10 Budget-Friendly Vacations to Take in April
With spring break travel winding down and summer getaways still a couple of months away, April is an ideal time to find bargains that aren't available during those peak times. Not every destination here is the cheapest in terms of airline tickets and accommodations, but free and cheap activities and events offered there in April make up for some costs. They can also create memories that are more valuable in the long run.
April is a sweet spot for travel to the Caribbean -- the high season goes from the December holidays through March, before the heat of summer sets in, and the hurricane season typically strikes between June and November. Prices for Caribbean hotels and plane tickets generally start to drop in mid-April as it warms up in the United States. With an early Easter this year, the spring break crowds will leave and rates likely will fall even sooner for a beach vacation in Punta Cana.
Travel to spring break hotspots such as Cancun starts to taper off in late April as school resumes, according to Cheap Flights, making this the time to book a getaway for less -- as little as $180 from Houston and up to $320 from Chicago, round-trip. The wild crowds will be gone at the end of April, but there will still be weather in the low 80s.
Boston is a fun place to be in April, as runners converge for the annual Boston Marathon on April 18. It's free to cheer on this major athletic event, and the John Hancock Sports and Fitness Expo, where marathoners pick up their numbers, is also free to the public and features hundreds of exhibitors of health and fitness products. April also holds three film festivals, as well as jazz and folk festivals, science and literary festivals, and tattoo and comics conventions, all with low-cost options.
Sakura season in Japan is brief but beautiful. The cherry blossoms bloom for around a week (which is why it's a good idea to keep an eye on sites that predict the exact time they will emerge across the country). Getting to Japan is not necessarily cheap (fly into Tokyo's Haneda Airport if possible; we found a round-trip April 12 to 19 from Seattle for just $735 on Delta). But once you're there, viewing the blossoms is free in most parks and there are many ways to save on the rest of the trip: Choose the country's efficient mass transit over taxis (and buses over trains); eat street food, or grocery store takeaway instead of sit-down meals; and buy a Grutt Pass for less than $20 for access to dozens of museums and attractions.
Cherry blossom fans who can't make it to Japan can still enjoy the sights as blooms pop up in the U.S. capital. The blooms usually arrive in the first part of April, bringing a host of cheap activities with them. The National Cherry Blossom Festival (which includes a Sakura Matsuri Japanese Street Festival) takes place this year through April 17 and features events for the whole family, many of which are free to attend, including parades and fireworks.
April 27 marks this year's King's Day in Amsterdam, one of the biggest street parties in the world. Join the revelers in the streets for free live music and get a chance to haggle at a citywide flea market that opens as part of the event. Other cheap, all-ages activities around town include face painting, games, and checking out the boats jamming Amsterdam's canals. April also marks the start of the city's tulip season, which is free to enjoy.Related: 20 Free and Cheap Things to Do in Berlin
During April, this small town a little over half an hour's drive from Dallas invites visitors to go back in time. The 2016 Scarborough Renaissance Festival starts April 9 (and runs through May 30). The festival features 16th-century fun such as exhibitions, food, games, and performances by actors in medieval garb. Tickets are $21 in advance. Accommodations in town are reasonable -- the Holiday Inn, Hampton Inn, and Comfort Suites are recommended choices for festival-goers, making this unique getaway a budget-friendly choice.
If the dream is an island getaway, consider St. Thomas in April -- not only is peak season over (as of March), but it's St. Thomas' month for VI Carnival, a celebration that features parades, fireworks, food, and dance shows, many of which are free to the public. The traditional parade, with calypso music and gaudy costumes, is impressive, but the giant J'ouvert party that happens beforehand draws just as many people and twice the amount of crazy.
April is one of the best times to visit the Grand Canyon, as temperatures are pleasant for outdoor pursuits -- hovering in the low 60s but moving toward 70 as May gets closer -- and summer crowds have not arrived. That makes it possible to find a range of accommodations at a range of prices, from the Canyons boutique hotel, where weeknight stays can get down toward $100, to the Mather Campground, where campsites start at $18 and offer access to fresh water and flush toilets. While visiting, check out the free Kolb Studio art exhibits and be sure to walk the Rim Trail near the South Rim visitor centerRelated: Cheap Must-See Attractions in All 50 States
A number of major cruise lines move their ships to new locales when seasons change, and April is when ships such as the Celebrity Constellation move from Caribbean locations to Europe for the summertime. That makes it possible to find some great cruise deals. Keep in mind that repositioning cruises tend to be on the long side -- at least a week -- and are typically one way, meaning travelers need to pay airfare for the return trip. A Crown Princess voyage from Los Angeles to Vancouver takes six days starting late in April but is a relatively cheap "beginner" option. Prices start at $82 a night (per person for double occupancy) and include dining, entertainment, and activities, as well as stops at ports of call along the way.