Best Cheap Winter Vacations
Some destinations see prices skyrocket in winter, but U.S. News ensures that your dollars will go far with this list of the best cheap winter vacations. Our editors considered user votes in addition to factors like the cost and quality of accommodations, dining and attractions to narrow down the destinations with the best value – and weather – for a wintertime getaway. Help us solidify next year's list by voting below. (Note: Some of the below destinations may be affected by the coronavirus outbreak. Check with the CDC and the U.S. Department of State before traveling.)
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The cobblestone streets will probably be covered in snow, but that shouldn't discourage you from exploring neighborhoods like Old Québec and Quartier Petit Champlain. The Canadian city celebrates its way through the frigid temperatures with free or low-cost events and festivals that last from Christmastime to Carnaval in February. When you need to warm up, explore the splendid interiors of Notre-Dame de Québec and the Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré Shine, both of which offer free entry.
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If all you dream about for a winter vacation is escaping to a tranquil Mexican beach, Cozumel is your answer: Turquoise water, great snorkeling and warm temps attract travelers in droves. For lodging, opt for a bed-and-breakfast or a vacation rental to save some coin. If you want to visit Cozumel's parks, such as Chankanaab Adventure Beach Park and Punta Sur Eco Beach Park, which both charge entrance fees, check the parks' websites for coupons and specials before you book.
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A winter vacation in San Miguel de Allende should include time spent exploring the city's markets and cultural institutions, including the Fábrica La Aurora, a textile mill-turned-art-museum and shop. Both El Jardín, the city's main plaza, and Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel, an ornate church, are additional must-see sights that won't cost you a dime to enjoy. You'll also want to sample the vast foodie scene: This Mexican city offers everything from fine dining to cheap (but delectable) food truck meals.
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Winter in Banff is characterized by snow and skiing. This Canadian destination enjoys excellent skiing conditions and an under-the-radar reputation. What's more, lodging and lift ticket prices are a bargain compared to other ski spots in North America, but you'll need to book them a few months in advance to ensure availability and the best prices. With the money you've saved, you can treat yourself to a sleigh ride or an extra après-ski drink.
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Gatlinburg, Tennessee's wintertime highs sit in the upper 40s and low 50s, meaning you can still take advantage of the town's most popular attraction: Great Smoky Mountains National Park. After entering the free national park, hike a section of the famous Appalachian Trail to Charlies Bunion, an outcrop with stunning mountain vistas, or trek the Rainbow Falls Trail for a chance to see the path's namesake falls frozen over. When you need to warm up, head back to town to sample the local moonshine at Sugarlands Distilling Company or Ole Smoky Tennessee Moonshine for a small fee.
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Merida#6 in Best Cheap Winter Vacations
Hotels in Merida, the capital of Mexico's Yucatan peninsula, can cost as little as $50 per night in winter, so you'll have plenty of cash to indulge in the city's offerings. Dive far back into Merida's history while visiting El Gran Museo del Mundo Maya and the nearby Dzibilchaltún ruins, both of which explore local Mayan history for inexpensive admission fees. Meanwhile, in the heart of the city, you'll find influence from Spanish conquerors at the free Catedral de Mérida. Don't forget to explore Merida's food scene at one of its markets or restaurants.
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Though the Southwest brings to mind deserts with scorching temperatures, Santa Fe, New Mexico, conveniently sits close to several different ski resorts. Not only can you schuss the slopes in 40-degree weather, but you can also spend less on lift tickets here than you would in more popular ski destinations. Back in Santa Fe, you can admire art at Canyon Road's galleries or stroll through Santa Fe Plaza without spending a dime. If you time your visit for late February, you can also score deals on dining out during Santa Fe's Restaurant Week.
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It's no secret that Lake Tahoe is a great wintertime destination. This lake that straddles the California-Nevada border is known for its premier activities, including skiing, sledding and snowshoeing. To save some coin during your trip, plan on booking your vacation early and staying at one of the lake's ski resorts. Though resorts can get pricey at times, they often offer vacation packages or multinight discounts to help you cut costs.
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A trip to this British Columbia locale means one thing: skiing. Shredding powder at Whistler Backcomb will set you back a pretty penny, but you can save money by carefully planning your trip. Avoid a visit from mid-December to early January, as prices skyrocket around the holidays. Save additional cash by exploring the area's free attractions. Hike through Brandywine Falls Provincial Park or up to Alexander Falls to see waterfalls encased in ice. For a more leisurely walk, head to the Valley Trail or stroll through picturesque Whistler Village and its Olympic Plaza.
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Thanks to its location in the Caribbean Sea, Martinique offers ideal weather for travelers seeking a warm respite from chilly winters. Temperatures sit in the 80s throughout winter, so you can spend your days soaking up some sun on Les Salines and Diamond beaches. If you plan on staying in Fort-de-France, the country's capital, book early to ensure you snag an affordable accommodation during Martinique's peak tourist season. For additional savings, book a hotel farther inland.
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The Turks and Caicos Islands are a popular vacation spot for a reason: Here, you'll find incomparable scenery, glistening white sand and turquoise water. When you're done basking on the beach, grab a snorkel and head to the water; you'll discover an impressive barrier reef by these Caribbean islands that is ripe for exploration. To save money on your island vacation, skip staying at a luxury resort and instead reserve a vacation rental or a room at a smaller hotel. Save even more money by avoiding accommodations on Providenciales, where the country's priciest lodging options are located.
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This Florida island's claim to fame is its seashells. On Sanibel Island's pristine white sands, you could find conchs, clam shells and more as you comb the shore. Once you've collected your free souvenirs, spend a couple of hours splashing in the Gulf of Mexico before heading back to your vacation rental. Also save time for doing some window-shopping on Periwinkle Way. To avoid thick crowds, plan on visiting early in the day.
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Winter in New York's Adirondacks means one thing: carnival season. Towns around the region host icy festivals complete with games, treats and entertainment for the whole family. In February, travelers can visit Lake George to enjoy parades, talent shows, bonfires and s'mores – all for little or no fee – during the annual Lake George Winter Carnival. Or, visitors can check out the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival, which features a huge ice palace that's free to access throughout the February event. With the money visitors save, they can sign up for fun winter activities like dog sledding and ice climbing.
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Big Sky, MT#14 in Best Cheap Winter Vacations
Boasting more than 5,800 acres of skiable land, Big Sky, Montana, is a winter sports enthusiast's dream. Here, you'll find a healthy mix of slopes for everyone from beginners to experts. What's more, if you plan early and book in advance, you can score deals on both your accommodations and lift tickets at Big Sky Resort. For even more savings on lift tickets, which cost more when demand is high, visit on weekdays in early December.
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Taos, NM#15 in Best Cheap Winter Vacations
Those in search of a well-rounded winter vacation should travel to Taos, New Mexico. History buffs can spend their trip strolling through Taos Plaza or learning about Taos Pueblo, an adobe village that has been inhabited by the Taos Indian Tribe for more than 1,000 years. Meanwhile, skiers can zip down the slopes at Taos Ski Valley, which offers discounted lift tickets for children and seniors. When travelers need to relax, they can head to Manby or Black Rock hot springs to rejuvenate in the naturally warm (and free) waters.
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