The 19 Cheapest Places to Travel in January
In January, the spending fatigue is real. After buying loads of gifts, booking outrageously priced flights home for the holidays, and cashing in on Black Friday and December’s year-end sales — everyone’s wallets feel a bit lighter. But deep in the dead of winter, and after a potentially not-so-relaxing holiday season, you may need a getaway.
You're in luck. Historically one of the cheapest months of the year to travel, airfare and hotel rooms can be up to 50 percent more affordable in January than the most expensive month of the year. But where to go? Comparing data from travel booking website Booking.com and the flight analytics app Hopper, we’ve found the 19 cheapest places in the world to travel in January.
That means affordable flights there and a seriously on sale place to stay when you arrive.
Of course, winter is low season in cold-weather places, so it’s probably unsurprising that many colder locales appear on the list. But traveling in the off-season comes with big advantages: shorter lines for popular attractions, luxury hotels for a fraction of the high-season rate, better chances of getting coveted restaurant reservations, emptier flights, and that increasingly rare feeling of having a place all to your own to discover.
So if you’re looking for a January escape without breaking the bank, look no further. Even typically expensive cities — London, Oslo, Barcelona — offer deep discounts this time of year. So book that spontaneous, last-minute getaway and say farewell to the mid-winter blues.
Of Chicago’s many selling points (world-class museums, storied sports teams, and a celebrated art, music, and comedy scene) the most interesting is probably the food. Hailed as a top food city, Chicago’s restaurants are some of the best and most inventive in the country. When in Chicago eat as Chicagoans do, with (un)traditional deep-dish pizza at Pequod’s or the perfect burger at Au Cheval, both quintessential stick-to-your-ribs foods for winter. You can’t leave Chicago without at least trying to get a reservation at one of the most acclaimed restaurants in the country: Try Roister, Grant Achatz’s newest endeavor, or Duck Duck Goat from Top Chef alum Stephanie Izard.
In January, Chicago hotels are 50 percent more affordable than the most expensive time of the year, and an average round-trip ticket is a very affordable $179.10.
During an affordable winter trip to Boston, travelers can stay warm by checking out the city's venerable museums. There's the family-friendly Museum of Science and the award-winning Children’s Museum, for example, while grown-ups might prefer the spectacular Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, built in the style of a 15th-century Venetian palazzo (try to time your visit with a Sunday afternoon classical music concert). Boston is also home to one of the best concert halls, acoustically, in the world. Catch a performance of the Boston Symphony Orchestra in Symphony Hall, which offers free tours on select afternoons.
Brave the cold in January and you'll enjoy a 53 percent savings on hotel rates compared to the most expensive time of the year, with flights costing an average of $200.66.
As the most populous city in Canada (our 2017 Destination of the Year) and one of the most diverse cities in the world, Toronto has become a hotbed of cultural activity. With a Chinatown, a Koreatown, a Little Italy, a Little Portugal, and a Greek Town, tasting your way through the city’s ethnic cuisine is one of the best ways to keep warm in January. Plus, the PATH system — the world’s longest underground shopping complex at 19 miles long — connects various subway and rail stations with popular attractions, such as the landmark CN Tower and the Hockey Hall of Fame (when in hockey country, one must pay homage to its most beloved sport). In January you can also get a preview for what’s in store at Fringe Festival while rubbing elbows with Canada’s cultural elite. The Next Stage Festival, one of the premiere theater events of the year, is when past Fringe artists present their newest work.
Toronto hotels in January are 33 percent more affordable than the most expensive month of the year, while round-trip flights from all U.S. destinations will cost an average of $280.65.
Perhaps only in Canada will people willingly subject themselves to the “coldest music festival in the world.” The appropriately named Igloofest takes place on the Old Port waterfront in January and features big names like Kaytranada and Bonobo. If partying to electronic beats isn’t your thing, take a spin around Montreal’s old city for pure wintry romance. Saint Paul Street, with buildings dating back to the 17th century, is the definition of old-world charm, replete with fairy lights and horse-drawn carriages. As Montreal’s craft beer scene is booming, get cozy at Pub BreWskey to have a pint paired with a heaping plate of poutine. Continue your tour of Montreal’s comfort food in the vibrant Mile End neighborhood.
Visit Montreal in January for 31 percent off from the most expensive month. The average price of a flight this month is $286.67.
