After the holiday madness has passed, it’s time to unwind at one of these affordable winter destinations. I’ve monitored trends, industry news, and prices to find 2017’s most economical winter vacations. Whether the destination is in its off-season or just cheaper than previous years, these 10 locations deliver huge savings to cure your post-holiday blues. So, what are you waiting for? Start planning your next trip before prices go up.
Editor’s note: Prices were valid at the time of publication and are subject to change. Data for these affordable winter destinations was provided by SmarterTravel's sister sites, Airfarewatchdog and TripAdvisor Vacation Rentals, as well as Skyscanner.
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
The winter months are the best time to visit this Middle Eastern hub since prices are low and temperatures are moderate, ranging from the high 70s to low 80s — perfect weather to enjoy the spectacular beaches along the Persian Gulf. You may encounter some light showers, but the perfect temps make it a worthwhile trade-off. Look to go in February for the lowest airfare prices all year from New York City airports.
Why it's a steal: While Dubai isn't considered a budget destination, this winter will deliver great relative value. Emirates recently announced daily flights from Dubai to Fort Lauderdale starting Dec. 15, driving fare competition. Emirates operates 11 daily flight routes from the U.S. including non-stop departures from Los Angeles, New York and Dallas. Average winter round-trip fares are just $683 from Los Angeles and $602 from New York City-area airports.
Don't miss: Test your fear of heights at the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world; explore the manmade Palm Islands; take a desert safari; ski indoors at Ski Dubai in the Mall of the Emirates; and buy yourself the gifts you wanted, but didn't get, at the Mall of Dubai.
Seasonal events include the Dubai Shopping Festival in January, February's Omega Dubai Desert Classic, the Dubai Food Festival that runs from February to March, and Art Dubai in March.
Head to Dallas for an affordable winter vacation with the family — the weather hovers in the 50s and 60s — and explore the city's free attractions, museums and walkable neighborhoods. With flights under four hours from anywhere in the U.S., Dallas is an affordable winter destination that's both accessible and has enough fun activities to fill a long weekend.
Why it's a steal: Dallas is ranked No. 1 in WalletHub's Best Winter Holiday Destinations, a list that ranks warm-weather winter locations that have low travel costs and few hassles. Short flights from around the U.S. mean lower prices; you can, for example, find round-trip fares from New York City and Los Angeles airports well under $200 for the winter months.
Lodging prices are low too, with the average daily hotel rates of $122 and vacation rental properties for a two-bedroom property hovering around $1,000 per week.
Don't miss: Dallas has many free museums, including The Dallas Museum of Art, The Meadows Museum of Art and the Crow Collection of Asian Art and sculpture garden. There's also an awesome — and totally free — public art walk you can take through Dallas' art district. Dallas also has incredible outdoor spaces like Klyde Warren Park, the Dallas Arboretum and the Trinity River Audubon Center.
Seasonal events include the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic in January, Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo that runs from January to February, Dallas Blooms from February to April, St. Patrick's Day Parade, and the 2017 NCAA Women's Final Four, starting at the end of March.
While winter is a popular time to go to Kenya, this year it’s a more affordable time too, with good prices for flights and safaris in wildlife-viewing regions. Temperatures are warm, the weather is mostly dry — wet season starts at the end of March — and winter is a great time to see an abundance of wildlife.
Why it's a steal: Flights to Nairobi from both New York and Los Angeles are well under $1,000 round-trip; on Airfarewatchdog, February flights from New York start at $784 round-trip and $853 from Los Angeles. Intrepid Travel's Kenya Wildlife Safari Tour starts at a notably low $1,095 for an eight-day trip through Masai Mara.
Don't miss: The wildlife, of course. January and February are popular times to to go as it's dry season. This means the wildlife is easy to spot as many animals congregate around watering holes. It's also calving season, meaning you'll see a lot of newborns. Masai Mara, Lake Nakura and Amboseli are spectacular places to take a safari tour, but there are also 40 other national parks and game reserves to choose from.
