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Note: All travel is subject to frequently changing governmental restrictions—please check federal, state and local advisories before scheduling trips.

We get it: The goal of leaving home is to experience as much of life as possible, to treat yourself and unwind. But when the budget gets tight, the tough get creative. Looking for a bit of luxurious relaxation on a shoestring? Here are eight options that will add a little something special to your travels without impacting your bottom line too much.

RELATED: 5 hot springs in gorgeous natural settings

Boulder Dushanbe Tea House: Boulder, CO  

Every civilized society starts their adventures with a cup of tea, which is exactly why you should hit up the Boulder Dushanbe Tea House. The ornate landmark was originally built in Tajikistan by hand, without tools, and then later shipped piece by piece to Colorado and re-assembled along Boulder Creek. Take in the colorful carvings that surround you while you sip their signature Teahouse Chai, or dive into the depths of cheese tea (topped with milk foam and cream cheese). Hours and seating are currently limited due to Covid, so be sure to make a reservation.

Sykes Hot Springs: Big Sur, Los Padres National Forest, CA

Yes, hot tubs are awesome, but when spas aren’t in the budget, nature finds a way. Areas like Big Sur are known for their geothermic activity, meaning you can cheaply find a place to soak away your troubles. Just be sure to consult an official map before you dip—there’s a fine line between stress relief and accidental boiling.

Hike the Multnomah-Wahkeena Loop: Portland, OR

If you’re tired of thoughtless people invading the imaginary six-foot force field you’ve conjured around you, then your concept of luxury might have more to do with getting away from it all. In that case, hit the trail at Portland’s Multnomah-Wahkeena. The 4.9-mile hike offers views of stunning waterfalls, plenty of chances to peep Oregon’s fairytale worthy foliage, viewpoints over the Columbia River, and significantly more big-leaf maples than people.

Brooklyn Botanic Garden: Brooklyn, NY

…Or maybe the great outdoors isn’t exactly your bag. Which is exactly why you should plan a trip to a botanical garden like Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Not only does their bite-sized natural goodness allow you the pleasure of being surrounded by a wide variety of plants your black thumb would likely kill instantly, they usually offer fun bonuses like in-house cafes and classes. And thanks to the location, you’ll never be too far away from city life.

Land’s End Labyrinth: San Francisco, CA

Overlooking the water at the end of Land’s End Park in San Francisco, is an ankle-high labyrinth. While there’s no Goblin King hiding in the center, the monument is meant to evoke peace, love and enlightenment. Go and practice your yoga breathing—or sneak a peek during the solstices, when the artist Eduardo Aguilera often drops by to light his small stone swirl with candles. (Note: It can be a bit tricky to find, so grab directions before you go.)

See the sky in a dark sky park: Big Bend National Park, Texas

Remind yourself how big and magical the world really can be with a visit to Big Bend in Texas. Not does the park feature a wealth of rugged hills and intricate ecosystems, at night this International Dark Sky Park, makes for cinescope-worthy star viewing. Join one of their night sky viewing programs to learn exactly which constellation you’re gawking at—or pack a picnic and make good on the romantic date you’ve been meaning to take.

Chicago Food Truck Fest: Chicago, IL

Food trucks are awesome because they offer a chance to sample local favors—even if your budget is more 7-Eleven than Michelin Star, plus there’s no need to go inside a restaurant. Bonus for those who can never make up their minds: A lot of them offer smaller sized options, meaning you can mix and match offerings to your heart’s content. For the ultimate offering, hit up the Chicago Food Truck Fest, which takes place Fridays April through September in Daley Plaza downtown (check for possible Covid closures). Bring your appetite and munch your way through favorites like 5411 Empanadas, Chubby Wieners, and Firecakes Donuts. Not in Chicago? No problem. Thanks to the National Food Truck Directory, you can track the schedule and offerings of over 8,500 trucks nationwide.

Post-pandemic tip: Hit the Korean spa in your city

If you’re in Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Chicago or Tacoma, you’re in luck. While their European-style competitors tend to project a sense of high-priced elitism, Korean spas are rooted in the bathhouse tradition—meaning you’ll get the same hot tubs and saunas at a more wallet-friendly rate. Add a treatment like their traditional scrub (where you’ll lose what feels like a pound of dead skin, along with what’s left of your inhibitions), or relax in the mixed-gender jimjilbang resting area.

Tagged: California, Cheap Tips, Chicago, Destinations, L.A., New York City, Texas

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