The Best Budget Destinations of 2022

Kotor, Montenegro

Each year, the ShermansTravel team hand-picks our favorite bucket-list-worthy budget destinations. Now, we're excited to reveal our top picks for 2022 , which include an idyllic island paradise, a centuries-old European city, and one of the most underrated cities in the United States. 

Turks and Caicos

best value travel destinations 2022

You may not think of Turks and Caicos as a typical budget pick. However, the destination is now more affordable than ever. The island hasn't always been inexpensive to get to, but as of this past December, Frontier Airlines is offering non-stop flights from Providenciales starting at just $59 one-way. Sun Country Airlines also recently launched a non-stop flight from Minneapolis to Providenciales, with one-way fares as low as $159. 

But, once you land in this island paradise, where will you stay without breaking that bank? Consider Ports of Call Resort , which sits right along the iconic Grace Bay. Rooms at this boutique property start at $219, with breakfast included. Alternatively, the all-suite Royal West Indies is ideal for larger groups and starts at $295, and Osprey Beach Hotel – which is located on Grand Turk – offers a laid-back vibe and nightly rates starting at $200. There are even more properties with rooms under $200 per night, including the charming Pelican Beach Hotel , a family-owned boutique property. Once you've booked flights and accommodations, you'll be pleased to find that the best thing on the island – the exquisite beaches – are entirely free. 

Alaska Cruises

best value travel destinations 2022

Cruising the 49th state has become very popular over the last few years – and it's not as pricey as you think. See Alaska's jaw-dropping landscapes and beautiful wildlife for less with value-packed deals on larger lines, like Norwegian Cruise Line, Princess Cruises, and Holland America Line. Those with a taste for the finer things in life will be delighted to know that luxury cruise lines also sail to The Last Frontier  – and some even come with all-inclusive fares, complimentary cabin upgrades, onboard credit, and more.

No matter the interest, Alaska brings all the stops to the table. Almost every itinerary stops at Juneau , Skagway , and Ketchikan , all of which offer bucket-list-worthy excursions: In the capital of Juneau, find adventure at Mendenhall Glacier and interesting history at the Alaska State Museum. Taking the scenic route always pays off in Skagway (a former gold-rush-era town) on The White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad. The railway runs vintage locomotives through the mountains, which means you can always expect magical views. Ketchikan features rich wildlife, Native American totem poles, and a shopping strip full of locally owned businesses. 

As of the date of publication, we found fares as low as $650 per person for a 7-night sailing aboard Norwegian Jewel,  which includes free perks such as an open bar, specialty dining, excursions, wifi, and extra guests.

Lombok, Indonesia

Sure, Bali is great – but it's also crowded, which only hikes up the cost of visiting. That's why travelers searching for a more secluded locale should visit the island of Lombok instead. Like Bali, Lombok is famous for its natural beauty. Expect white-sand beaches (Mandalika and Kuta are favorites) and awe-inspiring volcanos (including Mount Rinjani, which is over 12,200 feet tall), as well as tranquil waterfalls and colorful coral reefs. And, since the destination lacks lots of tourists (read: no markups), you'll find value-packed, ultra-affordable food and drink options that clock in at around $11 to $15 per day.

You can also expect incredible value when it comes to accommodations. Beachfront hotels, such as the luxe Katamaran Resort , which offers ocean-facing rooms, suites, and villas (some of which have private infinity pools and balconies!), hover around $60 to $100 per night depending on your room type. Cut costs even further by selecting a hotel that's not on the beach, such as the sleek and contemporary Aston Inn , which has an on-site spa and outdoor swimming pool (from $32 per night).

While Lombok does have an airport, most travelers can save by flying to Bali and hopping on a small propeller plane (approximately 20 minutes, tickets from $30). You can also take a ferry to the island; however, it's a bit more of a hassle since you'll need to get to the rural island of Sumbawa. If you plan on exploring more of the Gili Islands, Lombok is your best bet due to its central location. As a result, you can also expect cheap transportation prices when island hopping. 

Boise, Idaho

Under-the-radar, fast-growing Boise offers the perfect combination of outdoor activities and attractions you'd expect from bigger cities – all without the high price tag. The boutique Inn at 500 Capitol and  The Modern Hotel & Bar  (a hipster-fied roadside property) both offer comfortable, affordable accommodations. At KIN , a restaurant and art gallery space, inventive seasonal tasting menus offer five-course communal meals for $90 per person or $125 with an optional beverage pairing.

Experience the thriving local beverage scene with a wine flight for $20 at Telaya Wine Co. , cider tasting at Meriwether Cider for $12, or beer sampling at Barbarian Brewing for $18 to $22. Plus, complimentary activities abound: Walk the largest outdoor art gallery in the Northwest, Freak Art Gallery ; hike along the foothills surrounding the city; or stroll the 25-mile long Boise River Greenbelt . 

Covington, Louisiana

This charming town on Louisiana's Northshore is often overshadowed by New Orleans, its buzzier neighbor. But, don't sleep on Covington, which is known for its dining scene, art galleries, and, of course, loads of Southern hospitality.

Visitors should book a stay at the luxurious Southern Hotel , where rates start at $150 per night. There's a fantastic restaurant, a handsome bar with craft cocktails, Southern-chic guest rooms, a small pool, and a lobby that's been accurately dubbed Covington's living room. Don't miss dinner or brunch at  Oxlot 9 , which is beloved by locals for its high-end Gulf-Southern fare (chargrilled oysters for $15; entrees under $30).  Del Porto is one of those restaurants that would be incredibly expensive in a larger city but is much more approachable – though just as exquisite – in Covington. While in this part of the state, experiencing nature is a given.  The Tammany Trace is a 31-mile paved path that can be walked, biked, or rollerbladed under the shady trees. Plus, it's completely free.

Spirit Airlines offers non-stop flights into New Orleans that start at just $50 – and Covington is less than an hour's drive away. 

Riviera Maya, Mexico

best value travel destinations 2022

Are you looking for an affordable, warm-weather escape away from the hustle and bustle of Cancun ? Head south along the coast of the Caribbean Sea to Riviera Maya, where you'll find an array of lodging, food, and drink options (ceviche and cerveza, anyone?) to suit any style and budget. Meanwhile, those looking for activities beyond the white-sand beaches will be pleased with wallet-friendly excursions in culture-rich Tulum  and history-, nature-filled Xcaret .

Getting here is easy, too. That's because there is an abundance of affordable round-trip flight offerings from major gateways across the U.S. In fact, we found round-trip flights on low-cost carriers like Frontier for as little as $139 this winter. 

Denver, Colorado

Denver is best known as a cold-weather oasis thanks to its ample skiing trails and winter sports opps. However, the vibrant city is worth visiting any time of year, specifically April-May and September-October, which is considered Denver's shoulder season. During these months, travelers will enjoy mild, mostly sunny weather – plus fewer crowds.

The city is also home to dozens of free attractions that are actually fun. Highlights include gallery-hopping Golden Triangle Creative District , touring The Colorado State Capitol, jogging (or walking!) along the historic Red Rocks Amphitheater, or perusing the expansive Denver Art Museum . Families with young children can explore the Children's Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus , while beer enthusiasts can sign up for the Coors Brewery Tour . The 42-mile Cherry Creek Trail, which winds through lush greenery, is popular among tourists. 

Additionally, an increasing number of airlines are adding more routes to Denver – most recently Allegiant Air, which will offer flights to the Mile High City for as low as $39 as of March 2022. 

best value travel destinations 2022

Rolling green hills, cozy pubs, and incredibly friendly locals are just a few reasons to visit Ireland . The county hasn't always been known to be a budget destination, but there are actually ways to make the Emerald Isle more affordable. 

Start with a vacation package, which allows you to knock out a good portion of expenses (not to mention hassle) at a bundled price. We like this one from Great Value Vacations , which includes a stay at Adare Manor, airfare, and loads more. Alternatively, the Bed & Breakfast package allows you to choose from dozens of B&Bs around the country and effectively build your own road trip itinerary. Keep in mind that the country's most iconic stops are often free or inexpensive (think: The Cliffs of Moher, historic castles, and plenty of pubs with live music). Plus, Aer Lingus offers non-stop flights from the U.S. – and all over Europe! – starting well below $500.

Las Vegas and the Reno/Lake Tahoe region may take the spotlight, but there's plenty more to explore in Nevada. In fact, The Silver State is home to many small towns with authentic western history and charming independent hotels to match, from Pioche to Ely and beyond. For example, in Tonopah, consider the gorgeous Belvada Hotel (from $129). Or, if you're feeling extra adventurous, spend a night or two at the world-famous Clown Motel (from $80).  

The best way to experience the country's seventh-largest state  embarking on a road trip  – and if you pick up a rental car on non-holiday dates, rates can be found as low as $7 per day. And, between stops, nature takes center stage. From the otherworldly Cathedral Gorge State Park to the sprawling Great Basin National Park , to Joshua tree-lined Route 15, there are plenty of stunning vistas to take in no matter where the road takes you.   

Kotor, Montenegro 

best value travel destinations 2022

Montenegro is often overlooked in favor of its neighboring country, Croatia – but don't let that deter you from visiting. One place not to miss? The coastal city of Kotor. This destination, which is flanked by the clear-blue waters of the Adriatic, is most famous for its charming Old Town (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), charming streets that appear straight out of a storybook, and centuries-old architecture. The 2,000-year-old city is best explored on foot – and at your own pace. 

Many of the city's best attractions are either completely free or almost free, including The Ladder of Kotor (a famous walking/hiking path) and the historic Kotor Maritime Museum , where admission is just over $4.50 per person. If you prefer a more laid-back activity, visit the secluded Bajova Kula Beach. (Pro tip: Enter on the right side for free admission; otherwise, you'll pay approx. $11 per person.) Meanwhile, Durmitor National Park – another UNESCO World Heritage Site – is another highlight with its winding rivers, vast gorges, expansive forests, and scenic hiking trails. Entrance to the park costs just $3  – a total steal, especially compared to other national parks in Europe. 

When it comes time to retreat to your hotel room, you'll have plenty of affordable options. Here, mid-range hotels hover around $80 to $110, while more upscale options clock in at around $170 per night. Consider visiting in the shoulder season (May, September, or October) for even cheaper accommodations and fewer crowds. On that note, it's essential to keep in mind that the "pricier" accommodations are those that are centrally located in the heart of Old Town – ultimately saving you time, effort, and energy when it comes to exploring the city's best sites.  

Want to take that trip for free - and score some valuable miles for your next excursion? Check out our  top pick travel credit cards  for the best welcome bonuses, perks, and plenty of cash back.

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The 9 Best Cheap Destinations to Visit in 2022

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It’s no secret that the best budget destinations offer incredible attractions, eats, and culture — all available at affordable and accessible prices. From a bustling port city in South Korea to an art lover’s oasis in the heart of the American southwest, read on for a few of our favorite cheap places to visit in 2022

Istanbul, Turkey

Colorful boats in the water in Istanbul, Turkey

Located in both Europe and Asia, Istanbul is celebrated for its storied history. The Turkish capital is also known to be cheaper than other European metropolises, making it a popular travel destination for budget travelers. Istanbul is also home to dozens of museums and architectural wonders. The iconic Hagia Sophia, which dates back thousands of years, and the centuries-old Topkapı Palace, renowned for its Ottoman architecture, are both must-visits. To save money on admission, consider purchasing a Museum Pass and/or Welcome Card , which offers entry into an array of famous attractions at a steep discount. Explore the Grand Bazaar —where you can snap up affordable tokens from more than 4,000 shops — or walk along the pedestrian-friendly İstiklal Avenue, which boasts galleries, eateries, shops, bars, and nightclubs galore.

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Skyline of Santa Fe, New Mexico at sunset

Arts and culture lovers should add Sante Fe, New Mexico, to their travel bucket list next year. New Mexico’s vibrant capital—which dates all the way back to 1610—is teeming with breathtaking pueblo-inspired architecture and affordable activities. And, the best part? Many of Santa Fe’s most notable attractions can be enjoyed at an ultra-affordable price. The Plaza, a National Historic Landmark, is one of the city’s most famous spots for shopping, people-watching, and dining. While you’re here, be sure to spend some time strolling through the city’s bustling and highly walkable downtown area. You can also wander through a handful of museums, including the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum , New Mexico History Museum , and the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture . If you prefer interactive exhibits, head to the famed Meow Wolf , which is renowned for its multimedia offerings and innovative art installations. Lastly, don’t forget to go gallery hopping down Canyon Road in the city’s famed arts district. 

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Krabi, Thailand

Boats on Railay Beach in Krabi, Thailand

Thailand is known for its low cost of living and wallet-friendly lodging options, and Krabi is the place to be if you’re craving a tropical beach vacay. Krabi tends to fly more under-the-radar than Phuket and Koh Samui, which means you’ll enjoy fewer crowds and lower prices. Plus, the destination is nothing short of idyllic with its postcard-worthy white-sand beaches, lush mangroves, and limestone rocks. Phra Nang Beach is one of the destination’s most popular beaches thanks to its picturesque surroundings, while Railay Beach attracts sun-seekers and rock climbers alike. If you need a break from the beach, head to the hilltop Wat Tham Suea (AKA Tiger Cave Temple), where you’ll climb more than 1,700 steps to reach a nearly 60-foot-tall Buddha statue. Meanwhile, Thung Teao Forest Natural Park is famous for its rich biodiversity and sparkling Emerald Pool, which—you guessed it—is known for its clear, jewel-toned waters.  Khao Kanab Nam is another highlight, with its limestone cliffs, fairytale-worthy caves, and lush greenery. 

Adelaide, Australia 

Purple flowering trees lining a street in Adelaide, Australia

Move over, Sydney. Instead, consider visiting Adelaide, which has been named the country’s most affordable capital city . The Southern coastal city is packed with unique food and drink offerings, including Africola (Southern African BBQ) and Osteria Oggi (classic Italian). After your meal, wander your way through the Adelaide Central Market , which dates all the way back to 1870. Meanwhile, wine-lovers can venture out to one (or more!) of the 18 surrounding wine regions, including Adelaide Hills and the Barossa Valley. After you’ve had your fill of fine vintages, head to one of the nearby gardens for some respite. Admire beautiful flora at the Botanic Gardens of South Australia or the Japanese-inspired Himeji Garden . Alternatively, hit up one of the museums, such as the South Australian Museum and the Art Gallery of South Australia , among several others. 

Busan, South Korea

Skyline and coast of Busan, South Korea

South Korea truly offers something for everyone, and, thanks to the excellent exchange rate , it makes a fabulous vacation destination for budget travelers. Busan, Korea’s second largest city, tends to attract fewer tourists than Seoul—making it a perfect option for those in search of a more laid-back locale. There’s plenty to do in this port city, from visiting the centuries-old Beomeosa Temple to exploring the more contemporary Sea Life Aquarium , to checking out the famous Bujeon Market , which is considered one of the country’s best. An abundance of hot springs, beaches, and mountains makes this city a haven for nature-lovers and beach-goers as well. Geumjeong Mountain offers incredible hiking, while Gwangali Beach is renowned for its buzzy bar scene. Gamcheon Culture Village is bursting with colorful houses, murals, shops, and eateries—plus fantastic mountain vistas. 

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Budapest, Hungary 

Aerial view of the skyline of Budapest, Hungary at sunset

Budapest, one of the largest cities in the European Union (E.U.), is also one of the cheapest thanks to the low exchange rate . Historic attractions abound in this riverfront city, such as the Chain Bridge (which connects the Buda and Pest districts) and Heroes’ Square, which is home to the Millennium Monument . Take a ride up the funicular from Castle Hill to Old Town Buda, where you’ll be treated to amazing city views. Once you arrive in Old Town, check out the Budapest History Museum and the Hungarian National Gallery . Fisherman’s Bastion is an architecture lover’s dream come true, with storybook-worthy Neo-Romanesque courtyards and towers and beautiful views of the Danube River. Speaking of views, you’ll find some of the best along the Danube Promenade. Alternatively, take in the sites from the water via a river cruise. After, make your way to Budapest’s Central Market Hall , which is known for its colorful tilework, and central locale.

