The 15 Best Budget Destinations in Winter

by Christina Garofalo

The 15 Best Budget Destinations in Winter

by Christina Garofalo

When winter comes to town, it's easy to get down. Fortunately, major discounts on airfare and hotels make winter the perfect time to get away. From the slopes to the city, these 15 places are reachable for less than $400 roundtrip and offer plenty to do. (All prices are nonstop, from New York.)

When winter comes to town, it's easy to get down. Fortunately, major discounts on airfare and hotels make winter the perfect time to get away. From the slopes to the city, these 15 places are reachable for less than $400 roundtrip and offer plenty to do. (All prices are nonstop, from New York.)

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London

With flights from $362 and hotels up to 20-percent less than in high season, winter in London offers great value. Catch the holiday spirit at the Winterville pop-up, with an ice rink and roller disco. In Jan., Westminster Abbey is lit up — part of a city-wide collection of light installations. And for culture, visit the newly renovated Hayward Gallery, or snag tickets to Book of Mormon.

With flights from $362 and hotels up to 20-percent less than in high season, winter in London offers great value. Catch the holiday spirit at the Winterville pop-up, with an ice rink and roller disco. In Jan., Westminster Abbey is lit up — part of a city-wide collection of light installations. And for culture, visit the newly renovated Hayward Gallery, or snag tickets to Book of Mormon.

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Chicago

Chicago’s bone-cutting winds dissuade visitors in winter. The result: Flights drop to $90; luxury hotels, like the new St. Jane, are just $189/night; and the city is virtually crowd-free. Take refuge at the Art Institute or celebrate Chinese New Year at the Garfield Park Conservatory. Go ice skating at Millennium Park and warm up after with a slice of steaming deep-dish pizza.

 

Chicago’s bone-cutting winds dissuade visitors in winter. The result: Flights drop to $90; luxury hotels, like the new St. Jane, are just $189/night; and the city is virtually crowd-free. Take refuge at the Art Institute or celebrate Chinese New Year at the Garfield Park Conservatory. Go ice skating at Millennium Park and warm up after with a slice of steaming deep-dish pizza.

 

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Paris

Paris is winter magic. Dazzling lights line the Champs-Elysées, and the Eiffel Tower and Louvre are nearly empty. Sip café au lait in cafés’ coveted window seats; go wine-tasting; shop at indoor passages, like Galerie Vivienne; and browse Shakespeare and Company bookstore — favorite of Ernest Hemingway and Gertrude Stein. We found flights as low as $285, and rooms at the chic C.O.Q. hotel from $164.

Paris is winter magic. Dazzling lights line the Champs-Elysées, and the Eiffel Tower and Louvre are nearly empty. Sip café au lait in cafés’ coveted window seats; go wine-tasting; shop at indoor passages, like Galerie Vivienne; and browse Shakespeare and Company bookstore — favorite of Ernest Hemingway and Gertrude Stein. We found flights as low as $285, and rooms at the chic C.O.Q. hotel from $164.

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Key West

Key West in winter has plenty to tempt. Beyond the balmy weather, it’s home to North America's only coral barrier reef and snorkel-friendly shipwrecks, the Ernest Hemingway Home, and Mallory Square — where sunset celebrations transition to bars that buzz into the wee hours. Fly to Miami for less than $100, plus car rental (or $241 with a stopover). The new Perry West offers rooms from $174/night.

Key West in winter has plenty to tempt. Beyond the balmy weather, it’s home to North America's only coral barrier reef and snorkel-friendly shipwrecks, the Ernest Hemingway Home, and Mallory Square — where sunset celebrations transition to bars that buzz into the wee hours. Fly to Miami for less than $100, plus car rental (or $241 with a stopover). The new Perry West offers rooms from $174/night.

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Los Angeles

Seize the perfect weather and stroll the Walk of Fame or hike the Hollywood sign. Earlier sunsets mean more hours for star-gazing at Griffith Observatory, and in late January museums are free. Drive, top down, along Pacific Coast Highway to Venice, Santa Monica, and Malibu — sipping cab over ocean views at Malibu Wines. Flights from $253 and hotels, like Hollywood’s Mama Shelterfrom $167/night.

