Of course, “top-notch guest services” is subjective. You could stay at a five-star hotel where the concierge is snooty and there’s constant construction, whereas you could find a gem of a two-star hotel where you’re treated like royalty by a warm, welcoming staff. That’s why it’s so important to value guest reviews over star ratings. Guest reviews give you an indication of what it’s actually like to stay at the hotel.
Couchsurfing connects would-be travelers with hosts around the world who are willing to offer up a modest amount of space in their homes (not always an actual couch, though that is certainly common). As a matter of policy, Couchsurfing does not allow hosts to charge visitors money. However, it is common for visitors to thank their hosts by reimbursing the cost of groceries, or perhaps buying a gift equivalent to the extent to which they cleaned out their hosts’s wine cabinet.
Kauai has been given the nickname "The Garden Isle" because of its beautiful natural scenery. The island is home to the wettest place on earth, Mount Waialeale, which gets an average of over 450 inches of rain every year. All that rain keeps the landscape of tropical rain forests lush with verdant ferns and cascading waterfalls all year round. Read more about Kauai
Why you should go: Not only is it arguably the greatest swinging-around-a-stage-in-purple-sequined-zebra-print-pants anthem of David Lee Roth-era Van Halen, it’s a slinky, skinny swatch of land with the Caribbean Sea on one side and the Pacific on the other. Smaller than South Carolina, it boasts 1,800 miles of ocean coastline and 5 million acres of national parks on the inside. For those who enjoy stylishly restored ruins, Panama City’s old quarter, Casco Viejo, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that dates back to the 1600s and is now filled with hipstery shit, because of course it is. This cobblestoned city center is surrounded by the ultra-sleek, modern, quasi-futuristic skyscrapers of Panama City, which kind of looks like Rio without the smog and soon-to-be decaying Olympic infrastructure. - Nicole Rupersburg, Thrillist contributor
Chosen By: Michaela Guzy, an American media executive, entrepreneur and on-air show host. She is the executive producer for two online television shows, Michaela’s Map and OhThePeopleYouMeet. Based in New York City, she is also an adjunct professor at New York University School of Professional Studies, where she teaches a course called "Travel Storytelling: Creating Video Content."

For example, a writer for The New York Times searched for a long weekend getaway in Washington, D.C. and found a vacation package that looked like a tremendous deal. However, the hotel was 22 miles away from Washington. In other scenarios, the hotel might be fantastic, but your flight might have two stops and a 12-hour layover in Topeka. The bottom line is that it’s worth exploring package options, but be sure to scrutinize the individual components of the package to make sure you’re not compromising too much.


Two of the higher-quality San Francisco options in which you can enjoy some of the best hotel features in town, are the Fairmont Heritage Place, Ghirardelli Square, at 900 N Point Street, and The St. Regis San Francisco, at 125 3rd St. Alternatively, The Wharf Inn, at 2601 Mason St, and the Layne Hotel, at 545 Jones St, are a couple of accommodations worth checking out if you are a bit more budget conscious.
Why: Oaxaca de Juarez is one of the most beautiful destinations to travel to in Mexico. Colorful markets, charming architecture, cobblestone streets, fun festivals and delicious food are just part of the attraction. Stroll through Oaxaca’s main square, the Zócalo, and relax at a café, people watch and be entertained by dancers and singers in the evenings. Just a few minutes walk from the square is the Mercado Benito Juárez, where you’ll find embroidered goods and straw baskets. Continue walking the pedestrian street called Calle Macedonio, where you’ll find art galleries, cafes, shops and boutique hotels. Visit the Santo Domingo de Guzmán church and monastery that dates back to 1555. Don’t Miss the Museum of Oaxacan Cultures, where you can see the treasures found on Mont Alban — the skull covered in turquoise, carved jaguar bones, gold jewelry and ornaments for a nominal fee. Hungry? Stop by at the food market 20 de Noviembre, where you’ll find piles of fried grasshoppers (chapulines) and Oaxaca cheeses, tamales, meat-filled tortillas, tlayudas, chocolates, coffees and seven types of mole. Get a taste of local dishes at food stalls for under $5 or free Mezcal tastings at Mezcaloteca. It’s easy to find your way around this town, but if you prefer to join a guided walking tour, contact Enjoy Oaxaca — they offer several tours from city tours to day trips to see Mont Alban, Mitla Ruins, Hierve el Agua bubbling springs and the petrified waterfall, as well as cooking classes and many festival tours including the Day of the Dead. Where to Stay? There are several boutique hotels and quaint B&B’s in town. You can reserve a room at Parador San Miguel Oaxaca for as low as $86 per night.
*Savings based on all holiday package bookings with Flight + Hotel on CheapTickets.com from July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2016, as compared to the price of the same components booked separately. Savings will vary based on origin/destination, length of trip, stay dates and selected travel supplier(s). Savings not available on all packages. For Free Flight or 100% Off Flight deals, package savings is greater than or equal to the current cost of one component, when both are priced separately.
Northern California also has many riches and wonders to offer. Nothing beats the morning mist swathing the Golden Gate Bridge during a San Francisco vacation. Be sure to hike at Batteries to Bluffs Trail and take in the expansive ocean views. If you’re craving sparkling pools, shimmering night skies, and majestic mountain scenery, instead of bay views, spending your vacations in Palm Springs is the way to go. Hollywood’s Waiting Room for Heaven is the ultimate desert playground for people-watching and wandering through art galleries.
*Savings based on all holiday package bookings with Flight + Hotel on CheapTickets.com from July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2016, as compared to the price of the same components booked separately. Savings will vary based on origin/destination, length of trip, stay dates and selected travel supplier(s). Savings not available on all packages. For Free Flight or 100% Off Flight deals, package savings is greater than or equal to the current cost of one component, when both are priced separately.
Why you should go: Sofia is one of Europe’s coolest overlooked capitals, with ancient ruins and salmagundi architecture in Ottoman mosques and Red Army monuments. In the past few years, its streets have proliferated with graffiti art, skateboarder girls, and shabby-chic bars where you can while away days and evenings. A city trip is easily paired with a few more days at the Black Sea on the Bulgarian Riviera. You’ll find a gorgeous seaside that rivals plenty of more-lauded Mediterranean stretches -- again but for a sweet fraction of the cost.
*Savings based on all vacation package bookings with Flight + Hotel on Expedia.com from January through December 2017, as compared to price of the same components booked separately. Savings will vary based on origin/destination, length of trip, stay dates and selected travel supplier(s). Savings not available on all packages. For Free Flight or 100% Off Flight deals, package savings is greater than or equal to the current cost of one component, when both are priced separately.
Why: Okay, you may be thinking, “Isn’t Saint Martin/Sint Maarten destroyed?” Yes, this unique Caribbean island, which is half French (Saint Martin) and half Dutch (Sint Maarten), was devastated by Hurricane Irma. But now it’s on the mend. Saint Martin’s famed Princess Juliana International Airport has been open since late October 2017. The majority of the island’s electricity has been restored, and many beaches, bars, restaurants and businesses have reopened their doors. Because tourists are still wary, many hotels have discounted rates (like Hotel Mercure for $169 night) as well as gorgeous Airbnb properties starting at $50 a night. It’s a win-win. Not only will you save money, but your money will be spent on businesses and people who really need our help.

