Last, last, minute vacation?
July 31, 2013 3:37 PM   Subscribe

I took off next week (8/5 - 8/9) for a vacation. It fell through. Now I have the time off, the money saved up and no where to go. Suggestions?

It's always been a dream of mine to just pick up and travel somewhere random. Now that I'm blessed with the opportunity, I don't know where to go and am paralyzed by the options.

Details: I'm 26, male, and can fly out of Philly or NYC. I will be traveling by myself.

So my question is two fold: What would you do if you were me? And where do you think I should go with the following "requirements:"
- Flight under $500
- Access to beaches/swimming
- No resorts
- If I can leave the country, all the better
- If it involves unique local food, all the better
- I'd like to avoid renting a car, if possible
- Bonus points if theres a crazy, non-traditional lodging situation

No suggestion is too crazy. Shoot!
posted by Blandanomics to Travel & Transportation (19 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
I found a flight from Philly to Ocho Rios, Jamaica for $561 (close enough, right?) Lots of beaches, lots of good food, outside the US, crystal clear water and white beaches. I can't think of anywhere else I would rather be if I were single with time and money to burn. Been there once and LONG to go back.
posted by brownrd at 3:48 PM on July 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

Do you have a frequent flyer account or any kind of loyalty to a particular airline? If so, go to their website and look for deals/specials. There are often last minute deals to random places, especially out of major airports and hubs. (I think Philly is a hub for United, so maybe look there if you don't have any particular loyalty and are closer to Philly than NYC.)

If you have no particular airline preferences, I'd go to right now and use the "explore" function to see what's out there in your price range for your dates.

Then apply those choices to your above criteria. I think there's an option to run a more beach-centric search, and you can definitely choose by country or within a certain geographical range.

I just searched for you, and your best bet to leave the US on Monday-Friday travel days next week for under $500 is the Caribbean. If you're willing to stay in the US, your options are a lot wider.
posted by Sara C. at 3:52 PM on July 31, 2013

Check out Kayak Explore for 'where can I go from here' flights.
posted by jacalata at 3:52 PM on July 31, 2013 [5 favorites]

or SkyScanner Explore for the same thing.
posted by jacalata at 3:57 PM on July 31, 2013 [2 favorites]

American Airlines Last Minute Packages are amazing deals, include lodging. See what's on sale? Paraguay looked interesting.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 3:58 PM on July 31, 2013 [3 favorites]

The problem with anywhere in the Caribbean is that it's hurricane season and therefore the low season, and most of the tourist stuff will be closed, especially away from the bigger resorts. Also, potential for hurricanes.

The problem with going places out of the country, is that if you're leaving from NYC and you're *not* going to the Caribbean, it's going to be tough to do on $500. I'd say Barcelona, but the flight prices aren't even close. Same with Paris, Rome, Amersterdam, Lisbon, etc.

You could maybe fly to San Diego for $500, but then it almost seems like you should just go to the Outer Banks or something.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 4:12 PM on July 31, 2013

Miami Beach seems like a great fit.
posted by LaunchBox at 4:16 PM on July 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Go to San Juan Puerto Rico. Leave from NYC. Flights are cheap on Jet Blue (I am seeing sub-$500 and a few sub-$300 flights). It is not out of the country but you will feel out of the country. It's in this timezone. Go stay in this place or this place or one of the many excellent places to stay in PR. Rent a kayak. You can do the whole thing for under $1000.
posted by jessamyn at 4:23 PM on July 31, 2013 [14 favorites]

Best answer: Playa del Carmen, México. About an hour away from Cancun but has a more small-town vibe. You can stay at a small hotel near the beach, (on or near the "5a avenida") is ideal. From there you can pretty much walk to the beach, to restaurants or little food places, or wander around said 5th avenue and window shop or people watch. It has a much more laid back and almost bohemian feeling than what you'd expect. Specially if you stay in one of the small hotels. (Look in tripadvisor for options and pics)
posted by CrazyLemonade at 4:55 PM on July 31, 2013 [2 favorites]

I went to Puerto Rico last August. It rained sometimes but was still great. There are wonderful beaches, interesting historical sights in Old San Juan like El Morro fort, and there are great day trips from San Juan you can take, such as the bioluminescent bay and El Yunque Rain Forest. The trip from NYC via Jet Blue was ridiculously easy and within your budget.

I've also been to Jamaica (once Ocho Rios and the other time, Negril Beach) and I agree that it's a great choice too. If you go, you don't have to stick just to the beach. We went on a day trip to the Black River (crocodiles!) and to a huge waterfall on the way (I forget its name). Also a trip to Noel Coward's house was great (famous tourist site). The food can be excellent too (or not) (same with Puerto Rico).
posted by DMelanogaster at 5:38 PM on July 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

Prince Edward Island has beaches and is out of the country. I rented a car when I was there, so I don't know how easy it is to navigate without one.
posted by brujita at 5:39 PM on July 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh Prince Edward Island just reminded me: those French islands off the coast of Canada: -- they're actually part of France!
posted by DMelanogaster at 5:43 PM on July 31, 2013

Best answer: You could go to Havana, Cuba.

You will have to fly to the Caribbean, then arrange a flight to Cuba from there.
Since you can't book anything in advance, you have to do it by the seat of your pants.
But it is a relatively safe place, and that is plenty of unique culture and food in Havana.
posted by Flood at 6:33 PM on July 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

PEI is really nice, as are Halifax & Montreal. People surf in both the Atlantic and the At Lawrence River.
posted by Heart_on_Sleeve at 7:24 PM on July 31, 2013

posted by mdonley at 7:51 PM on July 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I know it's not out of the country but it does fit with the "non-traditional lodging" aspect (a treehouse!) and it looks like you get there by canoe:

Edisto River Treehouses in South Carolina.

My sister and her hubby stayed there and loved it.
posted by Sassyfras at 8:30 PM on July 31, 2013 [2 favorites]

What Jessamyn said - fly to San Juan, Puerto Rico. It's not out of the country but it might as well be - they ask you for a passport if you don't look American enough when you're flying back.

Spend a day in Old Town San Juan, then (yeah, unfortunately) drive out to the interior (fabulous tropical scenery, reminds me a lot more of India than the US) and on to some of the isolated beaches for swimming or snorkeling. As long as you stay the hell away from the cruise ships and tourist resorts near San Juan, its lovely.

While you're at it, maybe visit the world's largest single dish radio telescope. (Ok this is close to my heart, but it's an amazing sight.) I've been to beaches at Fajardo, Jobos, Rincon, Mayaguez, Aguadilla, etc. (over the last 15 years, not in one trip!) but if you can swing it, I *highly* recommend Vieques with its bioluminescent bay. Just don't wear a US Navy T-shirt, okay?
posted by RedOrGreen at 10:51 AM on August 2, 2013

Please come back and tell us where you're going!
posted by DMelanogaster at 9:07 PM on August 2, 2013

Response by poster: To follow up here, I ended up taking a last minute flight to Santa Barbara, renting a Jeep and beach bumming it all up and down the PCH, surfing and eating lots of tacos along the way. I stayed in really crappy motels and "camped" in the back of the Jeep. Had a blast. Thanks everyone for your suggestions!
posted by Blandanomics at 6:23 AM on August 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

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