“School’s out” may not be your June anthem anymore, but that doesn’t mean the season’s allure is gone. Warm weather—and extra hours of daylight—return to half the world, and those accrued vacation days are begging to be used in far-off places. Whether you want a sun-kissed beach, an escape from the heat, or just a change of scenery, these are some of the best places for budget travel this summer.

The Sydney Opera House is a canvas for innovative light installations for the duration of Vivid Sydney.

Dive Down Under for the off-season

Getting to Australia in any time of year can be pricey. So if you’ve got your heart set on a trip to the home of koala bears, kangaroos, excellent wine, and a gorgeous opera house, a visit between May and September (the country’s winter) can be your best bet for lower airfares, hotels, and tours. “Winter” doesn’t mean frigid, though. Sydney’s average May-September temperatures hover between 50-60ºF and it’s still pretty sunny. Plus, Vivid Sydney, Australia’s largest festival, runs from May 25 to June 16 for its 10th edition and features hundreds of musicians, artists, and speakers (last year, 2.3 million people attended over the course of the event).

If that’s still too chilly for you, head north and west where warmer, drier beaches (and lots of humpback whale sightings) await.

Take a walk on the white sand beach in St. George’s, the capital of Grenada.

Swim in the Caribbean

We’ve been in love with Grenada, a cluster of tiny Caribbean isles for years, and now the world is finally catching on. The volcanic island chain northwest of Trinidad and Tobago is a bastion of local culture still unspoiled by overtourism (for now). Divers and snorkelers will love its subaquatic offerings, which include an underwater sculpture garden and many shipwrecks that have become reefs. (The nonoperational MV Anina was deliberately sunk in March and is already partially covered by orange coral.) And anyone who wants legit Caribbean rum can sip some from the Caribbean’s oldest water-powered distillery, which has been in service since 1785. Grenada even smells good. Nicknamed “Spice Island” due to its cultivation of crops like nutmeg and cinnamon, don’t be surprised if alluring aromas waft your way while you’re out and about.

article continues below ad

Yes, getting there might be a little pricey. But due to summer rains, the summer months are off-season for tourists, and that means hotel deals pop up. It’s always important to know what to do if you travel during hurricane season, but Grenada is generally hit by hurricanes far less frequently than many of its Caribbean counterparts. Ultimately, if you’re going to spend your hard-earned dough on a Caribbean island, we think your return on investment on a trip to Grenada will be worth every penny.

“Cloud Gate” by Sir Anish Kapoor has become an iconic Chicago art installation, earning the nickname “The Bean.”

Wind up in the Windy City

Chicago may not be anywhere to write home about in, say, February, when the snow is piling up, but come summer, the sun is shining, the weather is warm, and there is always something free going on.

Visit the penguins at Lincoln Park Zoo, one of the oldest zoos in America (entry is free, or opt for the penguin encounter), spike a few aces during a sand volleyball game at one of the (also free) lakeside beaches that open May 25, and hunt for Chi-Town’s public art by artists like Picasso and Yoko Ono (you guessed it—free). Don’t forget about 24-acre Millennium Park, either: take a stroll (free), bring a picnic to enjoy the blue skies, or maybe catch a movie (free).

Of course, there are plenty of not-free things to do that are worth the trip, like sipping cocktails at one of the city’s many rooftop bars or finally being able to get tickets to Hamilton, currently on sale until September at CIBC Theatre. 

Narikala Fortress overlooks Old Town Tbilisi, Georgia.

Go to Georgia (the country, that is)

Bordered by Russia to the north, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Turkey to the south, and the Black Sea to the west, the country of Georgia has long been a crossroads of culture and history. (Fun fact: its winemaking region is one of the world’s oldest, maybe dating back as far as 8,000 years.) These days, the country is safe, super welcoming, politically stable, and cheap. The exchange rate between the Georgian lari and the U.S. dollar is strong: A bus ride costs a quarter and three-star hotels can ballpark around $60/night in the capital of Tbilisi, with cheaper options in other parts of the country.

article continues below ad

Summer is the perfect time to go, too. Temps hover between the mid-60s to high-80s, ideal for swimming and relaxing in beach towns like Batumi or hiking in the Caucasus Mountains. And remember that 8,000-year-old wine? It’s still flowing, and there are plenty of delicious places to eat and drink for a traditional Georgian meal.

According to the World Wildlife Foundation, fewer than 105,000 Bornean orangutans remain in the world.

Meander through Malaysia

Summer is a high season for travel in Malaysia, but the exchange rate is solid and the weather is drier between June and September. Plus, low-cost air carriers like AirAsia have made it easier and cheaper to explore by air than ever. (Flights between Honolulu and Kuala Lumpur for $249? Yes, please!)

In KL, the nation’s urban capital, discover the growing local art and design scene. For renowned street food, head northwest to the hawkers in Penang (don’t forget to try the char koay teow, a noodle dish with prawns).  Of course, there are plenty of beaches with crystalline waters and white sands to lounge on. For travelers who want more monkey business in their lives, look for the critically endangered orangutans.

A few days in the national parks might get you a glimpse in the wild, or you can consider responsible volunteering at a rehabilitation like the Matang Wildlife Centre. (Important note: Legitimate organizations do not advocate for tourists to be close to the wildlife, especially baby orangutans. Beware of companies promoting close interactions.)

 >>Next: 18 Places to Go in 2018