15 Best Cheap Places to Travel in May
In the mood for some pre-summer travel that's easy on your wallet, yet doesn't compromise your experience in a particular destination? Consider booking a trip in May. Just before the major high season, this time of year has plenty of great deals on everything from attractions to resorts to airfare in otherwise pricey locales. Another plus: May travel bargains can leave more room in your budget for additional vacations later this year.
Traveling in May means you can score bargains on trips to some of Europe's top destinations, including Santorini and Istanbul. Tourists who want a beach getaway will be impressed by the value of beach vacations to Grand Cayman and Cancun during the month of May, with no risk of hurricanes to interrupt their travel plans. May is also the perfect time of year if you're looking to check out the famous pyramids of Egypt without breaking the bank.
For inspiration on your next budget-friendly escape, see our list of the best cheap places to travel in May.
1. Santorini, Greece
Travelers looking for good value on Santorini should explore a visit in May. That's when flights to this elysian island in the Aegean Sea typically cost around half as much as they do other times of the year, making this one of the best cheap places to travel in May.
You might also score a competitive rate on a hotel room at one of the best hotels in Santorini, like the villas at Celestia Grand, Atrina Canava 1894's luxe suites, or a room with a view at Petit Palace Suites Hotel.
Experience Santorini's quintessential sightseeing in its capital, Firá. You can wander around winding lanes flanked by the classic whitewashed houses and see the beautiful cerulean churches atop cliffs. Up north in Santorini, upscale Oia oozes romance and draws tourists with epic sunset views.
History buffs should make a point to visit the Akrotiri Archaeological Site while in Santorini in May. Like Pompeii, it features remarkably preserved pathways that were once part of a vibrant town, including the remains of buildings and nearly complete sets of pottery. Afterward, hike down the path from Akrotiri to Red Beach to relax beneath a magnificent wall of rust-hued rocks.
2. Grand Cayman
Just after high season but not quite yet hurricane season, May is a sweet spot for affordable trips to Grand Cayman. The Caribbean island is even more chilled-out than usual this time of year, giving you uninterrupted time to enjoy paradise in near solitude while counting all that extra cash in your wallet.
One of the top things to do in Grand Cayman is swimming with sea creatures at Stingray City. This shallow, sandy area, about 25 miles offshore, is filled with gentle Atlantic stingrays that you can touch and even kiss (the guides will insist that you give them a smooch for a photo!).
Grand Cayman is also one of the region's best diving destinations, if you're looking for a more advanced experience with sea life. Top dive sites off Grand Cayman include the Kittiwake Shipwreck & Artificial Reef and Devil's Grotto.
There's plenty of fun to be had on land in Grand Cayman, as well. Seven Mile Beach offers sublime views of the ocean and the island's striking sunsets. You can shop 'til you drop in the capital, George Town.
Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park is also an underrated attraction. Not only does it have blooming orchids and lush jungle plants, the botanical garden is also home to giant blue iguanas, a species that is found only on Grand Cayman.
Accommodation: Top-Rated Resorts in the Cayman Islands
3. Costa Rica
Craving a travel adventure focused on nature and wildlife? You can't go wrong with a trip to Costa Rica in May. It's only the very beginning of the rainy season, so while you are likely to have some chance of showers, you'll get much better prices for weather that's almost as nice as it is earlier in the year.
When it comes to tourist attractions in Costa Rica, Manuel Antonio National Park is at the top of the list of places to visit. The natural escape features a beautiful blend of sandy coastline and lush forest, plus tons of wildlife. Keep your eyes peeled for sloths, howler monkeys, and tropical birds in this idyllic and cheap place to travel in May.
Arenal Volcano National Park, another popular attraction, gives tourists the chance to see a 1,633-meter-tall volcano with massive ash columns. The park itself boasts rich biodiversity and is home to many of Costa Rica's native species.
For even more wildlife, head to the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve and the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. They're home to some of the most interesting animals in Costa Rica, including jaguars and pumas. The misty environment also sets a soothing atmosphere for exploring nature.
Accommodation: Top-Rated Beach Resorts in Costa Rica
Read More: Best Beaches in Costa Rica
4. New Orleans, Louisiana
May is one of your last chances to visit the "Big Easy" before the city becomes infamously muggy for the summer, and fortunately, it's also one of the cheapest times to visit New Orleans. Your best bet is to plan your trip to New Orleans during the week, if you're looking to save some money. Expect warm days, breezy nights, and plenty of Creole culture.
