Dive in the Deep End
"Economizing pushes you into close contact with the local people. This means that learning at least the basics of the language is very important, both for practical chores such as finding a budget-priced room or meal and so that you have something to say other than 'Huh? I don't understand.'"
Author of The People's Guide to Mexico
8. Hike Suck Valley Way,
THE DEAL: Don't worry, this self-guided tourbased in a river valley near Roscommon, in central Irelandhardly sucks. Spend seven days trekking 58 miles on a self-guided, well-signed path through verdant fields, near water mills, and past centuries-old stone castles. Each night you'll pop into villages like Dunamon, staying at local B&Bs and having ample time to find out if Guinness really is better in Ireland. Package price includes round-trip airfare from Chicago to Dublin, transfers to and from trailheads, luggage transfers, six nights' accommodation, most meals, and maps. Similar guided trips from U.S. outfitters cost up to $1,450, not including airfare.
THE FINE PRINT: Dublin is about 130 miles from Castlerea, where you start your hike, so you'll need to train it ($40; www.cie.ie) or rent a car ($237 a week; www.irishcarrentals.com). Go between June and September to avoid the rainy winter season.
CONTACT: Killary Tours, 011-353-95-42276, www.killary.com PRICE: $912
9. Beachcomb/Explore Tulum,
THE DEAL: Dodge gringo-choked Cancn and head 75 miles south to the tranquillity of Tulum, a laid-back, rural Yucatn gem with vast stretches of salt-white beaches. You'll chill for six days in a beachside cabana, nursing margaritas and venturing out to wander among ancient Maya ruins. Tierras del Sol, a collection of beachside palapa bungalows, is just a ten-minute drive from the stone temples. Snorkel 200 yards offshore and you can dive a coral reef populated with parrot fish. Price above includes sample round-trip airfare from Denver to Cancn ($472), airport transfers, and six nights' accommodations. You can find similarly priced digs in Cancn, Ixtapa, and Cabo San Lucas, but most are shrink-wrapped resorts lacking Tulum's charm.
THE FINE PRINT: The biggest savings are in summer, when it's hottest (average temps in the nineties). Also, you have to arrange and pay for extracurricular activities like scuba diving.
CONTACT: Tierras del Sol, 011-52-984-879-5055, www.tierrasdelsol.com