Help me get away without going broke
July 27, 2005 12:23 PM   Subscribe

Please help me plan a week-long vacation for two people for $2000. All crazy ideas welcome!

My boyfriend and I are planning a trip from Minneapolis in October or November of this year. We're both outdoorsy, into museums, restaurants and cafes, and love to be near water. Cold weather isn't a detractor--we're from the tundra anyway. We're extremely laid-back, don't need a fancy hotel (just a room to sleep in, really), love an adventure.

The hitch is that we'll each be able to save about $1000 by then, maybe a little more. We don't want to blow it all on airfare or hotels. Does anyone have experience with hostels in a city they really liked? We're considering Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, Portland, Boston, and Ireland or Europe if we can find a really excellent deal. Ideally we'd find somewhere interesting enough to fill an entire week. Has anyone been on a similar trip they'd recommend? Do you have any advice for us? Are we just dreaming?
posted by hamster to Travel & Transportation (24 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
You could head up to Ely, see the US Hockey hall of Fame and then charter a plane to drop you in some remote corner of the Boundary Waters with a canoe and a bear-proof barrel full of food and fishing gear.
It'd be cheaper than Europe or Montreal and very fun.
posted by Pollomacho at 12:41 PM on July 27, 2005

Houseboating in the boundary waters is also fun and would fit your budget.
posted by Sheppagus at 1:00 PM on July 27, 2005

I went to Ireland in March a few years ago for under $2k for two people including a rental car, 6 nights lodging w/ breakfast, and airfare. It was a self drive package through Brian Moore International, but I know CIE Tours has very similar deals.

I'd highly recommend it. We were given a book of B&Bs & farmhouses that worked with our vouchers and planned our own route. It was a great time
posted by jdl at 1:05 PM on July 27, 2005

How about camping for a week? Or do you really want to spend that week in the city.

Camping is inexpensive, and can clear the mind like nothing else within the same timeframe (no tv! no internet! no radio! no news! no traffic!)
posted by seawallrunner at 1:08 PM on July 27, 2005

luriete: Hurricane Emily just passed through Cancun and environs. Are you sure it's advisable to go there just yet?
posted by raysmj at 1:09 PM on July 27, 2005

I don't know what the airfare will cost, but if you're thinking about Europe and you don't mind staying in hostels, I recommend the Netherlands and/or Belgium. I had nothing but good experiences in hostels there, and there's tons of stuff to do. Since both countries are so small, it's easy to make one place your home base (Amsterdam or Brussels, probably) and go out on day trips from there. Or, if you prefer, I'm sure you could find stuff to do in either of those cities for a whole week. Check the Lonely Planet, they have lots of information and they cater to travellers on a budget.
posted by number9dream at 1:09 PM on July 27, 2005

The youth hostel in San Diego was awesome- very clean and friendly, and quiet when we were there. And there's a coffeehouse just down the road that served the most delicious cappucino (that I still drool over in memory). And then you're close enough to take the tram into Tijuana, or do many other interesting things. This was over six years ago, and I don't have any up-to-date information.
posted by overanxious ducksqueezer at 1:14 PM on July 27, 2005

I agree with SeaWallRunner, I'd go camping...

Big Bend in Texas is wonderful. Or an autumn (leaf peeping) camping trip in NH's White Mountains - also very cool, esp with a weekend side trip to Boston. Also, Martha's Vineyard or Nantucket are quiet but really nice (and cheap) during the off season.
posted by R. Mutt at 1:40 PM on July 27, 2005

Be flexible - do your research about where, then book your trip as late as possible, to get the best deals.
I was in Ireland just this past February and had an absolutely wonderful time. That said, it was quite expensive. Ireland has the hottest economy in the EU right now, and their prices prove it. However, there are ways to do it on a budget, as jdl suggests. Sign on to Aer and get on their 'fare watch' thingy. We flew round trip for two from Seattle last March for about $750 total (yes two round trips). It was an incredible deal that they made available in October for two days.
Vancouver BC is a fabulous city with loads to do, much of it on the cheap (museums, hiking, etc). Lodging can be expensive, but I've stayed at the Sunset Inn (in the West End), which are apartments (currently rate is about $159/CAD per nite, but discounts are often available at that time of year). They are close to Granville Island - which means loads of yummy food to cook for yourself, and they are clean and quiet - the upper floors have fabulous views too.
Well, that's enough - loads of good advice in this thread. Have fun!
posted by dbmcd at 1:42 PM on July 27, 2005 [1 favorite]

I'll add an amen for the camping suggestion; there's an absurd number of outfitter places who'll set you up with most everything you need for a week-plus canoeing trip in the boundary waters. Bring lots of bug spray and sunblock, try to schedule it for around a new moon (seeing what a clear night sky really looks like away from light pollution remains one of the more gobsmacking experiences I recommend to anyone), and enjoy.
posted by Drastic at 2:39 PM on July 27, 2005

It's not terribly exotic or naturey but tickets to London are hovering around $220 RT at the moment.
posted by o2b at 2:46 PM on July 27, 2005

(at least they were a few days ago...)
posted by o2b at 2:48 PM on July 27, 2005

This is my crazy idea based on something I've done a few times: Alaska Marine Highway. It's the best of both camping and being near the water. Basically you get to Bellingham WA [north of Seattle by about an hour] and get on a ferry which goes north for 3 1/2 days to Skagway Alaska. Then it turns around and goes back. It makes a few ports of call, some for an hour or two, some for almost the whole day where you can noodle around, walk on the beach, eat at a restaurant, go bowling, whatever.