Washington, DC 

Busy street and Capitol Building at dusk in Washington, D.C., United States of America

The capital of the U.S. is chock-full of free attractions, making it especially ideal for budget travelers and history buffs. Carve out some time to stroll the National Mall before wandering through the Smithsonian (AKA the world’s largest museum complex). DC On Foot offers free guided walking tours of the city, too. Other free must-sees include the Library of Congress , the National Archives Building , and the National Gallery of Art . Afterward, explore the charming neighborhood of Georgetown (stop for coffee and a cupcake at the beloved Baked & Wired which will cost you less than $10) followed by an afternoon at The Wharf , a swanky waterfront complex for shopping, strolling, dining, and kayaking—plus concerts and seasonal activities aplenty. 

Bucharest, Romania

Pink flowers and fountain in Bucharest, Romania

Romania is one of the cheapest countries to visit in Europe.. The capital city, Bucharest, has been listed among the world’s most affordable cities, as well. The city has been nicknamed “Little Paris” for its stunning architecture. What’s more, the city certainly lives up to its playful moniker. The massive Palatul Parlamentului is an architectural masterpiece with more than 1,000 rooms. Old Town is oozing with historic charm. It’s also home to the National Museum of Romanian History, 19th century-era buildings, and plenty of food and drink options to choose from. The city is best explored on foot, and, fortunately, there are dozens of free walking tours to choose from (see here and here for some inspiration). The best part? Admission to top sites won’t cost more than $15 max. 

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Mérida, Mexico 

Large, colorful sign reading

The Yucatán capital is best known for its vibrant Mayan culture and white limestone buildings, earning it the nickname “The White City.”  Mérida is renowned for its incredible (and affordable!) culinary offerings, and it’s even been named a Creative City of Gastronomy by UNESCO . Cheap eats (don’t miss Wayan’e , Maya de Asia , or MUGY ) and wallet-friendly lodging options abound. The destination is also celebrated for its centuries-old architecture. The city’s primary hub, Plaza de la Independencia, is flanked by two colonial-era churches. Other landmarks include Casa de Montejo, a 16th century-era mansion-turned-museum, the Mayan World Museum of Mérida , and the mansions lining the Paseo de Montejo. The surrounding area is also home to several Mayan ruins and awe-inspiring cenotes (swimming holes), making Mérida a great jumping-off point. 

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best value travel destinations 2022

As a new year begins, we're excited to shine a light on our Best in Travel 2022 list.

The top 10 cities, countries and regions around the world were carefully selected by our editors to inspire a new year of travel.

Now we're unveiling a whole new series of stories, video interviews, and tips for turning our Best in Travel list into your travel reality, whether that happens in 2022 or further down the line.

These destinations span the globe and allow you, the traveler, to immerse yourself in local culture.

Our how-to guides will show you how to make the most of your trip with tips on how you can have a positive impact on your destination.

Find out how you can sustainably trek to Everest Base Camp, enjoy a stargazer's guide to Chile's Atacama desert, and follow an insider's guide to Nigeria's city that never sleeps: Lagos.

As the pandemic continues to impact an ever-shifting patchwork of places around the world, we're working hard to balance travel and safety, and a sense of caution alongside our sense of wanderlust.

As such, our 2022 list is as much a bucket list for the future as it is a to-visit list for right now.

See the full list here.

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10 cheap worldwide travel destinations to consider for 2022.

After sitting at home in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic and dipping our toes back into travel in 2021, maybe it's time to think about making a bigger travel splash in 2022. And a great, international one at that.

See: Will Travel See Another Halt Until 2022? Find: Is It Better To Use a Travel Agent or Plan Your Own Vacation?

Travel experts shared with us their ideas of some of the best-priced places in the world in terms of hotels and food, and GOBankingRates put together a list of 10 international destinations that could provide adventure, ambiance and affordability in the new year.

The destinations range from Mexico to Asia to the Caribbean and beyond, and whether you want beach and relaxation or the outdoors and nightlife, there's something for everyone on this list. Of course, before and after booking, you'll want to stay up to date on COVID-19 protocols and requirements. Read on to learn more about your potential 2022 vacation.

Last updated: Oct. 15, 2021

Cancun, Mexico

When it's winter everywhere else in January, the average high in Cancun is 81 degrees. And it has the endorsement of Jeremy Scott Foster, the CEO and founder of TravelFreak , a professional travel and adventure guide.

"Cancun has everything to offer its visitors; it's practically a multi-generational destination from luxury resorts, sandy beaches and fantastic nightlife," he said. "Luckily, it's also incredibly affordable. Where prices are highest during the first week of each month, rates then reduce to approximately $50 [per night] for two people in a three-star resort and $80 in a four-star resort."

From the Pet Sitter to the Tour Guide: Here's Who To Pay During Your Vacation

Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico

If you prefer something less touristy in Mexico than Cancun, head to a different part of the Yucatan Peninsula. You'll enjoy similar weather, as well as plenty of spots for swimming and snorkeling, and experience the local food scene at an affordable price.

"Cities just slightly off the path of the tourist mecca of Cancun, including Playa del Carmen, Tulum and Merida, offer an incredible variety of activities, exquisite food, and inexpensive lodging," said Wes Jacobs, the founder of Apollo Medical Travel . "Young travelers in groups can consider staying in open bunk hostels for $8 USD a night. Airbnb accommodations in a private room or boutique hotel start at around $25 USD per night."

More: 10 Secret Ways To Find Really Cheap Flights

To Kevin Mercier, a travel blogger , India is the place to visit in 2022.

"I believe India is one of the countries more travelers need to start researching in 2022," he said. "Travelers can find everything from the beautiful mountains, beaches, wildlife tours, to culinary delights and delicious local drinks here. India is also one of the best yet cheapest locations for a romantic vacation."

How affordable? Right now, very affordable given the favorable exchange rate from rupees to dollars.

"Unless you're looking to stay at a five-star hotel or resort, you'll find it hard to spend $50 a day here. You can get by on around $30 in most Indian cities by staying at cheap guest houses instead of hotels. The average price for a single person for accommodation in India is around 1,120 rupees ($15)."

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If you've always dreamed of a safari, 2022 might be the year.

"I'd suggest travelers to consider East Africa. You can expect to pay as low as $15 a night for hotel stays and you get so much bang for your buck," said Will Hatton, the founder of travel blog The Broke Backpacker . "You'd struggle to book a place in a 30-bed dorm in Australia for that kind of money, so take your hard-earned money and spend it where it spreads so much.

"Kenya is a very diverse country with many options to choose from. You'll find that most places will offer a safari and the beach and be of a reasonable price."

Learn: How To Save Money on Hotels Anywhere in the World, Any Time of Year

Istanbul, Turkey's largest city in terms of population, has emerged as a destination both for those looking to travel on a budget and for those who have a bit more to spend on vacation, said Sean Lau, a travel expert and travel blogger at LivingOutLau .

"One of the best worldwide travel destinations in 2022 is Istanbul," he said. "As the value of the Turkish lira continues to drop, Istanbul becomes one of the best value-for-money travel destinations. Learn about the captivating history of one of the most influential cities in the world, indulge in delightful Turkish cuisine and discover the gorgeous Turkish handicrafts."

Lau said a luxury hotel won't cost more than $100 a night, with budget hotels available in the $20 range.

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Lombok, Indonesia

Lombok is an island in Indonesia for the adventurous. Trek to a waterfall in the midst of a jungle, go snorkeling or diving, or climb Mount Rinjani, an active volcano. When you're done with your adventures, stop at Air Kalak Hot Springs to enjoy its medicinal properties.

"For those looking for somewhere cheap, well, Lombok offers a broad choice of just about anything," said James Cutajar, who runs The Travel Deck , a website focusing on Southeast Asia. "Hotels start at around $30 a night and food is just as affordable. For instance, fresh grilled fish including sides won't set you back more than $10."

Helpful: The Top 10 Best Travel Hacks To Save the Most Money

Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

"One destination we're seeing a lot of bookings for 2022 already that is very affordable is Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic," said Val Streif, the marketing manager at GetMyBoat , a boat rental app similar to Airbnb. "The Dominican Republic is often regarded as one of the most affordable destinations in the Caribbean, offering budget-friendly travel in a region where many islands only offer expensive luxury resorts and pricey hotels."

The beach destination also "offers a lot of authentic culture and unique experiences, while also providing all the touristy comforts you want on a vacation," Streif said.

Helpful: 13 Insider Secrets From Travel Agents That Will Save You Money

Phuket, Thailand

Phuket reopened to visitors who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in July, with some hotel rooms as low as $1 per night to attract tourists. While the prices might not be that low in 2022, it's still poised to be a bargain, said Luke Charny, the founder of A Chef's Tour , which organizes culinary tours in Asia and Latin America.

Charny picks Phuket as the place to be in 2022 because of quiet beaches, excellent infrastructure for tourists and "some seriously good discounts." He said travelers should be able to get rooms overlooking the beach for $20 a night.

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Tallinn, Estonia

Henrik Jeppesen, a travel blogger and the founder of Every Country in the World , liked Tallinn so much that he moved there.

"Tallinn has a fantastic old town with well-preserved buildings and it's a UNESCO World Heritage Site," he said. "The best value is one of the monthlong stays at the beautiful contemporary Citybox Hotel starting at just 350 euros (about $405 USD) per month. "If you are looking for a shorter visit, Hestia Hotel Kentmanni is a fantastic hotel in a great quiet location with great offers including breakfast and spa access. Tallinn is a great place to live and a fantastic place to visit. ... Oh by the way, the number one ranked restaurant on TripAdvisor has lunch offers for just 5 euros (about $6) Monday through Friday."

Options: 10 Credit Cards To Consider for Travel Rewards

Belgrade, Serbia

The Serbian capital city has a mix of historic sites, river views and nightlife. Torben Lonne, the co-founder and chief editor of review guide DiveIn.com , recommends it for its "vibrant atmosphere, friendly people, and cheap food and drinks."

"You can find very good deals for accommodation and rent entire apartments for $20 or $30 per night," he said. "Since Belgrade is very well connected with public transport, you don't have to be located downtown in order to get to all of the attractions easily. Being further away from the city center reduces the prices significantly and allows you to see other parts of the city. When it comes to food and drinks, most of the traditional restaurants are very cheap. ... More importantly, the food is delicious and chefs mainly use quality, organic ingredients that you can also find at one of the farmers markets every day."

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25 amazing journeys for 2022

We’re ready to explore again. Here are the best adventures for the year ahead.

Guests enjoy the highest Via Ferrata in North America at Arapahoe Basin Ski Area

Ready to travel again? Our global editors picked the planet’s 25 most exciting destinations for 2022. Five categories—Nature, Adventure, Sustainability, Culture and History, and Family—frame unforgettable journeys of discovery. This year’s list celebrates a number of World Heritage sites in honor of UNESCO’s 50 years of helping to safeguard cultural and natural treasures. Although the pandemic changed when, where, and how we travel, we are eager to unleash our wanderlust—and see what wonders we’ll uncover.      

BEST PLACES TO ENJOY NATURE

Iced over Rock island in Lake Bikal, Russia

Lake Baikal, Russia

Help save a natural wonder. Baikal is so vast and deep, many locals call it a sea. Covering some 12,200 square miles and with an average depth of 2,442 feet, the massive lake is a natural wonder. It’s also in serious trouble. Despite being named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1996, Lake Baikal has experienced ongoing pollution, the recent weakening of government protections, and new threats, such as large-scale tourism development. As a result, the International Union for Conservation of Nature deemed the lake’s environmental World Heritage Outlook of “significant concern” in 2020.

Visitors can help safeguard the lake and its varied landscapes—including tundra, steppe, boreal forest, and virgin beaches—by volunteering with Great Baikal Trail Association , the nonprofit environmental group creating a hiking route around the lake. “Volunteering helps protect Lake Baikal nature by developing ecotourism infrastructure,” says association president Elena Chubakova.

Hiking the trail is a planet-friendly way to spot some of the 1,200 Lake Baikal plant and animal species found nowhere else on Earth, such as the nerpa, the world’s only exclusively freshwater seal.   — Victoria Meleshko, National Geographic Traveler Russia

Elephants walk around Mudumu National park in Namibia

Discover the next great safari. Namibia evokes images of deserts, immense dunes, and parched mountains. But the Caprivi Strip, a narrow finger of land that juts out toward the east in the extreme north of the country, is a green, wildlife-rich territory. The presence of the Okavango, Kwando, Chobe, and Zambezi Rivers creates an ideal habitat for numerous animal species.

During the second half of the 20th century, the area was the scene of intense military activity. Remote and difficult to access, it was a prime corridor for various armed groups. After Namibia gained independence in 1990, peace—and wildlife—gradually returned.

In the eastern section of the region, Nkasa Rupara National Park is a secret jewel. A ranger station and tented lodge that opened in recent years have made it more accessible to tourism, but it’s still seldom visited. Encompassed by the Kwando-Linyanti River system to the south and by swamps and lagoons to the north, Nkasa Rupara is Namibia’s largest protected wetland. It’s described as a “mini Okavango,” as its floodwaters mirror Botswana ’s more famous Okavango Delta . The park is home to the largest population of buffalo in Namibia. Predators include lions, leopards, and hyenas, while crocodiles and hippos abound in the river.  

Mahango Game Park , in the west, includes wetlands and mopane forests. Here roam large herds of elephants, hippos, crocodiles, and nearly all the antelope species of Namibia, including the elusive semiaquatic sitatunga. Go with Nat Geo: See otherworldly landscapes and seek out endangered black rhinos in Namibia. —Marco Cattaneo, National Geographic Traveler Italy

the lush forest in Cape Otway, Australia

Victoria, Australia

Drive the Great Ocean Road.   Green shoots of regeneration are popping up across Australia , where the 2019-2020 bushfires burned some 72,000 square miles of land. The disasters led to the deaths of nearly three dozen people and more than a billion animals.

Playing its own role in these rejuvenation efforts, Wildlife Wonders , in Victoria’s Otways region, is a new wildlife sanctuary tucked away off the Great Ocean Road amid lush ancient forest and waterfalls. It’s the brainchild of Brian Massey, the landscape designer of New Zealand ’s Hobbiton movie set tours. Massey, along with botanists, scientists, zoologists, and environmental specialists, has crafted a sinuous wooden path that winds through the refuge and blends seamlessly into the landscape.

Visitors can set off on 75-minute guided tours of the sylvan site, wandering through thickets of eucalyptus trees and admiring the koalas, wallabies, and bandicoots that now call the sanctuary home. During a stop at the Research Base, guests can learn more about how the site provides a safe space for native species like the long-nosed potoroo, a marsupial that often falls prey to invasive predators such as foxes and cats.

All profits from Wildlife Wonders go toward the Conservation Ecology Centre , which helps to fund several vital conservation projects in the Otways, including one that studies the movement of potoroos before, during, and after planned forest fires. — Connor McGovern, National Geographic Traveller UK

an aerial view of the cara blanca pools in the Belize Maya Forest

Peek at tropical wildlife. The race to preserve one of the largest remaining tropical rainforests in the Americas got a big boost recently. In April 2021, a coalition of conservation partners, led by the Nature Conservancy , purchased 236,000 acres of tropical forest in northwestern Belize to create the Belize Maya Forest Reserve . Along with saving some of the most biodiverse forests in the world from denuding and development, the new protected area—which is contiguous with the neighboring Rio Bravo Conservation Management Area (RBCMA)—closes a huge gap in a vital wildlife corridor that runs from southeast Mexico through Guatemala and into Belize.

