With airfares continuing to rise, you may think it’s too expensive to take a vacation right now. But if you look at the right destinations and do a little advanced planning, you can find some great deals. Here are three trips I put together that you can take for under $500, including hotel and airfare. Prices are subject to change, of course, but if you do a little digging, you’ll certainly be able to find something similar.


By making Denver your home base for a ski escape, you’re setting yourself up for a fun, and affordable, getaway. I put together this package for a  three-day, two-night trip to Colorado that includes airfare, hotel, lift tickets – even equipment and ski clothes.
Sample dates: March 25-27
Round trip ticket from Austin-Bergstrom on Frontier Airlines = $154, including taxes
Hotel: Two nights at the Hyatt Place Denver Airport (I love this brand because it includes WiFi, free parking and daily breakfast) at $80 per night plus taxes = $180.02
One-day ski package: One full day on the slopes at Loveland Ski Area, just 53 miles west of Denver. Total for the Daytripper Package, which includes one full-day lift ticket, ski or snowboard rental and all of your clothing (jacket, pants, gloves and goggles) = $109

The Daytripper Package at Loveland Ski Area includes equipment and ski clothes.(Contributed)

Ticket to a Colorado Rockies game: $11
Mile High Culture pass, which includes a visit to three of the following: Denver Art Museum, Denver Botanic Gardens, Denver Museum of Nature & Science, Denver Zoo, Clyfford Still Museum, History Colorado Center, Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art = $25
TOTAL: $479.02
Want more free fun in Denver? Consider these locations: Tattered Cover Bookstore, Colorado State Capitol Tour, Denver U.S. Mint, Red Rocks Park, Great Divide Brewing Co.



When you hear “New York,” affordable isn’t always the first thing you think of. But you can easily do a three-day, two-night trip there for under $500.
Sample dates: March 5-7
Round trip ticket from Austin-Bergstrom to Newark using Priceline Express = $254.14, including taxes
Hotel: Two nights at Hotel Boutique at Grand Central, located steps from Grand Central Terminal, at $99 per night plus taxes = $234.62 (must book through Travelzoo.com)
TOTAL: $488.76
Got $25 more dollars? Here’s my favorite New York tip: You can get a ticket to Broadway show for $25. (Yes, $25 for a Broadway show!!!!) Sign up for free for HipTix (hiptix.com) and you’ll be able to buy $25 tickets for select Broadway and off-Broadway shows. You can buy up to two tickets; one person must be between 18-35; other person can be any age. Current offerings include Broadway hit “She Loves Me,” “Noises Off” and “The Robber Bridegroom.” Try to book in advance, because they can sell out.
Want more free fun in New York? Consider these locations: Central Park Guided Walking Tours, late-night talk show tickets, Staten Island Ferry, Governors Island



The Riviera Maya is always a popular destination for Texans, and right now, thanks to numerous new flights into Cancun, it’s easy, and cheap, to get there.

Sample dates: March 5-7

Round trip ticket from Houston IAH to Cancun on Spirit Airlines: $163.67, including taxes. (Note: This only includes a small carry-on, like a backpack. If you need more space, you will have to buy baggage. If you don’t want to fly out of Houston, you can also fly nonstop from Austin-Bergstrom on United for $343.)

Hotel: Two nights at Hacienda Xcaret 14, a one-bedroom holiday home with access to community pool and gardens located next to Xplor Adventure Park and Xcaret Eco Theme Park (booked on Priceline.com) = $273.70

Mexico Espectacular eight-course dinner and show at Xcaret Park: $47.04

TOTAL: $484.41

Want more free and cheap fun in Cancun? Consider these locations: El Rey Ruins ($4), Playa Tortugas (free), Museo Maya de Cancun ($5), Parque de las Palapas


Not sure where you want to go? Try airfarewatchdog.com. Just type in Austin as your originating city and it will show you the best fares right now to destinations around the world.