April 15 is fast approaching. It’s a day we all dread, but the IRS reported that 8 in every 10 tax returns filed last year got a refund. And if you got a refund, it was probably a nice chunk of change. The IRS also reported that the average refund amount was $3053. You may do the responsible thing like buy a bond, put it in savings or pay off a credit card. Back in the days when we worked more traditional jobs, Tim and I always used our tax refund to take one of the two big trips we’d go on plus have extra to tack on to our car or mortgage payment. Just where can you go with $3000? We put together these 10 trips to take with your tax return that cost less than the average refund including flights, accommodation and activities per couple.
1. The Bahamas for $3000
Depart: Southwest Airlines is offering non-stop service from Fort Lauderdale beginning in August. With fares as low as $43 each way, visiting The Bahamas just got a little easier.
Where to Stay: Sandals Royal Bahamian is the ultimate romantic couple’s getaway, is conveniently located to the heart of Nassau, has its own off-shore island exclusive for guests and offers included amenities, activities and dining.
Must Do: Nassau is a fantastic Bahamian choice to combine activities for both the water babies and the landlubbers. Sandals Royal Bahamian is a perfect destination for anyone who has ever wanted to get open water dive certified with the resort offering a 1-day introductory course for just $90. Once you can dive, scuba equipment is included and trips to the Sandals selected dive sites are also included in your all-inclusive package. Between dives and lounge time on The Bahamas’ sugary white sand beaches, explore downtown Nassau on a rum tour or just wander the stalls at the Straw Market.
2. Iceland for $2500
Depart: Any of Icelandair’s US hubs like Seattle, Denver, Chicago, NYC or Boston
Where to Stay: Combine your car rental costs and accommodation costs by renting a camper van. Iceland has plenty of campsites with nice bathrooms complete with hot showers, wifi and electricity hook-ups throughout the country. You can travel at your own pace for around $100 per day.
Must Do: Iceland is our favorite country and we feel like it gets a bad rap for being really expensive. But here’s the thing – nearly all of Iceland’s attractions are FREE. So stop wasting money on bus tours so you can shuffle along like a herd of cattle to see the Golden Circle. There are certainly experiences worth the splurge and that you simply can’t do without a guide like snorkeling at Silfra or hiking on a glacier. Rent a car, or even combine accommodation and car rental costs by renting a camper van like we did when explored the Westfjords, and explore Iceland’s completely free natural attractions at your pace.
3. Chicago for $1650
Depart: Any of Southwest Airline’s 20+ cities that fly to Chicago Midway
Where to Stay: The Four Seasons Hotel Chicago is a prime location on the Magnificent Mile. From the Four Seasons you can easily hop on the free Navy Pier Trolley, take a stroll down Michigan Avenue to Millennium Park or hop on the ‘L’ to Wrigley Field.
Must Do: Chicago is best known for its’ ooey-gooey deep dish pizza and I’ve even been known to make Tim bring one all the way home to Italy from his hometown, but there’s a lot more to the Chicago foodie scene than pizza. The nation’s premier outdoor food festival has set up in Chicago every July since its inauguration in 1980. Don’t miss your chance to eat your way through the Windy City at the Taste of Chicago.
4. Catalina Island for $2000
Depart: Any of Southwest Airline’s 20+ cities that fly to Long Beach
Arrive: Los Angeles and ferry to Catalina Island
Where to Stay: Catalina Island is home to a lot of charming inns like the Catalina Island Inn. Stay in Avalon, where you can easily walk to restaurants and attractions.
Must Do: It’s easy to get enamored with Avalon’s views and the seaside, but Catalina’s interior is home to some interesting things like the Airport in the Sky, wildlife like the American Bald Eagle fly and the Catalina Island Fox, or maybe even spot Catalina Island’s famous buffalo herd. Discover it all on a Cape Canyon Expedition tour.
5. St. Maarten for $2500
Depart: Daily flights from New York, Miami, Philadelphia and Charlotte on American Airlines.
Where to Stay: Flamingo Beach Resort, with its own hotel front stretch of private beach on Simpson Bay, is perfectly located just a short drive from the airport. The rooms all have kitchenettes so you can make a few meals like breakfast or lunch in the room. With free parking, wifi and on-site amenities like tennis, snorkeling, ping pong and jet ski rental, Flamingo Beach Resort is a great choice and one we returned to year after year.