The combined reserve, which protects nearly a tenth of Belize’s land area, safeguards and connects essential habitats for an amazing variety of endemic and endangered wild things. These include the tapir, Belize’s national animal; black howler monkeys; more than 400 species of birds; and some of Central America’s largest surviving populations of jaguar. For now, ecotourism activities are based in the more established RBCMA, which has two rustic lodges and offers guided expeditions. Go with Nat Geo:   Take a private tour of the Maya ruins of Tikal, Guatemala, and the cays of Belize.  

Tent camping under a rising Milky Way in Voyegeur's National Park in Minnesota

Northern Minnesota  

Turn off the lights.   Thousands upon thousands of stars dazzle above northern Minnesota . This remote region bordering the Canadian province of Ontario has little to no light pollution, and residents are determined to keep it that way.

The Heart of the Continent Dark Sky Initiative is a cross-border effort underway to create one of the largest dark-sky destinations on the planet. Two of its biggest pieces are in Minnesota: Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness , the world’s largest International Dark Sky Sanctuary at more than a million acres, and neighboring Voyageurs National Park , the state’s first International Dark Sky Park. Both wild places received dark-sky certification in 2020, and Ontario’s Quetico Provincial Park , which adjoins the wilderness area, earned International Dark Sky Park status in early 2021.

( Here’s how to see auroras—from the Great Lakes .)

“The preservation of darkness at places like Voyageurs National Park not only provides wondrous views and ecological benefits to wildlife,” says Christina Hausman Rhode, executive director of the nonprofit Voyageurs Conservancy . “It also allows us a window to the past; to see the skies as they were hundreds of years ago, used for navigation and storytelling by peoples like the voyageurs of the fur trade and the Indigenous Ojibwe.”

BEST PLACES FOR ADVENTURE

Guests enjoy the highest Via Ferrata in North America at Arapahoe Basin Ski Area

Arapahoe Basin, Colorado

Climb the Rockies. For unparalleled views of the Continental Divide, one must climb hand over foot up North America’s highest via ferrata. Arapahoe Basin ’s “iron way”—a climbing route comprising metal rungs and cables—begins at the base of granite Rocky Mountain cliffs and ascends nearly 1,200 feet to a 13,000-foot summit.

A glance below reveals a weathered Colorado landscape dotted with green moss and pink and purple flora, and rock gardens created by the cliffs themselves, the fallen chunks varying in size from pebbles to Volkswagens. The thin air is occasionally punctuated by the shrill peep of a marmot or pika.

Even those without prior rock-climbing experience can scale the cliffs with a guide, using the metal rungs while also gripping the rock or wedging a foot into a crack for leverage. To avoid what could be a thousand-foot plunge to certain death, climbers must clip their harnesses from one cable to the next as they go. The route is entirely exposed and thunderstorms can roll in suddenly.

From the cliffs above, high-alpine mountain goats are often stoic observers, but typically disappear as travelers reach the summit. This marks the halfway point. From here, climbers must also descend, which, for via ferrata first-timers like Michael Lytle, can be the most harrowing part of the journey.

“You try not to look all the way down. The highway looks like a piece of thread from up there,” Lytle says. “The fear factor is real.”  

Millions of jellyfish fill a unique marine lake in Palau

Swim with sharks. When you arrive here, the stamp in your passport will include the Palau Pledge , which all visitors must sign, promising that “the only footprints I shall leave are those that will wash away.” The 59-word eco-pledge was drafted by and for the children of this remote western Pacific archipelago to help protect Palau’s culture and environment from the negative impacts of tourism.

Eighty percent of the nation’s waters—recognized by National Geographic’s Pristine Seas project as one of the richest marine ecosystems on the planet—is preserved as the Palau National Marine Sanctuary . At 183,000 square miles, the no-take sanctuary is one of the world’s largest protected marine areas, safeguarding some 700 species of coral and more than 1,300 species of fish, including a dazzling variety of sharks.

“From the air, Palau looks like paradise on earth,” says Pristine Seas founder and National Geographic Explorer in Residence Enric Sala . “When you get underwater, you’re transported to a different world.”

During the 20th annual Shark Week Palau, from February 27 to March 6, 2022, divers can observe and participate in citizen science–assisted counts of numerous shark species, such as grey reef, blacktip, blue, tiger, and hammerhead. Daily dive sites are chosen for their abundant sharks and other marine life, including large aggregations of manta rays and thousands of spawning fish.  

Snorkelers can join a February or November Oceanic Society tour of the UNESCO World Heritage–listed Rock Islands Southern Lagoon , home to reef sharks, dugongs, giant clams, and marine lakes teeming with millions of golden jellyfish. Go with Nat Geo:   Discover the undersea wonders of Palau on this snorkel and kayak tour . — National Geographic Traveller India

Three people on bikes cross over the Seine River in France

Seine River, France

Cycle a new bike trail. La Seine à Vélo is a new cycling trail worthy of painter Claude Monet, whose house and famous water lilies in Giverny are on the route. But the 270-mile Paris-to-the-sea path, opened in October 2020, offers lesser known masterpieces too, such as the colorful street art that brightens the Canal Saint-Denis in Paris .

On the trail’s 15 stages, bikers pass through protected natural areas, including Normandy’s Grande Noé Bird Reserve , located along a major migratory flyway. While rolling across Normandy , they can visit the ruins of Jumièges Abbey , founded in 654, and take a Benedictine monk–led tour of Abbaye Saint-Wandrille , a centuries-old working abbey. The tearoom and gardens of Château de Bizy , a royal residence built in 1740 and inspired by Versailles , offer a respite off two wheels.

While Monet isn’t the only reason to ride the trail, pedal-pushers who love paintings should allow extra time for the Giverny Museum of Impressionism , which explores the revolutionary 19th-century art movement. — Gabriel Joseph-Dezaize, National Geographic Traveler France

New Brunswick

New Brunswick, Canada

Tackle a backcountry trail. A turtle-shaped rock near Nepisiguit Falls, in the Canadian province of New Brunswick , carries with it a legend told by the Mi’gmaq people (also spelled Mi’kmaq). When water levels drop, the “turtle,” named Egomoqaseg, or “rock like a moving ship,” appears to be climbing up out of the river, says trail master Jason Grant, whose father-in-law, Mi’gmaq elder Gilbert Sewell, was a keeper of the story.

“Legend goes, once the turtle is completely out of the water, it will be the end of the world for the Mi’gmaq people,” says Grant. Based on his annual visits to the rock, Grant adds, Egomoqaseg has a long way to go before reaching dry ground.

The falls are a stop along a millennia-old First Nations migration route that has been developed into the longest backcountry hiking trail in the Canadian Maritimes. Running 93 miles along the Nepisiguit River, the rugged Sentier Nepisiguit Mi’gmaq Trail follows ancient portage pathways used by the nomadic Mi’gmaq.  

The route begins at sea level at Daly Point Nature Reserve in Bathurst and ends at Bathurst Lake in Mount Carleton Provincial Park , home to 2,690-foot-tall Mount Carleton, the highest peak in the Maritimes. To promote respect for the relevance of the trail to the Mi’gmaq people, the route’s restoration, completed in 2018, included incorporating Mi’gmaq language and culture, such as teepee campsites and a turtle logo inspired by Egomoqaseg.  

Rafts of people float down a river in the Rio Pacuare Valley

Trek from sea to sea. Stretching across Costa Rica from the Caribbean to the Pacific, El Camino de Costa Rica is a 174-mile-long window into life far off the well-trod tourist path. The 16-stage hiking route primarily follows public roads as it passes through remote villages and towns, Indigenous Cabecar lands, and protected natural areas.  

It’s designed to spark economic activity in rural districts. Local families, nonprofits, and a network of micro-entrepreneurs, such as Ecomiel honey producers, the woman-owned Finca El Casquillo organic farm, and La Cabaña sustainable coffee micro-mill, provide most of the trail’s lodging, food, tours, and other hiker amenities.

Due to the trail’s remoteness and its patchwork of tourism services, Mar a Mar (Sea to Sea)—the nonprofit partnership formed in 2016 to develop, promote, and help sustain El Camino—strongly recommends hiking with a guide. Ticos a Pata , UrriTrek Costa Rica , and ViaLig Journeys are among the tour operators offering guided experiences—from single-day hikes to coast-to-coast treks with multiple river crossings and rambles through ranch lands, rainforests, cloud forests, and sugarcane plantations. Multiday itineraries typically feature optional adventures, such as a white-water rafting trip on the world-class Pacuare River rapids. — National Geographic Traveler Korea

BEST PLACES CHAMPIONING SUSTAINABILITY

Cobalt-winged Parakeet parrots lick clay in the Napo Wildlife Center in Yasuni National Park Quechua

Yasuní National Park, Ecuador

Fight for the forest. In recognition of the global importance of the Amazon, France is leading the fight against deforestation in eastern Ecuador ’s Yasuní National Park , designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1989. The almost 4,000-square-mile park—home to mahogany trees, sweet guabas , anthuriums, palms, and hypnotizingly green ferns—is the first of five pilot sites in the French-funded TerrAmaz program . This four-year initiative, launched in late 2020, supports sustainable development and safeguards biodiversity in the Amazon rainforest of Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru.

Yasuní—considered one of the most biodiverse places on Earth—shelters an astonishing assortment of creatures, such as anteaters, capybaras, sloths, spider monkeys, and about 600 species of colorful birds. In the Napo and Curaray rivers flanking the park, visitors can watch for the Amazon river dolphin, an endangered and enigmatic species.

Yasuní also provides refuge for the Tagaeri and Taromenane people, Waorani Indigenous groups who live in voluntary isolation and use handcrafted canoes to travel between waterways. Tour operators such as Napo Wildlife Center offer excursions and lodging based on a sustainable ecotourism model that benefits the resident tribes. — Karen Alfaro, National Geographic Traveler Latin America

A woman walks along a mountain trail

Chimanimani, Mozambique

Witness a conservation success. “Chimanimani is a timeless place, where local rainmakers still climb peaks to summon rain,” says National Geographic Explorer and photojournalist Jen Guyton , of one of Mozambique ’s newest national parks. Located on the country’s mountainous border with Zimbabwe, Chimanimani National Park , established in October 2020, is home to Mozambique’s highest peak, Mount Binga (elevation: 7,992 feet). It was once flush with elephants, lions, and other large animals whose images appear in ancient rock art created by the ancestral San people.

Poaching during decades of civil unrest decimated wildlife populations, but small numbers of elephants remain, as do at least 42 other species of mammals and a dazzling variety of plant and avian life. In the two recent biodiversity surveys alone that Guyton photographed, 475 plant species and 260 bird species were identified, along with 67 amphibian and reptile species—including one frog and one lizard thought to be new to science.

( How one of Africa’s great parks is rebounding from war .)

Sustainable tourism activities—such as birdwatching, hiking to forest waterfalls, and overnighting at the Ndzou Camp , a small community ecolodge—provide up-close views of a captivating wild place, which Guyton particularly enjoys experiencing at sunset. “With no roads for miles around, there’s total silence except for the birds, and you get a few moments of almost transcendental peace in that warm glow.”

Industrial architecture in the Ruhr Valley

Ruhr Valley, Germany

Get creative. Mining and steel production once dominated the densely populated Ruhr Valley , located in Germany ’s western state of North Rhine–Westphalia. Today, the region is repurposing former slag heaps (mounds of mining waste) and postapocalyptic-looking industrial sites as parks and open-air cultural spaces.  

The most famous is the World Heritage site of   Zeche Zollverein (Zollverein Coal Mine Industrial Complex), home to an outdoor swimming pool, ice rink, and walking trails. “People visiting the Ruhr area are usually impressed by the abundance of green,” says Karola Geiss-Netthöfel, director of the Ruhr Regional Association .

Zollverein is part of the wider Emscher Landscape Park , an east-west system of green spaces and corridors covering nearly 175 square miles. Rent a bike in Essen for a car-free Ruhr Valley trip along cycling routes, many of which follow former railway tracks. Or explore on foot via the 96-mile-long Hohe Mark Steig , a trekking trail opened in 2021.  

“The trail combines nature and industrial culture in a unique way, as you pass by several industrial buildings,” says Geiss-Netthöfel. A top spot nearby: Halde Hoheward, elevation 495 feet, a mountainous slag heap made from 180 million tons of mine waste and topped with a giant sundial. — Franziska Haack, National Geographic Traveler Germany

Orchards and vineyard near Wishram, Washington, looking down the Columbia River towards The Dalles and Mount Hood

Columbia River Gorge, Oregon/Washington

Wine and dine mindfully. The nation’s largest National Scenic Area is probably not where you think it is. It straddles the Oregon - Washington border and comprises 293,000 acres of public and private lands along the Columbia River Gorge.

With Mount Hood nearby, the area attracts more than two million visitors annually. A nonprofit alliance is helping to reduce tourist impact on local nature and culture. This collaboration has become a model for other regions building a sustainable tourism economy.

Columbia Gorge Tourism Alliance initiatives include the visitor education program Ready, Set, Gorge, and the East Gorge Food Trail , a network of farms, historic hotels, wineries, and other homegrown experiences. Partnering with other local organizations and educating visitors benefits everyone, says Ali McLaughlin, owner of MountNbarreL , which offers wine-tasting bike tours and other car-free experiences.

“Having tourists who understand the importance of respecting the area they are traveling through has gone a long way toward mitigating concerns from local residents,” says McLaughlin. Go with Nat Geo: Retrace the path of Lewis and Clark’s trailblazing expedition through the Pacific Northwest.

View of Freedom Square from up above the city of Lodz, Poland

Łódź, Poland

Spotlight a green city. Named a UNESCO City of Film in 2017 for its rich cinematic culture, Łódź , a city of nearly 700,000 in central Poland , was a major textile manufacturing center in the 19th and 20th centuries. Now Poland’s Hollywood is flipping the script on its industrial past to create a greener future.

In recent years Łódź   (pronounced woodge) has embraced new ecological technologies, such as using pre-RDF (refuse-derived fuel) and biomass energy to heat homes. In 2021, the city partnered with the European e-commerce delivery platform InPost to significantly reduce CO₂ emissions and traffic in the town’s center by installing 70 parcel locker locations and electric car charging stations.

Nearly a third of Łódź is green space, ranging from new pocket parks to the 2,977-acre Łagiewnicki Forest . In the city’s old industrial areas, factories are being reborn as parks, cultural centers, residences, and retail spaces. The trendiest spot on the cultural map is OFF Piotrkowska , a buzzing art, design, dining, and club district housed in a former cotton mill.  

Another massive factory, built by the I.K. Poznański Cotton Products Company—which employed as many as 7,000 people in 1913—was reimagined as Manufaktura , an arts center and shopping mall spread across 13 historic brick buildings. Manufaktura’s Muzeum Fabryki explores the   Poznański family’s “cotton empire” and the lives of the factory workers. — Martyna Szczepanik, National Geographic Traveler Poland

BEST PLACES FOR CULTURE AND HISTORY

A woman collects tea leaves with a Puer tea estate in the background

Jingmai Mountain, China

Taste tea. One of the oldest cultural landscapes in China is slated to become one of the country’s newest UNESCO World Heritage sites in 2022. The Ancient Tea Plantations of Jingmai Mountain in Pu’er , which collectively form the world’s largest ancient artificially cultivated tea plantation, features about 1.13 million tea trees, the oldest of which is 1,400 years old.

Located in the remote southwestern corner of China’s Yunnan Province, the region was a starting point of the legendary Ancient Tea Horse Road . This 11th-century network of routes was named for its primary purpose: trading Chinese tea for Tibetan horses (130 pounds of tea equaled the value of one horse).

