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Sometimes, an international vacation is actually more affordable than a domestic one. With plane tickets cheaper than ever and budget airlines adding new routes by the day, it’s time to explore beyond America’s awe-inspiring—but often pricey and crowded—natural wonders and culture-packed cities. Many gorgeous, affordable options can be found south of the border, in Latin America. For example, did you know Mexico has its own Napa Valley equivalent a short drive south from San Diego, or that Lima, Peru has a food scene rivaling many major U.S. cities? To help get the travel inspiration flowing, we’ve rounded up 7 Latin American alternative to pricier U.S. destinations.

RELATED: 5 next-level Mexican hot spots to visit before the tourists rush in

Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico v. Napa Valley

Valle de Guadelupe, Mexico

Valle de Guadelupe

Rolling Hillsides blanketed with vineyards, world-class restaurants, and the Pacific Ocean just a stone’s throw away: While it may sound like we’re describing Napa Valley, we’re not. Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico, a wine and foodie lover’s paradise just a 90-minute drive south of San Diego, is Baja’s relaxed wine country, featuring architecturally impressive wineries and charming boutique hotels galore. It’s hard not to fall in love with the scenery—and its prices, too. While tastings generally run around $10, the real value lies with the food. Acclaimed chefs like Javier Plascencia at Finca Altozana and David Castro at Fauna, serve mind-blowingly delicious local cuisines for half the price of equally delicious Napa restaurants. Start your day tasting smooth organic Tempranillo and Syrah at Finca La Carodilla then take a horseback ride through the vineyards at Adobe Guadalupe Winery.

Lima, Peru v. Chicago

ceviche, Peru, Lima

Peruvian cuisine

Looking for a foodie weekend getaway? Chicago probably jumps to mind with its deep-dish pizza, fancy tasting-menu restaurants and upscale Mexican cuisine. But it can also come with a mile-long bill, especially when you wrap in the price of cocktails, a plane ticket and an expensive downtown hotel room. Instead, consider swapping Italian beef for lomo saltado (beef marinated in vinegar and soy sauce then sautéed with chilies and onions) in Peru’s capital. Lima’s dynamic cuisine has influences from around the globe including Europe and Asia (particularly China), so there’s no shortage of flavors. Head to Ámaz for avant-garde dishes driven by ingredients from the Amazon, or enjoy some of the best ceviche of your life by world-renowned Peruvian-Chinese chef Javier Wong at Chez Wong. Once you’ve had ceviche in Lima, you won’t be able to stop, so add restaurant Cala to your list; this foodie hot spot helped drive the Peruvian food craze in the U.S. In Peru, you’ll really only find inflated tourist pricing around Machu Picchu; just about everything else in this beautiful county is incredibly affordable.

Cartagena, Colombia v. Cape Cod

Colorful streets of Cartagena

If charming flower-draped sidewalks and amazing seafood are what you’re looking for, there’s no need to spend a fortune in the New England town of Cape Cod. Sure, the beaches are beautiful and the weather in summer is lovely, but the prices are high and the snootiness is palpable. Instead, grab your passport and head south to Cartagena where bougainvillea grows from colorful, colonial-style balconies, vendors dole out cheap, mouth-watering street food like arepas and fresh fruit juices, and the nightlife is legit. Here, you’ll enjoy a top-shelf rum punch for about $6 at Café Havana, then salsa the night away to live music until dawn. During the day, explore the charming Old City, take a tour of Convento de la Popa, or venture on boat to the Rosario Islands. For your last night, book a table at La Cevicheria for flavorful ceviche, then catch a killer sunset Cafe Del Mar atop the Old City walls. As the sun melts into the Caribbean horizon, we bet you’ll already be planning your next trip back.

Iguazu Falls, Argentina v. Niagara Falls

Iguazu falls

Iguazu Falls

These two falls have something in common besides being magnificent displays of Mother Nature: They both lie on the border of two countries. Straddling Canada and the United States, Niagara Falls is an incredibly popular (and populated) destination. Think huge throngs of tourists with cameras and iPhones in hand. Consider, instead, Iguazu Falls in South America. Equally impressive in statue and scope, Iguazu straddles Brazil and Argentina and is generally less crowded, cheaper and more rugged than Niagara. On the Brazilian side, a nice hotel in the Foz do Iguaçu area runs around $50/night, and tickets tickets into the park cost around $50, including transportation once inside. From Puerto Iguazu on the Argentinian side, entry to the park is around $40. From either side, though, you’ll have a stunning view as billions of gallons of water rush over the side of lush, green cliffs in the middle of a jungle.

Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia  v. White Sands, NM

Bolivia Salt Flats

Salar de Uyuni

Visiting the largest gypsum dune field in the world will require planes, trains and automobiles. The 275 square miles of sandy desert in New Mexico is truly a stunning sight to behold, but no doubt getting there can cost an arm and a leg. El Peso, which isn’t the cheapest place to fly into and will almost certainly entail two plane flights, is the closet airport. Then, you’ll have to rent a car and make your way 1.5 hours north into New Mexico. Instead, opt for the more Instagrammable salt flats in Bolivia. Salar de Uyuni is the largest salt flat in the world, covering more than 4,000 square feet and the photo scenes you can create there are epic (seriously, Google “salt flats Bolivia” and you’ll see some wildly creative shots). If you go during the rainier winter season, you’ll be amazed by the stunning mirror effect given off by the flooded white ground. By summer, the water has dried and the ground has hardened and cracked, delivering equally scenic, salty views that stretch for miles. You can book 3-day/2-night tours from the town of Uyuni for less than $200 (including transportation and accommodation!), so then only thing you’ll need to worry about is getting that killer shot.

Havana, Cuba v. Miami

Havana, Cuba

Havana, Cuba

Havana ooh na na. Half of my heart is in Havana, ooh na na. Now that we’ve got that song stuck in your head, it’s time to talk logistics. Sure, you could go to Miami, the U.S. city with the largest population of Cubans outside of Cuba, get some pretty fantastic food and probably find some legit great music. But good luck not giving away the entire piggy bank on a flight, hotel and dining; Miami is a notoriously expensive city. Why spend all that dough when you can hop on a 50-minute plane to Havana for the real thing? Time really has stood still in Cuba, but the island nation has opened up tremendously to U.S. tourism in the last decade. Stroll around the charming streets of Havana checking out all the cool 1950s vintage cars as they whiz by. Then pop out to the suburbs to visit Finca Vigia, Hemingway’s home and museum. Hotel prices in Old Havana are very budget friendly, starting at $5.

Torres Del Paine National Park, Chile v. Yellowstone National Park

Torres Del Paine National Park

Torres Del Paine National Park

Sure, entry to Yellowstone National Park only costs about $25, but its remote location in Wyoming will certainly cost you a pretty penny travel-wise. Plus, most hotels in the are at least $200/night, and that’s after you plan flight and rental car. The park also sees more than 4 million annual visitors, so you won’t exactly have all that nature to yourself. Instead, consider a more exotic park like Torres Del Paine in Chile’s southern Patagonia region. The extraordinary Chilean national park has ice fields, jagged mountain formations, cerulean lakes and gigantic glaciers. Venture out on a hike, like the park’s famous W Circuit, and spot incredible wildlife, like Andean condors soaring above. Arguably South America’s most picturesque corner, Torres del Paine is one of Mother Nature’s greatest masterpieces.

Tagged: California, City, Destinations, International, Mexico, Types of Travel

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At some airports, time in the terminal is a little more burdensome than at others. Maybe it’s because the nearby food options suck, or because the weather around that airport is always bad, so hope of ever making it home begins to slip slowly away. One thing is for sure: a good view always makes time in the terminal go a little quicker, whether your flight is delayed or not.  And some airports boast views that are downright breathtaking. When debating layover options, make sure to route through one of these airports.

View of the Front Range from Denver International Airport. Courtesy of Ken Lund.

View of the Front Range from Denver International Airport. Courtesy of Ken Lund.

Denver International Airport — Colorado

DIA has won awards for its design, but the view of nature surrounding it is much more breathtaking. Althoughit is positioned more than a half hour’s drive outside of Denver, the airport still features fantastic views of the Rocky Mountains. Unfortunately, you will likely only see the views if you’re in Terminal West. Terminal East faces toward flat, desolate eastern Colorado.

The view from Honolulu International Airport. Courtesy of Robert Linsdell.

The view from Honolulu International Airport. Courtesy of Robert Linsdell.

Honolulu International Airport — Hawaii

If touching down in paradise doesn’t leave you in enough state of bliss, check out the view out the airport window. The airport is sandwiched between Mãmala Bay and Oahu’s iconic Diamond Head Crater, just beyond Waikiki Beach. If you can peel your eyes away from that glory, check out the Honolulu skyline and nearby Pearl Harbor.


Courtesy of Hideyuki Kamon.

Courtesy of Hideyuki Kamon.

