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If you’re in need of a winter vacation, but the cost is a deciding factor, consider one of these more affordable destinations around the world where the currency conversion is in your favor and your dollar will go the furthest.
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The Florida Keys are a string of tropical islands connected by US Highway 1 that stretch about 120 miles off the state’s southern tip. While Florida is home to a variety of affordable winter destinations, Key West is popular with partiers as well as those who love beautiful beaches and sunsets, art galleries and water sports.
Where to Stay: Lime Tree Bay Resort is known as one of the best affordably-priced resorts in the Keys. Set along a palm-shaded, sandy beach, it offers all sorts of activity options, including kayaking onsite, swimming in one of two pools, soaking in the hot tub and lounging in a hammock. Parrot Key Hotel & Villas offers a great value in a recently revamped destination resort that feels like an old-fashioned beach community, complete with picket fences and porches.
There’s no need for a passport to visit Puerto Rico, but you’ll be able to enjoy a tropical, exotic island just the same. From a beach that glows in the dark, the pink sands of Isla Verde, outstanding diving and snorkeling to delicious cuisine, salsa dancing the night away, and waking up with incredible Puerto Rican coffee, there are many reasons to travel here.
Where to Stay: You’ll find lots of small independent hotels that are very budget-friendly, like the Villa Montana Beach Resort, a full-service hideaway on the sea, located just a few miles from the airport. The Copamarina Beach Resort in Guanica is an oceanfront resort stretching across 20 acres of lush tropical gardens offering seclusion and upscale amenities.
Panama offers an ideal destination for warm weather and sunshine and affordable accommodation. Bocas del Toro, situated on the northwestern Caribbean coast, is an archipelago of nine tropical islands with some of the best scuba diving and surf breaks in the country. The orange-tiled roofs and Spanish colonial architecture of old town Panama City offer a striking contrast to the skyscraper skyline across the bay, and in Casco Viejo, after dark music pours onto the street from every alley and corner. By day, you’ll find this area ideal for sipping coffee at Plaza Bolivar, browsing the markets, and watching the sunset from just above Plaza Francia.
Where to Stay: Villa Caprichosa is a palatial villa on Ilsa Taboga, which is just 30 minutes from Panama City. Alternatively, Waldorf Astoria Panama boasts affordable luxury with a prime location and a 6th-floor pool with sunset views.
Sin City is a popular destination year-round, but it offers an especially ideal spot for warming up in the winter while enjoying sizzling entertainment at an affordable cost. In fact, some say it’s the very best wintertime bargain in the U.S. In addition to all of the shows and gambling opportunities, visitors enjoy everything from a peaceful gondola ride at the Venetian to heart-pounding thrill rides at the Stratosphere.
Where to Stay: While room rates for some of the best rooms are around $200 a night, if you’re willing to go a little off the Strip, you can find lodging for less than $50 per night in addition to a collection of unique attractions.
San Diego is renowned for its year-round pleasant weather and a multitude of attractions. While it may not be warm enough for swimming in the winter, the mild temperatures are perfect for taking part in all sorts of other activities, while hotel prices are at their lowest. Enjoy taking a stroll on the beach while watching for whales as winter also happens to be whale migration season. Mission Beach is the hot spot for soaking up some rays, while La Jolla draws surfers with its great waves. Of course, you won’t want to miss a trip to the San Diego Zoo – and, you can save on attractions too by purchasing combo tickets that will get you into the zoo as well as museums and other parks.
Where to Stay: Pearl Hotel, a hip boutique hotel is not only stylish, but it’s also a steal, with rooms at less than $200 per night. You’ll be just steps from the ocean when you stay at San Diego’s Surfer Beach Hotel, which is an affordable option along Pacific Beach.
Caladesi Island has been called one of America’s top “secret islands.” It stays warm all year long and boasts three miles of white, sandy beaches scattered with seashells. In fact, you’ll find some of the best shelling on the Gulf of Mexico right here. There are no hotels and no cars on the island – you’ll have to take a ferry and then explore it on foot. Walk the boardwalk nature trail and pass stands of mangroves, sand dunes, and possibly even a rare gopher tortoise. Rent a kayak and paddle around the bayside of the island to see herons, ospreys, and other birds that live in the sea-grass flats.
