Whether they're on the beach or on the slopes, resorts can be exorbitantly expensive in winter. But there are still ways to make the best properties more affordable. Here, how to do it.
Choose the Right Moment
If you can get away before the holidays, consider taking your winter break soon: most resorts don't launch peak-season rates until around Christmas. A one-bedroom suite at Paraiso de la Bonita, on Mexico's Yucatán coast, for example, is $345 up to December 24, $450 afterward. Oceanfront rooms at the Sofitel Christopher on St. Bart's, in the Caribbean, start at $355 until December 23, when the lowest rate jumps to three times as much. Rooms at the One & Only Ocean Club, in the Bahamas, are now $450; beginning December 21, they'll be $850.
The same holds true of slopeside properties. Before December 22, accommodations at many of Fairmont's ski resorts cost up to 25 percent less than they do later in the season. Rates at the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek Resort & Spa, in Colorado, climb from $259 to $380 a night after December 18.
But even in months when demand is higher, most properties experience slow periods during which they may offer lower prices—usually before and after holidays (such as Valentine's Day) and school-vacation periods (typically mid-February and early April). In foreign destinations, price breaks are common the weekend following local festivals. January, in particular, is a good month for deals (and fewer crowds), thanks to a post-holiday lull. Grenada's Laluna resort, for example, gives 20 percent off room rates from January 10 through 25 (stays must be seven nights and include a meal plan). From January 7 to 21, rooms at Anse Chastanet on St. Lucia are $342, down from $455. The newly renovated Grace Bay Club in Turks and Caicos gives a fifth night free for nearly the entire month (January 4 to 31). And at Utah's Stein Eriksen Lodge, rooms go for $350 from January 4 to 14; after that, they go up to $695.
Pick a New Place
Many properties—especially those managed by the major chains—launch with discounted "introductory" rates to attract customers. The new Four Seasons Miami, for example, is offering prices from $325 per night, with a third night free, through January 31; the nearby Ritz-Carlton, South Beach, is making its debut with rooms from $299 per night through April 11.
Recently renovated properties may also offer special deals: the Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas, which just completed a $75 million face-lift, is offering rooms from $369 this season, about $100 less than usual. Rooms at the completely re-created One&Only Palmilla resort will start at $275 per night through February 2, 2004; theyll start at $475 after that.
Remember: Introductory rates are not always advertised, so ask about them when reserving.
Book a Package
Although they often sound like gimmicks, special resort packages that bundle in meals, activities, spa treatments, and more can be a great deal, especially if you plan to eat most of your meals or spend most of your time on-site.
Beginning in January, the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort & Spa, Rose Hall, in Jamaica offers the Key to Paradise package, with rates from $495 per night, including all meals and drinks—a saving of approximately $270 a day, figuring $395 per night for a room and an average food and beverage tab of $370 per day for two. At the new Sheraton Hacienda del Mar in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, the Take Life Easy package includes a deluxe ocean-view room, breakfast for two, free gym access, bathrobes, and a daily massage and facial for each guest. The cost: $312 per night. If you purchased everything separately, you'd pay $574.
Skiers can also save with packages, especially considering the often hefty prices on the slopes. Teton Mountain Lodge, in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, has a five-night Skier's Dream package that includes your room, breakfast, and daily lift tickets, beginning at $1,015 per night—a $225 discount off what you'd pay à la carte.
Properties tend to promote packages in a number of ways and to vary them throughout the season, so be sure to check advertisements, browse hotel Web sites, and consult travel agents and T+L's monthly Best Deals page for the latest bargains.