All travelers have that inner list of secret places we’d really like to adventure to. These places are rugged, isolated, nobody knows about them and they are cheap. That is, until one day we hear about them on the nightly news or find out a buddy has already been there.

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Now, that place isn’t so cheap anymore, everyone and their mother’s been there, and it’s about as rugged as Monaco. I’m not going to try and teach you how not to procrastinate and get to your secret cheap places – since I can’t do it myself – but there are some warning signs that you should look out for and watch as they progress. As soon as you see them, hop on the next flight out otherwise you’ll have missed out on your cheap destination.

The Stages of Losing The Cheap Destination

  1. The Neighbors Are Getting Expensive – As Thailand gets pricey it makes Cambodia and good alternative. A good alternative until it gets popular enough to become expensive itself. Having neighbors with booming tourism industries is a good indicator that travel will increase in a given region, which ultimately raises prices.
  2. Government Freedoms – Russia, China, and Egypt all have booming tourism industries fostered in part by the opening up of their governments. I’m not saying these are the most democratic nations in the world, but that they’ve freed their systems enough to encourage travel and not make people scared to go there.
  3. The Big Screen – Countries usually show up in action movies when they’ve got a bad reputation, then in historical pieces as they modernize, and once its in a chick flick as an exotic destination it’ll soon be overrun with tourists.
  4. It’s Popping Up On Websites In Small Articles – When you open up MSN or Yahoo and see a story about the bazaars in Baku or the cheap Mediterranean coast of Northern Cyprus pop up on your favorite travel blogs, you’re in trouble. That place hasn’t hit the mainstream yet and won’t just quite since travel articles tend to only attract the most seasoned backpackers.
  5. Major Sporting Events – The Olympics, in addition to increased public freedoms has really pushed China into a new tourism powerhouse. The World Cup in 2010 is likely to do the same for South Africa and anywhere else hosting a major sporting event. If you can’t make it to a place well in advance of the event, wait until right after when there are usually good discounts on flights and hotels.
  6. Really Good Or Really Bad Economies – This can go either way, when Turkey’s inflation rate was about 210% during the late 90s it was an attractive place compared to Euro-currency Greece. Now the Turkish economy is doing relatively well, in fact much better than it has fared in the past, and a former best place to travel to on a weak dollar. The opposite happened in Iceland, which went from expensive to bankrupt causing a mini-spike in tourism.
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Every cheap destination gets expensive eventually in direct response to people finding out about some place being cheap in the first place. Increasing popularity doesn’t necessarily make a country or city a bad place to visit, it just won’t feel as unique. You’ll have to rely less on your wits since that place will soon start looking like every other tourist trap or Western city. You’ll have to search harder and travel farther away to get a better glimpse of the local culture, language, food, and customs – and all for more money.

[photo by: Tar_zan]