Vacation destinations on a budget

There are plenty of ways to stretch your vacation dollar.  Deals on travel websites, frequent flyer miles, and coupons can all help you save.  And where you choose to go can also keep your costs down. Kelli Grant, Sr. Consumer  Reporter for SmartMoney.com, offers some suggestions on where you should consider taking your vacation this year.

The first place you might want to visit is Greece.  The country is working hard to entice tourists back as it pays back $144 billion in bailout loans.  It has cut airport fees and hotel taxes this year, and the average hotel room is down 10% from last year to just $132 per night. But it is a long haul flight, which can be exorbitant if you don't opt for a tour package. Beware the economy-spurred strikes, too, a few of which turned violent last year.

Iceland is also offering bargains for tourists.  The country was very expensive for a few years, but after its bank collapse in 2008, prices returned to more reasonable levels. It uses the krona, not the Euro, so travelers are getting pretty good exchange rates. Look for packages from Icelandair, which start at $599 for a round-trip flight, two nights at a hotel and a one-day tour.

Thanks to competitive airfares from Aer Lingus and its struggling economy, Ireland is one of the cheapest places in Europe to visit right now. SmartMoney.com spotted a six-night package with airfare, hotel and car rental for $800. To put that in perspective, some of the cheapest summer flights to London and Paris start at $1,000. Just keep in mind that the exchange rate for U.S. dollars to Euros isn't great, so your on-the-ground expenses can still be pricey.

Portugal is also negotiating its own economic bailout package right now.  Because of this, the government is trying to nudge tourists out of Lisbon to other areas with interesting packages and low hotel rates. Hotels.com found that Lisbon has some of the cheapest five-star hotels at an average $169 per night, which is down 9% from last year.

And finally, you don't have to leave the country to get a bargain. If expensive airfare rules out Europe, there are plenty of destinations at home that have seen slow recovery. In Las Vegas, you can still grab rates at four-star resorts for less than $100 per night, plus extras like spa and restaurant credits. And pretty much all of Florida is on sale, too, if you would rather have a week at the beach.

For more tips on how to get the most out of your vacation dollar and other personal finance tips, visit SmartMoney.com.

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