The 10 Best Ways to Escape Winter on a Budget
Getting away from the cold doesn't always have to cost a fortune.
Some people can't wait for the weather to turn cold. In fact, the snowy scenery and Christmas cheer are their favorite part of the year. But if the darker days tend to make you feel more blue than usual, you may spend the entire season wishing you could go back to the warmer spring or summer days. Why wait, though? There are plenty of ways you can get away from the cold without it having to cost you a fortune—and we got several travel experts to share their best tips to help you do just that. Read on to discover the 10 best ways to escape winter on a budget.
Book a last-minute cruise.
Picture it now: you, on a boat, warm wind in your hair and beverage of choice in hand. It may sound impossible, but if you're a flexible traveler who's game for a last-minute getaway, a cruise is a great way to save some cash.
"Cruise lines and tour groups typically offer incredible last-minute deals because they don't want to leave with half the capacity empty," explains Matthew Kepnes of Nomadic Matt, an ambassador for Onomy. "Both industries took a hit the past two years, [and] there are tons of great deals happening. This is a great way to escape winter and get a tropical vacation package at a cheap price."
Travel on "unpopular days."
You can also save lots of money by booking your winter travel on the least busy travel days.
"If you have any flexibility, try to book any travel for weekdays or other off-peak times when ticket prices will be less spendy," says Bryn Culbert, travel expert at Wanderu. "For example, book a getaway for the weekend after Martin Luther King Day instead of trying to find a deal to get out of town over the three-day-weekend."
She adds that Tuesdays and Wednesdays are typically less popular days to travel, so you can often find cheaper tickets departing on those days.
Go somewhere unexpected.
Don't just do what you think is typical when planning a winter getaway. Put on your adventure hat and consider traveling somewhere more off the beaten path.
"Forget Mexico and go to Guatemala instead. Skip Paris and head to Budapest. Forget Brazil and take on Bolivia," Kepnes says. "There are so many cheap alternatives and budget destinations around the world if you explore the possibilities beyond the most popular destinations."
Wait to book travel until after the new year.
The urge to get away during the holiday season is enticing, especially if you've got family to see. However, if you hold off winter travel plans to January, February, or March, you're in for some serious savings.
Demand drops dramatically post-New Year's, making flights, accommodations, and excursions far cheaper than they were even a week prior. In fact, you can expect to save over 50 percent on some of these costs.
"January and February are some of the cheapest months of the year to travel," Kepnes says. "So start browsing flights and see what deals you can find. Plus, you'll enjoy destinations more because there will be fewer crowds."
Hit the roads and travel by bus.
Many major U.S. cities are actually within a few hours' drive of warmer destinations. Think about heading south for tropical vibes or a bit west for some desert fun. While flights can often be expensive, taking a bus is significantly cheaper.
"If you're in San Francisco, a bus to L.A. costs about $50 in December, and you can regularly find affordable bus tickets from D.C. or New York to Florida for under $100," Culbert says. "Purchase your tickets at least two weeks before you travel for maximum savings, and add travel insurance to protect your trip in case of bus delays or cancellations."
And if you book an overnight bus, you'll get one more day in your warm destination while saving money on your hotel costs.
Make the journey just as fun as the destination.
Sometimes we just want to get to wherever we're going. But if you're able to embrace the process of getting to your destination as an essential part of your getaway, it can make for an incredible trip.
"The experience of train travel can itself be the ultimate escape from frightful winter weather, especially for those who embrace a 'slow travel' mindset," Culbert says. "Opt for a train journey in a sleeper cabin instead of booking a hotel in any of the stopover cities. Amtrak sleeper cabin tickets include meals in the price of the ticket, so you can save on food costs, too."
Wanderu actually crafted a unique train itinerary that loops around the entire continental U.S. for under $1,000. You can enjoy the seven-day trip from a warm and cozy train car, while passing some of the country's gorgeous wintertime landscapes from snowy New England scenes to Southwest deserts and California coastlines.
Explore your own town as a tourist would.
The best way to save money on winter travel? Explore your own backyard. There's a solid chance you haven't seen everything your city has to offer, so put on your tourist hat and make a whole weekend of it!
"Check and see what unique activities you can do that you wouldn't do otherwise," Kepnes suggests. "For example, EatWith can be found in cities all around the world. It offers unique, locally-created culinary experiences. Airbnb Experiences are another great place to look for fun activities, and TripAdvisor is bound to spark a ton of ideas, too."
If you live in a large city, Kepnes recommends swinging by your local tourism office for a city tourism pass.
"These cards allow you to see a wide range of local attractions for free or reduced prices and can be your way to see your local sites on a budget," he says. "They aren't just for outsiders."
Search for ideas on social media.
Sometimes the best way to find budget-friendly travel experiences is through the suggestions of strangers. Heidi Ferguson, a flight attendant with 20 years of experience in the commercial and private aviation industry, says social media can help you discover cool and cheap ideas in whatever warm destination you want to visit.
"I would highly recommend downloading TikTok and using the search feature to find off the beaten path and economically friendly places to visit while in a different town," she advises.
You can even seek out Instagram accounts that help to highlight what a certain place has to offer.
"For example, in Florida there is an account called PeakaCity that shows hidden gems within the state," Ferguson says. "I have lived here for over 20 years and have not seen a lot of the places that they feature."
Try house sitting or home exchanges.
Flights, accommodations, excursions, food, transportation—everything can add up quickly when it comes to travel. But what if you could eliminate one of those major costs? House sitting or exchanging homes with someone in a warmer location can help you do just that, according to Kelly Kimple, CEO of the tour company Adventures in Good Company.
"It allows travelers to stay in a comfortable setting without spending on hotels or rentals," she says. "Plus, living in a local neighborhood provides a more authentic travel experience."
Consider a volunteer abroad program.
If you want to combine your desire to get out of the cold with a good cause, Kimple says volunteer abroad programs could be another way for you to lower your winter travel budget by eliminating your accommodation costs.
"Many volunteer programs offer free room and board in exchange for services," she explains.
According to Kimple, volunteer abroad programs may include things like environmental conservation projects and community development initiatives.
"Travelers get the chance to contribute to a cause they care about while experiencing a new culture," she adds. "It's a low-cost way to explore different parts of the world and make a positive impact."
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