( In search of the perfect cup of tea in China’s Yunnan Province .)

Today, new highways have replaced the route, but the region’s tea plantations remain, as do the four local ethnic minority groups—the Blang, Dai, Hani, and Wa people—who retain their own languages, customs, and festivals. The remote location and limited tea-tourism offerings make a guided trip the best way to experience this enduring cultural landscape. — Yi Lu, National Geographic Traveler China

A collection of artifacts displayed at the Kayano Shigeru Nibutani Ainu Museum in Biratori Town, Hokkaido

Hokkaido, Japan  

Learn about an island’s roots. Most visitors to Hokkaido , Japan’s wildly scenic and northernmost main island, don’t have many opportunities to learn about the Ainu, Indigenous people from the northern region of the archipelago. But the new National Ainu Museum and Park at Upopoy, which opened in 2020, hopes to change that. It joins the Kayano Shigeru Nibutani Ainu Museum , which opened in 1992, in teaching Japanese and international visitors about Ainu culture.

Marginalized since the late 1800s, the Ainu were granted legal protections in Japan in 2019; the country’s new Ainu Promotion Act recognizes and bans discrimination against the Ainu.  

Upopoy has a pressing three-pronged mission: promote, revitalize, and expand Ainu culture before it becomes extinct. Particularly at risk is the Ainu language, which is unrelated to Japanese or any other language, and is considered critically endangered by UNESCO. Listening to conversational Ainu and playing games to learn pronunciation are part of the new museum’s permanent exhibition.  

Visitors can also discover the timely sustainable-living lessons of the Ainu, whose spiritual beliefs are rooted in respect and gratitude for nature. After visiting Upopoy, drive 30 minutes southwest and soak in nature at Noboribetsu Onsen , Hokkaido’s premier hot springs resort which is located in Shikotsu-Toya National Park . Go with Nat Geo:   Take a voyage in the Ring of Fire aboard the National Geographic Resolution.

The coast of Procida lit up at twilight

Procida Island, Italy

Connect with culture.   Chosen pre-pandemic, the theme of Procida’s reign as the Italian Capital of Culture 2022 — La cultura non isola (Culture does not isolate)—now seems particularly on point. The island city, located 40 minutes southwest of Naples via high-speed ferry, plans to use its year in the spotlight to illustrate the importance of culture, particularly in times of uncertainty.

“Today, ‘Culture does not isolate’ is an even stronger call to action because, for us, the island is a metaphor for modern people,” says Procida 2022 director Agostino Riitano. “We are all like islands, creating our own archipelagos where culture has to be the mortar that holds them together; this is even more true following the effects of the pandemic.”

( The pandemic couldn’t silence this Italian city of music .)

Procida 2022 plans to spread cultural programming, such as contemporary art exhibitions, festivals, and performances, over 300 days to encourage responsible travel throughout the year, and to avoid a mass influx of visitors during the summer. In the spotlight as a symbol of the inclusive theme is the island’s Palazzo d’Avalos , a Renaissance palace-turned-prison, built in 1500 and closed in 1988. Most recently associated with isolation, the former prison and its green space (where inmates raised crops, cows, and pigs) will be reborn as a cultural venue and urban park.

People walk down the stairs at the Freedom Hall at The King Center in Atlanta

Atlanta, Georgia  

Meet the moment. At a time when voting rights are in contention in the United States, Atlanta is flexing its cultural and political muscle through two formidable voter empowerment organizations: The New Georgia Project and Fair Fight Action , both founded by Atlanta-based political leader and activist Stacey Abrams.

Being at the forefront of social change isn’t new, says city native Bem Joiner, cofounder of the creative agency Atlanta Influences Everything . “Atlanta’s ‘special sauce’ is its three C’s: civic, corporate, and cultural. We’re the cradle of the civil rights movement, the home of Coca-Cola, and our hip-hop culture shapes global culture. There’s no place else quite like Atlanta.”

Georgia’s largest city is also an epicenter of Black entrepreneurship, incubating businesses such as plant-based burger chain Slutty Vegan and eco-conscious Sustainable Home Goods .  

Easily accessible on foot or by bike via the BeltLine’s Eastside Trail , the Old Fourth Ward neighborhood blends nightlife and dining venues, such as Biggerstaff Brewing Company and Ponce City Market , with historic highlights like the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park and the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum .

An employee sorts a display of guitars in a shop on Denmark Street

Tin Pan Alley, London

Sing along. Despite pushback from punk and rock purists, the remix of Denmark Street , former hub of the British music industry, promises to hit all the right notes. Once lined with music publishers, recording studios, rehearsal rooms, and dimly lit clubs, the tiny street, nicknamed London ’s Tin Pan Alley, helped launch the British punk rock movement and legends including David Bowie, Elton John, and the Rolling Stones.  

In recent years, the music had all but died, save for Denmark Street’s surviving guitar shops. Now this iconic slice of history is being revived as part of Outernet London, the West End’s new $1.2 billion entertainment district.

The retooled street retains pieces of its storied past: restored 17th-century building facades; the heritage-protected graffiti art of Johnny Rotten, lead singer of the Sex Pistols (who lived here); the old-school music shops (thanks to affordable, long-term leases).  

( Learn more about the unlikely rebirth of a London legend .)

It also welcomes new spaces for infusing with music. There are busker spots where street musicians can make their case for being the next Adele (who debuted at Denmark Street’s original 12 Bar Club ); a free-to-use professional-quality recording studio for up-and-coming artists; and the new Chateau Denmark hotel, spread across 16 buildings steeped in music history.

BEST PLACES FOR FAMILIES

Children ride donkeys to participate in the 4th International Antalya Yoruk Festival

Lycia, Turkey

Learn about nomadic life. The nomadic Yörüks,   originally from different Turkic groups that ranged from the Balkans to Iran , once roamed the plateaus of the Turkish riviera. Most of the Yörüks (literally “walkers”) have now settled down—but many of their thousand-year-old customs are alive and well.  

Located in the historical Lycia region in southwestern Anatolia , Teke Peninsula is one of the spots where Yörük culture remains strong. Teke Yörüks live a semi-nomadic life with their tents, kilim rugs, herds, shepherd dogs, and transhumant traditions, set against a mountainous, Mediterranean backdrop full of olive trees.

In recent years, tour companies have started to merge the marvels of Lycia with Yörük life. Families can trek parts of the famous Lycian Way ; visit ancient sites like Patara, Xanthos, or Letoon; and swim in crystal clear waters while spending nights in hotels, guesthouses, tents, or villagers’ own homes. But it’s the children who have the most fun, as they can experience Yörük culture by making syrup with pomegranates, cooking local pastries, milking goats, or taking part in the olive harvest.

“History, nature, and culture, they’re all here. We wanted to turn this beautiful landscape into a learning platform, but also into a playground,” says Kerem Karaerkek, the chief guide of Middle Earth Travel . “I love how the kids get excited when they step into a Yörük kitchen or when they go on a treasure hunt in ancient Lycian ruins. You can see the sense of wonder in their eyes.” — Onur Uygun, National Geographic Traveler Turkey

The Alhambra Palace and fortress complex in Granada, Andalusia, Spain

Granada, Spain

Marvel at geometric beauty. Built as a palace-city by 13th-century Nasrid sultans—rulers of the longest-lasting and final Muslim dynasty on the Iberian Peninsula—the Alhambra (“red fort”) is considered the Moorish architectural jewel of Europe. The almond-shaped profile of this UNESCO World Heritage site rests on a hill above Granada, one of the most picturesque cities in Spain .

But it’s the mathematical wizardry on display here that is particularly fascinating for families. Intricate mosaics, arabesques (a repetitive, stylized pattern based on a floral or vegetal design), and muqarnas   (ornamental vaulting) make the Alhambra a masterpiece of geometric beauty—and a colorful classroom for age-appropriate exploration of math concepts, such as shapes, symmetry, proportion, and measurement.

Math flows through the Alhambra’s other main design feature, water, which gives life and meaning to the whole. Water provides the refreshing spirit of the gardens and the murmur of its fountains, but is also an element of the architecture itself.

At the Palace of the Lions , one of the Alhambra’s three original royal palaces, families will marvel at the central fountain. Its elaborate design features 12 stone lions supporting a large marble basin on their backs and—thanks to the technical wonder of complex hydraulics—spitting water from their mouths. Go with Nat Geo: Discover Moorish Spain from Córdoba’s cultures to Granada’s Alhambra to Seville’s wonders. —Manuel Mateo Pérez, NG Viajes Spain

View just above the marsh in the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge

Eastern Shore, Maryland

Be transported by history. The history of the Underground Railroad flows through the waterways, wetlands, swamps, and tidal marshes of Dorchester County on Maryland ’s Eastern Shore. This is where the secret network’s most famous “conductor,” Harriet Tubman , was born enslaved, grew up, and honed the skills—such as trapping, hunting, and using stars to navigate—she used to escape to freedom in Pennsylvania . She then returned 13 times to rescue more than 70 enslaved friends and family. Her heroic story is told at the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center , one of the more than 30 stops along the 125-mile Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway .

To bring Tubman’s story to life for kids, Alex Green, co-owner of Harriet Tubman Tours , suggests a kayaking adventure in the byway’s Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge . As a child, Tubman trapped muskrats here and worked alongside her father, a timber inspector who taught her how to move around the marshlands.

“We talk to kids about how the confidence and lessons Harriet learned inside the terrible institution of slavery drove her to accomplish incredible things,” Green says. “Harriet never gave up and she never stopped learning. That’s a lesson they can take home.” Go with Nat Geo:   Embark on a wild Chesapeake Bay escape to see waterways, watermen, and wildlife.

High angle view of Budapest at twilight over ships in the Danube River

Danube River  

Cruise storybook lands. Boating the Danube can seem like traveling through a realm of fairy tales, with its scrolling views of castles, medieval towns, and stately palaces that help to bring European history to life. The river twists through 10 European countries (Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova, and Ukraine), and most Danube cruise itineraries include stops in at least four of those, with special family sailings featuring kid-friendly onshore activities.

School lessons focusing on Middle Ages feudalism take on vivid dimensions when exploring Veste Oberhaus in Passau, Germany, one of the largest surviving castle complexes in Europe. Ages-old Hungarian equestrian traditions come alive on a southern Hungarian ranch, where fearless csikós , or mounted herdsmen, ride standing upright and balancing on the backs of two galloping horses.

When off the water, look to wheels. Board Vienna ’s iconic Giant Ferris Wheel, the Riesenrad , or take a bike ride among terraced vineyards in Lower Austria’s World Heritage-listed Wachau Cultural Landscape .   Go with Nat Geo:   Savor Christmas markets from Budapest to Nuremberg on this Danube cruise . — National Geographic Traveler Romania

a diver swims with a school of fish under water

Dive a longtime marine reserve. Dazzling sunlight, a turquoise sea, palm trees, white beaches, and a laid-back atmosphere: Bonaire checks all the boxes for an idyllic tropical destination. But compared to many other Caribbean islands, Bonaire (pop. 21,000) is quiet and still relatively wild and unspoiled. Off its coast lies one of the oldest marine reserves in the world.

The Bonaire National Marine Park was established in 1979 and has been on the provisional UNESCO World Heritage List since 2011. The reserve encompasses 6,672 acres of coral reef, seagrass, and mangrove vegetation. Bonaire’s healthy reefs are a magnet for divers and snorkelers who can spot up to 57 species of coral and more than 350 different fish species.

Several dive schools on Bonaire participate in the Reef Renewal program , in which volunteers can grow and maintain corals in underwater nurseries, then plant them into the reef. Anyone who can dive can come and help after completing the PADI Reef Renewal Diver course.

( Read more about new efforts to save dying coral reefs . )

Accessibility is another bonus: You don’t need a liveaboard or other boat transport to start exploring. At 54 of Bonaire’s nearly 90 public dive sites, you walk from the beach or a pier straight into the water. —Barbera Bosma, National Geographic Traveler Netherlands

Written by the global editors of National Geographic Travel, with additional reporting and writing by Maryellen Kennedy Duckett, Karen Carmichael, and Shauna Farnell.

The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted travel. When planning a trip, be sure to research your destination and take safety precautions before, during, and after your journey. Click here for National Geographic reporting on the pandemic.

Related Topics

  • ENVIRONMENT AND CONSERVATION
  • NATURE PHOTOGRAPHY
  • CULTURAL CONSERVATION
  • PEOPLE AND CULTURE
  • CULTURAL TOURISM

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Marmaris, Turkey

Revealed: the best-value holiday destinations for British travellers in 2022

Want to go away... and not spend much cash? Try one of these mega-cheap tourist hotspots

Ed Cunningham

In the UK , inflation is at the highest it’s been in decades , household bills are skyrocketing , and the country could be on the brink of a full-blown cost-of-living crisis. But why should that mean you can’t go away? Everyone should be able to escape the daily grind every once in a while – without having to break the bank. 

Luckily, Post Office Travel Money is here to help with its Worldwide Holiday Costs Barometer for 2022. Every year POTM puts together a ranking of the best-value holiday destinations for Brits by comparing the cost of eight everyday tourist items, from sun cream to cans of Coca-Cola to three-course meals.

And this year, if you’re in the mood for a particularly hot, sunny getaway, you’re in luck. Topping the ranking in 2022 is Marmaris in Turkey: a Mediterranean resort town renowned for its turquoise waters and consistently balmy climate. Brits are no doubt benefiting from Turkey’s current high inflation and weakened currency , both of which are likely to make holidays in the country quite a lot cheaper in 2022.

So, where else does your pound go the furthest? Well, in second place is Sunny Beach in Bulgaria: Black Sea resort which is, as the name suggests, pretty darn sunny. Third is the Algarve in Portugal , which is already rather well known as a bit of a home-away-from-home for UK holidaymakers.

And it isn’t just Euro destinations that could be great value for British travellers in 2022. The top ten also includes the likes of Cape Town , Mombasa and Orlando . Sure, the flights to these further-flung destinations might be a little more expensive – but at least you know it won’t cost you too much once you’re there. Here is the top ten in full:

1. Marmaris, Turkey

2. Sunny Beach, Bulgaria

3. Algarve, Portugal

4. Cape Town, South Africa

5. Paphos, Cyprus

6. Costa del Sol, Spain

7. Mombasa, Kenya

8. Funchal, Madeira

9. Sliema, Malta

10. Orlando, USA

At the other end of the ranking, the worst-value destination was, unsurprisingly, the Icelandic capital Reykjavik . Bridgetown in Barbados and Jumeirah in Dubai both ranked poorly, too, with all three seeing significant price increases over the past year.

In other words, a 2022 holiday could still be on the cards, despite everything feeling like it costs quite a lot at the moment. You can find out more about the 2022 edition of the Worldwide Holiday Costs Barometer here .  

Got five minutes to spare? Want to tell us what life is like in your city? Take the Time Out Index survey   here .

  • Ed Cunningham News Editor, Time Out UK and Time Out London

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10 Affordable Places to Travel in the US

By Jamie Spain

10 Affordable Places to Travel in the US

All products featured on Condé Nast Traveler are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Whether you're planning a grand family vacation or are looking for a quick and breezy solo trip to switch up the scenery, finding affordable places to travel in the US can be difficult. There are so many different things to consider when planning a trip, from hotels and flights to food and activities, and it's safe to say that it can all get rather overwhelming. To help, we've compiled a list of 10 fun and affordable US cities perfect for all types of travelers. From Charlotte, North Carolina , to Albuquerque, New Mexico , these are some of the best budget-friendly cities in the country.

To ensure that our picks are all affordable, we've made selections using data from Priceline on the most affordable domestic flights and hotels in the US this summer (based on average round-trip airfare and average rate per night, respectively). We've also included a few quality hotel and vacation rental options, all under $300 a night, for each destination.

