Cheapest travel destinations? Here’s your guidebook

by Sheila on May 11, 2009

by Sheila | May 11th, 2009  

worlds-cheapest-destinations_3rd_180pxWhen my Perceptive Travel blog editor Tim Leffel sent me a review copy of his guidebook The World’s Cheapest Destinations: 21 Countries Where Your Money Is Worth A Fortune, I was a bit skeptical.

It’s not geared specifically to family travel, and even though Tim’s an experienced Dad as well as a terrific travel writer, I worried that this particular book would get too “backpacker-y” for my blog’s readers.

Not to worry – although there are several countries listed where only the most intrepid parents would take the kids, I found a lot of good ideas here for my own travel planning.  There are super-helpful price ranges for each country, to help you plan typical expenditures for lodging, meals, transportation and seeing attractions.

At the end of each section, Tim describes what you can get in each country for the equivalent of one US dollar or less;  “3 rats on a stick in Laos” – yay! Humorous local color notwithstanding, he gives plenty of examples of less, um, exotic purchases.

His quick evaluations of each country’s best beer or local liquor are an “adults only” bonus.

Consider this book as a value-focused destination Idea Finder; it gives you a broad overview of what to expect at various budget levels, then you can plunge in and buy a country-specific guidebook (if you’re thinking south of the US, Tim has also written the excellent Traveler’s Tool Kit for Mexico and Central America.)

Some of the book’s best tips for parenting travelers:

***  Go long. Better to make a journey and stay in one place or region for two or three weeks than rage all over trying to pack in too many sights. With young kids, this goes double. Get off the plane or out of the car, slow down and stay awhile; you’ll learn and enjoy a place a lot more.

***  Take advantage of budget airlines within regions.  If you are going to country-hop, they’ve shrunk distances across Europe and Asia. For more airline ticket info, there’s BootsnAll’s own Cheap Air Tickets site.

***  Money quote from Tim: “If you demand pampering at every stage, you will pay pampering prices.”  Cheapest Destinations does NOT think that staying in Ye Olde Fleabag Hotel is such a fun idea; Tim insists that countries he lists as desirable have basic tourism infrastructure and support, and he’s also quite blunt about where you’ll find a “soak the tourists” mentality.

***  The book is very sensitive to the dietary needs of vegetarians; I like that and don’t see it too often. Tip if you’re vegetarian:  go to India.

***  Places that I personally want to take my family after reading this book? Jordan, Turkey and Guatemala. Tim is a fan of Spanish immersion classes in Guatemala, which he’s done with his wife and kids. It sounds terrific.

***  More places that intrigue me:  Honduras and Peru. Of course, the recent Shashi Bellamkonda guest post about Machu Picchu here on Family Travel already had me fired up.

***  Europe a must-do for you? Consider Hungary, Portugal and rural Spain (for more on kids in Spain, see Jeanne at SoulTravelers3.)

***  Bargain skiing – Transylvanian Alps in Romania, in the Czech Republic and in Turkey.

This is an excellent reference book if you have a globe in one hand, a budget in the other and kids in front of you saying, “When can we go someplace really cool?”

Normally after a book review I do a giveaway, but sorry, I’m keeping this one because Tim autographed it just for me.  He wrote, “To Sheila – step away from the laptop!”

Think the guy knows me pretty well?

You can buy World’s Cheapest Destinations here (where the purchase price goes to Tim and the publisher, without middlemen) and there’s an ebook version there as well. See this page for more purchase options.


Hjortur Smarason May 11, 2009 at 2:11 pm

Sounds like an interesting book, Sheila. I’m looking for a cheaper way to travel with my 5 kids and a currency that’s lost half of it’s value.

Speaking of which, you could add Iceland to the list of cheap travel destinations. Yep, believe it or not, but because of the economic crash in Iceland last fall, you now get more then double the value for your dollar. Iceland has never been as cheap as now. Actually, it’s never been cheap before :) Exploit it!


Authentic Seacoast Resorts May 11, 2009 at 2:13 pm

Great review, Sheila. Will be heading the bookstore to get a copy. Thanks for your usual thorough and straightforward analysis. Much appreciated!