From the blue waters and white sands of Mismaloya to the secluded shores and jade backdrop of Majahuitas, it would be easy to call Puerto Vallarta heaven on earth. But aside from its stunning beaches and natural landscapes, Puerto Vallarta has plenty more for budget travelers. Cruise the Rio Cuale Riverwalk, or tackle a challenging hike through the El Tuito jungle to reach the amazing Yelapa Waterfall.
Why: It might be expensive to get to the Northern Territory of Australia, but the investment of money and time is worth it to experience this once-in-a-lifetime destination. The Northern Territory of Australia is best known for Australia’s most famous natural landscape, the dual World Heritage listed, Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, which spans 311,000 acres of wilderness. Australia’s spiritual center, Ayer’s Rock, is all lit up by internationally acclaimed artist Bruce Munro’s immersive installation, “Field of Light Uluru.” The exhibition has been so popular since it launched in April 2016 that the artist has agreed to keep the installation open until December 31, 2020. Voyages Indigenous Tourism Australia sustainably manages Ayers Rock Resort on behalf of the Indigenous Land Corporation, and all profits from the business go toward supporting indigenous training and employment across Australia. Safari in Australia? What's that you say, mate? The diverse geographic terrain of the Northern Territory allows for travelers to go from the Outback to the tropical Top End, which experiences some of the dramatic climatic extremes of any region in Australia. The coastal floodplains are Australia’s answer to the Okavango Delta and the Kakadu and Arnhem Land are the heartland of indigenous culture. Stay at Kakadu Lodge and Caravan Park for as little as $78 a night, where you can save your money for the ultimate treat: a stay at the bucket list-worthy Bamurru Plains, a bush camp on the edge of the Kakadu National Park.
Why: While the devastating hurricanes of 2017 impacted just a portion of the Caribbean region, it damaged some of its more cruise-popular spots, like Tortola in the British Virgin Islands, St. Martin, Puerto Rico, St. Bart's, and the U.S.V.I.’s St. Thomas, St. Croix and St. John. While all are under significant rehab and rebuilding — and most are actually now open to cruise ships and tourists, this could be a perfect year to explore more exotic islands. That’s because lines like Windstar, which had, pre-hurricanes, planned to offer BVI-centric trips, relocated ships to other parts of the Caribbean. The winning trip? We love Wind Surf, one of the line’s sailing vessels, with its trip out of Barbados; ports include Martinique, Guadeloupe, and Montserrat — all islands that heretofore have often been bypassed by established cruise lines. And get this: There’s plenty of cruise capacity in this region, particularly when it comes to small ship sailings. In part, excess cabins are available because many skittish travelers canceled their bookings. As well, they can typically be more expensive (look for $300 per person, per day) than big ship vessels. But do the math: Windstar, and other small ship lines like Crystal, Regent Seven Seas, Seabourn, Azamara, Oceania and Viking Oceans, can actually be quite a good value when compared to land-based properties because they’re more price inclusive. Look for deals that include cocktails, gratuities and shore excursions not to mention pre- and post-cruise hotel stays and, in some cases, airfare to the ships’ port of embarkation.

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