10 Affordable Destinations for Winter Sun
Some Americans have been blessed with a mild winter so far, but temperatures are steadily dropping and snow has blanketed 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 10 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 Dominican Republic offers better hotel bargains and all-inclusive resort deals than many other warm-weather locales. Visitors can save more by staying where the locals go: the Samana Peninsula on the northeast coast. This spot is midway between the popular towns of Punta Cana and Puerto Plata, so even though it's far from pricey tourist traps, there's still plenty to do. Currently JetBlue flights from New York to Samana start at $140 one way on Wednesdays in February.
Forget the beach -- set your sights on the desert. With so much competition on and off the Vegas Strip, a four-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.
One of the best times to meet Mickey Mouse is during the winter. Do a Disney vacation in 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 off-season prices at the Disney Resort hotels, which are up to 30 percent off through March 28.
Arizona boasts winter temperatures mild enough for camping, hiking, and biking -- not to mention amazing landscapes. A search on Kayak generated round trips starting at $257 from New York and as low as $108 from San Francisco in mid-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.
Go for the live jazz, Hurricane drinks, or culinary scene in New Orleans. There's always a lot to do, and visitors who arrive after Feb. 9 avoid the rowdy Mardi Gras crowds on Bourbon Street. A flight south in the winter is relatively inexpensive, with round trips starting at $202 in late February from New York.
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 before flying home. Google Flights shows round-trip flights from New York for $189 in February.
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 $241 from New York in February. 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.
For a more unconventional vacation, try South America. JetBlue flies direct to Cartagena from New York and Fort Lauderdale, Fla., for less than $400 round-trip. Vacation budgeting site Price of Travel calls the Colombian city the best value in the Caribbean. The old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the white sand of nearby Playa Blanca beckons.
Millions of people visit Costa Rica to venture into lush rainforests, hike volcanoes, and indulge in other tropical diversions. Neighboring Nicaragua is similarly appealing but less traveled and less expensive. Within 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 to Managua start at $185 for a round trip in February.
If your idea of winter sun includes a gorgeous mountain view, Denver is worth considering. Round-trip flights can be found for $223 from New York and $118 from San Francisco in February. For skiers, however, the nearby resorts are among the most expensive in the country. Look instead to Cheapism's 2016 picks for cheap ski destinations.