Got $500? Take one of these trips, hotel and air included

Updated Feb 27, 2016

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 planning, you can find some great deals.

Last week, I challenged myself to try to put together three trips to 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.

SKI ESCAPE IN COLORADO

By making Denver your home base for a ski escape, you’re setting yourself up for a fun, affordable getaway. This three-day, two-night trip to Colorado includes airfare, hotel, lift tickets and even equipment and ski clothes.

Sample dates used: March 25-27

Round-trip ticket from Austin-Bergstrom on Frontier Airlines: $154, including taxes. (This only includes a small carry-on item; if you need more bags, it’ll cost extra.)

Two nights at the Hyatt Place Denver Airport, including Wi-Fi, free parking and daily breakfast: $180, including taxes.

The Daytripper Package at Loveland Ski Area, located 53 miles west of Denver: $109.02. Price includes one full-day lift ticket, ski or snowboard rental, and jacket, pants, gloves and goggle rental.

Ticket to a Colorado Rockies game: $11.

Mile High Culture pass, which includes a visit to any 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 for everything: $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.

NEW YORK IN MARCH

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 used: March 5-7

Round-trip ticket from Austin-Bergstrom to Newark using Priceline Express: $254.14, including taxes.

Two nights at Hotel Boutique at Grand Central, located steps from Grand Central Terminal: $234.62.(You must book through Travelzoo.com to get the deal.)

Total for everything: $488.76

Got $25 more dollars? Here’s my favorite New York tip: You can get a ticket to Broadway show for $25. 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 as long as one person is between 18-35; the other person can be any age. Current HipTix offerings include the 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.

BEACH GETAWAY IN CANCUN

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

Sample dates used: March 5-7

Round-trip ticket from Houston IAH to Cancun on Spirit Airlines: $163.67, including taxes. (This only includes a small carry-on item; if you need more bags, it’ll cost extra. If you don’t want to fly out of Houston, you can also fly nonstop from Austin-Bergstrom on United for $343.)

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: $273.70, including taxes, booked using Priceline.com.

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

Total for everything: $484.41

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