Get Away for Cheap this Winter

Hopefully by now you've had a chance to unwind a bit from the holidays and get back into the old routine. But if you haven't enjoyed enough R&R you may be ready to plan your next trip. Whether you're in the mood for a sandy beach or a powdery snow-covered mountain, there are a couple of three-day weekends in January and February to take advantage of. But what about getting to the destination? If you're booking flights in January or February, here's what you need to know.

Many flights in January will, on average, be cheaper than those for the busy travel days surrounding Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's. But the first few months of the year are especially cold in most of the country and travelers often look for any excuse to get away. This may be old news to some, but the general rules are worth restating: Book flights 21 days before travel for the best deals; the best time to book flights is around 3 p.m. EST Tuesday; and look for flights departing or returning in the middle of the week if your schedule allows it. There are exceptions, of course, which become especially clear (and costly) during busy travels dates, such as holiday weekends.

If have a specific destination and date in mind, use the wealth of information available online to make an educated guess about when to buy your ticket. Bing offers a price predictor on its travel site, which points you to the best prices for flights in January and beyond, predict whether fares will rise or fall, and suggest whether to buy now or wait. The predictor looks ahead only seven days, however.

For the lowest current fares, try searching with Google's ITA Software. Although ITA doesn't have a price predictor, it shows the cheapest prices now available for flights within a two-month period. The ITA Software is used as the basis for fares found on sites such as Kayak, Trip Advisor, and Hotwire and is an excellent source for finding cheap flights. However, there's no guarantee of a sweet deal if you've limited your search to select locations and dates.

Spontaneity and flexibility are your best friend if you want to vacation on a budget. If you're looking for budget flights in January, or anytime this year, but don't have a particular destination in mind, check The Flight Deal. This site also uses the ITA Software to sift through airline deals and publishes only those that let you fly each mile for less than a nickel. The results are unbeatable flight deals, such as a roundtrip ticket from New York to Hawaii for $374, or California to Hawaii for $270. If you're eager for a bit of snow, one flight in January caught our attention: a roundtrip ticket to Moscow from Washington, D.C. for $371. The Flight Deal doesn't guarantee ticket prices and they're almost sure to change within a week or two, but if you check in often or receive the daily newsletter you won't miss out on a super deal.

Similar spontaneous trip deals pop up in alerts from Airfare Watchdog. You can choose to receive only deals you're interested in -- departures from and arrivals at select cities, for example, or between two specific destinations. You could use this site to find cheap flights in January, to plan ahead for an upcoming event, or to keep tabs on the latest deals for a quick get-away.

Many popular vacation destinations are also associated with companies and websites focused on finding deals to get you there. Crystal clear ocean water and warm beaches always tempt those living through snowy winters, and Cheap Caribbean is hoping you'll succumb. The site offers a variety of deals for cheap hotels and flights in January, including all-inclusive resort packages throughout the Caribbean.

Are flights in January a bargain? Although many people consider January part of the low season for travel, the general rule doesn't always cover popular, warm vacation spots. January may be the best time of year to find cheap flights to colder climes, but you may need to spring for a new coat. In either case, the resources noted above, combined with the appropriate mixture of planning and flexibility, will carry you to enticing travel deals this month.

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