13 Budget-Friendly Destinations for Winter Sun

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CHEAP WINTER VACATIONS

Some Americans have been blessed with a mild winter so far, but temperatures are steadily dropping and snow has blanketed many parts of the country. Satisfy a vitamin D craving on the cheap by hopping a plane to a domestic destination or perhaps a Caribbean island. Look to these 13 destinations for a thrifty winter escape. For an all-inclusive package that covers flight, accommodation, meals, and drinks, book through a vacation deal site such as Cheap Caribbean or BookIt. Their seasonal discounts and last-minute sales can reduce already affordable packages to well under $200 a night. Best of all, there's no need to spend another cent while on vacation. The prices mentioned here were found in early December and may change as the season progresses. (A word of caution: When traveling south this winter, be sure to take precautions against the Zika virus.)
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LAS VEGAS

Forget the beach -- set your sights on the desert. With so much competition on and off the Las Vegas Strip, a 4-star hotel can be booked for well under $100 a night. Along with lower room rates, visitors can enjoy a quieter scene: There are fewer rowdy groups when pool-party spots and some nightclubs have closed for the season.
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ORLANDO, FLORIDA

One of the best times to meet Mickey Mouse is during the winter. Do a Disney vacation in January or February and shorter lines aren't the only benefit. A greater variety of affordable hotel and food options can be found, too. Visitors can take advantage of lower prices at the Disney Resort hotels during their "value season."
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PHOENIX

Arizona boasts winter temperatures mild enough for camping, hiking, and biking -- not to mention amazing landscapes. A search on Google Flights generated round trips starting at $247 from New York, $164 from New Orleans, and $220 from San Francisco in January and February. Pair that with a vacation rental for a very affordable winter getaway. Airbnb lists more than 300 Phoenix homes and apartments priced under $100 a night.
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NEW ORLEANS

Go for the live jazz, Hurricane drinks, or the culinary scene in New Orleans. There's always a lot to do. For those willing to brave the raucous crowds on Bourbon Street, Mardi Gras is Feb. 28 this year. A flight south in the winter is relatively inexpensive, with round trips starting at $188 from New York and $289 from San Francisco.
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AUSTIN, TEXAS

At other times of the year, Austin is brutally hot and overrun by festival-goers. In the winter, the temperature is mild enough for a light jacket and the barbecue is just as good. Take a dip in the Barton Springs Pool (warm year-round), hike up Mount Bonnell, bike around Lady Bird Lake, and eat as much beef and Tex-Mex as you can stand before flying home. Google Flights shows round-trip fares from New York for $217 and $187 from San Francisco in January and February.
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CANCUN, MEXICO

This is a go-to spot for many vacationers, and the sheer number of resorts and flights helps keep prices low. Google Flights turns up round-trip airfare as cheap as $246 from New York in January and February. Fares drop even lower when flying from farther south, such as Houston or New Orleans. Escape the hotel crowds and take in the views from Playa Delfines (Dolphin Beach), hop on a glass-bottom boat to the Cancun Underwater Museum, or take a bus to Tulum to tour the Mayan ruins.
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CARTAGENA, COLOMBIA

For a more unconventional vacation, try South America. Direct JetBlue flights to Cartagena start at $332 from New York and $161 from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Vacation budgeting site Price of Travel calls this Colombian city possibly the best bargain in the Caribbean. Cartagena's walled old-town area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the white sand of nearby Playa Blanca beckons.
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MIAMI

At the tip of Florida, Miami enjoys balmy temperatures in the mid-70s and 80s during the winter. Visit the plentiful art galleries, stroll through Little Havana, and explore downtown. A trip to Miami in the winter costs significantly less. Round-trip flights start at $143 from New York, $271 from San Francisco, and $115 from Chicago, according to Google Flights.
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SAN DIEGO

With mild temperatures in the 70s during the winter, San Diego is a great destination to consider for a laid-back vacation, especially for families. There is plenty to do besides strolling along the beautiful beaches. There is plenty to do besides strolling along the beautiful beaches, such as visiting the art museums, Balboa Park, and the USS Midway. Google Flights shows a round-trip fare of $282 from New York in January and February, while flights from Houston cost just $97.

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SANTO DOMINGO, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

The Dominican Republic has always been a Caribbean vacation favorite. This year, consider visiting the capital city of Santo Domingo in lieu of a beach resort. Must-sees include the first cathedral in the Americas and the area Christopher Columbus first settled. Google Flights shows the lowest fares in late January and early February, such as a $282 round trip from New York, $359 from Chicago, $399 from Houston, and $419 from Los Angeles.
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NICARAGUA

Millions of people visit Costa Rica to venture into rainforests, hike volcanoes, and indulge in other tropical diversions. Neighboring Nicaragua is similarly appealing but less traveled and less expensive. In the past couple of years, Lonely Planet and other outlets have named the country one of the world's best value destinations. Flights from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to Managua start at $256 for a round trip in February.
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PUERTO RICO

A short flight from Miami, the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico beckons with pristine white-sand beaches, secluded shorelines, and big waves for surfers. The fortress of El Morro also awaits exploration, as does the bioluminescent Mosquito Bay, which glows blue at night. Round-trip fares in January and February to San Juan start at $229 from New York, $361 from Houston, $283 from Chicago, and $345 from Los Angeles.
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BAHAMAS

The Bahamas has always been a staple for quick beach getaways, and East Coast travelers looking for bargains this year will fare well, so to speak. Flights from New York City to Nassau start at $260, while prices from other cities on the East Coast hover around $400, with Boston checking in at $360. Midwesterners can fly out of Chicago for $431. Visitors to the Bahamas can also save big with inexpensive home stays. Airbnb showed private homes and rooms for $50 to $100 a night in Nassau.