Seize the perfect weather and stroll the Walk of Fame or hike the Hollywood sign. Earlier sunsets mean more hours for star-gazing at Griffith Observatory, and in late January museums are free. Drive, top down, along Pacific Coast Highway to Venice, Santa Monica, and Malibu — sipping cab over ocean views at Malibu Wines. Flights from $253 and hotels, like Hollywood’s Mama Shelterfrom $167/night.

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Cancún

Early December is Cancún's sweet spot: Temps range from the mid-60s to mid-80s, flights start at $231, and rooms at the new Grand Bahia Principe go for $249/night (all-inclusive for two). In addition to beachfront resorts, Cancún is home to one of the world’s largest coral reefs and a couple hours’ drive from Chichén Itzá. Downtown, there are colorful street performances, food stalls, and shopping.

Early December is Cancún's sweet spot: Temps range from the mid-60s to mid-80s, flights start at $231, and rooms at the new Grand Bahia Principe go for $249/night (all-inclusive for two). In addition to beachfront resorts, Cancún is home to one of the world’s largest coral reefs and a couple hours’ drive from Chichén Itzá. Downtown, there are colorful street performances, food stalls, and shopping.

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Madrid

Warm up this winter over hot chocolate and churros in Madrid. You’ll see Picasso’s “Guernica” for free (select times) without fighting for space. Tabacalera, an old tobacco factory, exhibits free modern art. Grab a pastry on the ninth floor of El Corte Inglés for cozy views of the Gran Via. Flights from $319, and rooms — like those at the convenient Room Mate Hotels — for as little as $95/night.

Warm up this winter over hot chocolate and churros in Madrid. You’ll see Picasso’s “Guernica” for free (select times) without fighting for space. Tabacalera, an old tobacco factory, exhibits free modern art. Grab a pastry on the ninth floor of El Corte Inglés for cozy views of the Gran Via. Flights from $319, and rooms — like those at the convenient Room Mate Hotels — for as little as $95/night.

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Copenhagen

Winter makes this notoriously costly city affordable and charming. Explore the holiday markets and decorated boats along Nyhavn with Glogg (mulled wine) in hand. Ice-skating and many museums are free (try the Copenhagen Card for the rest). Go hygge at the historic Conditori La Glace bakery. You might even see the Northern lights. Flights from $340, and hotels like The Avenue from $205/night.

Winter makes this notoriously costly city affordable and charming. Explore the holiday markets and decorated boats along Nyhavn with Glogg (mulled wine) in hand. Ice-skating and many museums are free (try the Copenhagen Card for the rest). Go hygge at the historic Conditori La Glace bakery. You might even see the Northern lights. Flights from $340, and hotels like The Avenue from $205/night.

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Iceland

Because many people aren’t keen on the idea of visiting Iceland in the winter, you’ll find fewer crowds and the best chance of seeing the Northern Lights. To warm up, explore Iceland’s other natural wonder: hot springs. In addition to the Blue Lagoon, there are plenty of free ones. We found flights from $215 all winter long, and hotels like the Reykjavík Lights, start at $74/night.

Because many people aren’t keen on the idea of visiting Iceland in the winter, you’ll find fewer crowds and the best chance of seeing the Northern Lights. To warm up, explore Iceland’s other natural wonder: hot springs. In addition to the Blue Lagoon, there are plenty of free ones. We found flights from $215 all winter long, and hotels like the Reykjavík Lights, start at $74/night.

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Costa Rica

Following the December rain, Costa Rica retains a lush landscape into the New Year. January is prime for wildlife — with baby sea turtle hatchlings, plus whale and bird watching. Flights start at $378, and there’s no shortage of cheap accommodations. Hotel Aranjuez (from $30/night) and Dantica Cloud Forest Lodge (from $125/night) offer exceptional value. Many establishments accept U.S. dollars.

Following the December rain, Costa Rica retains a lush landscape into the New Year. January is prime for wildlife — with baby sea turtle hatchlings, plus whale and bird watching. Flights start at $378, and there’s no shortage of cheap accommodations. Hotel Aranjuez (from $30/night) and Dantica Cloud Forest Lodge (from $125/night) offer exceptional value. Many establishments accept U.S. dollars.

