Bahamas (Photo: Thinkstock/iStock)
Travel deals are like arctic foxes. Both love the winter, and both can blend into the background and slip away unnoticed unless you know where to look. It's in the coldest months that deals emerge to lure hibernating travelers from their dens and out into the big, fabulous world. From sunny beaches to snowy urban hot spots, our picks for top bargain destinations this winter offer great reasons to go and unbeatable prices.
How did we choose these destinations? By monitoring trends, industry news, and sale patterns to point you in the direction of places that offer the best bargain values for the coming season. Read on for examples of deals currently available for winter trips. Like all deals, these are sure to expire; however, a little hunting on your part can yield similar results whenever you're ready to book.
Saying that Mexico is a bargain destination this winter is casting a wide net, but with deals in so many popular destinations, it's precisely that abundance that sets it apart for the upcoming season. Plus, new service from multiple airlines should make it easier—and likely less expensive—to go.
Southwest has just started San Antonio–Mexico City service, and Mexican low-cost carrier Volaris begins Ft. Lauderdale–Mexico City service on December 1. Delta kicks off Salt Lake City–Mexico City service on December 20, just debuted flights between Los Angeles and Monterrey on November 2, and also has a new route between Seattle and Puerto Vallarta.
We're seeing sales on airfare, hotels, and activities. Aeromexico and American are running sales, the latter with fares as low as $474 (round-trip, including taxes and fees) between Charlotte, North Carolina, and Cancun. The Preferred Hotel Group has winter discounts such as 57 percent off on rates at the Sandos Cancun Luxury Experience Resort, and Occidental Hotels & Resorts has winter discounts and offers as well, including rates from $86 per night at the all-inclusive Occidental Grand Nuevo Vallarta.
Sure, Montreal gets cold in winter, but the city lights up the short days and chilly nights with festivals galore and prices that endear it to bargain hunters everywhere. Check out Merry Montreal, a holiday party that lasts from mid-December through early January; the al fresco dance party Igloofest in January and February; Montreal en Lumiere, with its free activities and cultural events in late February; and the underground Art Souterrain, during which contemporary art takes over the 20-mile-long Underground City.
As of press time, Air Canada is offering sale rates to Montreal, and United has a limited number of discounted last-minute fares from U.S. departure cities. But the real deals start when you arrive: Through the end of the year (and again from January through April, though it's not yet being advertised), the Sweet Deal package gets you 50 percent off a second night at two dozen hotels around the city.
The islands of the Bahamas are calling out this winter, their siren song an intoxicating combination of beachy vistas and blissful discounts. New nonstop air service on Bahamasair from more U.S. cities, including Baltimore, Newark, and Cincinnati, put the islands closer than ever before. Not to mention that the mild temperatures are worth nearly any price for the millions of snowbound East Coasters looking for an easy escape.
The thing to know about good deals in the Bahamas is that they're everywhere, so you just need to find the one that suits your travel style, interests, and destination preference. For instance, the family-friendly Kids Stay Free deal at the Wyndham Nassau Resort covers two kids up to age 17. Find other deals geared toward boating, fishing, diving, and more on the Bahamas tourism board's website. JetBlue is also featuring Nassau packages, including one with three nights' accommodations and round-trip airfare between Orlando and Nassau from $653 per person.
Yellowstone National Park
In Yellowstone, winter is a forgotten season. And considering how absolutely jam-packed the park is during the summer months, that's priceless for anyone looking to have a bit of the country's most beautiful lands all to themselves. That it's more affordable to visit in winter is really just an added bonus.
When it comes to winter in Yellowstone, it's all about packages that combine stays with activities and meals. Basic options include the Frosty Fun package, which includes lodging, breakfast, and ice-skating and starts at $149 per night based on double occupancy, and the immersive Winter Wildlife Expedition package, which includes four nights' accommodations, most meals, expert guides and field trip transportation, evening programs, and snowshoe and ice skate rentals for $759 per person, based on double occupancy. Visitors who book packages also receive a discounted rate on Yellowstone's winter shuttle from the airport in Bozeman.
In winter, prices on airfare to Europe drop, giving travelers on a budget a window to access cities that tend to have prohibitively pricey airfare the rest of the year. That's certainly the case with Poland this winter. With airfare prices among the lowest in Europe from North America, this just might be the time to explore Eastern Europe.
A number of carriers have sale fares that put flights to both Krakow and Gdansk within reach. European low-cost carrier Air Berlin is advertising $696 fares between New York and Krakow or $705 to Gdansk. Polish airline LOT has sale fares on flights to Gdansk, such as $720 from New York and $935 from Chicago. Lufthansa has just finished a sale (and will likely renew with something similar in the coming weeks) that advertised flights between New York and Krakow for $719 round-trip, including taxes and fees.
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This article was originally published by SmarterTravel under the title Top Five Bargain Destinations for Winter 2014/2015.