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7 International Direct Flights From Houston, Starting Under $250

Houston Airports + Flying
by Rebecca Deurlein Jun 3, 2023

As the fifth largest city in the nation, Houston is a sprawling landscape of impressively engineered roadways, parks, and suburbs, all anchored by a thriving city. More than 124,000 people moved there in 2022, and getting around, particularly during rush hour, can try one’s patience.

Fortunately, Houston has two airports to handle flights from all those residents. There’s one on the city’s northern perimeter, and one to the south. The two locations help alleviate airport traffic and provide quite different experiences for travelers. And between the two, they offer plenty of non-stop flights from Houston to destinations ranging from the tropics to exciting European cities.

Here are the top international flights from Houston, selected for their short flight times and spectacular access to locales you won’t want to miss.

Flights from Houston out of George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH)

Houston’s largest airport is about 23 miles north of downtown Houston, has five terminals, and is a hub for United Airlines. In 2020, IAH was ranked “Best US Airport” by the World Airport Awards. Alas, that was the same year major construction began on the C North Concourse. Ever since, ongoing construction on the E Concourse (the primary international terminal) has diverted passenger drop-offs to C, causing congestion, delays, and frustration.

Fortunately, it’s scheduled to be completed in late 2024, and will eventually lead to a more streamlined and updated airport. In the meantime, leave plenty of time to get to and through IAH. Once you board your direct flight to these locations, you can relax knowing vacation is just a few hours away. Getting TSA Precheck will, of course, help speed up the process.

Zihuatanejo, Mexico

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Known as the paradise Andy and Ellis dreamed about in “Shawshank Redemption,” Zihuatanejo in the state of Guerrero is less of a hop, skip, and jump from Houston, and more of just a hop. In less time than you’ll have to watch the movie (less than 2.5 hours from wheels up to wheels down), you’ll land at Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo International Airport. You’ll emerge on the tarmac, feel the sun on your face, and take a short walk past saguaro cacti and desert flowers into the small airport. After a quick check-in, you’re on your way.

In 19 minutes, you’ll be in the center of town, but you can be checked into a room at the Thompson Hotel and Beach Resort in less than 15. From there, it’s steps to the most beautiful and popular beach, Playa La Ropa. This stretch of sand is dotted with just enough restaurants and bars to kick off your vacation right.

When you want a little more action, head to the pier and hire a boat for the day. Diving and snorkeling are excellent, and from December through March, Zihua is a fantastic place to gasp at humpback whales. And don’t miss one of Zihau’s fantastic little quirks: Mexican pozole, a traditional spiced Mexican stew served in a number of restaurants… but only on Thursdays.

Read more about southern Mexico:

Vancouver, Canada

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While Vancouver isn’t tropical, it is a fantastic city. And a direct flight from Houston will get you to Vancouver, in British Columbia, in just a few hours. In Vancouver, you can spend days  exploring Stanley Park, go whale watching from Granville Island, or explore the city’s fantastic museums and art. Visit in the middle of summer, and you can snag tickets to the massive PNE festival — a huge fair with world-class bands, rides, tons of great food, and plenty of cool exhibits and displays.

Visit in the winter, and you have the best of both worlds: you’re just a 90-minute drive from skiing at Whistler but you don’t have to worry about snow while you’re sightseeing in Vancouver. You can also snag a ferry from Vancouver to Nanaimo or Victoria on nearby Vancouver Island, or explore some of the country’s best mountain biking trails at Mount Fromme. You’re also close to hiking, with gorgeous trails at nearby mountains like Cypress Mountain.

And don’t forget about Vancouver’s famously diverse food scene — you’ll find especially good ramen, which can be a little trickier to locate in Houston. If wine is more your thing, go just south of the city to visit one of the best wine regions in Canada (the Okanagan Valley). The destinations has an extremely different feel than Houston, making it an excellent getaway when you need a change of pace.

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Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

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  • Flight time: 3 hours
  • Airlines: United
  • Lowest round-trip price in 2024: $645 (year-round)

The largest and best known of the three Cayman Islands, Grand Cayman is way more than just an offshore banking hub. This 22-mile-long island is a paradise in its own right, and Owen Roberts International Airport is easy to reach via a direct flight from Houston on United.

Several car services pick up from the airport and can bring you to your choice of hotels on the gorgeous 7 Mile Beach in less than 20 minutes. The most popular of several beaches that line the perimeter of this island, 7 Mile has breathtaking white sand and every water sport activity you can imagine, from snorkeling to scuba diving to sunset catamaran tours.

The Caymanian culture is also a draw. Check out the National Museum featuring colorful local art, eat traditional dishes at Anchor & Den, or mail a postcard from Hell. It’s a surreal area in West Bay named for the jagged, black limestone formations jutting up from a field that look a bit like flames jumping up from the underworld. Some say it’s called Hell because it’s the only place in Grand Cayman where you can’t see the sea.

You’ll have no shortage of places to stay, including several dive resorts if that’s your thing. But a stay at The Westin Grand Cayman means you can reserve the double decker beach cabana with views out over the endless ocean. You can sip on an icy mudslide (said to have been invented on the island) and contemplate how easy it was to get there on your direct flight from Houston.

