The Friendly Planet Blog

Take a tax holiday — on Uncle Sam

Tax season is almost over! Now that filing is nearly complete, it’s time for many of us to start looking forward to our refunds. This year alone, U.S. taxpayers already received an average of $2,831 per person in refunds, a significant amount of money that could whisk you away on an exotic vacation!

For that reason, I came up with a few suggestions for how travelers can get the most out of their newly acquired cash.

If you’re on the more conservative side of the refund spectrum or want to pocket some of the extra money, here’s my list of tax-refund trips travelers can take for under $2,000, including airfare.

  • Explore Exotic Ecuador for $1,399: Ecuador is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world, boasting more than 300 species of mammals alone. Visitors can tour the natural hot springs in Baños, view the volcanic peaks of Cotopaxi National Park, and explore the world’s most biologically diverse rainforest — the Amazon. Journey back in time with a visit to Quito, the nation’s capital and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and explore the city’s Spanish colonial architecture dating back to the 16th century. A trip to Ecuador is like immersing yourself in the world’s greatest biology class, and one that visitors will never forget.
  • Experience the Taj Mahal Express for $1,699: India is a nation like no other, one filled with vibrant sights and sounds and exotic foods and spices. Explore the Golden Triangle of India — Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur. In Delhi, travel by rickshaw to Jama Masjid, India’s largest mosque, and visit Gandhi’s memorial, Raj Ghat, on the banks of the Yamuna River. In Agra, marvel at one of the world’s greatest wonders, the Taj Mahal, the marble palace that took 22 years and 20,000 men to build. In Jaipur, explore the markets of the infamous “pink city,” known for its dazzling beauty and color.
  • Enjoy Athens & 3 Day Greek Isles Cruise for $1,999: Greece is a destination seemingly plucked from a mythical dream. The country encompasses more than 6,000 islands that dot the Mediterranean’s azure waters while Athens lays claim to some of mankind’s greatest antiquities. Travel to Crete to tour the ancient Minoan palace of Knossos. Explore Santorini and drink in the famous whitewashed villas that cling to the island’s cliffs. Finally, cruise to Patmos and explore flowered courtyards, sip wine in a local taverna, and meander the streets as you shop among the colorful squares of the plaka district.
  • Discover Spain for $1,999: Spain is one of the world’s greatest destinations, boasting cosmopolitan cities, sun-drenched beaches, medieval hilltop towns, and architectural treasures galore. Travel to Madrid, the nation’s chic capital city, and sip sangria while snacking on traditional tapas. Then journey to Seville. Climb to the top of the Giralda cathedral, one of the world’s largest Gothic-style cathedrals, and wander through the Alcazar, a royal residence characterized by arched doorways, colorful tiles, and a beautiful garden labyrinth of lush green shrubs. Spain is a vibrant and beautiful nation that will take any visitor’s breath away.

Got a bit more back in your tax refund than you had expected? Why not treat yourself to an exotic vacation for under $2,831, including airfare?

  • Take a Taste of South Africa for $2,099: South Africa, once a nation paralyzed by apartheid, is now a vibrant global power and a country swelling with national pride. Visit Cape Town, a modern city where visitors can ride a cable car to the top of Table Mountain, explore the 17th century Dutch fortress known as the Castle of Good Hope, and stroll along the magnificent Victoria and Albert Waterfront. Then experience a true African safari at Entabeni Private Conservancy, and spot lions, African elephants, Cape buffalo, leopards, and rhinoceroses.
  • Discover Havana for $2,199 or view the Highlights of Havana & Varadero for $2,499: While only 90 miles from U.S. soil, Cuba is a world unto itself. Through these people-to-people programs, Americans can legally experience a Cuban culture seemingly frozen in time and still true to its Spanish and African influences. Meet artists in their Old Havana studios and lunch on a farm with Guajiros, or Cuban cowboys. A trip to Cuba will open minds and forever transform your perspective about this island nation.
  • Journey to Dazzling Dubai for $2,299: Once a sleepy desert enclave, Dubai is now the playground for the rich and famous, a futuristic metropolis that emerges straight from the desert. Ascend to the top of Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, and marvel at Dubai’s scintillating, glass-faced skyline. Visit the Bastakiya district, with traditional courtyard houses that were once home to the city’s merchants. Finally, view the Palm Islands, man-made islands built just off Dubai’s bustling mainland to resemble palm fronds, where private villas and sumptuous resorts offer luxury escapes.
  • Unearth Classic Israel for $2,799: Israel, the birthplace of the world’s three foundational religions, is one of the world’s most modern and dynamic nations. Visit the walled Old City of Jerusalem, which is divided into the Christian, Jewish, Armenian, and Muslim Quarters. Then journey to the New City of Jerusalem to explore the Israel Museum, and Yad Vashem, Israel’s memorial to the Holocaust. Travel to the lowest point on Earth, the Dead Sea, which sits at 1,365 feet below sea level. Finally, soak in the Israeli culture by ambling through the bustling Carmel Market in Tel Aviv. Alluring and life altering, Israel is one of the world’s great destinations!

Tax time — for some of us — is a magical time of the year. Why not use your refund to explore new worlds and open new vistas? It can all be yours. Priceless in value, yet costing less than you could ever imagine.

So those are some of my picks, but Friendly Planet Travel offers many more tours under $2,831. If you think I should add any additional destinations to the list, just let me know!

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