Group Getaway on a Budget: Unveiling Dream Destinations for 10 Under $25,000 (Flying from Manila!)

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In today’s fast-paced and internet-driven world, jet-setting and seeing the world has become somewhat of an airy dream for most Filipinos. This is why most wait for airfare sales, fight for one peso flights, wait for seat sales, or on the extreme, splurge with just one goal in mind: traveling the world. But what if we tell you that you can tour the world, or much closer to home at least, with a P25,000 budget? The goal of this article is to show you how to bring your university barkada or co-workers closer by planning a budget trip with great bang for the buck. Surprise, you don’t even need a one peso flight to do this!

Planning a Budget-Friendly Group Getaway

Before booking anything for your next group getaway, try setting a budget first. By then, you can be more realistic with your holiday plans and be able to decide which things should be given up and which things can stay. Back when we were planning for our first-ever friend-cation, I asked my friends how much they were okay with and we went from there. We agreed we can afford an airfare that’s not more than 6,000 and an accommodation that’s not more than 8,000 pesos per person. From the agreed price of our food down to the travel essentials, we made sure everything was set beforehand. And I promise you guys, after deciding to do all those, the rest of the trip planning was easy peasy. We were able to secure slots for everything we needed at a very good price! It could be the same for you. A budget group getaway starts with a plan. And here are a few vacation-worthy places to consider, flying from Manila! Visit these popular destinations with your friends when you want to #MeetMeImLocal.

An out-of-town trip is always a good idea to catch up with family or friends. When schedules permit, taking a long weekend off in a tropical destination near the metro seems like self-care 101 for every laid-back beach lover out there. But planning it can make things more complicated when done at the last minute—where to book a room for the whole barkada? And do we really need a van for this trip? Sound familiar? While group getaways can create endless possibilities for awesome travel stories, the chances are that you’re probably going to have to break your bank just to make sure everything goes as planned.

Researching Affordable Destinations

My friends and I knew we wanted to go to a neighboring country and destinations there are relatively easy to access from Manila – the four closest countries are easily accessible within a two-hour flight. After some poring over graphs and tables, I discovered that Taiwan and Thailand were the cheapest and most likely (for an upcoming sale). I checked TripAdvisor and travel bloggers’ reviews for Taiwan, but flights pushed us to consider Chiang Mai, Thailand our best deal. Then, it’s book edging: fight for the best seats (window or aisle?), the best rooms (my friends allowed me to book theirs by telling me their preference for quiet – away from the bars, of course), and the best rates. I was advised “Book You First” a little too literally, but it worked out nicely that time. And, while trying to get the best deal, consider “bundling” as an option. Accessory fees can add up and you might get a good package deal as a Movie and MAKAN combo instead.

Determine what the group wants, then go looking for the best deal. In my case, being closer to nature was more important than shopping for premier finds. You can, on average, spend at most P2,500 in total for a six-member group by the time you’re back at your home airport from your vacation. It was important to us that the destination was far away from the city, with great accommodations. You may use Google,, and, or Deal Grocer to find potential destinations. Look for the same thing as we did, because it’s possible to book RT tickets from Manila plus hotel accommodation for two nights for each person under P25,000 per person!

Setting a Realistic Budget

Avoid costly tours by turning every travel worry into a fun experience. If you want to have an activity in a particular place or have the urge to know how something was prepared, then do it yourself. This also makes things extra fulfilling! Always spend on food! After all, the experience that goes hand-in-hand with it is priceless! If you must focus on an essential thing to ponder upon during group travel, it is to eat good, local food. Embrace eating where locals usually eat. There’s no difficult calling on restaurants since you’re traveling in a large group. Try it, the dish on the menu that achieves the chef’s pride toaster can only be memorable if you really enjoyed it.

It is also important to keep your accommodation cost minimum. Go for hotel alternatives such as hostels, apartments, or boutique hotels. Just because you’re on a budget doesn’t mean your accommodation has to be near the airport (which is usually more expensive)! Given that you’d be spending a lot of time adventuring through your chosen destination, go for accommodations that might be a few minutes’ walk from must-remember landmarks than just the slightly closer alternative.