Kenya also borders the Indian Ocean and has some of the most beautiful beaches on the coast of Africa. Enjoy warm to hot — high 80s — temperatures, scuba diving, long sandy beaches, and even exotic islands in the Lamu Archipelago.
Sin City, affordable? You must be dreaming. This winter Las Vegas is one of the best bargain U.S. destinations — go post-New Year's and you'll be loving cheap airfare and hotel rates.
Why it's a steal: Las Vegas takes the No. 1 spot on WalletHub's warm winter holiday destinations list for its number of attractions, good weather conditions, abundant activities, low travel costs and few travel hassles. Winter airfares are around $100 round-trip from Los Angeles and around $200 from New York.
Two-bedroom vacation rentals are going for $1,500 per week, and well-known hotels like MGM Grand, Monte Carlo and Palms are around or under $150 per night in January and February. For even more savings, Tom Spagnola of CheapOair recommends going during the week instead of on the weekend.
Don't miss: Since Vegas is popular year-round, you'll be able to enjoy all the casinos, big shows and clubs it has to offer — you just won't get any of the pool parties since winter temperatures average in the low 50s. Note: If you're planning to come for New Year's, be sure to make your reservations well in advance.
Seasonal events include NASCAR Weekend in March; and Cher, Diana Ross, Jennifer Lopez, Bon Jovi, Bruno Mars and Billy Idol will all be in town this season.
You'll find the semitropical four-island archipelago Madeira about 750 miles from Lisbon, sitting off the coast of Africa. While Madeira is a great year-round destination, it's an especially affordable winter destination because it's less crowded due to slightly cooler winter temperatures (they hover in the 60s in the winter months). Known for its lush landscapes, wine and European-style villages, Madeira is a great Caribbean alternative.
Why it's a steal: Funchal, Madeira's capital, is about a 90-minute flight from Lisbon. And, Lisbon is one of the cheapest and most accessible European destinations from the U.S. East Coast right now. TAP Portugal flies direct to Lisbon daily from New York, Newark, Boston and Miami; I found round-trip airfare under $500 from Boston and under $600 from Miami in February. Flights from Lisbon to Funchal start at just $32 one-way.
Vacation rental prices are super affordable, with the average two-bedroom home available for less than $650 per week. Four- and five-star hotels generally cost less than $100 per night.
Don't miss: Since sunbathing weather isn’t guaranteed, you can instead explore the island's volcanic landscape on trails that follow water channels, called levados. It'll still be warm enough to spend the majority of your time outside at pristine gardens, castles, golf courses, forests, lagoons and, come nighttime, at casinos and nightclubs, too. Don't forget to try the region's namesake fortified wine and explore the islands’ wine regions.
Cleveland's an up-and-coming foodie and craft beer city, with lakefront views and a variety of museums that'll suit both those looking for winter indoor and outdoor activities (just make sure to bundle up). Its location makes it the perfect domestic getaway, situated within 500 miles of over 50% of the country's population. And this winter, competitive flight prices make it a great time to go.
Why it's a steal: In 2017, Cleveland Hopkins Airport will offer 143 daily flights on nine different airlines; winter flights from cities on both the West and East Coast range from $120 to $400 round-trip. And JetBlue has fares from Boston for around $100 round-trip in winter.
Most three- and four-star hotels cost less than $150 per night, and the city's brand new Kimpton Schofield Hotel has rates of $199 per night in February. Since it's the off-season, you'll easily find some great hotel deals.
Don't miss: Catch a Cavs game or explore city museums like the Cleveland Museum of Art and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Head to Cuyahoga Valley National Park's Winter Sports Center at the Kendall Lake Shelter for snowshoeing or cross-country skiing (rentals available). You'll also be able to enjoy these activities at Cleveland Metroparks on designated reservations and golf courses.
Cleveland really embraces its colder temps; seasonal activities include March's Ice Wine Festival, Brite Winter in February, Cleveland Winter Beerfest in January, and Holiday CircleFest in December.
Forget Paris — Amsterdam is just as romantic in winter with snow-lined canal banks and cozy cafes. Thanks to an abundance of budget trans-Atlantic airlines, Amsterdam flights from the U.S. are extremely cheap this winter and you can find great hotel deals in the off-season.