Read on for 10 affordable travel destinations in the US, so you can keep your budget in check while still enjoying your next great vacation.

This image may contain Resort Building Hotel Pool and Water

Hyatt Regency Orlando

Orlando, Florida

It's not the flights or the hotels in Orlando that will stretch your budget (both can be found at fairly reasonable prices if you plan in advance), but the activities. Since Orlando is home to Disney World , if you plan on attending any of the parks, you'll be designating a large chunk of your travel budget to tickets. But the theme parks aren't the only great thing to do in the city —from visiting some amazing museums to enjoying nature-filled parks, there are tons of other activities that are often overlooked. If you do plan to spend a day or two at Magic Kingdom or Universal Studios, you can rest easy knowing that the rest of your trip was budgeted accordingly.

Where to stay in Orlando:

  • For family-friendly fun: Hilton Orlando
  • For a great pool: Hyatt Regency Orlando
  • For a private home: Cozy three-bedroom near downtown Orlando

United States Pennsylvania Philadelphia Hotel Inn at Whitewing Farm

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Philly is home to some amazing attractions, wonderful views, cool hotels , and of course, incredible history. In Philadelphia's Old Town, travelers can walk in the footsteps of America's Founding Fathers—meandering down the same streets and buildings they once did. There are plenty of great free and low-cost activities, including seeing the iconic Liberty Bell, walking past The President's House (the original “White House” before Washington, DC), and exploring Elfreth's Alley, the oldest continuously inhabited residential street in the US. If you find time to try a Philly cheesesteak while you're there, all the better.

Where to stay in Philadelphia:

  • For an escape from downtown: Inn at Whitewing Farm
  • For a micro-hotel experience: Pod Philly Hotel
  • For the University: The Study at University Circle

Image may contain Architecture Balcony Building Chair Furniture and Plant

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Booking an affordable beach vacation can be quite the feat, but Myrtle Beach is the perfect place to go when you want to balance beachy views with budget-friendly prices. Especially in comparison to other South Carolina vacation hotspots like Charleston and Hilton Head , Myrtle Beach is where you'll get the most bang for your buck. Spend most of your time enjoying the sun and sand on the free beaches, or walk the iconic boardwalk a couple (dozen) times.

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Where to stay in Myrtle Beach:

  • For direct beach access: Willow Bay Resort
  • For golf lovers: Marina Inn at Grand Dunes
  • For a balcony: Quaint condo with two double beds

NoMad Las Vegas

Nomad Las Vegas

Las Vegas, Nevada

While you may think of Las Vegas as a place meant solely for casinos and clubbing (not exactly high up there on the list of budget-friendly activities), there are tons of fun and affordable things to do in the city and plenty of great hotels and Airbnbs to stay in. Simply walking (and gawking at) The Strip is an activity of its own, or take a hike to the Red Rock Canyon and enjoy the natural scenery. There are some great museums and exhibits to stop into as well, and seeing the Bellagio fountains is well worth a trip. Don't forget to take a picture next to the iconic “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign.

Where to stay in Vegas:

  • For an off-the-strip experience: Golden Nugget
  • For old-world luxury on a budget: Nomad Las Vegas
  • For a themed resort: The Mirage Las Vegas

United States North Carolina Charlotte hotel Omni Charlotte Hotel

Omni Charlotte Hotel

Charlotte, North Carolina

From the incredible food to the family-friendly activities , there's plenty to do in Charlotte for travelers of all interests. Whether you're simply looking to enjoy the warm weather and eat all the Southern food your stomach can handle, or hoping to visit museums and the Botanical Gardens, you won't spend a single minute bored in this city . For great food and people-watching, head to 7th Street Public Market ; NASCAR fans will want to explore the Charlotte Motor Speedway (kids 12 and under enter most events for free) or the NASCAR Hall of Fame (tickets start at $20) .

Where to stay in Charlotte:

  • For history: The Dunhill Hotel
  • For a low-key place to rest your head: Charlotte Marriott City Center
  • For a central location: Omni Charlotte Hotel

The Rally Hotel

The Rally Hotel

Colorado Springs and Denver, Colorado

Just a little over an hour apart by car, Denver and Colorado Springs are both great options for families and friends looking for a mountain escape. If you're seeking something a bit more residential and not so hustle-and-bustle, Colorado Springs will be perfect, with its great hiking trails and gorgeous views. For those looking for a taste of city life, stay in downtown Denver, where you'll get all the benefits of the great outdoors alongside the liveliness of a big city. Cut costs by spending most of your time hiking, biking, and enjoying nature.

Where to stay in Colorado Springs and Denver:

  • For community in Colorado Springs: Kinship Landing
  • For sports fans in Denver: The Rally Hotel
  • For a hip scene in a great location in Denver: The Maven Hotel at the Dairy Block

Hotel Parq Central

Hotel Parq Central

Albuquerque, New Mexico

Albuquerque may not be on the top of your to-do list, but there are many reasons why this New Mexico city is worth a visit. It's a great destination for year-round travel thanks to its incredible hot-air balloon scene (it's home to the world's largest Hot Air Balloon Festival), Southwestern art, tasty food, and desert scenery. Head to the Albuquerque Museum (tickets start at $3) or the National Hispanic Cultural Center (free for guests 16 and under; $6 for adults) for some history and art in the city, or simply walk around the area and enjoy the desert views alongside the many art galleries, shops, and restaurants.

Where to stay in Albuquerque:

  • For good location: Hotel Albuquerque at Old Town
  • For retro charm: El Vado Motel
  • For a stay near Route 66: Hotel Parq Central

Image may contain Restaurant Furniture Chair Couch Interior Design Indoors Room Cafeteria Lobby and Pub

Baltimore, Maryland

Baltimore is another city on this list that is steeped in history, but if you're not much of a history buff, there's still plenty to enjoy about the city. Known for its seafood and beautiful waterfront, (and, of course, for being the setting of the musical Hairspray), you'll certainly want to indulge in crab cakes, oysters, or crab dip, especially if you can do so along the water. There are also tons of budget-friendly activities, including walking through Fell's Point, a great neighborhood filled with restaurants, shops, and entertainment, touring some of the museums, taking a peak inside the Peabody Library, or walking alongside the harbor.

Where to stay in Baltimore:

  • For a pop of color: Ulysses
  • For a modern boutique property: Hotel Indigo Baltimore Downtown
  • For a private townhouse: Colorful two-bedroom in Federal Hill

Image may contain Landscape Outdoors Nature Scenery Aerial View Mountain Mountain Range Urban Panoramic and Plateau

Pointe Hilton Tapatio Cliffs Resort

Phoenix, Arizona

Head to hot, dry Phoenix , Arizona, the perfect destination for pool days, hiking and nature viewing, and museum visits. Phoenix is also just about two hours away from Sedona, making it a great home base for a day trip to see the red rock formations. The Desert Botanical Gardens (tickets start at $15) will be a hit amongst the whole family, while the Hole in the Rock hike (or the more challenging Camelback Mountain hike) offer a chance to take in gorgeous desert views.

Where to stay in Phoenix:

  • For retro-cool: Rise Uptown Hotel
  • For a desert oasis: Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass
  • For mountain views: Pointe Hilton Tapatio Cliffs Resort

Arlo Wynwood Miami

Arlo Wynwood Miami

Miami, Florida

Miami doesn't always scream affordable, but thanks to the city's large airport with many daily domestic flights and a surprising number of affordable hotel and Airbnb options, travelers can head to this incredible city without having to stretch their budget too far. Where your wallet may take a hit is the food and activities, so plan carefully before you arrive. To keep things affordable, spend most of your time enjoying the free beaches with a picnic you pack yourself, or walking around Miami Beach. You can also take yourself on a personal tour of Wynwood's outdoor murals or enjoy one of the free outdoor yoga classes .

Where to stay in Miami:

  • For a “luxury” hostel experience: The Freehand
  • For a unique boutique hotel: Esmé Miami Beach
  • For a Wynwood escape: Arlo Wynwood Miami

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The 19 best amusement parks in the u.s. for 2024.

From exhilarating roller coasters to costumed characters, these parks offer fun for everyone.

The Top Amusement Parks in the U.S.

Guests at Hersheypark going through the Jolly Rancher Remix Flavor Tunnel.

Courtesy of Hersheypark

Whether you're seeking jaw-dropping thrill rides, indulging in the best fair food, or leisurely floating down a lazy river, the top amusement parks in the U.S. offer something for the whole family. Easily accessible by car for many, these parks also offer affordability, particularly when booking in advance, along with nearby lodging options ranging from family-oriented hotels with pools to campgrounds. U.S. News has compiled a list highlighting the top amusement parks across the country to help you plan your next adventure.

Kennywood: West Mifflin, Pennsylvania

Water ride at Kennywood amusement park.

Courtesy of Kennywood

What's new: Kennywood is debuting new Potato Patch-themed bumper cars in 2024.

At this Pennsylvania park, you'll find exciting roller coasters, family attractions and rides that range from mild to intense. Relaxed options for kids, like paddle boats and a merry-go-round, allow even the most tepid travelers to get a burst of adrenaline. Meanwhile, adventure-seekers can check out thrilling rides like the popular Phantom's Revenge steel roller coaster. Kennywood also hosts numerous events, from firework parties to parades and food festivals. The amusement park is typically open daily June through August and on select dates April through January. It's located in West Mifflin, only about 10 miles down the Monongahela River from downtown Pittsburgh .

Where to stay: For a convenient stay near Kennywood, book a room at the Courtyard by Marriott Pittsburgh West Homestead/Waterfront hotel, which is less than 5 miles away.

Address: 4800 Kennywood Blvd., West Mifflin, PA 15122

Knoebels Amusement Resort: Elysburg, Pennsylvania

Chairlift above Knoebels Amusement Resort.

Courtesy of Knoebels Amusement Resort

What's new: For the 2024 season, the park plans to debut a new version of the PowerSurge thrill ride as well as the refurbished Sky Slide.

Pennsylvania's Knoebels Amusement Resort is billed as "America's Largest Free Admission Amusement Park," since you pay for rides rather than an entry fee. The park offers three kinds of rides to maximize the fun: kiddie rides, family rides and thrill rides. The rides for older and more adventurous guests include the Black Diamond mine car ride, the Giant Flume water ride and the Impulse coaster, which has four upside-down turns and a 90-degree free fall. Note that the park's hours and offerings vary significantly depending on the season.

Where to stay: Several lodging options are offered on-site at Knoebels, including two campgrounds, a bed-and-breakfast, and cozy cottages that can sleep up to 16. The park is located in the Poconos , a mountainous region of Pennsylvania with numerous additional attractions nearby.

Address: 391 Knoebels Blvd., Elysburg, PA 17824

Hersheypark: Hershey, Pennsylvania

The Boardwalk and Ferris Wheel at Hersheypark.

What's new: Hersheypark added the Wildcat's Revenge hybrid coaster in 2023 – a century since the original Wild Cat roller coaster opened in 1923.

Hersheypark gives chocolate lovers a cause to rally around. Not only does this theme park in Hershey boast an array of roller coasters, family rides and water rides, but it is home to Hershey's Chocolate World, with every possible chocolate concoction and dessert imaginable. A ticket to Hersheypark also includes access to ZooAmerica, which lets you get a close look at more than 200 animals found in North America.

Where to stay: If you want to spend a few days exploring the park, stay at the iconic Hershey Lodge. This nearby resort features roomy guest suites with plenty of space for families, plus its own indoor pool complex and chocolate-themed treatments in the on-site spa.

Address: 100 Hersheypark Drive, Hershey, PA 17033

Fun Spot America: Orlando, Florida

What's new: The park is now serving an Instagram-worthy Unicorn Taco Sundae with a cotton candy shell.

If you're looking for a more affordable theme park experience in the Orlando area, Fun Spot America Orlando should be on your radar. This theme park offers a plethora of rides and attractions for much lower prices than at nearby parks, including smaller roller coasters, drop rides, spin rides and a Ferris wheel. Fun Spot America Orlando also boasts several premium go-kart tracks for families who want to race each other. Fun Spot also has parks in Kissimmee and Atlanta .

Where to stay: Considering the park's location in Orlando, there's no shortage of nearby hotels and resorts to book for your trip. One of the closest nearby options is the TownePlace Suites by Marriott Orlando Southwest Near Universal, which offers several family-friendly room options and a free hot breakfast.

Address: 5700 Fun Spot Way, Orlando, FL 32819

Walt Disney World Resort: Orlando, Florida

“Mickey’s Magical Friendship Faire”  on the Cinderella Castle Forecourt Stage at Magic Kingdom Park.

Courtney Kiefer | Courtesy of Walt Disney World Resort

What's new: The newest offerings include shows like a "Finding Nemo" spectacular and "Fantasmic!" musical, as well as rides like Remy's Ratatouille Adventure and TRON Lightcycle / Run.

Arguably the most famous amusement park in the world, Walt Disney World Resort inspires awe in children and adults alike. Four distinct theme parks make up the larger Walt Disney World Resort. Magic Kingdom is the resort's most iconic area, with the striking Cinderella Castle and whimsical "it's a small world" boat ride. EPCOT delights visitors with unique dishes, rides and festivals celebrating cultures around the globe. Disney's Hollywood Studios boasts the Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge attraction, which transports guests to a galaxy far, far away. Finally, Disney's Animal Kingdom houses rare animals and numerous rides, plus the unforgettable Tree of Life.

Where to stay: Each area offers its own on-site lodging options, often with exclusive activities and areas to explore. You can also check out Orlando's best hotels for more options. The park is massive, so be sure to plan ahead before your visit.

Busch Gardens Tampa Bay: Tampa, Florida

Tigris & SheiKra ride at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay.

Courtesy of Busch Gardens Tampa Bay

What's new: If you're looking for a high-speed coaster with twists and turns, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay plans to open the new Phoenix Rising suspended coaster in the spring 2024. The park also recently unveiled the Serengeti Flyer, touted as the world's fastest and tallest ride of its kind, at 135 feet high and 68 mph.

Busch Gardens Tampa Bay offers theme park action and its own water park, plus a full zoo with more than 200 species of animals. Rides include an exhilarating triple-launch roller coaster, a family-friendly spin coaster, a 335-foot drop tower, a whitewater rafting ride and more. Live shows also take place throughout the park, whether you want to hear stories from "Sesame Street" characters or appreciate some live music. Busch Gardens Tampa Bay sits less than 10 miles northeast of downtown Tampa and is open year-round.

Where to stay: If you're seeking a stay nearby, consider booking the Embassy Suites by Hilton Tampa USF Near Busch Gardens , which offers free breakfast and shuttle service to the park.

Address: 10165 McKinley Drive, Tampa, FL 33612

Universal Orlando Resort: Orlando, Florida

Jurassic World Velocicoaster at Universal Studios Orlando.

Courtesy of Universal Studios

What's new: Universal Studios Florida is home to the new Illumination's Villain-Con Minion Blast attraction. Additionally, a DreamWorks-themed land is slated to open here in summer 2024, complete with fan-favorite characters from "Shrek," "Trolls" and more.

Three distinct parks are located within Universal Orlando Resort , meaning the complex truly does offer something for everyone. Universal Studios Florida showcases characters from movies and TV series such as "Harry Potter" and "Despicable Me" with family-friendly rides. Universal's Islands of Adventure also features popular characters but ups the ante with more and larger rides. Finally, Universal's Volcano Bay Water Theme Park provides slides and pools galore for soaking up the sun. Passes to all three parks are priced and sold separately, though a handful of bundled ticket options are also available.

Where to stay: Guests can also pair their resort visit with a stay at Universal's Cabana Bay Beach Resort, which has its own bowling alley, two pools, a meandering lazy river, and several restaurants and lounges to choose from.

