The Best Budget Destinations to Travel to in Your 40s

by Elizabeth Aldrich | Updated Nov. 9, 2021 - First published on Oct. 8, 2019

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Woman in hat facing away and taking photos of an enormous old church across a bay.

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The best bucket list trips that don't cost a fortune.

Now that you’re in your 40s, planning your next adventure might have you thinking about where you can find some rest and rejuvenation as much as where you can fit in a little excitement. Perhaps you'd like to travel as a family, or you're looking for a getaway that will offer a little more culture and won't cost you an arm and a leg. Either way, these are the best travel destinations for 40-somethings on a budget.

1. Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

Costa Rica is famous for its stunning beaches, lush forests, and incredible amounts of wildlife. You’ll find all this and more in Manuel Antonio, one of the most popular stops for families, kids, and couples. This area is considered by some to hold the most beautiful beaches and dense wildlife in the entire country. Visitors are sure to glimpse howler monkeys, scarlet macaws, and if you’re lucky, maybe even a sloth sleeping in one of the trees. 

You can find every type of accommodation from budget hostels to upscale resorts. While activities and tours like ziplining and sunset sailing tend to be similar to U.S. prices, you can save by dining in typical Costa Rican restaurants, known as "sodas," and taking advantage of the frequent flight deals to San Jose, Costa Rica.

2. Greek Islands, Greece

If you’re looking for luxury on a budget, then the Greek Islands are exactly where you want to be. You could spend all day on the white sand and pebble beaches and still come back for more, or possibly head out to explore the many bays and coves of this area. Settle on one island, or take a ferry to hop around. 

Although the most well known islands are probably Santorini or Mykonos, there are over 200 inhabited islands to choose from, and the less popular islands tend to be more budget-friendly. If you’re traveling as a family, you may want to stay on Naxos, which has its own waterpark. The Saronic Gulf Islands are close to Athens and are a great option if you’re hoping to stick to your budget.

3. Nairobi, Kenya

Has an African safari always been on your bucket list? A trip to Nairobi will give you the chance to get up close and personal with wildlife -- perfect for families with young children who would love nothing more than to see a giraffe standing a few feet away. Nairobi National Park is home to many different species, and offers a safari walk for visitors to view the many lions, cheetahs, zebras, and more. 

There are options here for every budget, from luxury tours and accommodations, to budget guest houses and street food that will cost you less than $1. Flights will be costly, but with the right rewards credit card, you might be able to save up enough credit card points to cover your flight.

4. Beijing, China

Beijing is one of the oldest cities in the world. Your first and most important stop will probably be the Great Wall of China, only a short drive away from Beijing. There are almost too many other monuments to count, from the Palace Museum to the Temple of Heaven to Tiananmen Square. For a more modern experience, head to the 798 Art District to view contemporary art and dine at one of the hip cafes. 

Visit Beijing during the winter to save money on hotels and entrance prices, but be aware that some may be closed during the off-season. To save money on flights to Asia, consider getting a good travel credit card with a lucrative sign-up bonus. With enough airline miles, you could get at least one of your flights for free.

5. Machu Picchu, Peru

Like the Great Wall of China, Machu Picchu is one of the seven wonders of the world. Only a certain number of tourists are allowed to visit each day, so it’s best to make your plans as early as possible. You can hike the Inca Trail all the way to the ruins, but this will take several days and you must go with a group. Otherwise, you can take a bus on your own. 

Visiting the site without the hike is significantly cheaper. Also, although the hotels near Machu Picchu are beautiful, you'll save money by staying further away in one of the nearby villages.

6. San Juan, Puerto Rico

Located on the coast of Puerto Rico, San Juan is a vibrant city filled with historical buildings as well as bustling nightlife. Old San Juan offers the perfect place for a walking tour of the city, with cobblestone streets and colorful Spanish colonial buildings. You will definitely want to spend time here, whether you’re admiring the ocean views, touring the centuries-old forts, listening to live music, or perhaps taking salsa lessons.

Puerto Rico is the perfect destination if you want to go somewhere that feels new without spending too much money on flights or having to get a passport. You can find lower prices at the numerous four-star resorts during off-season, or look for budget accommodations at one of the country inns.

7. Florence, Italy

If renaissance art and architecture makes your heart flutter, Florence may just be your new favorite vacation spot. Imagine seeing Michelangelo’s “David” in person, or walking beneath the iconic terracotta Duomo. There’s almost too much art to soak in, which is why you may need to spend several days here. 

All of this world-famous art might make Florence sound like a pricey destination, but it's actually a wonderful place to curb your spending, as you only need to walk around the city to experience the best sights around. Food and drinks are world-class and very affordable -- a loaded panini from All'Antico Vinaio, Florence's legendary sandwich shop, will only cost a few euros, and wine is often cheaper than water. You’ll have to stop for gelato, of course, and order a shot of espresso at one of the local coffee bars, both of which are also only a couple euros.

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