Winter Travel: Can Your Dream Vacation Be on the Horizon?
Winter travel is something most of us begrudgingly undertake. We brave the cold, the snow, the sleet, and face down Jack Frost himself to get from point A to point B. Nearly 100 million Americans hit the roads or took to the skies to catch up with family over the 2017 holiday season.
But once the family obligations are done, travelers—including you—could be taking advantage of the colder weather to do something epic: Actually go on vacation. Here’s why winter travel really does reign supreme, a few tips on saving big, and just how you can afford to celebrate the holidays and go on your own vacation all at once.
Where to Travel in Winter
What are the best places to travel in winter? You can literally go anywhere. Have a hankering for tropical weather? Great, go to Tahiti to soak up the heat or hit Miami Beach, where the sun is always shining.
Want something a little more temperate? Try the American South, where you can rock a t-shirt during daytime temperatures and cuddle up at night around a campfire when the mercury starts to dip.
Want to be a snow bunny? The Rockies, the Alps, the mountains in Japan, and New England are all calling your name.
That’s the beauty of winter travel. It’s the only time you can choose to do any of those things—or all those things—in the same week or month. If you can’t decide what to do, that’s not a problem! Some winter travel destinations, like California , give you the ability to go surfing and skiing in one day (this is called pulling a “California Double”). And really, winter vacation doesn’t get much better than that.
How Shoulder Season Could Be Your New Budget-Friendly Friend
Because the winter season is often considered the “off” or “shoulder” season for many destinations, hotels, airlines, and attractions often lower their prices, making your experience potentially far less expensive.
Just do your best to avoid major holiday weekends like Martin Luther King Day, Valentine’s Day week, and President’s Day weekend, which are often popular travel weekends and may come with higher fees.
If you can be flexible with your travel dates, you could take advantage of shoulder season even more. Many hotels offer steep discounts for mid-week travel , so if you can, try to book a Monday-to-Friday trip to maximize your hotel savings.
Setting up Fare Alerts
To save even more money, make sure to stay on the lookout for deals. The easiest way to do this is to set up fare alerts for flights on sites like Google Flights, Kayak, and Fare Compare. As a thrifty traveler, you could also set up price alerts for hotels and car rentals on sites like Expedia, too.
And, if you’re looking to travel this winter, you better start booking your travels now. According to a study by CheapAir , which analyzed nearly 3 million trips, the best way to save on airfare is to book your trip is roughly 70 days in advance. This falls within the “Prime Booking Window,” which CheapAir explained is about 121 to 21 days prior to the departure date.
Being a Loyal Traveler
Nobody loves rewards quite like the travel industry. Hotels, airlines, credit cards, car rental agencies, and more simply love to reward their loyal customers with points, discounts, and insider deals.
So, if possible, try to always fly with the same airline and sign up for that company’s frequent flier program. That way, you can book your next winter vacation getaway on points instead.
If you happen to have to fly with someone different or stay somewhere new, check if they offer discounts via AAA, military or AARP, which can save you a few dollars on your stays. For example, Hilton Garden Inn currently offers up to 10% off for AAA members and seniors, as well as an exclusive family rate for veterans and active duty military.
Thinking about Forgoing Hotels Altogether
Homeshare sites like Airbnb and HomeAway are all the rage right now. In fact, Airbnb boasts more than 4 million homes worldwide, meaning there are plenty of options to choose from. These homes can run cheaper than hotel rooms, but more than that they may also offer amenities that could help you save.
For example, you could choose to cook your breakfasts each day on a trip rather than go out. Or the homeowner may be willing to share their washer and dryer with you so you can save a few bucks on laundry, too. Just do a cost analysis and figure out if you’re willing to give up hotel amenities like housekeeping and room service before you sign up.
Affording the Winter Vacation of Your Dreams
Winter travel, even this year, isn’t out of reach. All you need to do is pick your spot, come up with a budget, and book your tickets. To help you get to your dream destination right now, think about taking out a personal loan with SoFi.
If you were planning on charging up a high-interest credit card to fund your getaway, a personal loan can give you the flexibility to pay back your vacation fund over time, often at lower interest rates than credit cards, so you could spend less money in interest. Take a look at our personal loan calculator to see an estimate.
So, go ahead: grab your skis, your sunscreen, or your hiking boots, and get going somewhere.
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