Travel tip: Airfares are cheaper during off-peak, so your airfare cost would be lower if you travel on those days. It’s okay to choose a “low season” destination since hotel rates are lower and not everybody gets to travel just because they can. Staying in a premier location property would easily influence just any typical hotel during low season.

It is crucial to determine and agree on a realistic budget right from the get-go. Just because your budget has been initially agreed on doesn’t mean you can already push through with setting the dates. Part of the initial budgeting process is to have everybody agree on an amount based on the parameters you came up with. By having willing travelers, you can then collaboratively work on DIY travel itineraries for your chosen destination.

Finding Accommodations within the Budget

Opting for economical accommodations requires a lot of effort. You may not find a place which truly fits your standards, and even if you do, it might not be as accessible to all the tourist attractions that are part of your aim. Don’t let the trivial things pull your amazing travel experience down. For all you know, you might discover a new favorite spot in the corner of your rented property in the middle of nowhere. Because really, more than expensive hotel rooms, the most important thing is being able to share a trip with your friends or family. Remember that it’s about the experience, not the luxury.

But if you’re not the outdoorsy type, another option is renting a vacation home. This one’s quite easy to score, given the wide array of booking websites on the internet today, that offer budget-friendly options for big groups. Just be keen on searching for the most bang for your buck. You might stumble upon a property with facilities that every one of your friends would enjoy, such as barbecue grills, volleyball courts, and even swimming pools, not to mention the homey feel these properties offer that you could never obtain in an expensive hotel. Plus, if you whip out your calculator, you’ll find out that they’re just a fraction of the cost for the rooms you’d book in a resort. Save those pesos for another trip.

As we all know, when we’re trying to travel on a budget, one of the first things we need to strike off our list is a grand hotel accommodation. But why stay in a hotel when you originally wanted to spend time bonding with nature anyway? Equip yourself with basic wilderness survival skills and discover the beauty of Mother Earth.

Considering Transportation Options

I know, I know, booking AirAsia’s first connecting flight to Puerto Princesa brings so much excitement. There’s no better consolation than being able to immediately fly somewhere, no? Well here’s the thing: Puerto’s where you arrive, not necessarily what you must direct to. The chief destination of the Palawan Province is without a doubt El Nido, and it’s about a lifetime away from Puerto. It’s abnormally far for such an acclaimed place for sure, with that 90-minute van journey clocking in at 1,000-1,200 PHP per person. That’s 5-7% of the whole itinerary, potentially gone in a snap. It’s a snap you can see coming from a mile away with the 6-hr bus ride offering negligible savings.

There are several close-but-not-exactly-beach places that are relatively near each other in Palawan. It’s totally possible because the 90-minute El Nido to Puerto Princesa van transfers are too convenient to pass up (or you can just take a 6-hour bus trip). In the case of Cebu, not only do boat trips are undoubtedly affordable and fast, those are available every day. Scarlet green seas, whalesharks, and turtles, enchanted falls, colonial churches, wall after wall after wall of graffiti– these are only some of the things you’ll be treated to by two of the country’s most undeniably lively islands.

Section 2: Dream Destinations for Group Getaways under $25,000

To all who aspire to travel in their lives at least once with their whole clingy barkada, achieving a trip like this is possible. Save up, throw in mutualism, friends of friends, and friendship, and don’t forget the MTV-y edit of whatever phone videos and photos you have. Here’s my matipid itinerary for a lakbay barkada under P25,000 each—international and domestic destinations included. I also included other itineraries and further options to choose from, in no particular order of budget scale, hence addressing all post-trip meaty cravings. Godspeed, amigos!

We often have a number of people in our life we’d like to venture out new places with, so I came up with a list of how to fully spend a two-week trip with a barkada—or even less. In the summer of 2018, my college barkada and I—who are more than twenty-nine, but less than a hundred—completed Round 2 of our probs not so pocket kamu bakasyon, this time incorporating two four-day weekend trips to Batanes and Davao. Other groups had their own trips: a five-day long escapade in Batanes plus an unexpected weekend sidetrip to an extinct volcano in December 2017 by a few from a backpacking group of eleven; twenty-four landed in Coron last, last February 2019.