Though Colombia’s capital is often relegated to an airport layover by those heading straight to Cartagena or Medellin, revitalized Bogotá is becoming a destination in its own right. Wander La Candelaria, sip Colombian coffee, and learn about the country’s complex political and social history at Museo Botero, Museo del Oro, and Museo Nacional. For an unforgettable night out, venture to Andrés Carne de Res in Chia, about an hour outside the city. You will be greeted with a shot of tequila at the door before feasting on steak, ceviche, and aguardiente. Dance the night away under neon lights to the pulsing sounds of rumba — all while circus-like performers flit about. After Andrés, the perfect place to bed down (and potentially nurse a hangover) is the quite affordable Four Seasons Casa Medina, which offers a third night free to entice would-be day trippers for a longer stint.
While traveling to Bogotá in January will yield a modest 8% savings on hotel rates, flights will cost an average of $448.06 from all U.S. cities. Plus, once you're in Colombia, day-to-day costs will be extremely wallet-friendly.
While the thought of Finland in January might scare you, Helsinki is actually not as frigid as you might think, with average temperatures in the 20s and 30s (cold, yes, but doable). The city makes good on its World Design Capital designation with a host of unique museums, event spaces, and saunas that exemplify modern design integrated into urban life. A prime example: the Chapel of Silence, a round, windowless structure in the middle of the city that invites visitors for a moment of tranquility and contemplation amid the downtown bustle. Join in the Finnish obsession with sauna (the country of 5.5 million people has more than 3 million of them) and sweat away the cold at Löyly, housed in a sleek wooden building on the waterfront. If you ever wanted to try Nordic wild game, now’s your chance: the sauna’s restaurant serves reindeer mousse and elk meatballs. With mashed potatoes and lingonberries, it’s the perfect meal to warm you up on a cold winter night.
In January, hotels are 26 percent cheaper than the most expensive month of the year, and flights will set you back an average of $539.39.
Sweden’s capital practically wrote the book on modern Nordic design and trendy neighborhoods full of hip creatives — you could spend days hopping from happening bars to design collectives to sceney restaurants. But immerse yourself in history to get a fuller picture: Gamla Stan, where Stockholm was founded in 1252, is one of the largest and best preserved medieval city centers in all of Europe — not to mention one of the most picturesque. Gamla Stan’s oldest square, Stortorget, for example, is a fairytale row of pretty red and orange houses. Just across the square you can learn about the Nobel Prize and its laureates at the Nobel Museum. And be sure to visit the fascinating Vasa Museum. Even for those who think they won’t be interested in Viking history, the gigantic restored battleship that is the museum’s centerpiece (95 percent of which is from the original) inspires awe about life as a 17th-century Viking.
While a trip to Stockholm is typically expensive, going in January means you can feel less guilty about the cost of food and drink while there because of discounts on hotels and flights. Hotels will be 27 percent less expensive than the most pricey month, and flights average $541.62.
San Diego, California
There may be no more laid-back city in America, and it’s easy to see why. With balmy, practically perfect weather year-round, and a front seat to gorgeous Pacific coast vistas, residents don’t have too much to complain about. And unlike other cold-weather destinations on this list, even in January, you can head outdoors to rejoice in the sun. Nosh on a breakfast burrito and people-watch at Oscar’s Mexican Seafood in Pacific Beach, or sip a sunset drink on the deck of Hotel del Coronado. In between, visit Balboa Park. Its beautiful Spanish architecture, various museums, and manicured gardens (not to mention the San Diego Zoo), will keep you entertained for hours. San Diego is also home to over 130 craft breweries, churning out award-winning beers and pioneering the West Coast IPA. In January you can sample local brews, as well as the city’s most popular food trucks, at the San Diego Brew Festival.
While San Diego is a great destination any time of year, going in January will afford you 37 percent savings on hotel rooms. Flights this month are also cheap, with round-trip tickets an average of only $274.95.
Portugal is still enjoying a steady rise in popularity. A flourishing economy has helped create a huge tourism boom, landing Lisbon and the Algarve Coast at the top of many travel bucket lists. But don’t underestimate dreamy Porto. This romantic city will win you over precisely because of its slow pace. Porto is compact enough that the best way to explore is on foot. Stroll along the Douro riverfront, admiring the stunning facades tiled with hand-painted azulejos, and sample pastéis de nata, an addicting custard tart, from bakeries along your path. Pick any cafe in the hilly Baixo district to enjoy sunset drinks — when you’re watching the sun cast a warm glow over the terracotta rooftops as you sip a one-euro glass of wine, you'll wish you could stay longer.
