites like the Valley of the Temples, where you’ll find the well-preserved ruins of seven monumental Greek temples.
There are two main airports in the region of Sicily: Catania Fontanarossa International Airport and Palermo Airport. Catania Fontanarossa is about an hour and twenty minute drive, while Palermo is just under two hours away.
If you loved The White Lotus, why not hop on the “set jetting” trend and stay at the real White Lotus: the San Domenico Palace Hotel? Set jetting is a popular trend where people travel to their favorite TV or movie destinations to revel in the setting of the actors they admire, minus the melodrama.
Rates for a weekend in San Domenico are currently under $3,000 around fall 2023, but if that’s a bit out of the budget, there are more reasonably-priced places in Sicily to stay for a week. You’ll be happy to know that the average nightly rate is $80 per night throughout the city.
Speaking of budget-friendly, here are some things you can do in Sicily during your week-long stay — whether you’re going solo or as part of a couple:
Etna Volcano. Enjoy a number of excursions along the slopes and be rewarded with a magnificent view surrounded by nature. Mount Etna is also one of Europe’s highest active volcanoes! The Etna Cable Car for the 2023 season costs about $32 USD per adult.
Ragusa Ibla. Feast your eyes on a myriad of architectural treasures that include churches and palaces, all in the Baroque style. A day tour will cost you roughly $107 per person.
Duomo. The two-Michelin star restaurant is considered the best on the island. Learn the secret art of chocolate-making or even join a cooking class with chef Katie Amore, where you’ll also shop for local ingredients. An entree will cost anywhere from $85 to $150 and drinks start at $15 USD.
Moon Ortiga. You’ll find groups of artists sharing creative ideas among the crowd at this ultra-hip bar and lounge. Enjoy a live jazz band inside or indulge in a glass of wine and a plate of bruschetta in the courtyard, as it’s situated between the sea and the town’s cathedral. Each course is about $15 USD, while drinks average between $10 to $15 per glass.
Destination: Reykjavík, Iceland
As the capital city of Iceland, Reykjavík is located on the coast and it’s the country’s largest city. Many visit the country for its therapeutic spas, but you can also check seeing the northern lights off your bucket list in this marvelous destination. The best time to witness the aurora borealis is between September and April, so we recommend setting a flight watch as soon as you can and planning accordingly.
A week-long stay in Reykjavík would be well worth your time with a $2,500 budget. The closest major airport is Reykjavík Domestic Airport which has both international and domestic flights, just under two miles from the city’s center. There’s also Keflavík International Airport, located 30 miles from downtown Reykjavík. The average cost of accommodations here is $129 per night, proving that a week in Nordic paradise doesn’t have to be pricey.
Here are some activities to check out during your week-long stay in Iceland:
Blue Lagoon. This famous geothermal spa makes for an incredibly healing and therapeutic experience. The subterranean spa will also indulge your senses with luxurious suites, gourmet cuisine, and out-of-this-world vistas. A day trip to Iceland’s Blue Lagoon will cost you on average about $100.
Perlan Dome. This striking dome made of glass and steel is commonly referred to as the “Pearl” of the city. The dome sits atop Oskjuhlid Hill, so you’ll be able to get a view of the whole city from here. It is also home to a bar, café, restaurant, museum, and viewing deck for your pleasure. Adult tickets are quite cheap: entrance costs under $5.
Thingvellir National Park. Arguably the most notable tourist attraction in all of Iceland, this park represents the poignant natural beauty of the country in a nutshell and is situated 27 miles from Reykjavík. There is no entrance fee into the park, but if you need to use the restroom, it’ll cost you $2.
Destination: Banff, Canada
Banff is a fantastic setting if you’re looking to unwind for a week with nothing but natural wonder all around you. The Canadian resort town lives in the province of Alberta and is situated right inside Banff National Park, amidst the Rocky Mountains.
The closest international airport to Banff is in the major city of Calgary, which is 90 miles away. Once you land, you’ll most likely need a rental car to get around easily. The average cost is anywhere from $83 CAD per day for a sedan and $131 CAD for a standard SUV. For accommodations, the average in Banff is about $167 USD per night.
Some things to do in Banff with a $2,000 budget include:
Lake Louise. Lake Louise is a luxurious hamlet in Banff National Park. Visit the Lake Louise Ski Resort during the winter season to ski or enjoy the prestigious vistas during summer and fall. In the warmer months, you can take a stroll around the Lake Louise Shoreline Trail. Entrance is free without a car, but if you do have a vehicle, the cost will be about $12 USD per day.
Banff National Park. More than four million people flock here every year for Banff’s natural beauty. Banff is the world’s third-largest national park refuge, and it’s also part of the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks UNESCO Heritage Site. An adult pass into the park is about $10 USD.
Sky Bistro. If you’re looking for an especially unique dining experience in Banff, we highly recommend enjoying a meal here. It starts at the base of Sulphur Mountain, then you ride the gondola up to the peak. Lunch or dinner will be very special, with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the mountains. Prices average about $20 to $25 per entree, and drinks range between $10 and $20 per glass.