Must Do: Our tax refund destination of choice was always St. Maarten. We’d head there every May and love it so much, we returned year after year. St. Maarten uses both the US dollar and the Euro, is relatively inexpensive, and offers up a range of free activities from snorkeling right off its beaches (bring your own snorkel gear) to hiking on Pic du Paradis. Don’t miss a catamaran sailing and snorkeling trip to the uninhabited Prickly Pear Cay. You’ll be hard pressed to find a prettier spot and as fantastic snorkeling as this little slice of heaven.
6. Italy’s Lakes for $2000
Depart: New York on Emirates
Where to Stay: You can stay in the Hotel des Iles Borromees, which is the very hotel where Ernest Hemingway penned A Farewell to Arms. He always stayed in room 106 and today guests can stay in that very room, The Hemingway Suite. The suite doesn’t quite fit the average tax refund budget of $3053 since it will cost €2700 per night but double rooms start at just €175 per night.
Must Do: Lake Como is by far the most touristy of northern Italy’s lakes. Instead, head to the lesser known Lake Maggiore. You won’t be missing any of the awe-inspiring landscapes from Lake Como since Lake Maggiore is quite literally Como’s neighbor. And while we do think Como’s towns like Bellagio are pretty (the town did inspire an entire Las Vegas hotel to be modeled after it), Stresa and Lake Maggiore inspired a work of a literary genius – Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms, to be exact. Hop on the ferry and explore the jewels of Lake Maggiore, the Borromean Islands. An English style garden with exotic plants and birds occupies the better part of Isola Madre, the largest of the Borromean Islands. Tour the palace on Isola Bella, named for Isabella, Countess of Borromeo – you won’t be disappointed. Leave time for lunch on the tiny Isola Pescatori with a population of just 32.
7. Hawaii for $2600
Depart: Los Angeles on Hawaiian Airlines
Where to Stay: The Hilton Waikiki Beach Hotel is an excellent location within walking distance to Waikiki’s restaurants, shopping, beaches and nightlife.
Must Do: Oahu is the most touristy of the Hawaiian Islands since it’s America’s gateway to Hawaii, but you can still find slices of paradise that feel untouched by the crowds that can descend upon Waikiki. We love Kailua, a beach town 20 minutes north of Waikiki. Spend the day snorkeling right off the pristine beach, wander in to Buzz’s (a restaurant we just had to try out since it has my childhood nickname) for delicious island fare and try the best shave ice on the island made from only locally grown fruits at The Local Hawaii.
8. Sarajevo for $2200
Depart: Boston on Lufthansa
Where to Stay: The Halvat Hotel is steps away from the heart of Sarajevo and the Baščaršija, Sarajevo’s oldest bazaar. The hotel’s gorgeous apartment-like rooms are extremely affordable and leave you feeling more like a local than a hotel guest.
Must Do: The siege of Sarajevo was the longest siege of a capital city in modern warfare, lasting nearly four years from April 1992 until February 1996. Many tour guides that now work in Sarajevo were just small children during the siege and many escaped through a tunnel that was constructed. Let these once refugees, who fled to neutral held Bosnian territory, regale you with the fascinating stories of what life was like growing up prisoners in their own homes on the Siege and Tunnel Tour. It will leave you humbled to see how Bosnia’s capital has rebuilt, but not forgotten.
9. Munich for $3000
Depart: New York on Lufthansa
Where to Stay: The Golden Leaf Parkhotel im Lehel is steps away from Munich’s Englischer Garten, which is like the Central Park of Munich. You can easily walk or hop on to the tram to the historic center.
Must Do: Munich is famed for its beer culture and you don’t have to battle the crowds at Oktoberfest to experience it. Learn all about Munich’s beer history, how its brewed and taste beer at some of Munich’s most famous breweries on a beer walking tour of the city.
10. Marrakech for $3000
Depart: Chicago on Lufthansa
Where to Stay: Experience Marrakech by staying right in the heart of the Medina in a traditional riad, like Riad Kaiss. Many riads also offer dinner to guests and you’ll eat better at a riad than any of the restaurants you might randomly stumble in to.
Must Do: Marrakech is like a crazy assault of all of your senses and it can be hard to know which way to go. One of the most fun things we did was tour the Medina and then off-road in the Palmerie with Felix from Insiders Experience. Each tour is a custom tour, but you can be assured that Felix knows the city like the back of his hand. And you’ll be zipping through the Medina in Morocco’s only legal sidecar motorcycle!