Go in January when hotel rates are 36 percent cheaper than the most expensive month of the year, and flights are an average of $581.03.
As it perennially lands at the top of the world’s happiest countries list, there must be something about Norway that makes surviving — or rather, enjoying — the winter worth it. The hype about Oslo is growing due to its avant-garde art scene, hip coffee culture, exciting bars and gastronomy, all combined with a renewed effort by the city government to transform the waterfront into a place of social gathering. On one end of that waterfront is the Opera House, a shining example of contemporary design, with sleek angular lines that rise out of the water. On the other is the sloping wood and steel Astrup Fearnley, a Renzo Piano-designed contemporary art museum considered one of northern Europe’s best. Beat the cold by bar and restaurant hopping in ultra-cool Grünerløkka, which gives New York’s Williamsburg a run for its money. Once an industrial, working-class neighborhood, it’s been injected with new life by artists, musicians, designers, and chefs who have opened up galleries, performance venues, and boutiques alongside some of the city’s buzziest places to eat and drink.
Traditionally an expensive destination because of the strength of the Norwegian economy, you can help offset the cost of traveling there by going in January. Hotels are 31 percent more affordable than the most expensive time of year, and flights are an average of $582.98.
One of Russia’s biggest cultural events of the year, the Russian Winter Festival, runs from the end of December through mid-January — and Moscow does it bigger than anywhere else in the country. The city transforms into a winter wonderland with ice sculptures, Christmas markets, and a celebration of Russian folk culture. In Red Square, browse traditional crafts like nesting dolls, painted boxes, and wooden toys under the glow of St. Basil’s Cathedral’s colorful onion domes. In Izmailovo Park, catch daily folk dancing and music performances, and try traditional winter snacks such as bagels, jam, and special teas. Brave the sub-zero temps to go ice skating in Gorky Park, and don’t miss a ride in a troika, a three horse-drawn sleigh, through the wintry cityscape.
In January, Moscow hotels are discounted 14 percent from the most expensive month of the year, while a round-trip ticket will cost an average of $588.15.
A visit to London at any time of year is grand, but in winter you’ll get more of a local’s experience. Besides, the best things to do — visiting world-class museums (many of them free), lingering over fancy afternoon tea, tucking into pints and pies in pubs, and watching plays in the West End — are all things that can be enjoyed indoors. A special wintertime tradition are pantomimes or “pantos,” campy plays that encourage audience participation and often include cross-dressing and over-the-top song and dance. See one at the Old Vic or Hackney Empire theater, and you might catch beloved comedian Stephen Fry in drag. Another bright spot in January: the Lumiere light festival turns the city into a magical nighttime art exhibit, with light installations illuminating landmarks like Westminster Abbey and the National Theatre, as well as various spots across town.
London can be quite popular year-round, but in January you can get 23 percent savings from the most expensive time of year, and flights will cost an average of $595.70 from all U.S. origins.
Sweden’s second city may play second fiddle to Stockholm, but it’s just a smaller, more walkable place to experience the same Swedish charm, food, and design. Amble through Haga, the old town dating back to 1648. Its cobblestoned main street is lined with 19th-century wooden houses filled with shops and cafes (perfect for fika, the Swedish tradition of a relaxing coffee break and snack). Order the enormous cinnamon roll — literally the size of a dinner plate — at Café Husaren, and shop the boutiques for a pair of wooden clogs. Then head across the canal to the Feskekôrka fish market to enjoy an array of fresh, caught-daily seafood in a building modeled after Gothic churches. After a long day of strolling, warm up with a relaxing soak at Hagabadet, a beautiful Art Nouveau spa built in 1876.
Enjoy up to 25 percent savings in January on Gothenburg hotel rooms. Flights from all U.S. origins average $610.78.
