When we’re finally ready to roll the dice for an upcoming vacation, when should we travel? And where? With summer already upon us, it can be daunting to decide where the safest place to go is (and the one least likely to be cancelled!). Because of this, travelers around the world are opting to postpone their summer vacations for a winter break escape.
Traveling to your favorite summertime destinations during the winter can be even more enjoyable, as the crowds tend to subside and the rates drop. Not to mention, delaying travel allows for some more time to get vaccinated, manage COVID travel regulations and feel comfortable jet-setting again.
Have a peek at some of our best off-season winter break travel tips, as well as destination recommendations from our writers for ideal winter travel, sun-chasing experiences.
The last update of this information was on July 21, 2021. To our knowledge, the information on this page was correct at the time of publication. For further, up-to-date information, please review CDC travel information.
Tips to lock in the best flights for wintertime vacations
- While many people will travel to see friends and family over the holidays, those who fly on the actual big days of celebration (like actual Christmas day) will tend to experience a less-busy airport.
- Search flights for the destinations below during off-season times such as right after Thanksgiving, weeks leading up to Christmas and mid-January, for great discounts and less-crowded hotels.
- If you’re able, avoid school breaks to combats crowds that also tend to raise vacation rates. Make sure you check both U.S. school breaks as well as those in the destination you plan to travel to, which might be different.
Where are some warm locations welcoming travelers this winter break?
Key West, Florida
Domestic travel is wide open throughout the U.S., with just some states requiring COVID testing. Key West, though, doesn’t have any restrictions at the moment. This popular destination is as far south as you can go in the contiguous U.S., so you know it’s got to have some great warm weather!
The Florida Keys are a series of islands and keys (an island without a fresh water source) at the bottom tip of the state that have some beautiful resorts, bumping bars and interesting historical hotspots. To be even farther from other travelers, consider a stay on Marathon Key at the new The Isla Bella Beach Resort, one of the few properties with sandy beach access in the area.
Fly west and settle into a tropical holiday treat. Hawaii is currently open to vaccinated travelers and has a plethora of activities and experiences to be had, such the famed Hana Highway and the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. You can often find great deals on flights in the autumn and winter off-seasons to cross Hawaii off your bucket list. All the islands are a delight to visit, but the Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa on Oahu is extra lovely in the off-season for family-friendly amenities.
This U.S. territory is pulsing with excitement and welcoming travelers without a passport (and without testing if fully vaccinated) to come and visit during their winter break. Christmas is a big deal in Puerto Rico, but the quieter months of January and February are great times to avoid throngs of tourists. The winter is also outside hurricane season and the time when you can find the cheapest flights — then you can use the rest of your budget to treat yourself to a luxury experience at a resort like Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve.
If you’d like to dip a toe in Asia, Thailand is a gorgeous country with plenty of heat year-round. Have a look at current requirements and restrictions before booking, as the country has been running tourism tests and changing its protocols as new information arises. If you have a bit more than a week to travel, you can have a vacation that includes some urban exploration of the buzzing capital of Bangkok, some mountain time in the north of Chiang Mai and plenty of beach relaxation in and around Phuket. The Surin Hotel is a great splurge in Phuket for fresh, local-style dining options and private beach access.
It’s hard to go wrong when choosing from the fantastic islands in the Caribbean. There is far less tourism in the off-season too. So once you’ve tested for COVID and followed other local guidelines for travel to the island, booking a trip to Aruba can be a real treat in autumn or late winter away from holiday months. Stunning resorts such as the Manchebo Beach Resort & Spa are perfect for a relaxing oceanside getaway.
Where can you go in the winter for sun and snowy weather?
If you don’t always want to travel to the beach, why not try something chilly AND sunny? Here’s a couple of ideas for your winter break vacation that can include a little skiing, a little hot tub and a lot of fun. Do check local restrictions closer to your trip to make sure everything is green-lit before you check into your flight.
Cape Cod, Massachusetts
Cape Cod is a huge draw for summer travelers in the northeast, but there’s still lots to see and do during the quieter wintertime. Beach walks can be wonderful any time of year if you bundle up, and the winter season might just be the only time when the coast is empty. Find a crisp day to grab a hot coffee and enjoy the ocean views from the year-round resorts or holiday homes, which you can book at a fraction of the rates you’d find in the summer.
Switzerland and Germany
While European Christmas and holiday markets are typically crowded, you can curb the crowds and costs with savvy traveling. Some markets open weeks before the actual holidays and stay active beyond the actual festivities and into January. You can sip hot mulled wine in Germany’s Bavaria region or shop through Switzerland’s beautiful rows of stalls in Zurich. Most of Europe is open to U.S. travelers who are tested or vaccinated.
If you’re a bit nervous to take the travel plunge this summer, plenty of wonderful places will be ready to welcome you during winter. Whether you hope to relax on a beach or wander through a winter market wonderland, most likely you’ll be able to find great deals and relaxed COVID travel guidelines — especially if you book soon!
FAQ on finding deals for winter breaks
To find the cheapest flights for winter breaks, consider flying on the actual holiday, such as Thanksgiving or Christmas day. Mid-week travel is also traditionally more affordable than flights on the weekends.
If you’re looking to find sunshine in the winter, considering traveling to places like Central America, the Caribbean and Southeast Asia, which are often warm year-round.
In many parts of the world, summer travel is the most popular since children have time off school and some work places offer additional vacation time. But if you can secure time off over the winter instead, you can avoid crowds, find cheaper flights and snag deals on accommodation during the off-season.
Discover where you can go
Making plans to get back out there? Find out where borders are open with our interactive global map, and sign up to receive email updates when your top destinations reopen.
Want to read more?
- Coronavirus travel guidance: Everything you need to know about domestic travel restrictions and airline cancellation policies.
- Where to find the sun in March: Here’s some specific ideas for the end of winter travel in March, a great time to lock in deals!
- Guide to all-inclusive resorts in Florida: Many parts of Florida are temperate year-round, and resorts offer some discounts and deals after school breaks and the holidays.
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