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7 cheap and warm winter vacation destinations


Unless you’re fortunate enough to live somewhere warm, you’re probably itching to go to a tropical destination or any place where you can thaw out. You might think that traveling to a warm-weather destination would be pricey right now. But areas serviced with a large number of airlines and plenty of resorts can see “feverish competition,” according to Gabe Saglie, senior editor at Travelzoo. And that can work in your favor. 

“Based on TripAdvisor booking data, those that visit these hotspots during mid-late January can save an average of 16 percent compared to February or March,” said Brooke Ferencsik, senior director of communications for TripAdvisor.  

Here are seven winter destinations you should consider for your warm-weather getaway, with accompanying suggestions for cheap hotels and cheap flights.  

ORLANDO, FLA.  

Round-trip airfare: $156 from John F. Kennedy airport in New York City; $124 from Chicago O’Hare airport in Illinois

Hotels: Average $67 per night at the Mystic Dunes Resort & Gold Club by Diamond Resorts in Disney’s Maingate West, which offers a golf course and lots of family-friendly activities; average $76 per night at Wyndham Garden Lake Buena Vista Disney Spring Resort Area, featuring a fitness center and several restaurants  

Weather: Mostly sunny, but chilly at night, with temperatures ranging from 49 to 71 degrees.  

Early in the year, the least expensive week to travel to Orlando is Jan. 16 to 22. It’s 14 percent less expensive than the week of March 13, which is the most expensive week to book, according to TripAdvisor data.  

The TripAdvisor experts recommend a day trip to the Kennedy Space Center, which is $55 including transport. You can also check out Universal Studios and Walt Disney World, which are both packed with activities for the whole family, including the Disney show Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular Fireworks, and all the rides and sights at Universal Studios’ Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  

CANCUN, MEXICO  

Round-trip airfare: $174 from Dallas-Fort Worth airport in Texas; $245 from Newark airport in New Jersey  

Hotels: Average $158 per night at Villa Del Palmar Cancun Luxury Beach Resort & Spa, which offers a free breakfast buffet for two; average $175 per night at The Royal Islander, an all-suites, beachfront resort  

Weather: Mostly sunny, ranging from 65 to 82 degrees  

Jan. 16 to 22 is the least expensive week to travel, allowing you to save 12 percent compared to the most expensive week — March 6 to 12, according to TripAdvisor data.  

TripAdvisor experts recommended a private tour of Chichen Itza with an archaeologist, which is $65 per person. Expedia travel expert Dave McNamee recommends Cancun for its warm weather and warm waters. Recommended activities also include snorkeling through the calm waters of the Nichupté lagoon and setting sail onto the Caribbean Sea toward the beautiful Isla Mujeres, he added.  

PLAYA DEL CARMEN, MEXICO  

Round-trip airfare: $174 from Dallas-Fort Worth airport in Texas; $245 from Newark airport in New Jersey  

Hotels: Average $120 per night at the beachfront Playa Maya, including free breakfast for two; average $115 per night at Club Yebo Hotel, which has a pool and is very close to the beach 

 Weather: Mostly sunny, ranging from 65 to 82 degrees  

Your days in Playa del Carmen can be full of adventures — like an excursion to Tulum or a day at the all-inclusive, aquatic Xel-Há Park. Average daily rates in Playa del Carmen are down nearly 15 percent from the same time period last year, according to Expedia data.  

“Beyond snorkeling in the warm, turquoise water, a top activity is zip lining through an underground river and lush jungles,” said McNamee.  

HONOLULU  

Round-trip airfare: $498 from Los Angeles International Airport in California; $324 from Dallas-Fort Worth airport in Texas  

Hotels: Average $147 per night at the Queen Kapiolani Hotel, which offers a pool and free beach towels and chairs; average $171 per night at the Waikiki Marina Resort at the Ilikai, boasting a full-service spa and a pool  

Weather: Mostly sunny, ranging from 76- 83 degrees  

In addition to boasting stunning weather in January, Hawaii’s capital is home to fantastic shopping, museums, historical sites and waterfalls. One of Honolulu’s many highlights is Waikiki Beach, which offers activities like paddle boarding excursions, surfing lessons and gorgeous beaches.  

ARUBA  

Round-trip airfare: $323 from Newark airport in New Jersey; $347 from John F. Kennedy Airport in New York City  

Hotels: Average $114 per night at the Sasaki Apartments, featuring kitchenettes and barbeque grills; average $88 per night at the Agua Claro Eco Suites, boasting a seawater pool  

Weather: Mostly sunny, ranging between 75 and 84 degrees  

Prices in Aruba will peak in February, but January can offer opportunities for savings, according to Saglie.  

“Aruba is great for honeymoons or anniversary trips, as well as family-friendly travel with great diving and lots of festivals,” he said. One of his favorite hot spots is the Brickell Bay Beach Club & Spa, which offers a freshwater pool complete with a swim-up bar and poolside frozen grapes in the afternoon.  

“Though the beach, along with casinos and shopping, is a short walk away, the concierge can also arrange water sports activities, tours and spa treatments,” said Saglie.  

FLORIDA’S GULF COAST  

Round-trip airfare: $164 from Chicago O’Hare airport to Tampa, Fla.; $98 from Hatsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Georgia to Tampa  

Hotels: Average $95 per night at the iBeach Resort, which offers shuffleboard and an outdoor pool; average $95 per night at St. Pete Beach Suites, a 3-minute walk away from the beach  

Weather: Chilly for Florida in January, averaging 50 to 72 degrees  

The Gulf Coast of Florida, from Clearwater to Naples, offers beautiful white sand beaches and lots of activities.  

“Florida’s Gulf Coast has a thriving arts scene, historic homes in many of the towns, and great seafood, especially the grouper and shrimp,” said Saglie.  

The area also offers many nature and wildlife preserves and outings, like swimming with manatees. “With four airports in this area, including lots of low carrier presence, flight prices stay competitive,” he said.  

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC  

Round-trip airfare: $374 from John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic; $420 from Philadelphia, Pa. to Punta Cana  

Hotels: Average $164 per night at the all-inclusive Ocean Blue and Sand Beach Resort; average $125 per night at Los Corales Beach Village, featuring a spa, gym and private beach  

Weather: Mostly sunny with temperatures ranging from 70- 84 degrees  

If you’re looking for turquoise waters and luxurious accommodations, then Punta Cana is a top destination, according to McNamee.  

“Try zip lining through the high forest canopies and spending the day on the sandy shores of the Saona Island,” he said. The area offers plenty of casinos as well as all different kinds of excursions, like hot air balloon tours and trips to the city of Santo Domingo.  

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