Address: 6000 Universal Blvd., Orlando, FL 32819

Dollywood: Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

Dollywood's Lighting Rod roller coaster.

Steven Bridges | Courtesy of Dollywood

What's new: Fans of Dolly Parton can soon learn more about her in a new land at Dollywood called The Dolly Parton Experience, set to open in May 2024. Sections will feature exhibits about her career, iconic style, faith and family.

Dollywood is home to 160 acres of theme park and water park fun with more than 50 rides and a family-friendly atmosphere. Top attractions at the Dolly Parton brainchild include the Tennessee Tornado coaster, which takes you on a 128-foot drop through a mountain at speeds nearing 70 mph, as well as the wood and steel hybrid coaster Lightning Rod. Little kids will also stay happy and entertained at Dollywood thanks to small rides like Black Bear Trail and the Busy Bees ride. The resort's Splash Country water park features a lazy river and plenty of slides.

Where to stay: Dollywood even boasts its own Dollywood's DreamMore Resort and Spa , which has two pools and kids activities on-site.

Address: 2700 Dollywood Parks Blvd., Pigeon Forge, TN 37863

Legoland Florida Resort: Winter Haven, Florida

What's new: Visitors can check out the newly opened interactive Ferrari Build & Race Experience. In fall 2024, the park is expected to open the new SEA LIFE Aquarium.

If you love Legos, you'll love this theme park with life-sized Lego creations, themed rides and shows with your favorite characters. Legoland Florida Resort is three parks in one – the Lego-themed amusement park and water park, plus Peppa Pig Theme Park. It is located about 50 miles south of Orlando. The Legoland Theme Park has about 40 rides and attractions, most of which are geared toward a younger crowd. You won't find any "white knuckle" roller coasters at this park.

One-park or multipark tickets or annual passes are available. The park is open year-round. In the U.S., there are also Legoland parks in California and New York.

Where to stay: Conveniently, there are three hotels nearby to choose from: Legoland Hotel, Pirate Island Hotel and Legoland Beach Retreat.

Address: 1 Legoland Way, Winter Haven, FL 33884

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Six Flags Fiesta Texas: San Antonio, Texas

What's new: The new KID FLASH Cosmic Coaster at Six Flags Fiesta Texas is the only racing coaster in Texas. The park is also creating the largest DC Universe in the U.S., which is set to open in 2024 and will feature three new rides.

Six Flags Fiesta Texas in San Antonio is known for its 16 thrill rides that delight adrenaline-seekers. There are also more mild, family-friendly rides and attractions, as well as the Hurricane Harbor San Antonio Water Park. The water park will be adding several new attractions this year. The theme park is open year-round, but the water park is only open April through September, on select days. There are more than a dozen Six Flags theme parks throughout North America.

Where to stay: Nearby lodging is available at Home2 Suites by Hilton San Antonio at the Rim, Courtyard by Marriott San Antonio Six Flags at The RIM and La Cantera Resort & Spa.

Address: 17000 Interstate 10 E., San Antonio, Texas

Cedar Point: Sandusky, Ohio

GateKeeper ride at Cedar Point.

Courtesy of Cedar Point

What's new: This Ohio park is slated to unveil its newest coaster in 2024: Top Thrill 2, which is billed as the world's tallest (420 feet) and fastest (120 mph) triple-launch strata coaster, with three free-fall moments.

Located along the shores of Lake Erie, Cedar Point is known for its diverse selection of around 70 rides, including 18 roller coasters. Notable coasters range from the hyper-hybrid Steel Vengeance to Valravn, which drops riders at a 90-degree angle before spinning on a 270-degree roll. Cedar Point also features events, festivals and live shows, so be sure to check the calendar before booking. The amusement park is open from May through October, and the attached Cedar Point Shores Waterpark's waterslides and pools provide the perfect spot for cooling off during the hottest summer months. Both parks require separate admission costs.

Where to stay: To stay within walking distance of the park and all its amenities, book your vacation at Lighthouse Point at Cedar Point, a luxury campground with recreational vehicle sites, lakefront cottages and deluxe cabins that sleep up to 10.

Address: 1 Cedar Point Drive, Sandusky, OH 44870

Silver Dollar City: Branson, Missouri

The Time Traveler ride at Silver Dollar City.

Courtesy of Silver Dollar City

What's new: This park is set to debut an indoor family roller coaster called FIRE IN THE HOLE in spring 2024.

Silver Dollar City boasts both a theme park and a water park within 10 miles of the shows and attractions in downtown Branson, Missouri . The 1880s-inspired theme park itself features about 40 rides and attractions, including spinning coasters, drop rides, swing rides and more. The White Water water park is home to 13 acres of water rides, slides, a 500,000-gallon wave pool and a lazy river. Silver Dollar City is open March through December (but not every day), while the water park only opens from late May to early September.

Where to stay: Consider staying at the Silver Dollar City Campground in the Ozark Mountains, which offers complimentary shuttle service to and from the park, a swimming pool, cabin rentals, and sites for tents and RVs.

Address: 399 Silver Dollar City Parkway, Branson, MO 65616

Kings Island: Mason, Ohio

What's new: Beginning in late spring 2024, visitors to Kings Island will be able to enjoy the soon-to-open Camp Snoopy, which will feature the Snoopy's Soap Box Racers boomerang coaster and Beagle Scout Acres play area.

The theme park is situated on 364 acres and has its own water park, too. Kings Island is located about 25 miles north of Cincinnati, Ohio . Rides for little kids are front and center here, with a carousel, bumper cars, small roller coasters and more at Planet Snoopy. Thrill-seekers won't be disappointed, however, since Kings Island also offers more than a dozen adventurous coasters and rides for older visitors. The Beast, which opened to the public in 1979, still holds the record for the longest wooden roller coaster in the world, and Orion is the fastest, tallest and longest steel coaster at the park.

Where to stay: Visitors who want to stay at this top Ohio attraction should check out Camp Cedar, which offers luxury rental cottages and camping facilities. Alternatively, stay in one of the best hotels in Cincinnati and visit the amusement park after you've had time to explore the city.

Address: 6300 Kings Island Drive, Mason, OH 45040

Holiday World & Splashin' Safari: Santa Claus, Indiana

Splashin' Safari from the top of ZOOMbabwe.

Courtesy of Holiday World Theme Park & Splashin' Safari

What's new: The new Good Gravy! family coaster is set to open in May 2024 and promises a wild ride through a Thanksgiving dinner scene.

For some holiday-themed fun in southern Indiana, a visit to Holiday World is a must for thrifty travelers. Guests get complimentary soft drinks, sunscreen, Wi-Fi and parking at the property. This theme park features rides inspired by various U.S. holidays, like the Gobbler Getaway family ride, Firecracker bumper cars, Reindeer Games and Star Spangled Carousel. There are three award-winning wooden coasters, in addition to Thunderbird, the country's first launched wing coaster. Admission to Holiday World also includes access to the wave pools, waterslides and attractions of the Splashin' Safari water park.

Where to stay: There are at least a half-dozen options for accommodation in the area, including Santa's Lodge and Santa's Lakeside Cottages. Park guests can also stay next door at Sun Outdoors Lake Rudolph, a campground equipped with RV and tent sites, rental cabins and cottages, and its own small water park on-site.

Address: 452 E. Christmas Blvd., Santa Claus Indiana

Knott's Berry Farm: Buena Park, California

HangTime ride at night at Knott's Berry Farm.

Courtesy of Knott's Berry Farm

What's new: In 2024, Knott's Berry Farm near Anaheim is opening a reimagined Camp Snoopy – an area with rides and attractions designed for young kids. It will feature the new Snoopy's Tenderpaw Twister Coaster, Sally's Swing Along, Camp Snoopy Theater and more.

It may have started as a small berry farm in the early 1920s, but today's visitors will find a large theme park featuring four distinct regions with unique rides and attractions, including Camp Snoopy. The Old West Ghost Town is equipped with Western-themed coasters and a saloon, while Fiesta Village recognizes California's Hispanic roots in its architecture and rides. Knott's Boardwalk takes inspiration from Southern California's beach vibes while offering the park's most extreme roller coasters and a stage for live entertainment.

Knott's Berry Farm is open daily, and the water park welcomes guests from late May to early September. Make sure to plan a dinner at Mrs. Knott's Chicken Dinner Restaurant, where you can enjoy a fried chicken platter and boysenberry-infused cocktails.

Where to stay: Stay at the newly renovated on-site Knott's Hotel, which makes visiting the theme park and the adjoining Knott's Soak City Waterpark a breeze.

Address: 8039 Beach Blvd., Buena Park, CA 90620

Six Flags Magic Mountain: Valencia, California

CraZanity ride at Six Flags Magic Mountain.

Greg Grudt | Mathew Imaging | Courtesy of Six Flags Magic Mountain

What's new: This theme park is building a massive solar-canopied parking lot to generate enough energy to power all its rides.

Six Flags Magic Mountain is perfect for families with kids of all ages and for adults who want to enjoy some thrills. Family rides at this top California theme park include everything you would expect, from bumper cars to a swing ride to a miniature train for all ages. Meanwhile, the park's thrill rides will spin you every which way or drop you up to 250-plus feet. The Wonder Woman: Flight of Courage ride became the world's tallest (131 feet) and longest (3,300 feet) single-rail coaster when it opened to park guests in 2022. Six Flags Magic Mountain is open year-round.

Where to stay: The park sits about 35 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles . Nearby lodging options are plentiful, whether you want to stay at the Best Western Valencia/Six Flags or at Embassy Suites Valencia; both options sit within a few miles of the park and offer free breakfast and an outdoor pool.

Address: 26101 Magic Mountain Parkway, Valencia, CA 91355

Disneyland Park: Anaheim, California

Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge at Disneyland Park in Anaheim.

Todd Wawrychuk | Courtesy of Disney Parks

What's new: Disney fans will love Mickey and Minnie's Runaway Railway attraction, which opened in 2023, as well as the reimagined Adventureland Treehouse.

California's Disneyland Park dubs itself "The Happiest Place on Earth," and indeed it's known for bringing smiles to the faces of those who visit. This park houses the Sleeping Beauty Castle, the famous Pirates of the Caribbean boat ride, and multiple themed "lands" meant to create unique experiences that families will never forget. Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge, a 2019 addition to Disneyland , features lightsaber building workshops, Star Wars-themed food, a large collection of rides and more. Disneyland welcomes guests year-round.

Where to stay: Travelers looking to splurge should stay at the award-winning Disney's Grand Californian Hotel & Spa , one of the area's top hotels. Be sure to check out U.S. News' Anaheim-Disneyland travel guide to learn how to plan the perfect Disney vacation.

Address: 1313 Disneyland Drive, Anaheim, CA 92802

Universal Studios Hollywood: Universal City, California

The Hogwarts Castle, with a view of the Flight of the Hippogriff ride.

David Sprague | Courtesy of Universal Studios Hollywood

What's new: Enjoy Super Mario-themed fare at the newly opened Power Up Cafe.

Universal Studios Hollywood is a great place to enjoy themed rides and see characters and sets from stories you love. Attractions are based on popular franchises, including "Harry Potter," "King Kong," "The Simpsons" and more. While many of these attractions include rides, Universal Studios Hollywood also offers memorable entertainment running the gamut from encounters with "Jurassic World" dinosaurs to "Despicable Me" carnival games. Families can also book The World-Famous Studio Tour, which takes you behind the scenes of a working movie studio. Universal Studios Hollywood is open all year.

Where to stay: Because the park is only 10 miles from downtown Los Angeles, plenty of hotels and resorts sit nearby, including The Garland , Sheraton Universal Hotel and Loews Hollywood Hotel .

Address: 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, CA 91608

SeaWorld San Diego: San Diego, California

Swing ride at SeaWorld San Diego.

Courtesy of SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment

What's new: In June 2023, SeaWorld opened its newest coaster, Arctic Rescue – the fastest and longest straddle coaster on the West Coast.

Rides and roller coasters are dotted throughout SeaWorld San Diego , including swing rides, spin rides and tantalizing drop rides. Guests can also discover large coasters like the Emperor – the tallest, fastest and longest dive coaster in California. This park also hosts a variety of seasonal events and festivals, such as the Halloween Spooktacular and Howl-O-Scream. SeaWorld San Diego is open year-round and also has locations in San Antonio and Orlando, as well as a newly opened park in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.

Where to stay: The park does not have any hotels on-site but does offer vacation packages in partnership with nearby resorts. One option in close proximity is the Bahia Resort Hotel , which has a waterfront location in San Diego's Mission Bay.

Address: 500 Sea World Drive, San Diego, CA 92109

Why Trust U.S. News Travel

Sharael Kolberg is a U.S. News & World Report contributor who is lucky enough to live in Southern California, where there are lots of theme parks that she's been able to visit. Her favorite park is, unsurprisingly, Disneyland. She has not been brave enough to tackle Six Flags Magic Mountain yet. Kolberg used her personal experience and excellent research skills to compile this list of the top amusement parks in the U.S.

You might also be interested in:

  • The Best Indoor Amusement Parks in the U.S.
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  • The Best All-Inclusive Family Resorts in the U.S.
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The Best Water Parks in the U.S.

Young boy enjoying sliding down a water slide.

Tags: Travel , Theme Park Vacations , Family Vacations , US Vacations

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The Best Carry-On Luggage and Weekender Bags for Summer Travel: Away, Samsonite, Calpak and More

Away

The right luggage or carry-on bag for your upcoming vacation can help make any trip as smooth as possible.

If you're gearing up for your summer travel plans, you may be searching for the perfect luggage to accompany you on your upcoming getaway.  Carry-on luggage  — including weekender bags and spinners — is probably the best way to travel if you want to beat the lines at busy airports, especially if you're traveling on a Friday.

No matter where your travel destinations are, one thing's for sure: the right luggage will make all the difference. We've found the best luggage to shop for all of your travels, from spacious duffle bags and practical backpacks to large and luxurious carry-ons  for your next flight.

Need a new tote bag to toss everything in for an upcoming July 4th weekend getaway or a bigger carry-on for a tropical vacation? The Beis Weekender Bag will fit all your essentials and help you travel in style. Need a new go-to suitcase for every travel situation? Away’s  standard carry on traveler bag has plenty of packing space while still fitting in the overhead bin. Trying to avoid the checked baggage fees and long bag drop line? The Samsonite Underseat Carry-On Luggage helps you save money and time by going straight to TSA.

Below, we've rounded up the best carry-on luggage and weekender bags this year to take along on your summer trip.

The Best Carry-On Suitcases for 2024

Samsonite freeform carry-on spinner.

Samsonite Freeform Carry-On Spinner

Not only is the Samsonite Hardside Spinner perfectly sized and extremely durable, it's also incredible lightweight so you won't have to strain putting it in the overhead airplane compartment. With all kinds of pockets, you can easily organize all your belongings confidently. 

$200   $140

Away The Carry-On

Away The Carry-On

This Away bag boasts flashy features such as a durable polycarbonate hard shell, spinner wheels and a TSA-approved, ejectable USB charger. The classic rolling hardside luggage with a retractable handle is designed to fit in most major airlines' overhead compartments, making it a great go-to Carry-On bag for travel, regardless of your destination.

Rockland Melbourne Hardside Expandable Spinner Wheel Luggage

Rockland Melbourne Hardside Expandable Spinner Wheel Luggage

This Rockland Melbourne Spinner Luggage makes traveling easier by being extremely lightweight. While protecting your items, the wheels rotate 360 degrees for a smooth and seamless stride in the airport. Although it is compact, this carry-on luggage has the ability to hold everything you need for a short vacation.

Take OFF Luggage Personal Item Suitcase 2.0

Take OFF Luggage Personal Item Suitcase 2.0

The perfect-sized luggage that doubles as a personal item — just pop off the wheels and slide it under your seat. 

