It's Ambergris Caye!
5 Best Vacations for Less Than $1K
Jada A. Graves for US News & World Report Travel
Budgeting day-to-day expenses is tough enough. What isn't soaked into the mortgage and rent is swallowed by groceries and gas. Vacation -- what vacation? Try "staycation," a word that finally made it to Merriam-Webster Dictionary in 2009, partly to make us feel better about our lack of mobility.
But maybe it's really just imagination that we're all lacking. With that, proper planning and careful calculation it is possible to travel within reasonable means. Imagine that you and a companion have a vacation allowance of just $1,000 for seven days and six to seven nights. There are places to visit and experiences to gain that might seem to defy that budget, but won't. Don't factor in airfare -- we'll provide tips to save on transportation here -- instead, devote your creativity to using the "grand" you've got during the trip itself. Have you pictured where you'll go yet?
We have a handful of vacations that will help you get your wanderlust going. Take our challenge to spend a cheap week on one of these fantastic trips.
[See a photo recap of the 5 Best Vacations for Less Than $1K]
In Winter …
Ambergris Caye, Belize
If you're seeking sun and sand when everyone else is shivering in stiff breezes and snow, try an often-overlooked (but still beautiful) island in the Caribbean Sea. The Belizean isle of Ambergris Caye is a renowned scuba diving locale, and yet it doesn't get as much hype as the Cayman Islands. English is the official language, so don't worry about a communication barrier. And for you all you Madonna fans, Ambergris is the original La Isla Bonita.
Getting Around: Ambergris Caye is so laid-back and compact that you could successfully shuttle around the main settlement, San Pedro Town, in a rented golf cart. Rent a four-seater cart on an as-needed basis -- you probably can get by with having it for just an hour each day, which costs as little as $18 USD, including insurance and taxes. Visit the island's tourism board site for rental information. Besides that, you can resort to walking or biking. Some hotels offer complimentary bicycles for their guests.
Where to Stay: Forgo the pampering of a resort for the personal service found at an independently run hotel. The New York Times and Frommer's recommend Ruby's Beachfront. Located on Front Street in San Pedro Town, this hideaway has 23 small, clean and comfortable rooms that regularly go for far less than $50 USD a night.
Where to Dine: Palmilla Restaurant, in the Victoria House hotel, is generally considered the best and most elegant dining experience on the island. So it almost goes without saying that travelers on a shoestring budget should steer clear. Luckily, there are quite a few affordable restaurants on the island. Try the Jambel Jerk Pit in the town center for some spicy regional dishes, or head to Fido's on the beachfront for a burger and some cheap Belkins, the national beer.
Your Big Splurge: Visiting the Belize Barrier Reef -- which is second only to Australia's Great Barrier Reef in size -- will definitely be the budget-slayer for this trip. According to Ambergris Caye's tourism site, you should expect to pay between $45 and $55 USD per person for an excursion that includes two daytime dives, and no more than $40 for a night dive.