With the winter holiday season quickly approaching, many travelers are already considering vacation possibilities for the coming year. Given the current state of the economy – in America as well as other parts of the world – budget constraints will likely play a critical role in the decision-making process. Thankfully, magazines such as Budget Travel are here to help. In the December 2011/January 2012 issue, for instance, writer Nicole Frehsee has presented the magazine's “annual guide to the year's biggest savings... in some of the world's most appealing vacation spots.” Among the top 10 budget travel destinations for 2012 , you'll find plenty of exotic locales, including Belize, Egypt, Taipei, Athens, Poland, the Azores, and Atlantic Canada. In addition, you might be delighted to spot three American cities on Nicole's budget-friendly list: Kansas City, San Antonio, and San Diego.
Kansas City, Missouri 
In her article, Nicole credits recent arts-focused developments, such as the brand-new, $326 million Moshe Safdie-designed Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, with turning this laid-back, Midwestern town into “a hotbed of high culture.” The opening of this impressive center – which now hosts the Kansas City Ballet, the Lyric Opera, and the Kansas City Symphony – “has only helped to bolster the already-vibrant Crossroads Arts District – a funky enclave of 70-plus galleries in renovated warehouses, interspersed with boutiques and restaurants – that surrounds it.” Luckily, though, as Nicole reports, “Kansas City's prices haven't caught up to its highbrow reputation. Both hotels and rental cars are cheaper than they were in 2010, with rooms going for about $137 per night (a 3 percent drop) and cars averaging $55 per day.” In addition, although popular annual events like the Plaza Art Fair and Barbecue Blaze Off help to make September the high season in Kansas City, it's also, according to Nicole, the time to expect decent weather, good hotel deals, and cheaper airfare, which might make it easier to cope with the crowds.
San Antonio, Texas 
While San Antonio might be widely celebrated for its 19th-century missions, most notably the Alamo, the city is, according to Nicole, “staking a claim on the future with new construction: a massive expansion of San Antonio's popular River Walk. As part of the $358.3 million River Improvements Project redevelopment plan, this network of paths along the San Antonio River nearly doubled in length in June, adding eight miles of walk-and-bike routes and a slew of shops and cafés.” In her article, Nicole also cites money-saving options such as relying on B-Cycle, the city's relatively new bike-rental program, or visiting during the hot, sometimes rainy month of September, when crowds are less likely and direct flights are more affordable. “Best of all,” she notes, “room rates are down 5 percent from last year – the average four-star room goes for $100 per night – and the city's S.A.V.E. (San Antonio Vacation Experience) program promotes additional hotel deals year-round.”
San Diego, California 
San Diego has made the list for a number of reasons. Besides having an incredible coastline that's popular among surfers, a low annual rainfall that makes golfing and other outdoor activities attractive year-round, and a slew of family-friendly attractions (from SeaWorld to LEGOLAND California), San Diego is also a more inexpensive destination than northern neighbors like Los Angeles and San Francisco. According to Nicole's article, San Diego “is offering bargains on everything from hotels – the average nightly room rate is $128 – to rental cars, which are 3 percent cheaper than they were in 2010. Another reason to book a trip now: Hotel prices are expected to continue dropping through 2012 before spiking again in 2013, thanks to an ongoing construction boom.” To save even more money, Nicole suggests visiting in February, when airfare prices should be lower, and roughly 40 area museums and attractions will offer half-priced admission fees. Of course, beach lovers might prefer the warmer temperatures between April and October.
For more travel ideas about these three fun-filled cities, consult the following Moon travel guides: Katy Ryan's Moon Kansas City , Andy Rhodes' Moon Texas , and Ericka Chickowski's Moon San Diego . In the meantime, where are you planning to go in 2012?
As always, I’m open to ideas for future posts. If you have any suggestions, burning questions, or destinations that you’d like me to explore in greater detail, please comment below or contact me via laura [at] wanderingsoles [dot] com.
Disclosure: While I occasionally accept free or discounted travel assistance when it coincides with my editorial goals, my opinion is never for sale, which means that everything written in my American Nomad blog and Moon travel guides is my unbiased reflection of the things that I see, do, and experience while traveling across the United States.
Laura Martone is Moon’s American Nomad  and the author of Moon Michigan , Moon Florida Keys , Moon Baja RV Camping , and the upcoming Moon New Orleans, which will be published in fall 2012.