Travelpro Platinum Elite Hardside Expandable Spinner

Travelpro Platinum Elite Hardside Expandable Spinner

Travelpro is a pilot-founded brand that you've likely seen used by flight crews. Travel stress-free with the Travelpro hardside carry-on luggage that effortlessly fits in the overhead bins of major domestic airlines, thanks to rigorous sizer bin testing and enhanced packing capacity. The PrecisionGlide System delivers impeccable control and a seamless rolling experience, so you can get through the airport with ease.

$370   $314

Samsonite Underseat Carry-On Spinner with USB Port

Samsonite Underseat Carry-On Spinner with USB Port

Compact and convenient, this soft-sided luggage can slide smoothly under the seat in front of you or be tucked away in an overhead bin. The bag's main compartment can fit several outfits and a spare pair of shoes. Interior pockets lining the compartment will keep your toiletries organized. The telescoping handle and rolling wheels make this bag easy to navigate around a crowded airport, making it a great choice for the frequent flyer looking to pack light.

$145   $100

Monos Carry-On

Monos Carry-On

Traveling is a breeze with the minimalist Monos carry-on, designed to fit in the overheard bin of almost any flight.

Travelpro Maxlite 5 Softside Expandable Luggage

Travelpro Maxlite 5 Softside Expandable Luggage

This Travelpro Maxlite softside luggage has spinner wheels and is lightweight, making it easy to maneuver airport terminals and your flight's overhead storage bins. 

The Best Travel Backpacks and Totes for 2024 

Samsonite detour travel backpack.

Samsonite Detour Travel Backpack

Built to protect your belongings from the elements, the Detour Travel Backpack has enough capacity for your business, overnight or weekend trips.

$150   $105

Béis Travel Tote

Béis Travel Tote

The Beis Travel Tote, from Shay Mitchell's baggage line, can conveniently slot into place atop a suitcase with its trolley sleeve, but can also be carried on its own with a detachable shoulder strap, and top handles designed to rest comfortably on your shoulder. This bag boasts a bottom zip shoe compartment, padded tech sleeve and multiple exterior and interior pockets. 

Calpak Luka Backpack

Calpak Luka Backpack

With multiple storage compartments including a separate laptop sleeve and a space to store your shoes that has its own exterior access, this lightweight Luka backpack will help you stay organized on the go.

Cotopaxi Allpa 35L Travel Pack

Cotopaxi Allpa 35L Travel Pack

This travel backpack comes with a weight-distributing, low-profile harness system and a 35L capacity, making it suitable for carry-on use. It is designed with a full-wrap zipper opening on the main compartment, along with large and subdivided zippered mesh compartments on the sides, providing convenient packing options. Additionally, its attractive design ensures you can easily identify your bag wherever you go.

Troubadour Featherweight Tote

Troubadour Featherweight Tote

A modern classic and easy-access bag. This Featherweight Tote features a light and waterproof fabric with vegan leather handles, and is perfect for gym trips or a day out!

Dagne Dover Jemi Puff Tote

Dagne Dover Jemi Puff Tote

Whether you're traveling to work or a weekend getaway, this lightweight tote is perfect with pockets for days to keep all your belongings organized. 

The Best Weekender Bags for 2024 

Lululemon go getter bag 2.0.

lululemon Go Getter Bag 2.0

This sleek, modern bag looks like a tote and duffel rolled into one. There's also a little strap in the back that you can attach to your luggage. 

Away The Everywhere Bag

Away The Everywhere Bag

Away Travel's The Everywhere Bag lives up to its name: you can take it everywhere from work to the gym to a weekend away. It also pairs nicely with The Carry-On and The Bigger Carry-On.

Calpak Stevyn Duffel

Calpak Stevyn Duffel

Enjoy the benefits of a large bottom compartment, ideal for stowing shoes or enhancing the organization of your items.The roomy main compartment comes with interior pockets, ensuring you have plenty of space to store your belongings in a well-arranged manner.

SwissGear Apex Travel Duffle Bag

SwissGear Apex Travel Duffle Bag

This duffle bag will come in handy during your next vacation. You can wear it multiple ways and it has reinforced sides to keep your belonging secure.

Dagne Dover Landon Carryall Bag

Dagne Dover Landon Carryall Bag

For weekends away, this extra-large duffle includes a laptop sleeve, shoe bag and plenty of space for all your essentials.

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I've Lived in Florida for 27 Years — and These Are the Best Affordable Beach Vacations in the State

A local weighs in on the best cheap beach vacations in Florida without the high price tags.

best value travel destinations 2022

Sean Pavone/Getty Images

Hundreds of miles of coastline keep Florida top of mind for a beach vacation year-round. And despite the Sunshine State's perpetual popularity, you might be surprised by how much terrain there is for a cheap beach getaway filled with fun.

After 27 years in Florida, I’ve done my fair share of poking around for the finest sandy stretches the state has to offer.

When friends come to visit from across the country or around the world, I always point them to a few places they’d likely never discover on their own — all the better for having a unique Florida experience while saving some money. With that in mind, here are some of some of my favorite places for a cheap beach vacation in Florida that doesn't skimp on sun and fun.

Apalachicola

Lynne Buchanan/Getty Images

Famous for its oyster bars and seafood shacks like LongBill’s, this friendly community along Florida’s Panhandle is prime for an affordable beach vacation, especially when you stay at a historic property like The Bowery Inn or Taranto House , both of which date to the early 1900s, or the lovely Gibson Inn , another historic hotel with a breezy wraparound porch.

“This community captivates the heart and soul of Old Florida charm with a relaxed vibe, incredible fishing, one-of-a-kind boutiques, and the liveliest locals slurping down fresh oysters and plenty of libations,” says Jason Bogan, general manager of The Gibson Inn. “So, come on down, pull up a stool, and immerse yourself in some genuine Southern hospitality.”

Among the many unspoiled white-sand beaches in Apalachicola and the Forgotten Coast are stretches lining the beautiful barrier island of St. George. Laura Byrne of Tampa Bay Parenting says she first fell in love with the island’s beaches while living in Tallahassee some years ago (Florida’s state capital is about 80 miles northeast of St. George Island).

“I’m from Tampa and was used to the beautiful sugar-sand beaches of Clearwater, and St. George Island State Park did not disappoint,” says Byrne. Grab a kayak or canoe from Island Outfitters and paddle in the Gulf of Mexico or along the Apalachicola River Paddling Trail System , or rent a golf cart to explore Apalachicola’s historic district, home to many interesting buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Cocoa Beach

Valerie de Leon/Travel + Leisure

Cocoa Beach was always my preferred destination for an affordable beach weekend when I spent a few years after college living in nearby Orlando. Just about a one-hour drive east of Orlando puts you along these dune-backed beaches where pro surfer Kelly Slater grew up shredding waves. You can rent a board at Ron Jon Surf Shop and paddle out near the Cocoa Beach Pier , or sign up for surf lessons at the School of Surf . Budget-minded hotels in the area include Beach Place Guesthouses — one of my favorites in all of Florida for a low-key stay — strung with hammocks and fronting a quiet stretch of sand with loaner surfboards at the ready. Rise early from August to September for a beach walk here, and you might even see baby sea turtles hatching. Also be sure to check the rocket launch calendar for a free show in the sky. "The Wizard of Oz" fans will want to shell out a few bucks to pop into the quirky Wizard of Oz Museum , home to a private collection that spans decades of memorabilia. With all this and more, it's no wonder Cocoa Beach is one of the best beaches near Orlando .

New Smyrna Beach

VisionsbyAtlee/Getty Images

New Smyrna Beach , another popular option not far from Orlando, is a safe and beautiful bet for an affordable beach vacation in Florida. Oceanfront condos for rent line the packed sand, plus you can consider a riverside stay at one of my favorite bed-and-breakfasts in the state — Black Dolphin Inn , which fronts the Intracoastal Waterway. A quintessential Florida feed awaits on the river at JB’s Fish Camp , a local favorite for its fabulous grouper sandwich and fish dip. You can rent kayaks and paddleboards here, too, and paddle out into the surrounding river. Florida’s largest stretch of undeveloped coastline also awaits at Canaveral National Seashore , with 24 miles of pristine sand for sunbathing, shelling, and swimming.

Panama City Beach

Jacqueline Anders/Getty Images

This former party-heavy destination has pivoted in recent years to become a favorite among families seeking an affordable and cheerful beach vacation in Florida. Panama City Beach’s unpretentious vibes pair with gorgeous Gulf of Mexico beaches, making it a top Panhandle destination. Scuba divers like me flock to the area to blow bubbles underwater at five shipwrecks that are part of the Florida Panhandle Shipwreck Trail . And you only need a mask and snorkel to fin out from the beach and explore the rock jetty and artificial reef attracting tropical fish, rays, and more at St. Andrews State Park . Book an affordable room at the beachfront Flamingo Hotel and Tower ; hit Shrimp Basket for a budget feast of oysters, wings, and shrimp; and simply bask in the mellow beach vibes.

Pensacola Beach

mrolands/Getty Images

With accommodation options that range from camping at Fort Pickens to the beachfront Pensacola Beach RV Resort and chain hotels to the gorgeous Pensacola Beach Resort , this is another affordable Panhandle destination in Florida. You can explore the area on a budget aboard the 145-passenger Pensacola Bay City Ferry, which connects downtown Pensacola, Fort Pickens, and Pensacola Beach. But you’ll want to jump in the car to visit other gorgeous area beaches, too, like Johnson Beach at Gulf Islands National Seashore and the dune-backed white strand at Perdido Key State Park . From April through October, free bands play at Pensacola Beach, and people bring lawn chairs and settle in for the evening.The U.S. Navy Blue Angels are at home in Pensacola, so you might even be treated to a free show in the sky. Lastly, don’t miss Atlas Oyster House for a lively brunch in town plus cheap bloody marys and bottles of bubbly.

Bradenton Beach

DIANETTE GARCIA/Getty Images

A vacation in Bradenton Beach along Florida’s Gulf Coast puts visitors within a quick drive of some of the region’s most gorgeous beaches along Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key — all for a fraction of the price. You can still find old-school properties like Beach Dreams and BridgeWalk fronting the white sand and historic district here. You can also explore the area for free aboard the Island Trolley , which makes a loop from Bradenton’s Coquina Beach north to Anna Maria Island’s City Pier. Weekends boom with families descending for all-you-can-eat pancakes served with Gulf of Mexico views at the beloved Anna Maria Island Beach Cafe . And the lively Coquina Beach Market , next to Longboat Pass and with all kinds of crafts and handmade items for sale, always makes for a fun, free outing on Sundays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

St. Augustine Beach

St. Augustine may be one of Florida’s most touristic (and historic) cities, but you can have a surprisingly affordable beach vacation here, too.

Tour St. Augustine offers free historic walking tours of the downtown attractions every Saturday and Sunday, as well as other options. My kids love riding the free passenger ferry to Rattlesnake Island to play pirates at Fort Matanzas National Monument, which has gorgeous views overlooking the Matanzas River. There’s also a playground that kids love at Lighthouse Park , where you can picnic under the oaks and take in the lighthouse views. When it comes to beach time, there’s no better free activity than bodysurfing and searching the sand for shark teeth at St. Augustine Beach or Vilano Beach, where you'll still find affordable, mom-and-pop properties like Magic Beach Motel .

Lake Worth Beach

Karl Weatherly/Getty Images

Just south of tony Palm Beach, Lake Worth Beach is a great option if you’re looking for an affordable vacation along this notoriously pricey stretch of South Florida. The City of Lake Worth Beach pier is a favorite spot among surfers and has a buzzing breakfast joint — Benny’s on the Beach , where the kids can fill up on French toast and pancakes, then scoot down to the sand, while the bloody marys and mimosas flow for adults. Between Lake Worth and Lantana, just south, there are plenty of mom-and-pop hotels within a short bike ride of the beaches, including Beachway Inn and Barefoot Mailman Inn & Suites . The Lake Worth Beach Waterside Farmers Market is a lively place to spend a Saturday morning from October through April, with coffee, music, and dancing in the street. Free concerts and festivals with lagoon views often play out at the bandshell at Bryant Park Pavilion, too.

Indian Rocks Beach

Joel Waldrop/Getty Images

Beloved by locals, but often overlooked where it sits between busier St. Pete Beach to the south and Clearwater Beach to the north, Indian Rocks Beach is one of my go-tos for an affordable beach vacation in the Tampa Bay area, where I live.

Sign the family up for surf lessons with Sister Jo’s Surf School (the waves are almost always ideal for beginners) and stroll the boardwalk through a marshy forest at the small but beautiful Indian Rocks Beach Nature Preserve. “I love that you can enjoy paddleboarding, kayaking, and snorkeling here, and the white sand is perfect for building castles and finding unique shells,” says Karimah Henry of Crafting a Fun Life .

When I visit with my own family, I love staying just south of Indian Rocks Beach, in Indian Shores, at the affordable Legacy Vacation Resorts . A certified B Corp property, it fronts the Intracoastal Waterway and has an outdoor grilling area where we cook hot dogs and hamburgers to save on dining out while enjoying some of the best waterfront views around.

Bonita Springs

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Just north of flashy Naples, Bonita Springs offers an affordable Florida beach vacation with access to equally lovely Gulf of Mexico sand. Make the Hyatt Vacation Club at Coconut Cove your base, and enjoy the 1,000-foot lazy river, fire pit, barbecue area, and tiki bar. Nearby, Lovers Key State Park 's two miles of undeveloped sand beckons for shelling and boogie boarding. Dive into more of the area’s singular tropical nature at Audubon's Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary , where you can stroll along a boardwalk through the largest old-growth bald cypress forest in North America. When hunger strikes, follow the neon to Mel’s Diner , which serves comfort foods like pot roast melts and pulled pork sandwiches that won’t break the bank.

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12 Best Pickleball Paddles of 2024 For All Levels

From brands like Selkirk, JOOLA, and Head, we have the best power, performance, and touch pickleball paddles for everyone from beginners players to seasoned pros.

three of the best pickleball paddles on a blue and green background according to good housekeeping

We've been independently researching and testing products for over 120 years. If you buy through our links, we may earn a commission. Learn more about our review process.

Amped S2

Best Overall

Selkirk sport amped s2.

Graphite Pickleball Paddle and Cover

Niupipo Graphite Pickleball Paddle and Cover

Z5

Best For Beginners

Radical Elite

Best for Intermediate Players

Head radical elite.

Signature Series Pickleball Paddle

Best for Power Play

Franklin sports signature series pickleball paddle.

Hyperion CFS 16

Best for Advanced Players

Joola hyperion cfs 16.

AMPTED Invikta

Best For Tennis Players

Selkirk sport ampted invikta.

Power Series

Best Edgeless

Pckl power series.

Graphite Pickleball Paddle

Best For Women

F2 sports graphite pickleball paddle.

Vista Pickleball Paddle

Most Stylish

Recess vista pickleball paddle.

We determined our top picks by consulting with industry experts from the USA Pickleball Association , conducting extensive research on the current offerings and trying the paddles out ourselves on our local courts. We even sent many of the paddles to consumer testers for real-life feedback on how they held up game after game. While our list includes options for all levels, you'll find that every pick is also approved by the USA Pickleball Association — this means that they are acceptable for tournament play if you ever choose to participate in competitive games.

Selkirk makes a variety of top-rated paddles in many different styles, but the S2 has the largest surface area of all Selkirk paddles (and most other paddles in the market) . This translates to improved power and control of the paddle, giving you more consistency in each and every shot.

Carl Schmits, managing director of Equipment Standards & Facilities Development at the USA Pickleball likes that the S2 is close to eight inches wide and 16 inches long, making it great for control and easy to maneuver. This U.S.-made paddle has a medium thickness handle that is shorter than some of the other Selkirk models.

