7 Popular Vacation Spots That Aren't Worth the Money (and Where to Go Instead)

by Paul Michael on 15 August 2014 14 comments
Photo: Marco Verch

When it comes to vacation benefits, America is in poor shape. According to the Hotels.com "Vacation Equality Project," America is the only advanced economy in the world that does not guarantee paid vacation days. As a Brit, I was shocked to learn that the guaranteed four weeks of vacation that I got in the UK was going to become just one week when I arrived here in 2001 (and I was told by my employer at the time to be thankful for that). (See also: 11 Vacation Destinations That Stretch Your Travel Dollar)

So choosing where to go on vacation is crucial. These vacation days we get are precious; we don't want to waste them. But so many of us ignore incredible vacation spots for more popular ones that are overpriced and overrated. Here are seven spots you should know about that aren't worth your hard earned money; let's call them the seven deadly sins of vacationing.

1. The Bahamas

Quite possibly one of the most overrated vacation spots in the world, the Bahamas is where people go when they think they want a relaxing beach vacation. Everyone has the same idea, and the beaches are not even that good (although they are wonderfully crowded). This is tourism hell, but you'll pay through the nose for it, especially is you stay at the Atlantis. If you're looking for beaches without the fuss, try other parts of the Caribbean. The Dominican Republic is beautiful and affordable, and you will get a lot of the beach to yourself it you visit Trinidad and Tobago.

2. Naples, Italy

When someone tells you they're off to Naples, you immediately think of all the best parts of an Italian holiday; incredible architecture, amazing food, beautiful scenery. However, one of the first things you will notice about Naples when you arrive is the smell. There are frequent garbage strikes, and Naples gets very hot. That's not a good mix. Organized crime is big in Naples (look up the Camorra network) and if you're not very careful, you could easily be robbed or mugged. Instead of Naples, or Rome, try something a lot less "popular." Sardinia is a much better bet, with a crystal clear sea, white beaches, and very few tourists to battle it out with. It's soul, without glitz.

3. Disneyland or Disneyworld

What?! No Disney? As comedian Jim Gaffigan said, "How can I spend an enormous amount of money, be uncomfortable, and listen to my children complain and whine?" That's the Disney experience for adults, and you really do pay for the "privilege."

Let's get it straight. You will be spending a lot of time standing in line for rides that last a few minutes. You will also be spending an awful lot of money on food that makes cinema popcorn look like a great deal. Disney is also designed to part you with your money as often as possible, and the nag factor ("mommy, daddy, can I have that pleeeeeaseeee") is huge. Forget Disney. There are plenty of great amusement parks out there that offer much better value. (See also: 8 Affordable Theme Parks That Are Just as Fun as Disney)

4. Dublin, Ireland

You know, there is more than one place in Ireland that sells a decent pint of Guinness. And yet every year, people from all over the world flock to Dublin for a taste of the other black gold. The Huffington Post named it one of the most overrated places on earth, and for many good reasons. For a start, Dublin caters to the tourist trade, and as such has become focused on keeping tourists happy. It's no longer a slice of traditional Ireland, and you won't see the the Emerald Isle's real culture or customs there. There are much more "Irish" places to visit, and they won't be bogged down by tourists. They include Dunmore East and County Kerry.

5. Las Vegas, Nevada

Vegas baby! Vegas! Vegas!! Yeah, yeah... Vegas. If you have a lot of money and are prepared to lose a chunk of it, Las Vegas is going to be great. Then again, anywhere is going to be great if you're that rich.

But if you're looking for a frugal vacation, Vegas is going to get old pretty quickly. Yes, you can get free alcohol if you gamble. You can even play the penny slots. But the alcohol is watered down, it's not served often, and you're still in a dimly lit casino. The clubs? They're expensive and you'll stand in line for hours. You will be hounded constantly about timeshares and "female company." And the famous hotel buffets are just buffets. You even stand in line for those. Forget Vegas. If you really must gamble and want to stay in the US, try Atlantic City. It's on the coast, it has the boardwalk, a lot of family activities, and it's nowhere near as crowded and sleazy.