Bali, Indonesia

If time squished you for vacation days, Bali needs to be your default destination. The island paradise is like the Swiss knife of travel getaways, in that all the essentials of a good holiday with friends are just a half day flight away. A thriving party and beach lifestyle in Kuta, great selection of cultural temples, top end restaurants and art museums at Ubud, and some of the nicest surf breaks in Asia just close to the island will certainly be more than satisfying enough for four days away from the humdrums of daily life. What’s even better is the knowledge that if you were in a country other than Indonesia, you’d probably never have budget friendly options for anything listed. Goa Gajah and Pura Tirta Empul will excite your sightseeing desires well enough. The price: Oh you’re probably thinking Bali is going to cost you an arm and a hand (don’t think that, it’s a long trip) but with 25,000 PHP each, you can live decently; spend it on Boracay and the prices of things would have been stretched thin.

So you’ve already been bitten by that travel bug, and with summer just around the corner, you’re hell bent on experiencing adventure, making memories, and seeing new things with the barkada – but you’re not willing to break the bank. If you’re flying from Manila, you’re in luck, because visiting our nearest Southeast Asian neighbors is the most budget friendly option for any group looking to stretch their peso! But where exactly can you go with 25,000 pesos? (Keep in mind that with enough patience and planning, the pesos saved can be stretched even further.) Well, that’s where we come in! Starting with the flying fan destination of Bali, here are the best, actually possible choices for any group getaway:

Siem Reap, Cambodia

Finally, come during the winter’s dry season November to February to avoid going during the wet season when part of the Grand Circuit would be closed, and photos may be hard to come by. The well-preserved ruins may also be in danger of falling to pieces, but we weren’t too worried when our highly-knowledgeable tour guide, a descendant of the Khmer Empire, climbed the walls of an ancient library! Go ahead and live your dodging bullet holes and running from collapsing rocks in secret passageways like a true Lara Croft wannabe ruin raider. Your movies cost $300M, but for just $15/day, you, too, can explore Siem Reap!

If being captivated by the sheer size of the Angkor Wat complex in Siem Reap is not a good enough reason for a visit, then the price should draw you in. While there, experience the fun of living like a local – bicycles are the number one mode of transportation in Cambodia, so come and relive your childhood days by renting a fully-equipped bike. As the bike rental fee allows you to use the same bike for the duration of your stay, pedal away and ride at sunrise to Angkor Wat to avoid the ticket fee as the booths open at 5 am. Admission to the temples is free as scheduled by the late King Norodom Sihanouk and Prime Minister Hun Sen to be open to the public on certain select days, the 1st Saturday of the month for 2015. That should save you the entrance fees.

Hanoi, Vietnam

Accommodation Budget in Hanoi: +Php 240 / night Sample affordable hostel: Old Quarter Hostel (if reaching out to the hostel, ask for a room discount since we were able to book a late night check-out for just an additional +Php 40!). You can never go wrong with the accommodations at Old Quarter Hostel, 91 Cầu Gỗ, Hang Bo, Hanoi, Vietnam.

How to Get to Ha Long Bay from Hanoi Center: All Ha Long Bay tours include a transfer from your Hanoi lodgings to the docks at northeastern Vietnam. It can also be arranged on your own albeit less comfortably. The express bus normally costs VND300,000-400,000 while the train can cost VND100,000-500,000 for a 4-7 hour journey (assuming it doesn’t derail). Indeed, it’s no surprise travelers often prefer the (more expensive) tour option.

When: November 13-17, 2019 Budget per person: Php 13,800 Total budget: Php 27,600

Phuket, Thailand

What to see: While experiencing the clear turquoise waters! One of Montigo Resorts’ finest properties, Montigo Phuket, is a beachfront resort with picturesque views of the Andaman Sea. It provides guests with a variety of rooms and suites, private beach access, a beachfront pool, function rooms, restaurants, and bars. The spa and the wellness center are strategically located next to the ocean, offering relaxation through the use of fruits, local oils, and other natural ingredients, in a quest for beauty, youth, health, and balance. Aside from that, the resort also offers activities and events such as the Montigo Classic excursions, team-building programs, and banquets.