Read more about the Cayman Islands:

Istanbul, Türkiye

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Istanbul might be a long flight from Houston, but on Turkish Airlines, it opens up a few possibilities for the long-haul traveler. One is to make Istanbul your destination, as there’s certainly enough to see and do in the melting-pot city of culture, history, and architecture. But Istanbul Airport also offers something unique to those laying over on a longer flight to say, Maldives: a free tour of the city.

Touristanbul, operated through Turkish Airlines, provides a variety of tours for anyone with a layover between six hours and a full day. Locate the Touristanbul desk in the airport, leave your luggage behind, and visit the city’s Blue Mosque, Hippodrome, and Hagia Sophia, three of many more sites you’ll explore with a local guide. Then, you’ll be returned to the airport to catch your connection, all entirely free of charge.

Even if you can’t take advantage of this program, Istanbul Airport is something to behold. Between its unbelievably posh lounges, top-notch restaurants (whatever you do, try the baklava), designer shopping, and even a few museum, you’ll have plenty to do while waiting for your connection.

Read more about Türkiye

Flights from Houston out of William P. Hobby Airport

Just south of the city, Hobby Airport is the smaller, more easily navigable airport. Traffic is lighter, parking is ample, and getting through the airport is much quicker than flying from IAH. Hobby is a hub for Southwest, which happens to be the only airline that flies direct international flights from Houston from the airport. Since Texas borders Mexico, it makes sense that top destinations include Cozumel, Cabo San Lucas, and Cancún. But for the slightly more adventurous, the three island destinations below are more exciting options.

Montego Bay, Jamaica

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In 1978, Jamaica pioneered the concept of the couples-only, all-inclusive resort. And over the years, the island has become synonymous with the concept. It began in Montego Bay, home to Sangster International Airport. And as a result, “Mo Bay,” as the locals call it, is incredible easy to reach. It’s one of the most popular direct flights from Houston.

Just minutes from the airport, the iconic Sandals Resort Montego Bay makes light of the constant overhead flights, with a tradition of having guests wave goodbye to the poor schmucks who have to leave the island paradise.

Jamaica is lush, green, and, unlike many of its Caribbean counterparts, mountainous. Those Blue Mountains grow some phenomenal coffee, but the local Appleton Estate rum is even more popular. If you’d like to go farther out than Montego Bay, Negril is about 52 miles from the airport and where you go for renowned beaches and cliff diving. On the eastern side of the island, you’ll find the infamous Dunn’s River Falls in Ocho Rios, and on the way, Rose Hall is an excellent place to visit for a round of golf or a tour of the historic house.

Read more about Jamaica:

San Jose, Costa Rica

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Most people head straight for a beach community when they arrive in San Jose, but the city itself is worth some attention. When you arrive at Juan Santamaria International Airport, you’re 20 miles west of downtown San Jose. It’s an easy drive to the National Museum and Children’s Museum, or to catch a live performance at the National Theater. Before hitting the beach, take some time to soak in the culture and learn about the history of Costa Rica.

From San Jose, head to Arenal Volcano, less than 50 miles away. This 5,437-foot-tall volcano was once Costa Rica’s most active, but it’s now a national park. It’s a high-adventure introduction to this country. Hike to La Fortuna waterfall, shoot the rapids, walk across a hanging bridge, or float and fish. Or just gaze up at the majesty of a volcano that reaches into the clouds. You can also soak in any number of natural hot springs.

Of course, you head to Costa Rica for the beaches, and you have more than 200 to choose from. When you’re done spending time in the turquoise water, be sure to try a few kinds of fresh-caught ceviche. Costa Rica has arguably some of the most beautiful waterfront in the world, and a catamaran snorkeling tour (ideally with a beach BBQ afterward) is a must-do.

Read more about Costa Rica:

Belize City, Belize

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A short flight on Southwest will get you out of the concrete jungle — and into a real one. Lush, green rainforests make up a vast portion of Belize, but rich cultural experiences await as well. Flights from Houston land at Philip S.W. Goldson International Airport, and there’s plenty to do nearby.

Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary is the perfect introduction to rainforest life. Considered one of the best bird sanctuaries in Central America, it’s also an optimal vantage point for getting an overview of the many lagoons prevalent in Belize.

Another great activity is hopping on a boat to take you down the Monkey River and past red mangroves. And keep your eyes peeled: in the trees, you’ll spot monkeys and tropical birds; and down below, you’ll see crocodiles and manatees. Several tours will take you through dense jungles that open up to massive Mayan ruins like Altun Ha, just outside the city.

To cool off, hit the coast. Caye Caulker is a great place to base yourself and accessible via a quick ferry ride from Belize City. Certified divers can dive the Blue Hole and the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, or you can snorkel with stingrays and nurse sharks in Shark Ray Alley. You can do virtually anything here, from cave tubing by helmet light to ziplining and tearing it up on an ATV. 

Read more about Belize

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