6. London, England

As someone who lived in London for six long years, I am speaking from a great deal of experience. Yes, London has some wonderful historic buildings, but it is dirty, smelly, and incredibly expensive. Anyone visiting from the U.S. should plan on spending at least three times what they would spend on a vacation to most other parts of the world, due to the rotten exchange rate and the vastly overpriced goods and services in the big city.

Now, this is not to say you should avoid The London Eye, Big Ben, Hampton Court, The Tower of London and other attractions. What you should do instead is find a much more affordable part of England to stay in, and then pop to London on a train or National Express coach on one or two days of your vacation. Oxford, Cambridge, Brighton, Arundel, and Whitstable are all beautiful, affordable and about an hour from the center of London.

7. Dubai, UAE

For some reason, Dubai has become an insanely popular tourist destination over the last 10 years. Yet in polls taken by many travel websites, Dubai came out on top as the most overrated and overpriced place to visit. It has a lot of tall buildings. If that's your thing, it's a start. But as the construction work is constant, it's not exactly going to be a calming experience.

The city is a shrine to consumerism, and is home to things like "world's biggest mall" and "world's largest theme park." Get ready for the "world's largest disappointment" and the "world's most overpriced vacation." Give Dubai a pass, and instead try more cultural cities like Sharjah (home to many galleries, festivals, and museums), Muscat, or Abu Dhabi.

Vehemently disagree? Have another overrated destination? Let us know below.

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Guest's picture
Guest

You do realize that the Blarney Stone is in County Cork, over 260km away from Dublin, right?

Guest's picture
Guest

Two places I don't care if I ever see in my lifetime are on this list: Las Vegas and Disneyworld. However, I've been to both Dublin and London (it was part of the same trip), and we had a blast. Granted, this was in the 90s, but we had a great time in both cities just walking around snapping photos and didn't notice much of any tourist-trap type stuff.

Guest's picture
Guest

Sooo the Blarney Stone isn't in Dublin.

Paul Michael's picture

To the two commenters who pointed out my dire error, I thank you. That will definitely teach me to listen to the stories of my co-workers, I didn't even question it. The error is being fixed, and I am eating humble pie for dinner.

Guest's picture
Noah

I do agree that those spots are overpriced and overrated, BUT every trip you take really depends on how you manage your finances initially. For instance, I avoid going to Cabo or Vegas during spring break season since the prices will be higher than normal. However, during the period between end of July and beginning of August, Vegas tends to be very cheap. You need to know when the prices peak and plunge around the year to have a safe, budget-friendly trip. Granted, there are certain places like Disneyland that will be overpriced most of the time. But many others are definitely worth visiting if you find the right deals during the right times of the year.

Guest's picture
Christie

Ooh, I would have to disagree about Disney World! Our family's best vacation spot!! And no, not overrated, or too expensive or crowded. You just gotta know when to go and have a plan, man. And have a good person to tell you the ropes (*cough* I'm a travel agent that specializes in Disney ... Fairytale Journeys by Christie ... *cough*) But with these things on your side, your days at Disney can be Magical. Can't wait to go back for the 5th time!!!!

Guest's picture
Monica

Wow, what a terrible description of Las Vegas. Have you ever even been there? Watered down drinks, bad drink service and dimly lit casino's? Maybe 20 years ago in the lower grade casino's. If you had visited some of the great, modern and well lit Las Vegas casino's such as Wynn, Aria, Cosmopolitan you most probably not have come to the same conclusion. And there is no place in the world where you can book such a wide range of luxury hotels at very reasonable prices. Atlantic City over Vegas? That must be a joke. Vegas is flourishing, while in Atlantic City casino after casino is closing down. The reason? Atlantic City is overpriced and beside the Boardwalk, there is not much else to see or do. Vegas has just seen one new Strip hotel/casino open (The Cromwell) and will see one new Strip resort open at the end of August (SLS). Vegas also has the Hoover Dam, Red Rock Canyon, Zion NP and Valley of Fire SP all within 1-3 hours drive.