Exploring the French Quarter is the highlight for most tourists who visit New Orleans. This historic district brims with French-inspired architecture and heritage buildings, the city's top restaurants, art galleries, and souvenir shops. Bourbon Street buzzes with the sounds of live music all day and all night long.
You might also consider checking out the buskers outside St. Louis Cathedral at Jackson Square, listening to renowned jazz musicians on Frenchmen Street, and wandering around Royal Street.
New Orleans swirls with superstition and spirituality. Get immersed in the local zeitgeist on the New Orleans Ghost, Voodoo & Vampire Walking Tour. Under the light of the moon, a guide will take you around to some of the most eerie sites in the city, telling you stories of hauntings, spells, and mysterious happenings. It's an intriguing (and fun!) way to learn about the culture and history of this city.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in New Orleans: Best Areas & Hotels
- Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in New Orleans
5. Istanbul, Turkey
Eager to draw business from the limited number of foreign arrivals, hotels and airlines often offer fantastic deals on trips to Istanbul in May – right before tourism skyrockets for the summer. It's a great time to take advantage of competitive pricing and enjoy vacation-worthy weather (Think: highs of 22 degrees Celsius, lows of 12 degrees Celsius, and hardly any rain) in the Turkish capital.
Even on a short itinerary, tourists can experience many of Istanbul's top-rated tourist attractions in May, as the entry lines should be relatively short. Visit the Aya Sofya, the 1,500-year-old church-turned-mosque, arguably the most recognizable landmark in the city.
Get dazzled by the Islamic art, elaborate courtyards, and highly decorative rooms of the 15th-century Topkapi Palace. Soak up the mysterious serenity (and see the haunting Medusa stones) at the Basilica Cistern. Experience the beauty of the Blue Mosque and hear the call to prayer from one of its seven minarets at dusk.
Don't leave Istanbul without catching the UNESCO-listed Whirling Dervish Show at the Hodjapasha Dance Theater. The dizzying performance is a must-see for tourists who are interested in Turkish culture.
Accommodation: Top-Rated Places to Stay in Istanbul
6. Cancun, Mexico
Aside from the occasional shower or two, Cancun has fantastic weather in May. The spring breakers have returned home, and resorts are eager to fill their rooms, dropping their prices to ultra-low rates. It'll be hot, but with Cancun's breezy, uncrowded coastline and breathtakingly clear sea, you won't sweat it.
Beaches top the list of the reasons why tourists visit this magnificent part of the Yucatan Peninsula - and for good reason. They've got wide swaths of sparkling, sugary sand; gentle surf; and ocean water in every shade of blue you could imagine. You'll likely have access to a pristine beach directly from your resort.
But don't get too caught up with the relaxing side of this cheap place to travel in May; Cancun also has some spectacular archeological sites that are worth a day trip or two. Chichén Itzá, a three-hour drive from Cancun's resort area, is one of the biggest and best-restored archeological sites in all of Mexico. The 1,000-year-old Mayan attraction has received designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is home to the famous El Castillo pyramid.
For more Mayan ruins, book a trip to El Rey. The archeological site contains dozens of buildings and tombs that date back to AD 900. Look out for the resident iguanas that sunbathe on the structures.
Take the rest of your aquatic adventure to the Cancun Underwater Museum. The quirky diving attraction contains two seabed-based art galleries with hundreds of sculptures from artists in the U.K. and Mexico. More than just an art installation, though, these works are actually helping new coral reefs form. Check it out on a guided snorkeling or diving tour, or on a glass-bottom boat excursion.
Accommodation: Best All-Inclusive Resorts in Cancun
- Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Cancún
7. The Outer Banks, North Carolina
The Outer Banks is an idyllic chain of barrier islands stretching over 170 miles of the Atlantic Coast, and it boasts a slew of fantastic things to do.
Most popular as a summer destination, this pretty spot is home to pristine beaches backed by rolling sand dunes. You'll want to pack a camera as well as a picnic. Be warned: the water won't be very warm in May, but temperatures range in the high 60s and low 70s Fahrenheit, so you'll be more than comfortable on the sand.
Since May is still the off-season, you'll be able to score some great rates on vacation rentals that people clamor over at least a year before the summer season begins. The earlier in May the better for deals.
If you'd rather stay at one of the best resorts in the Outer Banks, now is the time to do it; rates are affordable, and you'll have your pick of the top rooms. Head to Avon, Rondanthe, Frisco, or Waves if you're looking to rent, or head to Nag's Head or Kitty Hawk if you fancy a hotel stay.
Summer traffic to the island is one of the major complaints for travelers to the Outer Banks between June and August. Traveling in May means you'll miss out on all that mayhem by booking before the craziness begins.
