12 Budget-Friendly Destinations for Winter Sun
It's been a warm fall for many Americans, but winter is winter -- and when temperatures drop and snow blankets parts of the country, they'll want to satisfy a vitamin D craving on the cheap by hopping a plane to a domestic destination, or perhaps a Caribbean island. For an all-inclusive package that covers flight, accommodation, meals, and drinks, book through a vacation deal site such as Cheap Caribbean or BookIt. Their seasonal discounts and last-minute sales can reduce already affordable packages to well under $200 a night. Best of all, there's no need to spend another cent while on vacation. The prices mentioned here were found in mid-October and may change as the season progresses.
Forget the beach -- set your sights on the desert. With so much competition on and off the Las Vegas Strip, a 4-star hotel can be booked for under $100 a night. Along with lower room rates, visitors can enjoy a quieter scene: There are fewer rowdy groups when pool-party spots and some nightclubs have closed for the season.
Arizona boasts winter temperatures mild enough for camping, hiking, and biking -- not to mention amazing landscapes. A search on Google Flights generated round trips starting at $273 from New York and New Orleans, and $220 from San Francisco in January and February. Pair that with a vacation rental for a very affordable winter getaway. Airbnb lists more than 300 Phoenix homes and apartments priced under $100 a night.
Go for the live jazz, Hurricane drinks, or the culinary scene in New Orleans, LA. There's always a lot to do. For those willing to brave the raucous crowds on Bourbon Street, the next Mardi Gras is Feb. 13. A flight south in the winter is relatively inexpensive, with round trips starting at $236 from New York, NY, and $296 from San Francisco, CA.
At other times of the year, Austin, TX, is brutally hot and overrun by festival-goers. In the winter, the temperature is mild enough for a light jacket and the barbecue is just as good. Take a dip in the Barton Springs Pool (warm year-round), hike up Mount Bonnell, bike around Lady Bird Lake, and eat as much beef and Tex-Mex as you can stand before flying home. Google Flights shows round-trip fares from New York, NY, for as low as $206 and $224 from San Francisco, CA, in January and February.
This is a go-to spot for many vacationers, and the sheer number of resorts and flights helps keep prices low. Google Flights turns up round-trip airfare as cheap as $297 from New York, NY, in January and February. Fares drop even lower when flying from farther south, such as Houston, TX, or New Orleans, LA. Escape the hotel crowds and take in the views from Playa Delfines (Dolphin Beach), hop on a glass-bottom boat to the Cancun Underwater Museum, or take a bus to Tulum to tour the Mayan ruins.
For a more unconventional vacation, try South America. Direct JetBlue flights to Cartagena start at less than $300 from New York, NY, and $165 from Fort Lauderdale, FL. Vacation budgeting site Price of Travel calls this Colombian city "probably the best bargain in the Caribbean" for hotels. Cartagena's walled old-town area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the white sand of nearby Playa Blanca beckons.
At the tip of Florida, Miami enjoys balmy temperatures in the mid-70s and 80s during the winter. Visit the plentiful art galleries, stroll through Little Havana, and explore downtown. A trip to Miami in the winter costs significantly less. Round-trip flights start at $244 from New York, NY, $267 from San Francisco, CA, and only $94 from Chicago, IL, according to Google Flights.
With mild temperatures in the 70s during the winter, San Diego, CA, is a great destination to consider for a laid-back vacation, especially for families. There is plenty to do besides strolling along the beautiful beaches, such as visiting the art museums, Balboa Park, and the USS Midway. Google Flights shows a round-trip fare of $236 from New York, NY, in January and February, while flights from Houston, TX, cost just $150.
The Dominican Republic has always been a Caribbean vacation favorite. This year, consider visiting the capital city of Santo Domingo in lieu of a beach resort. Must-sees include the first cathedral in the Americas and the area Christopher Columbus first settled. Google Flights shows the lowest fares in late January and early February, such as a $380 round trip from New York, NY, $404 from Chicago, IL, $614 from Houston, TX, and $564 from Los Angeles, CA.
Millions of people visit Costa Rica to venture into rainforests, hike volcanoes, and indulge in other tropical diversions. Neighboring Nicaragua is similarly appealing but less traveled and less expensive. In the past few years, Lonely Planet and other outlets have named the country one of the world's best value destinations. Flights from Fort Lauderdale, FL, to Managua start at $192 for a round trip in February.
The Bahamas has always been a staple for quick beach getaways, and East Coast travelers looking for bargains will fare well, so to speak. Flights from New York City, NY, to Nassau start at $334 in late January, while prices from other cities on the East Coast rising a bit -- Boston checks in at $352. Midwesterners can fly out of Chicago for $458. Visitors to the Bahamas can also save big with inexpensive home stays. Airbnb showed private homes and rooms for $50 to $100 a night in Nassau.