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Guest

Yep, Atlantic City is so not crowded that 4 major hotel/casinos closed this year, including the $2.4 Billion Revel that opened in 2012. That sounds like an awesome place to visit instead of Las Vegas. Go to Atlantic City if you want to see a run-down, once popular travel destination. Go to Vegas if you want to actually have a fun time. In 2014, Vegas is much more than gambling, and representing it like it was in the 1980s is a farce.

Guest's picture
Olivia

Several years back we had opportunity to visit London. We did it on the cheap, staying in a slightly seedy, but clean, hotel with a free buffet breakfast served next door. (Now we know why hobbits are mad for mushrooms and what Harry Potter meant by sausages.) Museums are free, the tubes are cheap, every one speaks English and is polite. We hit Portobello Road, saw street performers, visited old bookstores and "charity shops", sat at a free church lunch time concert (Bach's organ music), had tea at the Tate Modern, fish and chips twice at this perpetually crowded hole in the wall shop, chatted with an immigrant shopkeeper about the best tea (she recommended PG Tips), and sought out a couple soccer balls for our boys. We spent money on the Westminster Abbey tour and if jet lag weren't such an issue would have loved to have taken in a show (MUCH cheaper than NY). We supplemented our big breakfast with a jar of peanut butter and a loaf of bread and a "meal out" each day. I would not recommend English pizza ("do you want chips with that?") or English peanut butter. Other than those, we had a wonderful visit.

Guest's picture
Jennifer

What makes me sad is when a commenter says that they never want to see Vegas in their entire life. For anyone that doesn't know, YES! This article is right in that there are people on the streets of every stoplight corner willing to hand you a naked picture of a girl with an advert of a strip club...I went with a friend whose Dad was stationed there during their family's time in the Air Force and it was so freaking embarrassing! It was also nasty and ridiculous as all you see littered on the ground downtown are those same cards. What I didn't get to see however is what lies outside of Vegas. While they both were wanting to go to every casino in town that they had gone to when he was stationed there, I had a brochure that talked about Red Rock Canyon and other sights like Mt. Charleston, which you can see at every angle of downtown Las Vegas. There are...let me repeat...THERE ARE OTHER THINGS TO DO IN LAS VEGAS NEVADE OTHER THAN GAMBLE! Get on the net and look!! Sheesh people...Mt. Charleston and Red Rock Canyon are on the outskirts of town but hell, they beat just seeing glitzy, overpriced shows and getting peddled by strip club auctioneers!

Guest's picture
Ashlee

So you've "listened to stories of your coworkers?". Does this mean that you haven't experienced what you've so expertly written about? Value is in the eye of the beholder, numbnuts. Since your article isn't printed on newspaper I can't even line my bird cage with it. Ask me how much I value "your opinion" based on your "stories of your coworkers." What a jerk-off you are!

Guest's picture
Julia

Seriously, have you ever even been to Naples (apart from cruise ship stopovers, that is)? I'm quite sorry, but you're doing nothing but repeating stupid and ignorant stereotypes. I've been to Naples last year and had a vacation that was nothing but wonderful. I didn't feel treatened or anything once. It isn't even a problem to take walks in the quarters with a "bad" reputation like Sanità or the Quartieri Spagnoli, as long as you don't happily flaunt your Rolex. The food is great (and cheap!), the city is packed with stunning art and the Amalfi coast is only a bus-ride away. It's true that Naples has a somewhat gritty charm to it, but it's a honest, genuine place and well, if you want picture postcard Italy, then go, take that ship to Capri. (And by the way, it's undeniable that the Mafia is deeply ingrained into the system of the whole Mezzogiorno, but it's kind of cute that you think the Camorra might be interested in some little insignificant tourists.)

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Ian P

The Bahamas are wonderful but you have to stay away from Nassau and pretty much all of New Providence island. Visit the Exumas instead, which might cost more to get there (by boat only), but it's well worth it to see some of the most beautiful islands in the world.

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Guest

If you prepare yourself that you're going to drop gobs of money and go during the off-season, DisneyWorld is pretty fun!