Shanghai is a collision of old world and new: a bustling metropolis where futuristic skyscrapers tower over centuries-old neighborhoods of traditional shikoumen lane houses. You can eat, shop, and sightsee for days. And with more than 24 million residents, people-watching opportunities abound. The perfect elixir for when a deep chill sets in after wandering the city? Hot pot at the always-entertaining Hai Di Lao. Despite being a chain, you can’t beat the exceptional service (think: complimentary massages and manicures while you wait, plastic cases to protect your phone from stray hot pot broth, and waiters twirling 10-foot-long noodles in the air).
Visit Shanghai in January for 13 percent savings on hotels. An average round-trip ticket will cost $614.78.
If you’ve ever dreamed of witnessing the grandeur of the Great Wall in person, you’re in luck: flights to Beijing are now super cheap. Beijing in January also means its iconic attractions (like the ancient palace complex, Forbidden City, and historic Tiananmen Square) won't have the crush of tourists typical at other times of year. Covered in snow, the sites will be quiet but hauntingly beautiful. To really embrace the season, head to Longqing Gorge, less than two hours north of of the city. From mid January through February, the annual snow and ice festival features hundreds of intricately carved ice sculptures, a human-sized ice maze, folk dancing performances, and firework displays, all set against a towering 230-foot frozen waterfall. Visitors can try winter sports like ice skating, tobogganing, ice fishing, and sledding.
In Beijing, January hotel rates are 19 percent more affordable than the most expensive time of the year, and the average round-trip ticket is $633.57.
You may be surprised to learn that this affordable southern destination is also home to one of the country’s most exciting food scenes, as well as one of the best art museums in the South. The Birmingham Museum of Art is free to visit and boasts a collection of more than 24,000 paintings, sculptures, prints, drawings, textiles, and decorative arts ranging from tribal African to Japanese Samurai to contemporary American furniture. When you need to refuel, you'll have plenty of options. Try the global fare at Pizitz Food Hall — get adventurous with Hawaiian poke or Ethiopian, or go classic with biscuits at Alabama Biscuit Co. To taste some of the superb Southern-fusion gastronomy coming out of Birmingham, dine at Ovenbird, James Beard-winning Chris Hasting’s latest outpost, or Highlands Bar and Grill, helmed by another Beard-winner, chef Frank Stitt.
In January, Birmingham hotels are 20 percent more affordable than the most expensive time of the year, and an average round-trip ticket will run you $294.40.
Tourism in Spain is record-breaking, which unfortunately means that Barcelona is usually choked with tourists — so much so that the city has begun implementing measures to curb tourism. But that makes January the perfect time to go: Winters are mild in the Catalonian city and you’ll enjoy the city’s extremely popular attractions like Sagrada Familia and Parc Güell without the hordes.
Beat the crowds to the punch: In January you'll enjoy a huge 42 percent savings over the most popular time of year to visit. Flights will run you an average of $648.60 from all U.S. origins.
Dublin is an intimate city that’s best discovered by idling in local haunts, chatting with the gregarious locals, and wandering the squares that showcase its signature Georgian architecture. But here’s a quick list of sights you’ll want to check off. Get your fill of history at St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Trinity College. Visit the Jameson Distillery (where you can get a bottle personalized with your name) and the Guinness Storehouse (lines will surely be shorter in January). Shop along Grafton and Henry Streets, and visit Moore Street Market for a taste of old Dublin — you may even see horse-drawn delivery carts. Finally, warm up with a pint or several at storied Temple Bar, where you can see live Irish music, or at Brazen Head, the city’s oldest pub.
January in Dublin sees 35 percent savings on hotel rooms, and the average flight price from all U.S. origins is $657.43.
Unlike northern China, Guangzhou’s winter is mild and dry, with average highs in the mid-60s and flowers abloom everywhere — it’s even dubbed the “Flower City” for its year-round flora and greenery. China’s third largest city, home to a whopping 19 million people, is a juxtaposition of ancient and modern: more than two millennia of history steeped in a wealthy, bustling metropolis. Step back in time at the Temple of the Six Banyan Trees, a Buddhist temple built in 537 AD (still a popular place of worship today), or at the well-preserved Shawan historic village, dating back 800 years. To witness modern Guangzhou, look up toward its gleaming contemporary architecture, like the iconic Canton Tower and the space-age Zaha Hadid-designed Opera House.
In January, Guangzhou hotels are 38 percent more affordable than the most expensive time of the year, and an average round-trip ticket will set you back $658.83.