Although the Amped S2 doesn't come cheap, it is not as pricey as some other high-end paddles on the market and comes in a variety of different face colors. Our fitness pros found this paddle to have amazing touch, consistency and control , making it great for beginners to grow with as they get more competitive in the sport, and therefore it scored its spot as the top pick in our tests.

If you're interested in learning more about pickleball but don't want to invest in an expensive paddle, Nuipipo offers a quality option for a fraction of the price of many of its competitors . Over time, if you decide to continue pursuing the sport, you can upgrade to better quality model.

You'll find good balance between a graphite carbon fiber face and a honeycomb core for control and power in every shot. It's much lighter and easier to maneuver than wooden paddles and doesn't break the bank like some of the higher-end pickleball paddles on the market. Plus, the thick yet short handle works well for casual play. We found it lightweight and easy to maneuver in our tests.

If you're picking up the sport with a friend or partner, Niupipo even offers the paddles in an affordable set of two that includes four balls and a carrying bag.

The Z5 from Onix comes in at under $100 and offers exceptional touch and ball control with a wide body shape that is great for all levels, but especially for serious beginners . "Players new to paddle or racquet sports will likely be more comfortable with a wide body paddle since this configuration is easiest to maneuver and is also good for a controlled, more defensive style of play," Schmits said.

Plus, beginners will enjoy the paddle's large sweet spot too. Weighing 7.5 to 8.2 ounces, this graphite paddle with a durable nomex core is sturdy yet not too heavy.

The Z5 delivers both excellent power and speed , making it a favorite amongst our fitness experts, though it does tend to sell out quickly. We love that the Z5 comes in a variety of fun colors, is protected with an edge guard and has a tennis racket-style handle, providing a comfortable grip.

Although players of all levels will appreciate the quality of this mid-priced but well-designed paddle from HEAD, we found it best for intermediate players who are looking for a large sweet spot, a thick core and an ergonomic grip that's perfect for long afternoons on the pickleball court.

Most intermediate-weight paddles are between 7.2 and 8.4 ounces. Jones Wong , USA Pickleball East Assistant Director of Ambassadors, explained that heavier paddles in general tend to provide more power for driving the ball, though at the expense of optimal control. The Radical Elite hits just about in the middle of this weight range, providing the perfect balance of power and control for great playability.

One thing to note is that the paddle has a smooth fiberglass surface, and although it is fairly wide, it has less texture than other models which may impact spin off the face.

Designed for pickleball competitions and tournaments, this paddle from Franklin, a leader in the industry, is made using premium quality materials. Our pros like that it has a textured surface and special grip technology designed to lessen vibration and optimize control.

In our tests, we found the paddle to have a true oversize sweet spot for dependability with every shot. Testers said that it felt solid, durable and generated great power. It's also slightly longer than other paddles on our list, which comes down to personal preference. Although this model comes in over $100, the quality is top notch.

Schmits added that the Franklin Signature is a type of paddle designed specifically for power play. "Paddles with thinner cores, longer configurations and fiberglass faces will typically return more power," Schmits said.

If you're looking to play like the greatest of all time, look no further than the JOOLA Hyperion CFS 16MM, which is the signature pickleball paddle of world No. 1 player Ben Johns, who helped design the paddle.

Although this paddle comes at a hefty price, the quality is undeniable. You're paying for features like a carbon-forged handle designed for power, comfort, shock absorption and optimum performance. The carbon friction surface head design of the paddle optimizes swing speed and spin too.

This pick is the most expensive on our list, but certainly one of the highest quality options on the market. It is quite heavy, which advanced players may think is ideal, but beginners and intermediate players may find some fatigue setting in when playing longer games.

Tennis players who are giving pickleball a try will likely gravitate toward a paddle with an elongated design, like the AMPTED Invikta from Selkirk. This particular model is on the higher end from a cost perspective, and designed for aggressive players who are looking for extra reach, great spin and substantial power. Our fitness pros note that the mid-weight option can be quite heavy which advanced players may like.

Both Wong and Schmits said that players with well-developed stroke mechanics from other sports, specifically those who have tennis or racquetball experience, may prefer longer handles between 16 inches and a maximum of 17 inches to allow for two-handed backhand shots . Schmits noted that this is an increasingly common grip used very successfully by tennis converts, adding that this Selkirk is a great option for those individuals.

Looking for even more power? The Selkirk Vanguard Power Air Invikta comes in at a higher price point, but has an air dynamic throat for quicker speed swing, which tennis players may appreciate.

This edgeless paddle from PCKL is designed to reduce mishits and maximize the playing surface of the paddle. It has a large sweet-spot area which beginner and intermediate players will appreciate. Our fitness experts love that it has a r ough grit-textured face for great spin and enhanced power with each play.

The cushioned grip has ridges as well for comfort during long games, though some testers said it could get a bit slippery when sweaty. This particular model is only available in one color, but testers still said it was a solid choice. It comes in under $100 and offers excellent quality and special features.

The brand makes a few different lines of pickleball paddles, so if you're looking for something even more advanced, you can check out the Pro Series . This particular model features a tall frame paddle, ideal for reaching dropshots.

Designed for women by women, this stylish mid-weight paddle offers good quality too. Both beginners and seasoned players will love the fun, bright patterns and the affordable price point on models from F2 Sports.

Our experts found that the sanded graphite face — which is unique to the "fashion" paddle market — improved spin. That graphite face also makes the paddle light yet powerful and can help prevent wrist strain during longer sessions.

Our fitness pros also liked that the polymer core is strong yet flexible, and the cushioned, comfort grip did well in our tests too. The paddle also comes in under $100. but still delivers great quality. Certain colors tend to go out of stock quickly so keep that in mind.

Casual pickleball players who are looking to make a statement on the court will likely be attracted to the vibrant, trendy paddles from Recess that are available in a v ariety of unique patterns, designs and colors. You can even build a set of two, four or eight paddles for you and your pickleball pals.

Each paddle comes with an embroidered canvas cover to protect your paddle in between games. Plus, the brand frequently comes out with new limited edition collaborations, including their latest one with Gray Malin that features iconic beach photography.

Although the Vista and several other Recess paddles are USA Pickleball-approved, our experts say they are truly best for beginners and casual players. Those looking for more serious play may find that these don't provide as much power. But they do offer a comfortable grip and durable fiberglass surface for decent spin and ball control.

Nettie Classic Pickleball Paddle

Classic Pickleball Paddle

Look and feel your best on the court with a bright pickleball paddle from Nettie. The lightweight paddle comes in bold colors with stunning details. Each design has inspiration behind it, with this particular design known as the "Ashbury" that was inspired by the iconic Haight-Ashbury neighborhood in San Francisco with its big bay windows and rainbows.

The polymer honeycomb core delivers a solid amount of power, and the fiberglass face optimizes ball control, which was notable in our tests. It's also fairly lightweight, easy to maneuver and one of the more affordable stylish pickleball paddle options on the market.

But this paddle doesn't just look good. We found the cushioned grip to be quite comfortable, but note that it is best for more recreational use. That being said, the paddle is USA Pickleball Approved so it is suitable for tournament play if necessary, though you may prefer Nettie's PRO Series line for that instead.

Tangerine Pickleball Paddle

Pickleball Paddle

Colorful, fun and whimsical, this pickleball paddle from Tangerine is available in more than 30 eye-catching designs and patterns. All are inspired by different places in the world, from Nantucket (pictured) to Kauai . You'll find everything from basic designs with vibrant stripes and shapes to intricate florals and other patterns.

The paddle is lightweight, easy to play with and has the basic features you'd expect for recreational use. Though it is USA Pickleball-approved, our experts said it is ideal for casual use.

You can browse the full collection of patterns and designs on their website , but we especially love their selection of curated pickleball tote bags — they can hold two pickleball paddles on the sidecar and house any other items you need to take to the court.

How we choose the best pickleball paddles

linebreak

We evaluated over 30 pickleball paddles, looking critically at materials, control, spin, playability and more. We took into account a variety of considerations when putting this list together and made sure to include options for beginners, intermediate players and competitive athletes.

All of our top picks are approved by USA Pickleball, which means they are appropriate for tournament play and competitive games. Most importantly, we consulted the following experts for their recommendations when compiling our list:

  • Carl Schmits, Managing Director of Equipment Standards & Facilities Development at the USA Pickleball
  • Jones Wong, USA Pickleball East Assistant Director of Ambassadors

Although most paddles may look similar, they can be extremely different and significantly impact your performance on the court. "Friends' recommendations are good, but personal experience trying out candidates for your next paddle is best," said Schmits.

good housekeeping pickleball paddle testing

We felt it was important to highlight pickleball paddles of different price points, especially inexpensive high-quality options for casual players or those new to the sport. We also looked for paddles with colorful and unique artwork and patterns that will get new players excited to get on the court. High-end paddles for advanced players also made our list, though these tend to be more costly.

Pictured here is one of our lead testers, personal trainer and avid pickleball player Nick Mastropasqua, evaluating pickleball paddles in-house.

What to look for when shopping for the best pickleball paddle

linebreak

The quantity of pickleball paddles on the market is vast, but not all are of great quality. When selecting the best one for you and your needs, you'll want something that grows with you and your journey with the sport. Here are a few factors to take into consideration:

✔️ Materials: There are three major categories of paddles to choose from which include wood, composite and graphite.

  • " Wood paddles are often a good option for schools, camps, community centers and YMCAs due to their durability and low cost," said Wong who added that players may be more prone to arm fatigue due to their heavy weight.
  • Composite paddles have a core of nomex, aluminum or a polymer with a thin surface of carbon fiber or fiberglass.
  • Graphite paddles , on the other hand, may have a core similar to the composite paddles but with a thin layer of graphite, Wong explained.

✔️ Core: Aluminum, nomex and polymer cores are the most common options available.

  • Aluminum cores are strong and light to provide more touch and shot finesse. Though Wong pointed out that they are more prone to dents.
  • " Nomex core s consist of cardboard in a honeycomb arrangement dipped in a strong resin. These paddles are hard and loud sounding but generally provide power and speed with shots," said Wong.
  • Polymer cores use a blend of plastic to create quieter paddles. Wong added that due to their ability to dampen shots, they tend to be preferred by "control" players. Schmits noted that the acoustic profile of those aluminum and nomex is typically higher pitched and louder than polymer, which can be a critical issue if used in HOAs or municipal courts near residential areas.

✔️ Level: Advanced players will likely have different considerations than casual pickleball novices. Certain paddles are designed for certain levels of the sport or past experiences such as avid tennis players who are beginning to play pickleball. "Many beginners will start with a mid-weight composite or graphite paddle and will most likely change as their game evolves or as they become more aware of their game strengths," Wong said. "If someone is coming from another racquet or paddle sport where they are used to playing with power, they will lean towards composite paddles. "

fitness experts in the good housekeeping institute evaluate pickleball paddles

✔️ Cost: More expensive paddles tend to have additional special features appropriate for competitive players, but that isn't to say that cheaper options aren't a solid choice. There are plenty of moderately priced options that cater to a wide variety of levels and needs when playing.

✔️ Style: Pickleball paddles come in all shapes, sizes, colors and designs. A colorful and beautiful paddle is not only a statement piece, but may get you inspired and excited to get on the court. Finding a well-designed option in both style and function is key.

✔️ Details: Personal preference also comes into play for factors like the surface area, handle length, grip circumference, weight and more. When you're at the court, it may be worth checking out friends' paddles to get a feel for the overall design you prefer that feels best in your hand.

Is a more expensive or thicker paddle best?

"While more expensive paddles may have better quality materials, there are now so many good paddle manufacturers making very acceptable paddles in the under $90 to $150 range," Wong said.

" Inexpensive starter paddles are great as an entry into the sport as you learn the rules , get involved with a local club and ideally identify what your playing style is or could be with practice and/or lessons," Schmits said. "The latter will drive your search for your next paddle, which could be just a few weeks into your new sport."

When it comes to thickness, there may be an advantage to choosing a thicker paddle. "In the last few years, some of the manufacturers have developed thick paddle cores which seem to absorb shots, and thus support more finesse play," Wong explained. "Depending on their surfaces, they may also generate additional spin."

While a quality paddle can make a difference in your game, Wong said that good training, practicing with a purpose, developing good techniques and learning pickleball strategies are of the utmost importance for competitive players.

Can the right pickleball paddle prevent injuries?

linebreak

Since a typical pickleball session can last about two hours, Schmits said the right paddle can play a role in preventing injuries. He added that the most common injuries related to equipment choice are tennis and golf elbow.

"Grip size, paddle weight and swing weight (how the weight is distributed) all contribute to the efficiency and comfort of the human-paddle interface," Schmits explained. "A grip that is too small may require an over-clenched grip to prevent spinning in the hand."

Schmits recommended picking up a few demos or a friend’s paddle, then clearing a space around you and taking a few phantom swings to find a couple of paddles that fall into that ideal zone for you. "Take them out onto the court for a play test on a few ground strokes, dinks and volleys — you’ll find one that feels just right."

How to care for a pickleball paddle

linebreak

Schmits recommended wiping down the paddle face once a week with water to prevent the accumulation of dirt. "Do not leave paddles in any location that can reach high temperatures," he said, like a car trunk during the warm summer months.

"As with any equipment, its longevity is dependent on the user and frequency of use," Wong said. "Since pickleball paddles have no strings to replace (as in a tennis, racquetball or squash racquet), they should last a while."

But he added that paddle surfaces can develop "dead" spots and edge guards can be scrapped or damaged during play and over time. "As a player's game evolves, they may decide to replace their paddle with one that will augment their game of power, finesse or a combination thereof," said Wong.

Why trust Good Housekeeping?

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Good Housekeeping Institute Wellness Lab Director Stefani Sassos , M.S., R.D.N., C.D.N., NASM-CPT has been working in the fitness industry for the past 10 years, specializing in indoor cycling and strength training. As a NASM-certified personal trainer, she uses her expertise and exercise science knowledge to create informed fitness content for Good Housekeeping. From vigorously testing exercise equipment and workout apps to curating workout plans for GH readers, Sassos is passionate about leading an active lifestyle and inspiring others to do the same. She loves that pickleball is a fun and social way to stay active and get moving.

Amy Schlinger , NASM-certified personal trainer, is a journalist who has been in the fitness and health industry for over a decade. She has loved and played sports her whole life, but most recently has been very into golf and pickleball. If there's a court nearby, Schlinger won't pass up a game of pickle.

Headshot of Stefani Sassos, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.N., NASM-CPT

Stefani (she/her) is a registered dietitian, a NASM-certified personal trainer and the director of the Good Housekeeping Institute Nutrition Lab, where she handles all nutrition-related content, testing and evaluation. She holds a bachelor’s degree in nutritional sciences from Pennsylvania State University and a master’s degree in clinical nutrition from NYU. She is also Good Housekeeping’s on-staff fitness and exercise expert. Stefani is dedicated to providing readers with evidence-based content to encourage informed food choices and healthy living. She is an avid CrossFitter and a passionate home cook who loves spending time with her big fit Greek family.

Headshot of Amy Schlinger, NASM-CPT

Amy Schlinger is a skilled reporter, writer and editor who has over 14 years of experience covering health, fitness, wellness, nutrition and lifestyle topics. She regularly interviews world-renowned doctors and medical professionals, elite trainers, nutrition experts, professional athletes and celebrities, and has held staff positions at Shape , DailyBurn, Self and PopSugar. Her work has appeared in Reader's Digest , Men’s Health , The New York Post , The Wall Street Journal , HuffPost, Women’s Health , Glamour , Runner’s World , Bicycling and more. She earned her BA in Media Arts and Design, with a concentration in Print Journalism, from James Madison University. Amy has run six half marathons, completed two triathlons, biked two century rides, finished two Tough Mudder races and four Spartan races, including a beast at the Spartan World Championships.

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