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7 Last-Minute Warm-Weather Winter Vacation Ideas
Escape icy conditions with a retreat to these wallet-friendly tropical getaways.
Relaxing on the beach doesn't have to break the bank.(Getty Images)
At this time of year, when severe storms and icy temperatures tempt us to jet off to sunnier locales with powdery sands, warm waters and island breezes, it's a prime time to map out our next vacation. Whether you're itching to strap on a bathing suit and laze along picturesque beaches, embark on a far-off adventure in a culture-filled locale or explore awe-inspiring coral reefs and natural attractions, a cost-effective coastal getaway is still within easy reach – even for committed procrastinators. Here are seven expert-approved, warm-weather vacation ideas to get you started.
Iconic pink sands, impressive coral reefs and world-class golf courses are just a few enticements for stealing away to Bermuda. You can't miss checking out the storied architecture of the town of St. George, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and the intricate Crystal Caves. And while you won't find typical tropical conditions during the winter months (daytime temperatures hover in the mid-60s from January to March), those "seeking a beachy, sandy getaway with comparatively attractive weather will find some great bargains here," explains Gabe Saglie, senior editor at Travelzoo. Currently, Travelzoo.com is offering a promotion for the Fairmont Southampton, with nightly rates starting at $179 for two-night stays (or longer) through March. What's more, Bermuda is not currently affected by the Zika virus, making it an ideal choice for expectant women and moms- and dads-to-be.
Head to the Aloha State for a mix of requisite Hawaiian hospitality and plenty of impressive natural, cultural and historical attractions. During your visit, you can take in jaw-dropping views along the picturesque Road to Hana highway, ride the waves at Ho'okipa Beach and admire dazzling dancers at the Old Lahaina Luau. As Hotwire's president, Henrik Kjellberg, puts it, "Maui – it's got everything. The beach, the hikes, the resorts, the mountains – [there's] literally something fun for everyone." Plus, there are great deals to be had this winter, Kjellberg adds. While Hawaii can be expensive during the winter months, "there are fluctuations in demand after the holidays and around holiday weekends and spring break," Saglie explains. Travelzoo.com currently lists a promotion for bookings through March 31, 2017, for three-night stays starting at $850 at the Napili Kai Beach Resort.
With laid-back beaches, gorgeous tropical scenery and plenty of reggae, Jamaica might just offer the perfect antidote to frosty winter temperatures. Plus, there are plenty of affordable lodging options across the island. According to Priceline.com spokesperson Flavie Lemarchand-Wood, with Priceline's Express Deals feature, you can book a three-and-a-half-star property for an average price of $115 per person per night in Ocho Rios this winter. And if you're clamoring for a romantic retreat, the island offers plenty of enchanting and budget-friendly places to explore, including Dunn's River Falls, Seven Mile Beach and the Blue Lagoon. Even better, cost-effective flights from major airports across the country are easy to come by. Google Flights currently lists round-trip routes from New York City and Chicago hubs for under $350 in February.
In Palm Beach, along Aruba's western coast, you can lounge along sugary sands, splash in turquoise waters and enjoy a dizzying array of water sports without draining your wallet. Travelzoo.com lists a promotion at the adults-only Brickell Bay Beach Club & Spa for $145 for stays through Feb. 28, and a $135 nightly rate for stays in March. Lemarchand-Wood also highlights Palm Beach as a smart choice for the frugal traveler this season. "Synonymous with high-rise hotels and beach-lined bars and restaurants, Palm Beach caters to travelers looking to enjoy fun in the sun," she says. According to Priceline's data, travelers can snag rooms at four-star properties for an average rate of $105 per person per night using the site's Express Deals feature, a 64 percent reduction from the standard rate. Even better, Google Flights lists round-trip routes from top hubs in Chicago and the District of Columbia for less than $300 in February.
Though Caribbean destinations tend to see an uptick in traffic at this time of year, "resorts often discount rates to fill in booking gaps," Saglie says. And happily for bargain-hunters seeking an easy and affordable weekend escape, Puerto Rico is a quick jaunt from Miami, yet it feels like a far-flung retreat with its historic treasures (hat tip: El Morro fort), pristine beaches and the sprawling El Yunque National Forest. Hotwire currently shows four-star hotels for less than $140 a night in February, and Lemarchand-Wood highlights San Juan as a top choice for serenity seekers. "Condado is the perfect escape for those looking for a break from their usual hustle and bustle. Located within San Juan, visitors have easy access to the city’s historical landmarks and authentic cuisine," she says. What's more, Google Flights shows round-trip journeys to Puerto Rico from District of Columbia and New York City hubs for less than $250 in February and March.
For a low-key surf scene, kid-friendly attractions, cutting-edge gastronomy and California-cool vibes, slip away to San Diego. With consistent sunshine and enticing seasonal promotions, the Golden State is an attractive winter vacation destination for bargain-hunters, Saglie explains. Currently, Travelzoo.com is offering a promotion for the Porto Vista Hotel for $99 per night for stays between Jan. 21 through May 25. Even better, four-star resorts in Mission Bay near SeaWorld are available for less than $100 a night in February, Kjellberg says.
Prices tend to soar in the winter season in Mexico, but fortunately in locales such as Cabo and Puerto Vallarta there are "a plethora of resort options and myriad flight options out of the U.S. that can often generate last-minute bargains," Saglie says. The coastal resort town offers a unique blend of beautiful beaches, historical sites, charming cobbled streets and eye-catching art galleries. You can't miss taking leisurely seaside strolls along the Malecón boardwalk, admiring Los Arcos (or arches) on Banderas Bay or sampling freshly caught seafood in the lively Zona Romantica area. Priceline currently lists nightly rates at the three-and-a-half-star Villa del Palmar for under $200 a night. What's more, Google Flights currently lists round-trip flights to Puerto Vallarta from Los Angeles International Airport and San Francisco International Airport for under $350 in February.
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