The cheapest way to visit the Outer Banks is to forgo the hotels in favor of sleeping beneath the stars. If you're a fan of roughing it, there are plenty of campgrounds in the Outer Banks to choose from and, as noted earlier, May offers ideal temps (not too hot, nor too cold) to enjoy a night (or more) in the great outdoors.
8. Lisbon, Portugal
Looking for a deal on Lisbon? Sneak in a vacation to this beloved European city in May, just before prices jump in June, and you'll find that you can get great bang for your buck.
Between its historic attractions, top-notch restaurants, marvelous coastal location, and easygoing culture, the hilly Portuguese capital has something for everyone. Get a view of the entire city and the River Tagus at Castelo de São Jorge, one of Lisbon's most popular tourist attractions. It contains a thoughtful museum and archeological site that offer details on the history of the city.
Another Lisbon highlight is the 500-year-old Mosteiro dos Jerónimos. The UNESCO World Heritage Site celebrates the Age of Discovery and is a fantastic place to visit.
While in the neighborhood, swing by the Torre de Belém. The historic tower has a decorative façade, embellished with maritime designs, and offers lovely views of the riverfront from the top-floor terrace. It's well worth the climb up the steep spiral staircase.
The best sightseeing in Lisbon happens in the Baixa (downtown) district. Take a creaky ride 32 meters up to the Santa Justa Lift, a neo-Gothic elevator that sticks out against the rest of Lisbon's more graceful architecture.
Stroll beneath the landmark Arco de Rua Augusta to eventually reach the Praça do Comércio, a massive riverfront plaza filled with outdoor restaurants and street performers.
As you wander around the neighborhood, keep your eyes peeled for blue-and-white tiles known as azulejos. You can learn more about this unique Portuguese art form (and see some of the earliest-known tiles) at the Museu Nacional do Azulejo.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Lisbon: Best Areas & Hotels
9. Cairo, Egypt
Few, if any, travelers don't have the Pyramids of Giza, the Sphinx, and the Valley of the Kings somewhere on their bucket list. Cross Cairo off yours this May while the temperatures around North Africa are still bearable and the shoulder season creates opportunities for travel deals.
You only need a half day to see the most remarkable pyramids in Egypt, leaving plenty of room in your itinerary to explore other sites.
Step inside the pastel pink mansion in Downtown Cairo to explore one of the best cultural attractions in the world: the Egyptian Museum. The Tutankhamun Galleries are the biggest draw at this museum, and it's one of the best places to visit in Cairo. They contain the treasures discovered in the Valley of the Kings in 1922, including Tutankhamun's death mask and sarcophagi and the pharaoh's wardrobe collection. The museum also contains quite a few mummies and a collection of ancient Egyptian jewelry that will impress even the most blinged-out tourists.
Continue time-traveling through Egypt in Cairo's other historic sites. Al-Azhar Mosque, which is more than 1,000 years old, is home to one of the oldest universities in the world. Tourists can see parts of Roman towers and tons of old churches, including the church where Mary and Jesus reportedly took shelter when male babies were being massacred by King Herod, in Coptic Cairo.
Another one of the top things to do in Cairo is touring the Citadel at the foot of the Mokattam Hills.
End your experience in this must-visit destination at Khan el-Khalili, a Middle Eastern bazaar with an endless array of shops. Here, you can find traditional souvenirs to take home, including fine textiles, perfumes, metal lampshades, and more.
10. Montego Bay, Jamaica
May is the "sixth warmest month of the year" in Montego Bay. That means you'll be facing some sticky days that reach highs in the low 30s Celsius. Considering how pristine the beaches are in this part of Jamaica, as well as the amount you'll be saving by traveling off-season, humid days won't dissuade you from visiting Montego Bay in May.
The best time to visit Montego Bay is during its high season (from December to April), as long as you don't mind big crowds and steep prices on hotels, food, and accommodations. Visiting further into spring, however, is when you'll start to find good deals, which makes it one of the best cheap places to travel in May.
May is also one of the best times to visit Montego Bay's top tourist attractions without having to share them with hundreds of other travelers. Float along the Martha Brae River in a tube or get pushed along by a guide on a bamboo raft. You can also spend a day in May at Doctor's Cave Beach, with a slew of choices for the best spot on the sand.
Accommodation: Best Hotels in Montego Bay
11. Rome, Italy
Don't want to wait in a six-hour line to visit St. Peter's Basilica, or endure unwieldy hordes of tourists at the Colosseum? Consider planning a trip to Rome in May.
