Winter Destinations That Will Leave Some Cash for Celebrating
They say there's no place like home for the holidays.
But with the kids out of school and a bucket list teeming with still-to-visit destinations, winter travel is enticing. Besides, who couldn't use a break from all the shopping, party planning, and general logistics puzzles the holidays suddenly turn into once you enter adulthood?
If you can manage to make your getaway in the sliver of space between Thanksgiving and mid-December, you'll be right in the middle of shoulder season – that magical time between high-traffic travel periods when destinations are less crowded and more affordable.
Plus, you'll still be home in time for the big day(s) after all — and with enough cash left to really enjoy yourself.
A win-win, right?
Here are some of our favorite winter destinations that won't destroy your holiday budget.
New York City
Okay, so the Big Apple isn't the thriftiest option on the map. But ice skating in the shadow of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree is an experience not to be missed.
Save cash by steering clear of the swanky Times Square hotels.
You can find listings for cozy, private apartments starting around $70-80* per night
Las Vegas, Nevada
Despite its opulence, Vegas boasts affordable rooms all year ‘round — and come winter, it won't be as jam-packed with revelers.
But no matter when you head to Sin City, you can have a lot of fun for free if you're not a high roller. Just walking around the strip inspires sensory overload rivaling dinner theater. The Bellagio, in particular, is a crowd pleaser, from its carefully-choreographed fountain show to its splendid interior, drenched in Chihuly glasswork.
Looking for a skiing destination that's not quite as boutique (or pricey) as Aspen?
While you can certainly find $300*-a-night rooms in any mountain town come powder season, Breckenridge has more to offer than spas and expensive restaurants.
"Most ski resorts are just that – resorts" . But "Breck" offers way more winter wonderland for your dollar — like the well-preserved Breckenridge National Historic District, with its cheerfully-painted buildings from the late 1800s gold rush.
Chef-designed sweet and savory crepes start around $7*. Or create your own for $5.45* plus the cost of individual toppings.
If you've been meaning to make it to "the most magical place on Earth," there's no time like the winter holidays. For one thing, you can walk around the Magic Kingdom without sweating through your clothes like you would in the high humidity of summer.
Of course, all the theme parks get in on the festive fun in some way or other — not just Disney World, which is as expensive as it is famous. While it's difficult to get into the mouse's domain for less than $100* per person.
Don't have kids? Not theme park people? No worries. The beach is only an hour and change away, and Orlando's got a vibrant urban core filled with all the deliciously cheap eats you'd expect of a college town. Point of fact: It was the founding site of fast casual Tex-Mex favorite Tijuana Flats, which now boasts more than 130 locations.
New Orleans, Louisiana
A visit to the Big Easy is a lot easier in winter, when sky-high temperatures cool to perfect 70-degree days and the tourist slow-down drops hotel room rates, too. And although it's not quite as rambunctious as Mardi Gras — which, for many of us, is a selling point — NOLA doesn't hold back when it comes to yuletide celebrations.
Come wintertime, the city gets all dressed up — as befitting its presidential status. Along with seeing the towering tree in front of the Capitol building, you can also meander the sparkling streets of the region's oldest neighborhood, which hosts the sprawling light art exhibition .
The Dominican Republic
If your idea of a perfect winter is one spent with sandy toes and frozen cocktails, you'll have to head pretty far south. But fortunately, airfare to the Dominican Republic is surprisingly low between Thanksgiving and Christmas, when the island is quiet, balmy, and no longer under the threat of hurricanes.
Depending on your departing airport, you could get to the DR and back for less than $300*. And once you get there, the living is cheap, especially if you ditch Punta Cana. The photo above was taken at Las Galeras, where rooms are available in late November starting at $60* or so.
But keep in mind that prices will start to climb as the holidays approach.
You may think Mexican tourism is all about Cancun and Playa del Carmen. And it's true that this central city is nowhere near a beach.
But with three-star hotels averaging $43* per night and a regional cuisine that's been praised by foodies like Diana Kennedy and Rick Bayless, it's worth giving Oaxaca — pronounced: oh-AH-kah — a glance. It's tough to argue against a place that's famous, in part, for its cheese.
December weather hovers between 70 and 80 degrees, meaning you'll be able to take advantage of the region's many outdoor attractions – from hiking in its mountains to paddling in its rivers. Hey, you've gotta work off that turkey somehow.
Happy holidays — and safe journeys!