9 Underrated Winter Vacation Ideas Under $1,000
Plan an off-the-radar retreat at an affordable price.
Avoid the crowds and a hefty price tag at these destinations.(Getty Images)
With the hectic holiday travel season fast approaching, chances are you're pining for a vacation. Whether you're dreaming of a snowy getaway, filled with quality time on the slopes and enchanting sleigh rides, or a coastal escape, complete with salty sea air and swaying palms, it's not too early to start planning. And if you're looking to stretch your dollar further this winter, never fret: U.S. News enlisted guidance from industry experts to pinpoint nine under-the-radar wallet-friendly destinations that are well-suited for a variety of traveler types and price points.
If you want a quintessential Hawaiian getaway without the crowds, visit Hilo on Hawaii's Big Island. In Hilo, you'll have easy access to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park where you can explore scenic trails and check out Mauna Loa's towering volcano. The Liliuokalani Gardens, a 30-acre landscaped Japanese green space, is also worth seeing for its picturesque vistas overlooking Hilo Bay. Google Flights currently shows round-trip flights from popular Chicago airports to Hilo International Airport starting at $424 in December; round-trip flights from Los Angeles International Airport start at $342 for the same period. And TripAdvisor Vacation Rentals shows that the average nightly cost per person for a two-bedroom rental from Dec. 1-31 is $35.
Quebec City or Montreal, Canada
In Quebec City, you can embrace your inner Francophile as you explore charming cobbled squares, cozy bistros and historic landmarks. Aside from its storybook setting, Quebec City is also inexpensive at this time of year, says Jeanenne Tornatore, senior travel editor at Orbitz.com. Currently, Google Flights shows round-trip flights from New York City airports to Quebec City Jean Lesage International Airport starting at $233 in January. Montreal is another bargain, says Clem Bason, CEO of hotel-booking site goSeek.com. "There are amazing festivals throughout the winter months, including Igloofest for electronic music fans, the international auto show for car fanatics and the Fete des Neiges de Montreal which runs on most weekends," he says. Even better, the four-star Hotel 10 Montreal is currently listed on goSeek.com for $94 nightly, Bason adds.
Arches National Park, Utah
To experience Utah's picturesque landscapes without tourists at your side, plan an off-season road trip to Arches or Zion national parks. Both parks offer "great cold-weather trips," Tornatore says, highlighting affordable four-star lodging options nearby available for less than $100 a night. The Red Cliffs Lodge, located in Moab, Utah, for example, offers nightly rates in December starting at $119.95. The Fairfield Inn, also in Moab, currently lists rooms for less than $100 in December. While you can expect chillier temperatures and icy trails, it's hard to top viewing striking snow-topped sites like Delicate Arch without competing with others for the perfect vantage points.
Instead of Vail, Colorado, or Whistler in British Columbia, Tornatore suggests checking out less-trodden mountain towns, like Bend, Oregon. Though off the beaten path, Bend offers access to pristine powder with more than 460 inches of annual snowfall on Mount Bachelor, horse-drawn sleigh rides, snowshoeing and other wintry pastimes, she adds. What's more, nightly rates at hotels in the area average at around $180, Tornatore says. The Sunriver Resort, for example, offers nightly rates in December starting at around $150. Plus, if you're traveling with kids ages 12 and under, they can ski for free at Mount Bachelor when accompanied with parents purchasing a three-day (or longer) adult lift ticket in advance.
Napa Valley, California
"In the wintertime, one of my favorite places to go if you're on a budget, but want to have a high-end experience, is Napa and Sonoma Valley," says Clayton Reid, president and CEO of MMGY Global, a travel and hospitality marketing and research firm. For a romantic escape, Reid points to the Silverado Resort and Spa, located in the heart of Napa Valley's wine country. The property offers seasonal promotions, such as the Cabernet Season Package for $194.25 per night that includes a two-for-one wine tasting and $50 resort credit for stays of two nights or more. Also, flights into Oakland International Airport are reasonably priced at this time of year. Google Flights currently shows round-trip flights from New York City airports for $277 in December.
Rapid City, South Dakota
While planning a ski retreat can be a very expensive proposition during the peak season, there are outdoor escapes that aren't in the mainstream, Reid says, highlighting South Dakota as a great budget-friendly winter destination. Exploring serene trails, cross-country skiing and snowboarding adventures are top pastimes in Rapid City. Plus, you can enjoy ice skating in the festive Main Street Square, which features live concerts and a variety of inexpensive eateries. As for lodging, bunk down in the Hisega Lodge, which is perched on the border of Black Hills National Forest, and offers rates starting at $99 in December.
For a warm-weather getaway with plenty of opportunities to hit the links and lounge by the pool, head to Scottsdale. While January is typically the area's peak season, there are deals to be had this year, Bason says, pointing to the four-star Scottsdale Plaza Resort, which offers nightly rates starting at $136 in January on goSeek.com. This winter, you can "enjoy a four-star hotel for half of what it would normally be at this time of year," he explains. Even better, there are affordable flights, Bason adds. Google Flights currently lists round-trip flights to Phoenix from Chicago hubs starting at $102 in January; round-trip flights from New York City airports start at $300.
Tucked away in central Idaho, McCall is a little-known ski town with classic winter traditions, says Anthony Melchiorri, travel and hospitality expert and host of the Travel Channel's "Hotel Impossible" series. In McCall, you'll find snow sculptures and sleigh rides for the kids, along with affordable bungalows, he explains. Plus, if you're planning a January escape, you can't miss the annual McCall Winter Carnival, which lasts from Jan. 27 to Feb. 5 and includes colorful parades and snowbike competitions. As for accommodations, the Brundage Inn is an ideal choice for budget-minded visitors, with nightly accommodations available for $89.
Relaxing along pink sands at Elbow Beach, playing golf and embracing tropical Caribbean scenery might be the perfect cure for the wintertime blues. Plus, affordable hotel rooms and flights to this often-overlooked Caribbean destination are easy to come by, Bason explains. Take the four-and-a-half-star Fairmont Southampton, which is available nightly for $163 in January, Bason says. What's more, Google Flights currently lists round-trip flights from Boston airports to Bermuda's L. F. Wade International Airport for $277 in January; round-trip flights from New York City airports are available for $243 for the same time period.
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