Vancouver International Airport — British Columbia, Canada

Another view dominated by mountains and sea. The airport is positioned just on the coast of the Salish Sea, and the snowcapped North Shore Mountain range overlooks it all. It is probably safe to assume all the Winter Olympic athletes that converged in the city in 2010 drew most of their inspiration from this view.


A look at Bora Bora's main island from the airport. Courtesy of Michael Stout.

A look at Bora Bora’s main island from the airport. Courtesy of Michael Stout.

Bora Bora Airport — French Polynesia

Flying into any island of tropical paradise is going to be, well, paradise, and Bora Bora is no exception. The lack of land available for runways forces airports to be built in beautiful locations on the islands. This one, also called the Motu Mute Airport, was built on an islet in a lagoon, and a boat transport is necessary to get to the main island.


The Mendenhall Glacier and Juneau airport. Courtesy of Sam Beebe.

The Mendenhall Glacier and Juneau airport. Courtesy of Sam Beebe.

Juneau International Airport — Alaska

More people have their pilots license than drivers license in Alaska, a state in which it is impossible to escape nature’s beauty. So one might just assume that all of Alaska’s airports are beautiful. They probably are, but let’s focus on Juneau’s airport. The Mendenhall Glacier seems to decend on it, with Mount Juneau rising stoically above.


Courtesy of EandJsFilmCrew.

Courtesy of EandJsFilmCrew.

Boston Logan International Airport — Massachusetts

Although the view from Boston’s airport might not be quite as striking as the mountain and paradisiacal scenes some of our other airports have offered, this one offers a nice blend of urban vistas and nature. It is in East Boston and surrounded by water on three sides, so travelers can see the sailboats on Boston Harbour and the downtown skyline.


A view of São Paulo from the air. Courtesy of Roger W.

A view of São Paulo from the air. Courtesy of Roger W.

São Paulo Guarulhos International Airport — Brazil

São Paulo is a city that seems to go on forever, especially if you are taking it in by air. On the ground at the airport, travelers can see that huge city sprawling in front of them. Although they may not be experiencing the hustle and bustle of city life quite yet, it looms before them.

CTIXblog CTA _ cheap of the week

Tagged: Beach, City, Flights, Hawaii

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The key to cheap travel is knowing the best time to find cheap flights and cheap hotels. So we created the CheapTickets 2009 Value Travel Forecast, a month-by-month guide of top destinations that offer the most savings for travelers.

To help identify the best budget-friendly travel opportunities for next year, we analyzed hotels booked on CheapTickets from December 2007 to November 2008 and calculated the percentage of savings compared to peak rates.

Here are the winners (and honorable mentions) for 2009:

Italy vacationsJANUARY: 37% savings in New York
In addition to a 37 percent savings on New York hotels compared to peak rates, retailers are buzzing with post-holiday sales, and big-city attractions are easily accessible now that the holiday crowds have come and gone. Visitors can also take advantage of New York City’s Restaurant Week in January, giving them access to some of the city’s best restaurants for a fraction of the price.

Other January cheap vacation destinations: Santa Barbara, CA and Hong Kong

FEBRUARY: 42% savings in Italy
In February, Italy is just starting to come out of its winter cloak, and budget travelers will appreciate the lower airfare and savings of up to 42 percent on Italy hotels when compared to the high season. February visitors can experience one of Italy’s most famous festivals, Carnevale.

Other February cheap vacation destinations: France and Colorado Springs, CO

MARCH: 53% savings in Portland, ME

This historic, seacoast town is filled with galleries, one-of-kind boutiques and incredible restaurants serving everything from creamy clam chowder and lobster rolls to nouvelle New England cuisine.

Other March cheap vacation destinations: Reno, NV and Canada

APRIL: 58% savings in Brazil
In April, the summer surge of tourists in Brazil is complete, which means fewer crowds, but the same great tropical weather.

Other April cheap vacation destinations: Santa Fe, NM and Columbus, GA

Lake tahoe hotels MAY: 38% savings in Lake Tahoe
For those who love the outdoors, Lake Tahoe is the ideal destination in May. The lake is popular for water sports and beach activities, and with 38 percent savings on Lake Tahoe hotels compared to peak winter rates, going during the off-season means affording activities like a guided cruise or dining at the many lake front restaurants.

Other May cheap vacation destinations: Denver, CO and Atlanta, GA

JUNE: 38% savings in Egypt
With 38 percent savings compared to peak rates, June visitors can relax on the wondrous Red Sea or Sinai coasts, take in the high culture of Cairo or even leisurely float down the Egyptian Nile on a river boat.

Other June cheap vacation destinations: Columbia, SC and Dallas, TX

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Tagged: City, FREE!, Off-season, Tips & advice