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Ireland

Winter in Dublin is easy to love. Grab a pint and enjoy traditional Irish music at Ireland’s oldest pub. Tour the Jameson Distillery and Guinness Storehouse; the Kilmainham Gaol prison and medieval crypt at Christ Church Cathedral; and the Dublin Writers Museum. Beyond the city, see popular sights, like the Cliffs of Moher, sans crowds. Flights from $290 and hotels, like The Dylanfrom $182/night.

Winter in Dublin is easy to love. Grab a pint and enjoy traditional Irish music at Ireland’s oldest pub. Tour the Jameson Distillery and Guinness Storehouse; the Kilmainham Gaol prison and medieval crypt at Christ Church Cathedral; and the Dublin Writers Museum. Beyond the city, see popular sights, like the Cliffs of Moher, sans crowds. Flights from $290 and hotels, like The Dylanfrom $182/night.

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Puerto Rico

From bioluminescent bays to historic charms, Puerto Rico offers a cultured island escape without your passport. The third weekend of Jan. is the San Sebastián Street Festival — a four-day Mardi Gras-style party in Old San Juan. Flights start at $218, and it’s not hard to find a place with nightly rates in the low $100s. Plus, your dollars help the island’s continued recovery from Hurricane Maria.  

From bioluminescent bays to historic charms, Puerto Rico offers a cultured island escape without your passport. The third weekend of Jan. is the San Sebastián Street Festival — a four-day Mardi Gras-style party in Old San Juan. Flights start at $218, and it’s not hard to find a place with nightly rates in the low $100s. Plus, your dollars help the island’s continued recovery from Hurricane Maria.  

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Colorado

You don’t have to empty your pockets in Aspen to take a Colorado ski trip. Nearby Leadville, home to Ski Cooper, offers excellent value with lift tickets for just $58 a day. At an altitude of 10,152 feet, the Victorian-era mining town and National Historic District is the highest incorporated city in the U.S. Flights to Denver start at $167 (plus rental car), and hotels range from $100-$150/night.

You don’t have to empty your pockets in Aspen to take a Colorado ski trip. Nearby Leadville, home to Ski Cooper, offers excellent value with lift tickets for just $58 a day. At an altitude of 10,152 feet, the Victorian-era mining town and National Historic District is the highest incorporated city in the U.S. Flights to Denver start at $167 (plus rental car), and hotels range from $100-$150/night.

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Nashville

Winter in Music City delights with daytime highs in the 50s-60s and flights as low as $181. Luxe hotels, like the Kimpton Aertson, cut rates to $214/night. See live music at the famed honky tonks or the Grand Ole Opry (beautifully decorated for the holidays). Visit the Country Music Hall of Fame; drink at Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery; and for a blast of heat, try Nashville’s famous hot chicken.

Winter in Music City delights with daytime highs in the 50s-60s and flights as low as $181. Luxe hotels, like the Kimpton Aertson, cut rates to $214/night. See live music at the famed honky tonks or the Grand Ole Opry (beautifully decorated for the holidays). Visit the Country Music Hall of Fame; drink at Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery; and for a blast of heat, try Nashville’s famous hot chicken.

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Amsterdam

It’s easy to avoid the cold in Amsterdam, between the Van Gogh MuseumRijksmuseumAnne Frank House, and even a museum dedicated to cheese. Grab a pint at Inʼt Aepjen, the city’s oldest bar, and feast on warm Stroopwafel and bitterballen (fried meatballs). And if the canals freeze over, do as the locals do — grab ice skates. Flights from $310, and private rooms at the Generator from $75/night.

It’s easy to avoid the cold in Amsterdam, between the Van Gogh MuseumRijksmuseumAnne Frank House, and even a museum dedicated to cheese. Grab a pint at Inʼt Aepjen, the city’s oldest bar, and feast on warm Stroopwafel and bitterballen (fried meatballs). And if the canals freeze over, do as the locals do — grab ice skates. Flights from $310, and private rooms at the Generator from $75/night.

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