What to do: Beach bum! The majority of the visitors who go to Phuket are there for the beach, particularly the beautiful coastline of Western Phuket. Rent a motorcycle or a car and chase the sunrises and sunsets in different beaches around Phuket. Some of the popular beaches are Patong Beach, Kata Noi Beach, Karon Beach, Nai Harn Beach, Surin Beach, Kata Beach, Freedom Beach, and Paradise Beach. Besides the beaches, snorkeling, scuba diving, and jet skiing are the usual activities you can pursue as well.

Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia

Savings from Recommended Budget: P47,168.00 KDYADMIVVIEWS: Million-dollar views of the beaches? They are for free (or at least very cheap during your KK day tours). Aside from the Your Top Budget Adding the cost of rooms and meals, you only need P8,597.50 to have your KK adventure from day one to five. But as our follower Sparrow says, when in Kota Kinabalu, you must see and experience as much as you can in Borneo. Spend P20,000 per person and you can buy souvenirs, try bike zip-lining, see orangutans up close, + more! Don’t worry – according to Sparrows, the cheap KK-day tours are worth every singgit! What to expect in your KK Budget Adventure by Sparrowrbrace.

If you and your friends are into nature, you’ll love the scenic views that nature parks, unspoiled beaches, and mountains of Kota Kinabalu, which is one of my personal favorites. Aside from the food and hotel, care to guess how much souvenirs and day tours cost? Coming from a person who’s a collector and a nature lover (who can spend from dusk till dawn looking at a beach), you and your friends will love Kota Kinabalu.

Section 3: Activities and Attractions for Group Getaways

No time to search and book? No problem. Klook will give you not just discounted rates, but more budget-friendly options for your holiday. Definitely a time-saver, the only thing you have to do left if find a suitable accommodation since these come in day-trip packages. We also have a handy guide you can follow in this specific link. One of the HIP Original Stays, the entire beach in general, and checkpoints up and down each member city in Sorsogon have raved by travelers as an exotic paradise everyone should have access to. Immediate action has been a word of the mouth from wanderers, while the very essence of Paradise described was “privilege”. This group that has already booked and is pretty much playing around with the idea of coupon hunting and DIY right now has certainly proven the privileged notion wrong.

As a group traveler, most of your activities will definitely come in group packages and it’s already discounted if you compute it on a per pax basis. Plus, getting a huge group intrigues discounts as well (usually automatic if you book a certain number of travelers). Assuming 15 people in a group, the amount you spend can be less or more depending on how you travel (much less if DIY; prepare to pay much more, also, an arm and a leg, if you go with a travel agency). No special occasion or Christmas bonus in sight? No problem. You can still go gallivanting around the country in these lovely getaways, don’t let the lack of extra zeroes in your bank account stop you! What’s good about this bunch is you can book them in a flash land trip if you live in Metro Manila, setting aside the airfare cost.

Exploring Cultural Sites

A few steps away from the church are two historic landmarks: the “Arco de Ongpin” and a shrine in memory of the beloved South American nun, Santa Catalina de Alejandria. Built in 1978, the Arco marks the entrance, and exit, to Ongpin, Binondo’s main street. The Ocean of Mercy Shrine, just to the side of the arco, is a tribute by the community to the Argentine nun known for philanthropy or social work. Popularly called “Hermana Pia” and “Madre Pia”, remembrances (including flowers) for her arrival on Philippine shores can be seen near her image. She was then briefly another “Mother Teresa” as her charitable acts and endless concern for the poor and sick soon made Filipinos see her as their national symbol of loving kindness. Pope Paul VI beatified her, but she has not yet been canonized.

From the poignant history of the country’s oldest Chinatown to the distinctive spans of much newer bridges, we had a full day around the city, visiting cultural sites, walking on historical streets, eating deliciously prepared meals, and engaging in lively chats. Our first stop was the oldest Catholic Church in the country – and in Asia: the Minor Basilica of San Lorenzo Ruiz, popularly known simply as Binondo Church. It’s hard to imagine where mothers found energy, but its parishioners aren’t alone in celebrating centuries of Catholic faith. Within the church’s seven chapels are images of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and Our Lady of Perpetual Help – the latter is where another group gift is displayed: a precious image of St. Lorenzo Ruiz. More interesting details can be read about the church and nearby structures from a previous visit.

