15 budget-friendly destinations for winter sun

It's already been a taxing winter for many Americans, and when temperatures drop and snow blankets parts of the country, they'll want to satisfy a vitamin D craving on the cheap by hopping a plane to a domestic destination, or perhaps a Caribbean island. 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 mid-December and may change as the season progresses.

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Cheap warm winter travel
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Cheap warm winter travel

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 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.

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." Visitors generally get some of the best bargains on tickets and accommodations from mid-January to early March, with the exception of holiday weekends.

Phoenix, Arizona

Arizona boasts winter temperatures mild enough for camping, hiking, and biking — not to mention amazing landscapes. A search on Google Flights generated round trips under $230 from New York and New Orleans, and under $150 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.

New Orleans, Louisiana

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, the next Mardi Gras is March 5. A flight south in the winter is relatively inexpensive, with round trips starting at just over $100 from New York and $257 from San Francisco.

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 as low as $233 and $227 from San Francisco in January and February.

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 $256 from New York in January and $222 in February. Fares drop are even a bit lower when flying from farther south, such as Miami. 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.

Cartagena, Colombia

For a more unconventional vacation, try South America. Round-trip flights to Cartagena start at just over $300 from New York and under $200 from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Vacation budgeting site Price of Travel calls this Colombian city "probably the best bargain in the Caribbean" for hotels. Cartagena's walled old-town area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the white sand of nearby Playa Blanca beckons.

Miami, Florida

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 under $200 from New York, just under $250 from San Francisco, and around $200 from Chicago, according to Google Flights.

San Diego, California

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, such as visiting the art museums, Balboa Park, and the USS Midway. Google Flights shows a round-trip fare of $276 from New York in January and February, while flights from Houston start at just $108.

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 set foot. Google Flights shows the lowest fares in January and early February, such as a $285 round-trip from New York; $325 from Chicago in February; $340 from Houston in February; and $412 from Los Angeles in February.

Bahamas

The Bahamas has always been a staple for quick beach getaways, and East Coast travelers looking for bargains will fare well, so to speak. Flights from New York City to Nassau start around $350 in late January, with prices from other cities on the East Coast rising a bit — Boston checks in at $362. Midwesterners can fly out of Chicago for $379. Visitors to the Bahamas can also save big with inexpensive home stays. Airbnb showed numerous private homes and rooms for $50 to $100 a night in Nassau.

Montego Bay, Jamaica

Most of the Caribbean is a madhouse in the first few weeks of January. Wait until later in the month, when prices drop to high season from peak season, which pays off in Jamaica's Montego Bay. The destination is already competitively priced, because of the regularity of flights in and out, and it's a popular place for package offers. CheapCaribbean has been offering all-inclusive, four- and five-night packages (including airfare) for under $800 a person, with some under $700.

Savannah, Georgia

Famous for its ornate antebellum architecture and cobblestoned historic district, Savannah is also a comfortably temperate destination in winter, making this perhaps a better time to visit then the humid summer months. Walk manicured streets and parks lined by oak trees dripping with Spanish moss, visit the Historic District's Forsyth Park, explore Bonaventure Cemetery and its sculpture garden, and stroll along River Street in the Waterfront District, running parallel to the Savannah River. Three-star hotels can be found for less than $100 a night.

Bonita Springs, Florida

Sleepy and laid-back, Bonita Springs offers pristine beaches without big crowds and a convenient jumping-off point for exploring nearby Captiva and Sanibel islands (Sanibel is known as the "shelling capital of the Western world"). Bonita Springs is also the home of the popular Barefoot Beach Preserve for gopher tortoises. Three-star hotels can be less than $150 a night, but because this is a smaller community, the best deals can be found through property rental sites such as Airbnb and HomeAway. 

San Juan, Puerto Rico

Nearly every day there's an announcement about hotels reopening since Hurricane Maria, including the legendary Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve, and the iconic El San Juan Hotel on Isla Verde Beach. JetBlue has also resumed pre-hurricane levels of service, making it an ideal time to show your support for this Caribbean U.S. territory. Flights from New York start at $205 in January and February, and flights from Chicago start at around $260.

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To see travel trends coming up in 2019, check out the slide show below!

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Travel trends in 2019, according to TravelPirates experts
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Travel trends in 2019, according to TravelPirates experts

1. Bucket-List Hotel Stays

"Hotels that are the attraction will be huge in 2019. Think: hotels with outdoor showers in Manhattan, beer on tap in the room, guest art classes led by a local artist, social networks for meeting other guests (and connecting digitally as you would at a good old-fashioned hostel), and walking tours of the local neighborhood.

Hotels aren’t just your starting point for travel anymore, they are your destination. People are putting accommodation at the top of their bucket lists."

2. Curation — But Ditch the Travel Agent

"This is not your parent’s cookie-cutter trip. The same-old, same-old is not in fashion anymore for travelers: they’re not looking for trendy destinations. They want to see what’s not blowing up on their Instagram feeds.

Travelers want websites that cull the knowledge of experienced travelers and lets them know where they should go and how. Inspiration is a big business."

3. Don’t Think, Go! The Rise of Spontaneous Traveler

"Point to a place on a map and go. Weekends aren’t for farmers markets anymore. Travelers want to embrace the spontaneous lifestyle — bookings for last-minute trips are up and will only continue to rise.

From a weekend trip to Bermuda or the Hamptons to a spur-of-the-moment booking for next week, the “just go” attitude is here."

4. Off-Peak Season Is On

"The boom of cheap international flights from the U.S. has led to an increase in travel. The catch used to be that many of these $99 one-way flights sent you abroad in the “off-peak” season. Yes, off-peak season, where the weather is cool, the bookings available, and crowds minimal. Sounds not-so-off, right!"

5. Food Tourism Embraces Fusion

"“Authenticity” is a huge buzzword, but apply it to food and it sparks debate. Food tourism was on the rise in 2018, but 2019 will take it to a new level, as travelers look to experience the food fusions that reflect the modern culture of the destination.

From the Singaporean hawker centers that dole out dishes that stem from the diverse ethnic group of the country to the famous bulgogi taco of Southern California to Montreal’s restaurant representation of 50-plus nationalities, travelers want to taste something different."

6. Hyper-Connection

"In-room smart devices were a popular trend in 2017, but some hotel chains are taking the demand for hyper-connectivity to the next level with keyless room access. At Yotel Boston, you can check into your room using the chain’s app — no key required. What’s more, the Boston branch has a robot butler, YO2D2, who can deliver amenities and chat with you in the hotel’s lounge."

7. Communal Spaces — and the Hostel Vibe

"Chic, shared spaces are quickly becoming the norm for modern hotel chains. Why? Millennials want the community experience of a hostel with the luxurious furnishings of a hotel. The rooms at The Pod Hotel in Brooklyn are a minimalist’s dream, but the hotel really shines for its communal spaces.

It boasts a trendy rooftop bar and garden — the perfect place for hanging with other travelers."

8. Unique Amenities

"You know the oft-quoted mantra of seasoned travelers: See the city like a local. Authenticity is not just a recent buzzword, and the push for off-the-beaten-path travel has been amplified recently. The Freehand Hotel in New York City offers curated programming like nude drawing classes hosted by a local artist and historic walking tours of the local area.


New York City’s Arlo Hotel has suites with an outdoor shower for a truly memorable Manhattan experience — complete with shower beer."

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