Destination: Valencia, Spain
Spending a week in Valencia, Spain, will give you the all-around holiday of your dreams, while still being able to stick to a $1,500 budget. This port city on the country’s southeastern coast is situated where the Turks River meets the Mediterranean Sea. Valencia happens to be the birthplace of paella — a Spanish rice dish cooked and served in a large shallow pan that typically consists of saffron, chicken, or seafood. So why not indulge your senses in a food tour?
Valencia Airport — also known as Manises Airport — is the main international and domestic hub, and it’s a convenient five miles west of the city. The average nightly accommodation rate is also convenient at $39 per night.
Here are a few things you can add to your Valencia itinerary with a $1,500 budget:
Albufera National Park. This lovely oasis right outside of the city boasts stunning sunsets and is hailed as one of Valencia’s hidden gems. The entrance fee is about $16 USD.
The Cathedral, Miguelete, and Holy Grail. This cathedral is a magnificent mix of Romanesque, Baroque, and Gothic-style architecture. What makes it even more magical is the Miguelete Tower, sitting atop 207 steps. The 360-degree view will be well-worth any huffing and puffing. And don’t forget to catch a glimpse of the Holy Chalice, which is believed by some to be the true Holy Grail — or the cup Jesus used during the Last Supper. The entrance fee runs about $5 USD per adult.
Central Market. You’ll love getting lost in a myriad of Mediterranean aromas and flavors in the Central Market. Prices vary depending on produce — as there are over 1,200 stalls of meats, cheeses, fruits, and vegetables — but the town is known for having very affordable food prices.
Ricard Camarena Restaurant. This two-Michelin-star restaurant is an ideal place for couples. The price range per meal is between $72 to $165 USD, but it’s to be expected, as this eatery is ranked the eighth-best restaurant in the world, so foodies won’t want to miss out!
Destination: Quepos, Costa Rica
The beautiful town of Quepos sits on Costa Rica’s central coast. Nature lovers will fall in love with this town as it’s a gateway to Manuel Antonio National Park — one of the most diverse natural habitats on Earth. You can also take it easy on a morning cruise or take a sunset sail tour in the afternoon after a relaxing day on the beach.
The nearest airport is Quepos Airport, just two miles away. Other nearby airports include San Jose at 39 miles away, and Drake Bay at 61 miles away. The average nightly stay will cost around $149 per night.
Here’s some inspiration if you’re looking for a few things to do in Quepos with a $1,000 budget:
Manuel Antonio National Park. The smallest of Costa Rica’s 161 national parks should not be underestimated. You can admire lagoons, luscious mangroves, beach-lined rainforests, and even white-faced squirrel monkeys here. The entrance fee is $18 USD.
Playa Espadilla and Playa Biesanz. Both of these breathtaking beaches happen to be hidden away at the bottom of a long hill. You’ll discover a beautiful jungle path to the captivating beaches and a warm bay below.
Damas Island Mangrove Estuary. This nature reserve is home to a host of dense fishing spots — not to mention all the wonders of wildlife, such as caimans, snakes, and iguanas. You can take a boat tour here for just under $80.
Destination: Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Ho Chi Minh City is a popular holiday destination, particularly if you’re traveling solo for a week. You can immerse yourself completely in the city’s rich culture and get blissfully lost in the balance between an ancient city and a futuristic urban center. There are a number of museums that display the country’s war history, with a mix of French colonial architecture. You’ll also discover Chinese pagodas and ornate temples scattered around the city.
Tan Son Nhất International Airport is the closest hub to the city. It’s four miles north of the center and it’s also Vietnam’s largest airport. An average nightly stay in Ho Chi Minh is reasonable at $39 per night.
Here are budget-friendly activities you can check off your list in Ho Chi Minh:
Cu Chi Tunnels. Take a guided tour of the underground tunnel system utilized by Vietnamese soldiers and learn about the wartime history of the Vietnam War. A tour will cost roughly $5 per person.
Thiên Hau Temple. This 19th-century shrine is considered one of the most beautiful places to visit in Ho Chi Minh City’s Chinatown. It’s also one of the oldest Chinese temples in the city. Best of all, there is no entrance fee for the temple.
The Municipal Theatre. Architecture aficionados will love the Municipal Theatre of Ho Chi Minh City, which is an elegant Saigon Opera House and an ode to French colonial style. The entrance fee for the theater is about $30 USD.
Anăn Saigon Restaurant. This establishment has been listed as one of Asia’s 50 best and it’s located in the city’s wet market. Dishes are inspired by the local street food. Anăn Saigon also houses a full cocktail bar and noodle joint. A tasting menu will cost anywhere from $70 to $100 USD.
Plan Your Next International Getaway
Plan your next week-long holiday to any of these out-of-this-world destinations with VacationRenter. Whether you’re flying solo or planning a trip for two, you can be sure that these locales will inspire memories that last a lifetime.
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