Is Dupe Travel A Good Idea? Experts Weigh In.

From “hush trips” to “slow travel,” there’s no shortage of new travel trends and terminology these days.

But one that has taken particular hold on social media and IRL is the concept of “dupe travel” or “travel dupes.” Indeed, Instagram and TikTok are flooded with inspiration and information about this increasingly popular approach to choosing a destination.

But what exactly is a dupe travel, and how does it work? Below, experts break down the benefits and downsides of this trend.

What are travel dupes?

“Travel dupes are a current trend where folks are seeking out cheaper, less-crowded alternatives to popular destinations, but where they can still enjoy many of the same attractions or cultural activities,” said Eric Rosen, the director of travel content at the website The Points Guy.

In recent years, we’ve seen airfare, hotel rates and other travel expenses increase significantly, so it’s only natural people would pursue more cost-effective options that allow them to get a taste of the wanderlust magic that’s all over Instagram and TikTok without breaking the bank.

“I define [a travel dupe] as a location with a similar aesthetic look to a famous city or tourist attraction,” said Gabby Beckford, the founder of travel site Packs Light. “Like visiting the Philippines for stunning Southeast Asian beaches instead of Thailand or the beaches of Turkiye instead of Greece.”

The idea is to avoid overpriced hot spots and discover destinations that offer similar vibes without the massive crowds and high prices. Think Slovenia instead of Italy, Quebec City instead of Geneva or Liverpool instead of London.

“Some examples are going to Portugal instead of Italy, Antwerp instead of Paris, or a slightly different variation is going to smaller, lesser-known islands in Greece instead of Santorini or Mykonos,” said Wendy Diep, the co-founder of group travel app Let’s Jetty.

She noted that millennial and Gen Z travelers tend to be more flexible when it comes to travel, which helps them pursue their goal of exploring new places while saving money.

“They’re not necessarily saying ‘Hey, I really have to go to X, Y, and Z,’ but rather looking to sightsee while experiencing local culture,” Diep said. “And they aim to visit places that are off the beaten path, so it’s also part of the appeal.”

What are the benefits of this kind of travel?

“There are multiple benefits to dupe travel,” Diep noted. “One of the biggest is obviously cost savings. You can save money on accommodations and airfare, particularly since prices at hot spots are usually set at premiums because of demand.”

“And even more, when you visit destinations where the costs of living might be lower, or things aren’t marked up because of heavy tourism, you’re able to stretch your money further, which allows you to do more, or even have luxe experiences you wouldn’t necessarily be able to afford everywhere,” she added.

Diep also touted the ability to have a more authentic travel experience and get a real feel for the place when you choose a less touristy destination.

“Among the benefits of dupe travel are discovering exciting, under-the-radar destinations that you might not have considered otherwise ― Albania for its beaches, forest-covered mountains and fabulous wines instead of the French or Italian rivieras, or the sleepy beaches of 30A along Florida’s Gulf Coast instead of the crowded club touristy shores of Miami Beach ― all while saving money compared to more well-known hot spots,” Rosen said.

In this day and age, social media is filled with travelers sharing new destination ideas and money-saving travel hacks, so you don’t even have to put in too much effort to get creative and savvy with your next vacation.

Connor Smith, vice president of masterbrand strategy at IHG Hotels & Resorts noted that the #dupe hashtag on TikTok has more than 6.5 billion views, reflecting the wealth of information available to travelers and consumers looking to avoid the sticker shock of shopping and vacationing in recent years. He recommended checking out Krakow instead of Rome, Chattanooga instead of Asheville, Belfast instead of London and Memphis instead of Nashville.

“These alternative destinations tend to be more budget-friendly, so your travel budget can stretch further in terms of accommodation, dining and activities,” he explained. “Dupe travel also encourages travelers to push their boundaries and explore new destinations and cultures that they might not have considered otherwise. Going off the beaten path can offer a more immersive cultural experience, as these destinations may have more opportunities to connect with locals.”

Overall, “dupe travel” can be a great way to see the world and stay within a budget.

What are the downsides?

“Because they might be less popular, dupe destinations might not offer as many transportation options, including flights, trains or easily available rental cars as bigger cities,” Rosen said.

And although you can find great social media posts about pretty much any destination these days, you will likely have to do a bit more digging to find reliable, up-to-date information on places to stay and things to do.

“Finally, once these destinations do start to permeate the consciousness of avid travelers, there’s always a danger that they can become as overrun as the places to which they were providing alternatives ― without the well-established tourism infrastructure to handle the swelling crowds,” Rosen added.

Keep in mind that no two destinations are exactly alike, either.

“Tourists should be realistic that it won’t be a true replacement,” Beckford said. “There’s no way to replace a country’s culture, language, experiences, or even ambience.”

Be honest about your vacation goals and whether you’re gravitating toward a popular destination for specific cultural elements or if you’re just looking for a pretty beach and nice sunset. Dupe travel should really be about travel alternatives, rather than replacements.

“Before you book one of these trips, be sure to ask yourself: What is my priority?” said Adam Duckworth, the president and founder of the travel agency Travelmation. “If you want to see the Eiffel Tower, then you have to go to Paris. If you want to cruise the Venice canals, there truly is no alternative. These smaller cities may also have much less to do.”

If you’re avoiding Paris due to costs, he recommended going during the off-season instead.

Erick Prince, a travel blogger and founder of travel site Minority Nomad, believes the travel dupe movement implicitly casts a negative light on the “dupes” in question.

“It’s relegating alternative gems to second-class status, as if they’re merely backup plans instead of destinations worthy of their own spotlights,” he said. “Instead of celebrating them for the wonders they are, they’re relegated to the role of understudies.”

He emphasized that popular destinations are popular for real reasons, whether it’s the amazing street food of Bangkok, breathtaking sunsets in Istanbul or incomparable energy of Carnival in Rio.

“It’s downright unfair, and frankly, a bit disingenuous, to pit places like Chiang Mai, Izmir, or Salvador against these heavyweights as if they’re contestants in some sort of travel showdown,” Prince said. “Each of these destinations has its own unique allures, their own stories to tell, and their own merits for exploration.”

Although the dupe destination trend doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, he challenged travelers to reframe the way they see these alternatives.

“At the end of the day, travel should be about bringing people together, not drawing lines in the sand,” Prince said. “It’s about embracing the rich tapestry of cultures and experiences that this world has to offer, not picking winners and losers. So let’s ditch the exclusionary mindset and open our arms to the diversity of this beautiful planet we call home.”

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