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Go Here, Not There: Alternatives to 6 Costly Destinations This Winter

Discover enticing destinations for a stress-free (and cheap) getaway this winter.

U.S. News & World Report

Go Here, Not There: Alternatives to 6 Costly Destinations This Winter

San Diego, Whistler, Reno, Bermuda, Miami, Puerto Vallarta

From the Gaslamp Quarter in San Diego to the beautiful beaches of Bermuda, try out these budget-friendly alternatives this winter.(Getty Images)

As frosty temperatures sweep across the Northeast and Midwest, it's tempting to jet off to warm-weather locales and snow-covered slopes, near and afar. But while resolving to vacation this season is easy, planning a spur-of-the-moment getaway on a strict budget can seem out of reach. Luckily, that's not the case – in fact, there are still plenty of enticing spots that promise convenience and excellent values. Start 2016 off right by visiting one of these six wallet-friendly (and worry-free) locales.

If You Want Fresh Powder…

Visit Whistler, Not Aspen

For skiers trying to stretch their dollars further this season, Whistler in British Columbia is an ideal choice, says Clem Bason, CEO of goSeek. "Whistler has a range of great hotels for value-seekers at the three-star-and-up level for well under $175 a night," he says. Currently, goSeek lists a four-star Hilton property starting at $250 a night and the Fairmont Chateau Whistler for less than $300 a night from Jan. 10-18. Meanwhile, in Aspen, luxury hotels are upward of $300 a night for the same period, he says.

Another draw of visiting Canada this winter is the favorable exchange rate against the Canadian dollar, says Gabe Saglie, senior editor at Travelzoo. Thanks to the strength of the U.S. dollar "ski bunnies will find bargains in mountain havens like Whistler Blackcomb, Mt. Tremblant and Banff, as alternatives to U.S. hot spots like Aspen and Park City," he says. Although Whistler receives an influx of tourists during the peak holiday travel season in December, you'll see a dip in room rates on weekends in January and February. Plus, you'll find affordable flights to Vancouver International Airport, the launching pad to Whistler situated about 80 miles to the south. Currently, January flights from New York to Vancouver International start at $407; prices from Los Angeles International Airport start at $201; and prices from Chicago start at $349.

If You Like to Roll the Dice at the Casino, Not on Your Vacation Price

Visit Reno, Not Las Vegas

You may not find all the glitz, glamour or flashing neon lights of Sin City, but if you're based on the West Coast, you will find a cheaper and easily accessible alternative in Reno. The city boasts an abundance of cost-effective lodging choices, with four-star hotels starting at $64 a night in January on goSeek. And beyond affordable accommodations – and a wealth of ways to test Lady Luck at institutions like Harrah's and Eldorado – Reno also offers an abundance of free attractions geared toward art aficionados and outdoorsy types . When you need a break from the casino, consider strolling along the Truckee River Walk to pop into art galleries and admire public art installations and murals. And if you're yearning for more activity, consider venturing to the glistening slopes in nearby Lake Tahoe, which sits about 40 miles south of the city along the Nevada-California border.

If You Want a Quick, Warm-Weather Getaway…

Visit Miami, Not Fort Lauderdale

It may seem counterintuitive, but Miami is offering deep discounts this winter, making it a prime time to snap up great bargains at popular hotels situated near the beach and other top attractions, Bason says. Typically Miami's hotels are pricey at this time of year, Bason explains, but goSeek currently shows rates at three-star hotels in Miami Beach starting around $100 a night and four-star properties for less than $200 a night, he says. To put this into context, goSeek lists nightly rates at four-star properties in Fort Lauderdale starting at $200. And while Miami is known for its glamorous art deco hotels and buzzy nightclubs, there are plenty of fee-free and worthwhile art and cultural attractions like Bayside Marketplace, Little Havana and the Wynwood Walls in the fashion-forward Wynwood Art District.

If You Want an Off-the-Grid Coastal Getaway…

Visit Puerto Vallarta, Not Maui

Instead of jetting off to Maui for a relaxing warm-weather getaway, maximize your savings by retreating to Puerto Vallarta along Mexico's Pacific coast. Whether you want to explore lush jungles, sink your toes into powdery sands or catch lively street performances along El Malecon, Puerto Vallarta's famous boardwalk, there are plenty of free amusements to stay entertained. And with direct flights to Puerto Vallarta from popular cities like Los Angeles for as low as $400 in January,​ flights to this beautiful Mexican getaway from the West Coast are a fraction of the cost to Maui in the springtime, when prices hover around $750 and up, Bason says. Plus, you can find plenty of affordable four- and five-star resort options, he adds, pointing to Fiesta Americana Puerto Vallarta All Inclusive & Spa, which is offering rates around $250 or less in January on goSeek.

If You Want a Warm-Weather Locale With Moderate Temps…

Visit San Diego, Not Phoenix

If you want a break from the winter chill but don't want scorching desert heat either, consider planning a trip to San Diego, where the temperatures (and the prices) are more advantageous than Phoenix, Bason says. He suggests springing for a getaway at The Dana on Mission Bay, which goSeek lists at $86 a night in January. And if you want a little more pampering, consider slipping away to Hotel Palomar San Diego, which shows rates in January for $161 a night. Apart from affordable room rates, San Diego also offers myriad free museums and historical attractions. Breaks from surfing and sunbathing at Mission Beach or La Jolla can include trips to Balboa Park, strolling through the edgy art galleries and shops scattering the Gaslamp Quarter and venturing to the La Jolla branch of the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, which offers free visiting hours from 5-7 p.m. on the third Thursday each month. Plus, with the added threat of El Niño deterring visitors from flocking to SoCal​ , top resorts across California are slashing prices by up to 50 percent, Saglie says, making it easy to pull off an affordable extended trip to top destinations like Palm Springs and Los Angeles.

If You Want Laid-Back Caribbean Vibes Without Steep Price Tags …

Visit Bermuda, Not the Bahamas

It may not feel as far-flung as popular Caribbean isles like the Bahamas, Jamaica or the U.S. Virgin Islands, but Bermuda ups the convenience factor, thanks to its advantageous location, just 1,000 miles north of Puerto Rico. And though Bermuda lacks the warm, balmy weather of the Caribbean this time of here, with daytime temperatures hovering in the 60s and 70s, "the pink-sand beaches and tropical flare, combined with aggressive promos even over Christmas and New Year's Eve, can make Bermuda an appealing bargain alternative," Saglie says. Plus, low-cost carriers like JetBlue offer affordable nonstop flights to Bermuda from major airports along the East Coast, including John F. Kennedy International Airport and Boston's Logan International Airport, making getting there a cinch. Better yet, you can snap up bargain rates at high-end hotels in the area. Take Rosewood Tucker's Point, a high-end oceanfront property overlooking private coral-hued sands. Currently, goSeek lists rates in January at $213 a night.

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