Tim L. May 11, 2009 at 5:53 pm

Thanks for the nice review Sheila. Glad you liked it! My other advice for parents going to cheap destinations is to take it up a notch or two on lodging, but go local. If you stay in a locally owned hotel a few steps above backpacker level, you can often get a nice suite for the price of a regular room at a chain hotel—as in the $60 we paid in Antigua, Guatemala or Merida, Mexico. Or if you’re spending a week somewhere, rent a house or condo. In many cases that’ll run you not much more and you’ve got space and a kitchen.

Hjortor—I agree that Iceland is a bargain now. Other freak currency situations at the moment are South Africa, Mexico, Korea, and Hungary. Go while the going is good for the greenback. (Or in Iceland and Hungary’s case, the euro too.)

Amy @ The Q Family May 12, 2009 at 10:34 am

That’s interesting. I will have to check it out. Also thanks for the tips about Europe. I’m in the planning stage and with the vast varities of countries in Europe I don’t even know where to go!

Soultravelers3 May 12, 2009 at 4:50 pm

Great review, great book, looks right up my alley! ;) Thanks so much for the link love to soultravelers3!

I am always amazed that more people ( especially homeschoolers & work at home types in cold/rainy climates) do not winter in southern Spain. It’s gorgeous, sunny & very cheap in the winter..getting cheaper by the day.

Actually, much of Europe is cheap if you stick to the rural areas ( avoid July & August) and live like a native. Most American’s still don’t know that there is luxury camping everywhere in Europe ( by every site and city) & most have cottages to rent. It is a great way to meet Europeans from all over. There are always nice pools, restaurants, shops, playgrounds included & you can cook your own food & save a bundle.

Apartments are cheap by the week for families, but even cheaper by the month.

Family skiing in Spain is actually really nice too. In march you can swim in the morning near the Alhambra, then go ski, then drive an hour to the Med and dip your toes in the sea ( or swim if you are one of the brave ones). We’ve done it!

Turkey is a fabulous destination that most American families miss. They have the world’s best hospitality & it is easy to book it all on your own. We went in high season and booked nothing ahead. I swear, they all know each other & want to make sure every tourists has the best possible time. Take that sailing vacation you always wanted to do on the glorious Turquoise Coast & let the kids sleep in a 5000 year old luxury cave hotel..both for bargain prices!

You know me, live large on little is my motto, so I’ll have to check out this book! ;)

Sheila May 12, 2009 at 7:31 pm

Thanks for all the great comments, and to Tim for coming by to chat as well.

Iceland is now on the list, Hjortur!

Susan May 13, 2009 at 3:51 pm

Thanks for the great review. Another tip is to look for air passes in far flung destinations. These passes allow you to take multiple flights which are at reduced fixed rates. There are airline passes for travel within Asia, Australia, Europe and South America to name a few. Here’s a link to a site with details about AirPass Programs:

Chris May 17, 2009 at 6:01 am

Great article!thanks for the information and the travel guide :)

Bilety lotnicze June 30, 2009 at 3:09 am

Hungary is really not that cheap – its a lovely city and has great sites (not to mention the baths), but it more expensive than Cracow or Prague IMO. If you want some cheap cities in eastern europe Id say Kiev, Minsk (if you can get there) and a must see for all (but maybe not too cheap) is St. Petersburg.

Vlad February 13, 2010 at 7:26 am

Romania is getting expensive, so you might wanna hurry:) With this financial crisis, the travel industry go hit pretty badly, so good deals are available, but as you said, I would go for visiting more than one country if traveling all the way to Eastern Europe.

Virginia Bed And Breakfast April 5, 2010 at 7:24 am

First of all I want to say thanks to Sheila because it is the great review and now move to the topic, well I don’t think so that Peru is the cheapest country my friend travel several times and he can’t say me anything about the cheapest destination of Peru.

Malaga April 20, 2010 at 3:47 pm

Thank from me too. As good as always.

Martins May 28, 2010 at 6:05 am

I agree that Hungary is really not that cheap destination, but Hungary many beautiful place where to go.

Thanx Sheila

Emily Cohen July 21, 2010 at 9:44 am

Hi! Check out our blog at El Al for tips on traveling with your family and our special family fares.
The link is:

I hope you enjoy our blog!


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