Affordable Winter Vacations

FT Contributor  | 

Winter is a common time of year to travel whether you are spending the holidays in a new place or you are simply trying to avoid the snow. While travel can be expensive, it’s possible to save for a vacation throughout the year with a healthy income and smart budgeting. Discover the winter vacations you can take, all while keeping the total cost low.

Cheap Winter Vacations in the U.S.

If you’re looking to take an affordable vacation in the United States, there are plenty of locations to choose from.

San Diego

San Diego is known for its beautiful weather year-round. It is an ideal location for those looking to escape the cold and snow that winter brings in other parts of the country.

While it’s certainly not the cheapest place to live, San Diego has plenty of three-star hotel accommodations for under an average of $128. For the best rates, look for lodging just outside the city to avoid a spike in price. According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, flights average $334.42, so budget accordingly.

To keep your spending low while you’re in San Diego, look for hotels that offer a free continental breakfast. If you choose to rent an Airbnb, book one that is close to a grocery store to cut down on food and drink costs. Don’t forget about parking — it can be expensive. To cut down on that cost, take the San Diego Trolley or request rideshares.

From scenic beaches to the San Diego Zoo, there are plenty of activities for people of all interests to explore in this coastal California town. Winter marks whale migration season, so San Diego is a common destination for individuals interested in whale watching. For music and art fans, San Diego is hosting the Wonderfront Festival this year, November 22 to24. And if you want to do it all, the San Diego Go Card gives you access to more than 48 activities in the city.

Caladesi Island

This island is considered one of the U.S.’ best kept secrets. Sitting on the Gulf of Mexico, the island has beautiful weather year-round, miles of white sandy beaches, and you can camp right on the beach free of charge.

To get to the island, you’ll have to fly into Clearwater for an average price of $124.92, according to the BTS. There are no hotels or cars on the island, so it is a remote, serene area to visit for relatively cheap. When it comes to lodging, you’ll have to look in the Clearwater Beach area, or just outside of it to cut down on costs. If you want the full island experience, camping is your best bet. You can choose to camp out on a boat or rent a spot on the island.

To make the most out of your trip, rent a kayak and explore. There are also hiking trails with scenic views. If you head to the north end of the island, you can watch pontoons travel through Hurricane Pass.

Atlanta

While the BTS notes that round-trip flights cost an average of $374.83, Atlanta is one of the least expensive U.S. locations that also sports moderately warm temperatures during the winter months. It’s certainly not the warmest location during the winter, but a light jacket will keep you comfortable during your stay.

There are inexpensive botanical gardens, music in Olympic Park, and even the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Park. The Krog Street Market is another must-see in Atlanta, home to various vendors and special dining events. Atlanta is home to great food options as well, with cuisines of all kinds at affordable prices.

You can find lodging ranging from $75-$100 a night at affordable hotels. You can also rent a home, apartment, or condo through sites like Airbnb and VRBO.

Flagstaff

Flagstaff is located in Arizona and is a great destination for individuals who want to get out into the great outdoors. During the winter, the average temperature is 70 degrees — the perfect temperature for anyone traveling from a snowy location.

Flagstaff is known for its scenery. If you’re into hiking and other physical activity, this is the destination for you. There is the breathtaking red rock around the area, tons of mountain bike trails, rock-climbing, and skiing for individuals trying to stay within a vacation budget.

According to the BTS, the average round-trip flight to Flagstaff is $425.26, but if you’re close enough, you can drive and cut back on the costs of travel. There are plenty of budget-friendly lodging options in Flagstaff, but the cheapest way to go is camping. With so much surrounding natural beauty, why would you want to sleep anywhere else? This also allows you to save on the cost of food. Hit up a grocery store to bring plenty of rations while you’re camping.

Orlando

Famous for being the home of Disney World, Orlando is a popular vacation destination at any time of the year, but that’s especially true during the winter. Families looking to escape over the kids’ holiday break or individuals simply looking for a sunny getaway can head to Florida for the moderate winter climate.

Orlando has a surplus of lodging that ranges in price. To make your stay more budget-friendly, you can book a hotel off Disney property in surrounding areas like Celebration. As with any vacation, it may be cheaper to book a rental property.

During January and February, the ticket prices for Disney World and its resorts drop significantly in price, so the whole trip is fairly cheap. Aside from theme parks like Disney World and Universal Studios, Orlando is home to large shopping centers. Additionally, you can check out the Winter Park Farmers’ Market, Big Tree Park, and of course, it’s always free to walk around Disney Springs, where you’ll find plenty of dining and entertainment options.

Cheap Places to Travel Internationally

If you want to get out of the United States, there are affordable international destinations you can travel to during the winter. Note that because these destinations are outside of the U.S., a valid passport is required.

Banff

Banff is Canada’s first national park known for being a picture-perfect mountain village abundant with wildlife. If you’re into the great outdoors, this may be the winter trip for you. Note that this destination doesn’t have the warm, sunny weather some of the other international locations do during the winter. On average, highs are in the 20s during the winter months.

Since Banff is in Canada, if you are located in the U.S you can avoid airfares by driving across the border into the beautiful national park notorious for the bluest water in the world.

Meals are fairly inexpensive, with the average daily cost being $24 USD. To cut back on that, you can always shop at the grocery stores and prepare your own food on your campsite. Since there’s plenty of camping in the area, you can also save money that way.

Seville

Seville is a great option for individuals who want to travel to Spain, but don’t want to pay the amounts associated with traveling to Barcelona or Catalonia. Flying into either of those locations requires additional travel to get to Seville. There are fewer tourists during the winter, making it the perfect time to travel.

The city of Seville is famous for its culture, cathedrals, monuments, traditions, and artistic heritage. Sites to see include the Christmas Market and the atmospheric Plaza de Espana.

Seville is known for tapas. Because these are small plates, the cost of eating is much more affordable. Plus, there is plenty of inexpensive lodging, including rental-by-owner options.

Montego Bay

Montego Bay — located in Jamaica —  is one area that doesn’t fluctuate very much during the high season, which are the popular months during which people choose to visit the area and prices typically are higher. Montego Bay’s high season spans June, July, and August.

Because Jamaica is an island, you can only get there by air. During the winter, lodging in Montego Bay can be found for under $100. The best part about Montego Bay is that most of the lodging in the area is all-inclusive. That means the cost of your stay includes unlimited drinks, continental breakfast, and even free activities such as scuba diving and paddleboarding.

Punta Cana

Punta Cana is among the cheapest areas to visit in the Dominican Republic. There are massive beach hotels with some of the best rates in the Caribbean that offer all-inclusive deals for lodging, food, drinks, and activities. Like Jamaica, Punta Cana requires a flight.

If you choose to venture away from your resort, there are local attractions and plenty of waterfalls and lagoons to see. You can also schedule boat tours, rent scuba equipment, or play a round of golf with a scenic view.

Boracay Island

Boracay Island is located in the Philippines and offers white sandy beaches, minimal crowds, and endless amenities at an affordable price. January to February is the most ideal time to go because flights are typically cheaper at that time. You’ll find all-inclusive resorts as well as more affordable lodging that requires you to make your own food or head out to a local eatery.

For the adventure seeker, head to Ariel’s Point where you can cliff dive and partake in other water sports. Kitesurf along Bulabog Beach, zipline through the wilderness, or simply kick back and relax on your winter retreat. With so much to do, you can’t go wrong with this Philippine vacation.

Winter travel doesn’t have to be expensive. Plan a getaway this winter with one of these affordable vacations.


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