Enjoying Outdoor Adventures

Join other Bantayan guests or opt for a private trip, defined your way in its continuation after leaving for Bantayan Island at what was then a salty, sandy mess. We explored when it was still recovering from Typhoon Yolanda, and while the heartache was still very evident, the care and love the locals put into the island were much more heartwarming. Bikes are the most popular mode of transportation around the island, as well as to nearby places (such as a trip to the island’s famous Ogtong Cave), but the sidecars could be uncomfortable in extended use. There isn’t much traffic so Vell, our guide throughout our stay, really had no problems asking us to alight for photo ops.

One of the things Bantayan is certainly famous for is its beach activities, so it’s a must for your group to book a boat for hire to take you on an island hopping adventure. For sure, Amihan Boat Rentals will help with that. It’s best to leave at around nine in the morning, since the locals say the wind picks up in the afternoon. The seas can become quite rough, which isn’t safe, especially for those who haven’t tried cliff diving yet and prance away like they’re bloggers meant to stay pristine and dry. Pay a visit to Cabugao Gamay Island where everybody will find the cliffs too low to be scary, or join Isla Gigantes Tours by Karen at North Gigante Island to try their two-storey jumps! The Maigo Water Cave is a fun beach adventure, so our friendly guide informed. Swim into the limbs of the cave, give a go at the optional cliff dives, then take a shower under the loads of flowing water.

Trying Local Cuisine

They are dubbing their shawarma as Shawarmamamas so I’ll try my best to avoid hummus out of respect. You know I wouldn’t. Shawarmamas have the hefty Mexican shawarma as their breadwinners. Shredded beef plays juice to the annatto rice that you’ll hardly be able to resist before you say farewell to Cubao. The trending Tropical Salad asks for ½ eaten souvlaki, Helsinki for breakfast. It catches greens in calamansi vinaigrette, pomegranate syrup taps and herb cottage cheese. And together, everyone believes they’ll stop pointing fingers, get off Google Maps, and go somewhere. P.S. They so need consistency. Ham. Leicester. Hom. Haha catch ’em all.

Trying Filipino cuisine should also be on your itinerary. And when it comes to that, the peg is to have it at a place where you feel like you’re having a fiesta. Take potato salad drenched with mayonnaise, hammed up with sugar to mimic embutido’s hotdog-laden, ground pork delight of layers. Who would ever think that something as basic as picadillo could be fancy enough to make time-consuming? Twin Lakes brings you a casual order of typical ulam like picadillo shake and tells you to choose wines based on a price range, by urgency, or by social level of your group. So after you clink your coffee mugs with cava bottles, choose which one by instinct, and call people-awaited pasta dishes from out back as you do so, Brave Shawarmamas.

Relaxing on Beautiful Beaches

A year or two ago, my workmates discussed their exciting group vacations. They explored the underground river in Palawan (Puerto Princesa), partied all night in White Beach in Puerto Galera (Mindoro), swam with the whale sharks, and went island hopping in Cebu (Oslob and Bantayan). I remember feeling a bit left out, as it was no longer feasible for me to travel at that time. For one, I had no travel buddy at that time. I was also the pseudo parent whose motherly instincts demanded no unreasonable traveling stunts without a spotlight or an itinerary (as if I and my friends have been doomsday preppers in our previous life). But soon enough, I found myself breaking out of my cocoon and adventuring again. I merely started as a slow, independent, short trip specialist, until I didn’t travel solo anymore.

There is nothing more comfortable and relaxing than lying on a beautiful beach. The sun, white sand, deep blue sea, still air, and the sound of water are things that contribute to what many think of as a “perfect” vacation. This image I’ve described is definitely true, but not entirely. This scene simply lacks the perfect companion: a close group of friends, who are with you to share not just yogurt, or sunblock, or a bottle of beer, but life experiences.