Not only will you have incredible weather for sightseeing in Rome (highs around 24 degrees Celsius, lows around 13 degrees Celsius), the pre-summer travel season brings far fewer travelers to this popular tourist destination than later in the year. You can easily get reasonable rates on hotels and activities, making this an ideal cheap place to travel in May.
With such relatively small crowds, May is the perfect time of year to check Rome off your bucket list. Visit the Colosseum, one of the top tourist atttractions in the world, to see how this Roman antiquity has gone on to inspire today's sports arenas.
Head to the world's smallest independent state, the Vatican, to see the Sistine Chapel, Vatican Library, and St. Peter's Square.
Wander around the Pantheon, a 2,000-year-old monument that features a spectacular 43-meter dome. Finally, toss a coin in the Trevi Fountain -legend has it that the ritual ensures at least one return visit to the Eternal City.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Rome: Best Areas & Hotels
12. Porto, Portugal
While the cheapest time of year to visit Porto is during the winter, the chilly and rainy weather can put a damper on sightseeing. Instead, consider visiting in May, when the Portuguese city is sunny and warm, and prices are far less than you'd pay during the peak of summer.
During your May vacation to Portugal, you should make a point to visit Porto's popular attractions, like Clérigos Tower, Palácio da Bolsa, Igreja de São Francisco, and the Sé. Plan to spend at least one afternoon basking along the River Douro at Cais da Ribeira, one of Porto's historic areas. Exploring the neighborhood's maze-like alleyways will make you feel like you've stepped back in time.
Porto does see some rain showers during the month of May. Fortunately, the city has lots of fun things to do indoors. Check out the renowned collection of Portuguese art from as far back as the 16th century at the Soares dos Reis National Museum. Catch a performance at the architecturally impressive Casa da Música. And dig into Porto's best cakes and pastries at Café Majestic. Its Art Nouveau design is just as sweet as its baked goods.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Porto
13. Portland, Oregon
With its epic mountains, lush green forests, and laid-back culture, the Pacific Northwest is a dream destination year-round. Budget-seekers can find great deals on one of the region's most popular cities, Portland, during the month of May. The best part? You won't have to make any trade-offs to get the great savings. The balmy springtime weather lends itself to days of exploring the great outdoors and enjoying Portland's famous attractions, like the International Rose Test Garden.
While in Portland in May, tourists can go whale watching and hike the trails at Mount Hood. Spend an afternoon enjoying the scenery at Lan Su Chinese Garden, an atmospheric botanical garden built in the style of the Ming Dynasty.
If it rains, make your way to the Portland Art Museum. It has a robust collection of Native American and Northwest art that gives you a deep sense of place.
Visitors who come to Portland in late May can take part in a very special event: the Portland Rose Festival. More than a century old, this annual celebration celebrates Portland's iconic flowers with a rose competition, fireworks, art shows, boat races, and parades. Don't miss it.
Accommodation: Top-Rated Places to Stay in Portland, Oregon
14. Cartagena, Colombia
May is one of the cheapest times to visit Cartagena. Piggybacking on the end of high season, this less popular month is going to be hot, so pack accordingly.
Highs hover around 89 degrees Fahrenheit, while lows rarely dip below 79, so you'll want plenty of sunscreen, hats, and UV protective clothing. The upside, though, is the amazing deals you'll find on hotels, attractions, and airfare.
Those sticky days are perfect for a beach visit, so be sure to carve out time to enjoy a day spent frolicking in the surf and building sandcastles at Bocagrande, La Boquilla, or Playa de Castillo Grande, three of the best beaches in Colombia.
Other popular things to do in Cartagena include admiring the vibrant, perfectly restored buildings of the walled city; taking a horse-drawn carriage ride; and grabbing a bite to eat or dancing in Plaza de la Trinidad.
Accommodation: Best Hotels in Cartagena, Colombia
15. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
May in Rio de Janeiro offers travelers large savings, few crowds, and comfortable temps (the highs hover around 79 degrees Fahrenheit, and lows dip to about 70).
You'll still be able to enjoy a day at the beach (don't miss the soft, sandy shore at Copacabana or Ipanema) without shivering, and you won't have to don a sweater to enjoy the city's most famous tourist attractions. Not that you'd ever really get cold in Rio; its weather is ideal pretty much any time you'd want to visit.
Hike to the top of Cristo Redentor, the city's best-known landmark, behind the uniquely shaped Sugarloaf, which you can view perfectly from this perch. Hop on a cable car from Praça General Tibúrcio to the summit of Morro da Urca.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Rio de Janeiro