Basic fares are in the $300/each range if you want to bring a tent and sleep on the deck/tent area. If you want a room, the rates range from $150 extra for a few bare beds and a bathroom down the hall to almost $800 extra for a four-berth cabin with your own bathroom. Room rates are not per person, they're per room. The ferries have cafeterias that serve pretty good food [less so if you're a vegetarian, more so if you like fish] or you can bring a lot of your own travel food on board. We brought a lot of instant oatmeal, tea, ramen, fruit and whatnot and ate one meal together in the cafeteria and grazed the rest of the day.

There is nothing at all to do on the ferry except stand on the deck and watch Alaska and the Inside Passage go by. If you've never been to Alaska, it's a great way to go see one part of it.
posted by jessamyn at 3:42 PM on July 27, 2005

I've also done the Alaska Marine Highway and highly recommend it. Instead of riding the ferry the whole way, I would book a one way plane ticket from Seattle to Juneau and then buy a bunch of point to point tickets on the ferries to the various cities in the region. Then you can camp/hostel/hotel it for a few days at each place (I particularly liked Sitka and Haines). If you time it right, you can sleep on the deck of the ferries to save money (although the views from the ferries during the day are incredibly scenic. Eventually, you'll end up back in Bellingham and you can take a bus or a train down to Seattle. Doing the route vice-versa would work too.
posted by Staggering Jack at 3:54 PM on July 27, 2005

Perfect time of year to go hiking in the southwest--fly cheap into LA, rent a car, hightail it up to Zion National Park. Then take in Bryce, Capitol Reef, Escalante Canyons, the the North rim of the Grand Canyon. The scenery is like no where else in the world.
posted by LarryC at 6:46 PM on July 27, 2005 [1 favorite]

I did a week in Montreal last year for under $2000, including getting there (about $500) (all in Canadian dollars). I found a great bed and breakfast which was about $150 a night and included fantastic 3 course breakfasts and and amazingly friendly and helpful host (his place is much better than you might guess from his site). You are going in the sholder (Oct) or off (Nov) season, so it will be cheaper.

There are lots of great free or cheap things to do in Montreal, and we ate cheap lunches (poutine! fries, gravy, and cheese curds. Sounds gross but it's warm, filling, and delicious) and cheap / moderate dinners quite easily. Montreal has bring your own bottle restaurants, so you can have a nice bottle of wine quite inexpensively at many places.

I hesitate to tell you what to see, because I've only been there the once, and you may like different things, but if you do go, pack a lunch and go to the Botanical Gardens for a day. They are wonderful.
posted by carmen at 7:16 PM on July 27, 2005
Free accommodation with locals in their homes. My partner and I spent a week in Montreal for less than $1000 because we stayed in the flat of some friendly Quebecois. And go to Mont Royal on Sunday (in Montreal) drumming, music, swordfights...
posted by arcticwoman at 9:48 PM on July 27, 2005

I agree with luriete's recommendation; Isla Mujeres is beautiful. Just a five mile boat ride from Cancun (mostly a Disneyesque city without a soul) and it has this tremendous beach, Playa Norte, with impossibly turquoise water and such a gentle slope under the water that you can walk out several hundred yards before the water is shoulder-high. The nightlife is good, the daylife is tranquil, the local flavor is tasty. When I was there a few years ago, in August, I met tons of wonderful budget travellers from Europe. But I had an interestng convo-starter: the day after I got there I had a horrible accident on a rented motorscooter and was in bandages and a cast. But I digress--that's another story. Go! And do as I had originally planned, before cruel, cruel fate interved--bus and backpack down to Palenque, which is supposedly a truly spiritual experience.
posted by theperfectcrime at 10:55 PM on July 27, 2005

intervened. Gawd, Stupid! Just wait til we get home!
posted by theperfectcrime at 11:10 PM on July 27, 2005

I actually liked Playa Del Carmen (where the boat to Isla Mujeres leaves from) much better than the island itself. Most people never leave the boat dock so it's remarkably uncrowded, and what tourists do stay there are mostly European scuba divers. It's been a few years since I was there though.

My "I want to go to Europe but can't afford it" trip to Montreal was awesome. Especially if you visit the old town and the more French areas, it really feels like another world and there is a ton of stuff to do. People are very friendly as long as you at least attempt French when in that part of town/speaking to someone who addresses you in it. Even if all you can manage is a poorly pronounced "uhhh, pardonez...?", most will switch immediately to English though not everyone is fluent.
posted by cali at 12:27 AM on July 28, 2005

Also, you could canoe the Buffalo River in Arkansas, or spend a week in New Orleans. So many great choices.
posted by LarryC at 7:04 AM on July 28, 2005

There's always Chicago. : )

I loved Toronto though. Great city, loads to do, nice people, and a very good value (thanks to the favorable exchange rate)
posted by SisterHavana at 7:46 AM on July 28, 2005

Jamaica is pretty cheap during the off (read: hurricaine) season. I was there the first week of July, for tropical storm cindy and I got out right before Dennis arrived, and I had a great time. There are some low-tier all-inclusives that are a great deal.
posted by illuminatus at 8:53 AM on July 28, 2005

My wife and I managed to do a week in Vancouver/Vancouver Island for about $2000 a few years ago, flying from Minneapolis. We saved a little money by flying to Seattle and driving the rest of the way. The exchange rate was better at the time, so we were able to stay in a fairly swank (for us) hotel in downtown Vancouver; and then the rates for lodging over on the island were surprisngly cheap.

If I hadn't needlessly bought extra insurance for the rental car, I think we would've come in way under $2k.
posted by COBRA! at 9:22 AM on July 28, 2005

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