Top 5 Tropical Getaways on a Budget

Has winter weather left you yearning for white sand beaches, lulling surf and the caress of trade winds? Has the economy left your wallet thinner than you’d like? Fear not! You can have a tropical vacation for less than you might think. Here are 5 options for a tropical vacation on a budget.

1) Cruise the Caribbean. The beauty of a cruise is the all-inclusive package. You’ll get lodging, transportation, meals, non-alcoholic beverages and onboard entertainment from $80/night, per person. Save even more by driving to your departure port a day before you sail. Carnival has Caribbean departures from Mobile, Miami, New Orleans, Galveston, Charleston, and New York City, just to name a few. Even better, hotels that cater to cruise passengers often let you park your car for free while you’re onboard.

2) Cruise the Mexican Riviera. Departing out of Los Angeles or San Diego, a Mexican Riviera cruise will take you to Puerto Vallarta, Cabo San Lucas and Mazatlan, picturesque ports that aren’t impacted by drug violence in other parts of Mexico. Rates start at $399 per person for 7 nights, with additional discounts possible for children or 3rd/4th guests in the same cabin. Looking to beat the ship’s price for shore excursions? Do an internet search for “Mazatlan Frank” who can help you with Puerto Vallarta, too.

3) Playa del Carmen on Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula truly has it all for sun-seekers. You’ll find miles of pristine beaches, crystal blue water, great food, world-class snorkeling, dolphin encounters, boutique shopping and great rates on accommodations. Check out for 5 nights for $525 per person, air included. If you visit the Mayan ruins at Tulum, take along some single dollar bills or local pocket change. Bathrooms are free, but you’ll need to tip if you want toilet paper.

4) St. Petersburg – Clearwater, Florida. Located just outside of Tampa, the St. Petersburg – Clearwater area offers beaches, crab shacks, nightlife and budget hotels starting at $70/night. The theme-park addicted can visit Busch Gardens in Tampa while nature lovers hunt for shells and sand dollars at Caladesi Island State Park. To avoid Spring Break crowds, skip April and go in May.

5) Camp the Florida Keys. Are you game for sleeping on the beach? If so, pack up your camping gear and head for the Florida Keys. You’ll have access to boating, fishing, beaches and restaurants without the cost of a hotel. Rates average $40/night, hookups included. You’ll need reservations, and you may need to make them a year in advance.