The Most Affordable Winter Vacations in the U.S.
Sure, summer vacations are nice, but have you ever tried packing your bags for a winter getaway?
After the holidays, airfares and hotel prices start to drop dramatically, especially since most of us have used up our vacation days and aren’t planning on traveling too much. But perhaps, if you are one of the lucky people who racked up some extra paid leave, you might be able to swing an incredible trip for not too much cash. If you’re traveling domestically, it’s more possible than you think.
Frankly, we can’t think of a better cure for the winter blues than jet setting off to a brand new location. If you’re looking to get away from the freezing temperatures, there are a lot of places, like California, New Mexico, Arizona and Florida, that are waiting to give you a nice, sunny respite from the harsh, winter winds.
Or, if you’re a bona fide snow bunny who loves that crisp air between December and February, you can visit places like Idaho, Oregon, Washington D.C., or Illinois to bundle up and take in some icy, winter beauty.
No matter what your temperament, this great, wide country has something for everyone. It doesn’t matter what time of year it is, you can go skiing, lay on the beach, visit a bustling metropolis or sample local food and culture even when it’s below zero back home.
And the best part? It’s not going to strain your wallet. Many places that we’ve collected below are under $500 for round trip flights, and you can even find even better deals in the New Year.
Check out these incredible destinations below to plan out your next winter vacation. Who knows, these places are so affordable you may not have to wait until next year to go.
Sun Valley, Idaho
According to Smarter Travel, round-trip flights from Los Angeles start at $189, or $312 from New York City area airports. But besides the savings, it’s a skiers paradise. Since Sun Valley, if you can’t tell by the name, has an average of 205 sunny days per year, skiers can hit the slopes nearly any given day without worry. If you love winter and saving money, this might be the best spot for you.
San Diego, California
You’re probably thinking San Diego is an expensive city, so why is it on this list? That may be true, but usually pricey trips to San Diego happen in the summer. But the winter is just as rewarding a time to go. The average temperature is 66 degrees in January, which may not scream “beach weather,” but it does seem like great weather for visiting the famous San Diego Zoo. And, the average hotel stay cost ranges anywhere between $50 and $200, depending on how close you want to be to the city center.
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Santa Fe hosts a bustling artistic community where tourists can come and absorb the local culture in over 250 art galleries ranging in style and subject from contemporary to traditional Native American art. In fact, the city prides itself on being a go-to destination for people wanting to learn more about Native American culture and history, with its many events, museums and historical sites. It’s also an excellent place to relax at a local spa. Average hotel cost is around $163, according to USA Today.
Foodies, coffee addicts and beer snobs, look no further for your perfect vacation. Even in the chilly Oregon weather, there's still plenty to do in Portland. Take a brewery tour at one (or more) of the city’s 70+ breweries, visit some local coffeehouses, pizzerias, and of course, Voodoo Doughnuts. Arguably the best donuts west of the Mississippi (if not the world). Hotels can cost as low as $65.
Care to visit the Nation’s Capital when it’s a verifiable winter wonderland? We thought so. Although D.C. averages about 43 degrees in January, don’t let that deter you from feasting your eyes on the Lincoln Memorial, the National World War II Memorial, the Smithsonian, and dozens of other museums, galleries and historic sites that everyone simply must-see. Did we mention many of them are free? According to USA Today, the average hotel cost is $115.
What better way to spend the dark, winter days than in the most magical place on earth? The winter months, especially after the holidays, can be a little less packed at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, as well as Harry Potter World at Universal Studios, so it’s an amazing time to pack up the family and go for a New Year's Disney trip. Plus, lots of airlines post cheaper airfares to Orlando in the winter, so you might even be able to snag yourself a last minute deal. Otherwise, according to USA Today, the average hotel cost is $148 and the average flight cost is $282.
Punta Gorda, Florida
South of Tampa is the gorgeous, historic Punta Gorda, with a beautiful downtown, fishermen’s village, harborwalk in Charlotte Harbor, and an average temperature of 74 degrees in January. It’s bliss for anyone looking to get away from near-polar temperatures up north. Prices for a hotel stay can range anywhere between $75 and $250 per night, but you can also check Airbnb for more deals.
Food trucks and honky tonks meet east coast hipster culture Texas' coolest city. Rainey Street, Red River and Sixth Street are all popular places to go to get some local entertainment, and not to mention delicious local food like tacos and authentic Texas queso. Plus, you can find any music under the sun within the city, from country to punk rock. Hotels range between $50 to $300 depending on where you are in the city.
Don’t expect arid and hot Phoenix weather when you’re in Sedona. This gem of a desert getaway is especially magical in winter because the average temperature is a crisp 57 degrees in January. This time of year is perfect for people to visit the charming town, go hiking among the Red Rocks or take a spa vacation. And, luckily for you, hotel stays range between $76 and $475.
New Orleans, Louisiana
Jazz, beignets and booze are probably the biggest motivating factors for tourists coming to New Orleans, but the city also has a rich history, unique architecture, one-of-a-kind culture, and an average temperature of 63 degrees in January. You can basically walk all over the French Quarter without breaking a sweat, not the easiest feat in The Big Easy most of the year. Foodies, art enthusiasts, music lovers, wannabe historians and people who just love a good party all have something to do here, so it’s a good thing the average hotel cost is around $130 and the average flight costs $288, according to USA Today.
Get everything you want in a Hawaiian vacation, without all the touristy stuff. Located on the Big Island, you can get some quality time on Hawaii’s beautiful beaches, enjoy romps through the rainforest, or go snorkeling with tropical fish without having to compete with tons of other vacationers. Some places even have average prices as low as $79 per night for a 3-star hotel.
Beautiful hotels, an incredible art museum, the aquarium, and of course, a can’t-miss ice skating rink in Millennium Park are all great reasons to visit Chicago in the winter. Sure, the Windy City is, well, windy during this time of year, but that makes it all the more ideal for people looking for a culture-filled winter getaway. According to Smarter Travel, the median fare for flights from Canada and the U.S. sit around $300 on Kayak.