Why it's a steal: From the U.S. East Coast, round-trip fares average $408 from New York and $519 from Los Angeles during winter months. TAP Portugal is even offering a free stopover in Lisbon or Porto on the way to Amsterdam.
Many luxurious hotels are offering package savings. The Dylan has a "Winter Along the Canal" package, with savings up to 45%. And the Hilton Amsterdam has rates starting at $180 per night, which is a steal for this canal-side hotel in the Plan Zuid district.
Don't miss: Cooler temps make it a great time to enjoy the city's museums, the Heineken brewery, cafes, pubs or an indoor boat canal cruise. Seasonal events include February's 24H Oost, Food Festival Amsterdam in March, Amsterdam Light Festival that runs through January, and the ICE*Amsterdam skating rink that's open seasonally.
Wyoming’s capital city of Cheyenne is a one-and-a-half-hour 100-mile drive from Denver. It's an ideal alternative to expensive Aspen and Vail winter vacations, with plenty of cross-country skiing, ice boating and ice fishing instead of downhill skiing.
Why it's a steal: Flights to Denver from both the East and West Coast are cheap this winter, with round-trip airfares averaging below $200 from both Los Angeles and New York City airports. I even found fares as low as $39 one-way on Spirit from Los Angeles in February.
Don't miss: Curt Gowdy State Park and Medicine Bow National Forest are great for outdoor winter activities. Ice fishing is extremely popular in the state park, as is fatbiking on the 10-mile trail path and ice boating on reservoirs. In Medicine Bow, summer hiking trails convert to winter cross-country skiing and snowshoeing paths, too.
If you're driving to or from Denver, it's worth detouring to Rocky Mountain National Park, as winter is the park's off-season and the normally popular park is blissfully crowd-free.
Yes, you'll be cold, maybe even borderline freezing, but Quebecois embrace the winter weather with some of the best Carnaval celebrations in the world. With modest airfare prices this winter, you have even more of an excuse to go this year.
Why it's a steal: Round-trip airfare is less than $300 round-trip from New York City area airports for the winter months, and averages around $400 from Los Angeles. And as I'm sure you've heard, the favorable exchange rate means low daily expenses once you're there.
Hotels are also inexpensive. Bed-and-breakfasts in Old Quebec, like Au Petit Hotel, have prices starting at $55 per night.
Don't miss: Winter in Quebec City is all about Winter Carnival, which runs from January to February. Activities include a snow bath, night parades, snow slides, ice sculptures, sleigh rides and skating, and admission is free. Quebec City also is home to the Citadel fortress, Quartier Petit-Champlain shopping district, and the beautiful Notre-Dame Basilica, which are also free to explore. And if you want to ski, head to nearby Mount-Tremblant to extend your winter wonderland vacation.
Other seasonal events include the Quebec City Snow Pentathlon and Mois Multi arts festival, which are both in February.
Southern Ireland (County Kerry & County Cork)
Since Ireland's weather is always unpredictable, winter is a great time to go for flight and hotel deals, as well as for smaller crowds. And just like during the rest of the year, it’s a good idea to always have a coat and an umbrella on hand.
Why it's a steal: Again, thanks to fierce competition on budget trans-Atlantic airlines, round-trip airfare into Cork is cheap this winter. From New York City, you can find fares as low as $600 round-trip and less than $850 round-trip from Los Angeles.
Vacation rentals are very inexpensive too: a two-bedroom property in County Cork will cost you $440 for the week, or $450 in County Kerry. And, winter hotel rates are 25% to 30% lower than summer prices.
Don't miss: Ireland doesn't get much snow because most of the country is at sea level, but temperatures can still be low. If you brave the elements though, you can enjoy all of the tourist attractions crowd-free. If you're comfortable driving on the left, rent a car and drive the Ring of Kerry Road scenic drive. Killarney National Park is also worth a visit — just wish for some good ole Irish luck for some warm weather and sunshine. And, if all else fails, you can get comfortable in local pubs and cozy up with a Guinness.