Where to Stay: Nestled on the southern end of the award-winning Clearwater Beach, Shephard’s Beach Resort is a six-story beachfront hotel famous for its lively ambiance and abundance of entertainment.
The Bahamas are not only just a hop, skip, and a jump from Florida, but hotels here are affordable. Considering you can typically find a reasonable flight fare here, it’s easy to put together a budget-friendly trip to the islands. This way, you’ll get to experience the wonderfully warm surrounding waters and indulge in fun activities like swimming, snorkeling, sailing, windsurfing, and a myriad of other water sports.
Where to Stay: A top family-friendly all-inclusive, Viva Wyndham Fortuna Beach is only two minutes away from the beach. Margaritaville Beach Resort is in the heart of Nassau, with oceanfront rooms, a Fins Up Water Park and a large number of restaurants and bars.
If you want to go snorkeling or diving without flying all the way to the Caribbean or another tropical locale, Catalina Island is a great option for an affordable vacation. Located about 20 miles off the Southern California coast via a one-hour boat trip from Long Beach, you can enjoy swimming through the clear waters that are filled with a diverse array of marine life. Lover’s Cove has been ranked among the top ten best spots in the world for snorkeling with sea stars, octopi, Garibaldi fish, eels and anemones just a few of the creatures you’re likely to encounter. Sea lions and dolphins are frequently spotted too.
Where to Stay: The Hermosa Hotel makes an ideal place to base your stay with incredibly reasonable rates during the winter.
While much of the Caribbean is expensive in the winter, Montego Bay in Jamaica is one of the few reasonably priced places to visit during the high season, from about mid-January through early April. As a bonus, the weather during this time of year just doesn’t get much better. No matter where you stay in Montego Bay, in addition to relaxing on the sand, you’ll find plenty of water sports and other activities to keep you busy.
Where to Stay: The Iberostar Rose Hall Beach is an upbeat, all-you-can-drink mega-resort that crushes its competition with better food, liquor, service and activities (including free scuba tours), for less. You’ll also find several high-quality all-inclusive options that offer a very good value.
While December and January tend to be popular months for visitors to Tulum, you can find some good deals on hotels and flights throughout February and into early March. Mexico has long been known as an affordable paradise for escaping the chill of winter, and in Tulum, you’ll find as much, or as little, to do as you like. This seaside community on the Yucatan peninsula is famous for its picture-perfect Caribbean beaches with giant sea turtles that roam the sand as well as being the site of pre-Columbian Mayan ruins, including temples and castillos dating back to the 13th, 14th, and 15th centuries.
While the winter months in Barbados attract more visitors, the island is rarely overcrowded. Of all the Caribbean island destinations that are popular among world travelers, Barbados stands out for its lively party scene, warm and friendly hospitality, hidden gem beaches, and delicious cuisine.
Where to Stay: Reasonable resort rates can be had too, including Bougainvillea Barbados, a Mediterranean-style resort on the south coast. All rooms have either a kitchen or kitchenette, making it easy to save on meals, or guests can dine at one of two eateries along the water. It also boasts a fitness center, spa, kids’ club, and water sports.
Costa del Sol, Seville, and Barcelona all make fantastic winter destinations since the weather is quite a bit warmer than most of the rest of Europe. Costa del Sol in the winter enjoys average temperatures in the lower 70s. At popular resorts like Marbella, you can enjoy soaking up the sunshine on one of 24 beautiful beaches, sipping cocktails in the elegant marina, and indulging in retail therapy in the trendy boutiques. In Barcelona, take a stroll around the dramatic Gothic quarter and visit the magnificent cathedral, or walk down Las Ramblas, the city’s main strip to watch street performers, dine in numerous tapas eateries and check out La Boqueria, one of the best markets in Europe’s.
