9 less-crowded summer vacation destinations

Instead of Paris and New York, try Buenos Aires and Montreal

The main square of the Caminito in La Boca features brightly colored buildings and cobblestone streets that are a popular tourist destination in Buenos Aires. (iStock)

In the three years since the concept of “revenge travel” emerged, our thirst for escape still isn’t quenched. Industry experts predict summer 2023 to be the busiest at airports in decades.

“That’s despite significantly higher costs,” said James Ferrara, co-founder and president of InteleTravel. “We don’t even refer to this as pent-up demand. This is the new normal, a new psyche … that travel is now more important than almost anything else.”

We know people will be traveling in droves, but where will they go? Certain trends remain, such as our affinity for beaches and the great outdoors.

Jen Moyse, vice president of product for the travel app TripIt, says the company’s customers are booking vacation rentals in Denver, San Diego, Orlando, Anchorage and Cancún, Mexico. “Plenty of people want to visit big cities as well,” Moyse said, listing major metropolises Chicago, Boston, New York and Las Vegas.

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“If you’re going to travel in June, July, and really then you’re going to see the biggest crowds in those major European and Asian cities: … London, Paris, Rome, Tokyo and probably Seoul,” said Hayley Berg, lead economist for the travel booking app Hopper.

If you’d like to avoid running into those crowds, consider these alternatives.

Instead of Paris, try Buenos Aires

According to Hopper data, airfare to Europe this summer is the highest it’s been in more than five years, averaging more than $1,100 per ticket. With expensive flights and crowds expected in big cities such as Paris, look south, instead, to Argentina. Berg says fares to South America are down almost 10 percent from pre-pandemic prices, averaging about $700 per ticket.

“You have destinations in that region that offer as much history, culture, food — you name it — as many European cities,” Berg said, recommending Buenos Aires as an example. “And your dollar goes considerably further than it does in Europe or many other countries.”

The Argentine capital is a perfect substitute for those trying to escape scorching heat. Summer in Buenos Aires is around December to February, so temperatures in June, July and August range from the high 40s to the low 60s.

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Instead of New York, try Montreal

Kayak has seen summer travel searches for New York City increase 19 percent compared with last year. That means streets will be packed, hotels will be expensive and Broadway shows will be sold out. For a quieter — and cooler — summer vacation in the city, look farther north, to Montreal.

The second-most populous city in Canada, Montreal boasts a constellation of neighborhoods with unique character. You’ll find Brooklyn vibes in Little Italy and Plateau Mont-Royal, comparisons to Manhattan in downtown and Old Montreal, and Central Park-style greenery in Parc du Mont-Royal and Parc La Fontaine. Like New York, Montreal is full of hole-in-the-wall restaurants, natural wine bars, bagel shops and boutique clothing stores.

Instead of Las Vegas, try Laughlin, Nev.

Despite being more than 100 degrees in the summer, Las Vegas is one of the most popular flight destinations for Americans this year. If the thought of braving a Strip teeming with sweaty tourists rubs you the wrong way, Terika L. Haynes, owner of Dynamite Travel, recommends another desert destination nearby.

Laughlin, Nev., is just a 100-mile drive south of Vegas and is known for its casinos and outdoor activities. Haynes says you’ll find plenty of dining options, entertainment, hotels and access to fishing, hiking and kayaking. She recommends staying at Don Laughlin’s Riverside Resort.

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Instead of Mykonos, try Albania

Greece ranks high for American travelers this summer, and Greek Tourism Minister Vassilis Kikilias is predicting 10 to 20 percent more visitors to the country this year compared with last. To boot, the Greek island of Mykonos was Airbnb’s top trending international destination for American users.

For an alternative with crystal-clear water and affordable prices, try Greece’s northern neighbor Albania. You’ll find Mediterranean beaches along the Albanian Riviera, and inland, the mountains are idyllic for hiking and cycling, and you can see ancient cities.

Instead of Cancún, try Costa Rica

Cancún is Mexico’s top travel destination, attracting millions of nearby Americans for its beaches, cuisine and affordable prices. Instead of the Mexican tourism powerhouse, try a Central American destination with nearly 800 miles of coastline.

While Costa Rica topped lists for flight searches and bookings over the past few years, it’s conspicuously missing from this year’s data. That should mean fewer people in Guanacaste, home to world-class surfing, or the Osa Peninsula, an off-the-beaten-path tropical fjord.

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Instead of Yellowstone, try Bison Range

Glacier, Yosemite, Acadia: Any of the marquee national parks are going to be busy this summer. Yellowstone had more than a million visitors in July 2021 alone. (The 2022 floods affected last year’s stats.) The good news is that the United States has more than 84 million acres of parks to visit.

Kent Taylor, a former park ranger turned parks guide, recommends Bison Range. Formerly known as National Bison Range, the nature reserve near Missoula, Mont., promises many of the same animals you’d find at Yellowstone, with the exception of grizzly bears and wolves, and a fraction of the visitors.

Whichever national park you choose this summer, check whether you need a reservation before your trip.

Instead of Rome and Amalfi, try Turin and Sardinia

Italy is (again) on target to be one of the most popular destinations for Americans this summer. Expect Rome, Florence and the Amalfi Coast to be packed, or even sold out, says Marco Amorico, president of the luxury travel company Access Italy.

Thankfully, Amorico says there are many other beautiful regions to explore that don’t come with the same tourist swarms. He recommends Turin, one of Italy’s best “second cities,” in lieu of Rome, and Sardinia or Sicily instead of the Amalfi Coast and Portofino.

There’s also his brother’s preferred vacation spot, the Maremma, a coastal area in Tuscany where Americans are less likely to go.

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Instead of London, try Oslo

Airlines are anticipating a huge summer for London. The English capital was Delta’s most-searched destination for the summer travel period, with the airline offering 20 percent more seats compared with summer 2019. American Airlines is also ramping up flights to London to meet demand, with up to 26 daily flights to London Heathrow from the United States, its most ever.

Fly farther north to Norway for a vacation with history and scenery. Ferrara says InteleTravel clients are interested in Norway for its fjords, cruising opportunities, and beautiful villages and towns. Start in Oslo, the capital, before taking a train or road trip to explore more of the Scandinavian landscape.

Instead of Orlando, try St. Augustine or the Hudson Valley

Orlando, Kayak’s third-most popular domestic summer destination, is not your only option for a family trip with sun and theme parks. Try Beacon, N.Y., located within driving distance of Legoland (which opens a new water playground attraction Memorial Day weekend), SplashDown Beach water park, Storm King Art Center and the Trailside Museums and Zoo at Bear Mountain State Park.

And if you insist on Florida, Haynes recommends St. Augustine. It’s one of the oldest cities in the United States, and Haynes says families love the small-town charm, kid-friendly attractions, museums, state parks and beaches. One last tip: Don’t leave without a visit to the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument, a historic masonry fort completed by the Spanish in 1695.

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