Think winter travel is out of reach? Not so fast. You don’t have to stick it out in the snow this year if you’re willing to get just a little thrifty with your travelling. There are many ways to catch some sunshine without shelling out more than you can afford. Here’s how you can swing a winter getaway.
Don’t discount Europe
Let’s be real. It’s cold in Canada. Any temperature over 0°C can feel downright tropical during winter. If you like exploring cities, visit the Iberian peninsula—think Lisbon in Portugal and Barcelona in Spain—where winters are 30°C warmer than Montreal this time of year. Islands like Madeira, Crete and Malta also stay sunny throughout our Canadian winter. The best part? You’ll pay off-season prices. Bonus: You’ll also beat the crazy summer crowds.
A beach by any other name
If you’re craving a tropical locale but don’t want to burn your budget, look beyond the major beach destinations. A vacation at a big name beach like Cancun can cost top sand dollar, but lesser known towns in Mexico like Troncones offer the same sunshine for a smaller cost. (Just be prepared for a longer commute from the airport!) You’ll save even more if you aren’t set on a room with an ocean view. Staying a few streets away from the beach will leave you with more money for margaritas anyway.
Live like a local
Forget fancy hotels. Rent a room in town where you can experience what it is like to really live in winter paradise. People who rent out their houses on sites like Airbnb can steer you away from tourist traps and share inexpensive ideas for fun. Imagine booking a room in Bridgetown, Barbados, discovering your host is a local club owner, and scoring an invite to hang out with her friends on Saturday night? You’ll see an authentic side of the place when you’re with the people who live there full-time, plus you can save on eating out by making meals at your new home away from home. And if you’re really about that luxury life (infinity pool, anyone?), a day pass for the hotel facilities should be cheaper than staying overnight.
Look for Boxing Week deals
During the holidays, booking last minute can actually save you money! In fact, international flights are 14% cheaper during the week of Boxing Day, according to affordable travel site Skyscanner. Look for discounts with major airlines and snap up the best all inclusive deal you can find. Air Canada Vacations is already offering up to 50% off this year for Boxing Day, and Air Transat, Sunwing and WestJet have all announced boxing day sales in previous years, so stay tuned.
New Year, new place
It’s tempting to want to get away from the chaos of Christmas and New Year’s, but it’s cheaper to fly in January or February than December. Sure, it’ll be hard to watch all those Instagram stories of everyone in Tahiti while you’re snowed in, but you’ll show them! When everyone else is back at work, you’ll be heading off to Costa Rica to swim with the turtles for a fraction of the cost. Plus, you can get the inside scoop about what to do from friends who just came from there.
Here’s an extra tip: The more you plan what you’ll spend (and what you won’t!), the more fun you’ll have when you’re there. While you’re on vacation, you should be taking a break from the daily stressors of your normal life. If you’ve planned in advance, you won’t have to think about what you can afford while you’re there. Plus, having a budget and sticking to it will reduce stress when you return home (because you won’t be waiting for a terrifying credit card bill).
Just remember, all the planning will pay off when you’re poolside sipping coconut water from an actual coconut. Don’t forget to pack sunscreen!