Where to Stay: The Barceló Emperatriz is also a great hotel in Madrid for your trip to Spain, and this downtown hotel is in the Salamanca District. In Barcelona, Hotel SOFIA Barcelona is a vibrant lodging that oozes with style.
The Dominican Republic is popular with snowbirds and other travelers seeking an inexpensive destination for fun under the sun. At its far eastern edge, you’ll find the collection of beach towns that are collectively referred to as Punta Cana. While you’re here, you can take a day trip to Indigenous Eyes Park, a private nature reserve and jungle park with waterfalls and lagoons for swimming, explore the Cordillera Septentrional Mountains, or soak up history at Casa Ponce de Leon, a museum dedicated to the explorer.
Where to Stay: NH Punta Cana is a colorful resort on Bavaro Beach with lots of modern amenities, including satellite TV and free Wi-Fi.
January is when Colombia, home to sandy beaches, vast rainforests, beautiful snow-capped mountains, fantastic coffee, and charming colonial cities, gets its best weather with average high temperatures of 85 degrees, and average lows of 75. It’s sunny and warm but not too hot, and, it’s far cheaper than any other spot in the Caribbean. The high season ends in mid-January, so the already affordable hotel rates will be even less expensive from mid-January through the end of February.
Where to Stay: Cartagena, a city on the northern coast facing the Caribbean, features impressive mangroves, powdery beaches, and brilliant coral reefs along with a historic old town surrounded by the city wall. Pick from one of the city’s top hotels, or snag a deal with a vacation rental.
As January is the height of summer in South America, many of its major cities are not only quite warm but also overcrowded. Bariloche, a mountain resort town in the country’s southern region, offers milder, more pleasant temperatures, for a perfect break away from the crowded, sizzling hot cities along the coast. This town situated in the foothills of the Andes is surrounded by lakes that provide a great opportunity for water sports, while the mountains are popular for trekking and climbing. Bariloche is also renowned for its Swiss-like atmosphere and fabulous chocolate boutiques. Even during the high season, prices are lower than what you’ll find in places like Buenos Aires, making it a bargain for most foreign visitors.
If you’re looking for affordable prices, the sun without the crowds, and access to all sorts of amenities, you might be surprised to find that the Philippines offers all of that and more. While it’s no longer considered a hidden gem, this country with gorgeous sugar-white beaches still doesn’t draw massive crowds. By going after the holidays, from mid-January through the end of February, even the busiest travel destinations are likely to have only some scattered sunbathers and swimmers. You can also enjoy horse riding on the sand, diving, snorkeling, cliff diving, and parasailing, or join an exploration trip to remote coves with a turquoise water-filled lagoon.
Where to Stay: Mid-range and luxury hotels in the Philippines tend to offer great value, with many accommodations located just steps away from the beach. Plus things like food, drinks, excursions, and massage tend to be very reasonably priced.
While the touristy beach areas in the southern region of Thailand like Krabi and Phuket are pricey, by heading north on the overnight train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, you’ll not only enjoy a more authentic experience but cheap accommodations as well as the chance to enjoy the area’s magnificent mountains, vibrant hill tribes, and relaxed vibe. In fact, Chiang Mai may be the best winter travel value around. The weather is ideal, while the historic former capital is also home to many temples, and you can enjoy cheap multi-trips to nearby forests and other temples too.
Where to Stay: Enjoy an outdoor pool and Thai-style rooms at Pingviman Hotel, head to ISTY Hotel -SHA Extra Plus to take advantage of its on-site restaurant and swimming pool, or stay in the Nimmanhaemin district of Chiang Mai at Kokotel Chiang Mai Nimman.
Temperatures in Venice during the winter aren’t exactly warm, but you can bundle up and enjoy this romantic city without the crowds. This is the low season, which means airfare and hotel rates are the lowest they’ll be all year. If you’re looking for more excitement, plan to arrive between January 23 and February 9, when the Carnevale di Venezia festival, one of the most famous carnivals in Europe, takes place. You can still enjoy the gondolas – they run year-round and when it’s chilly out the gondoliers will provide you with blankets.