14 Cheap Trips to Squeeze in Before the Holiday Season
Before the Christmas craziness sets in, book yourself one of these relaxing, scenic, or exciting getaways.
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Late fall leading up to Christmas can be the cheapest, easiest, and best time to travel. You’ll be in luck scoring bargains in Sin City, thanks to thinning crowds and falling temperatures. It might be too cold for that outdoor pool, but plenty of indoor attractions—casinos, shows, restaurants, shopping—are open for business. Stay right on the strip at Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino for under $140 a night. (All rates are current as of this writing but subject to change.) For even cheaper deals, go mid-week, but avoid the National Rodeo Finals in mid-December to save on hotel rates as well.
In between fall foliage and ski seasons just may be one of the most affordable times to visit New York’s Catskills mountains, and the area’s natural beauty is on display no matter when you go. As if you needed more awesome reasons to hop in your car and visit the Catskills, travelers can also enjoy reduced rates at its classic lodges and lovely bed and breakfasts this time of year. For a way to beat the incoming holiday stress, book a relaxing stay at YO1 Wellness Resort and Spa, with rooms around $200. Check out the resort’s yoga, meditation, massage, acupuncture, and other wellness services; plus, enjoy the large indoor pool. Meals are vegetarian, but still oh-so yummy.
Looking to venture abroad? Believe it or not, an international flight to Paris, France, could be cheaper than a domestic one: We found flights to the City of Light for under $300. You’ll need a coat and maybe an umbrella; although Paris doesn’t often see much snow, December is one of the rainiest times of the year. But that’s okay, because, as the saying goes, Paris really is more beautiful in the rain. And though the busy city is never uncrowded, this is Paris’ low season, so great deals on hotels are plenty: Stay at the charming and centrally located Hotel Darcet at the foot of Montmartre for under $90 a night. For tips on must-see Parisian sights, find out how to beat the crowds at popular tourist attractions.
Midwesterners can experience a luxury resort destination just a couple hours’ drive from Chicago, near the shores of Lake Michigan and the Sheboygan River. The American Club is a historic hotel with a spa, state-of-the-art fitness facility, restaurants, a wilderness preserve, and golf courses all set among scenic, rolling hills reminiscent of Scotland. Best of all, rooms in late fall are currently under $200 a night. No matter the season, there’s plenty to do, from hiking or snowshoeing along woodland trails to enjoying gourmet cuisine to practicing yoga in a studio overlooking lovely Wood Lake. And if the name Kohler sounds familiar, it’s the very same as the kitchen and bath company, so also stop by the Kohler Design Center.
Halifax, Nova Scotia
The up-and-coming travel destination of Halifax, Canada, chosen last year as one of TripAdvisor’s Travelers’ Choice Awards: Destinations on the Rise, can be crowded during summer and early fall. But starting in November, visitors can enjoy low season hotel rates, if you’re willing to brave dropping—but not frigid—temperatures and sometimes unpredictable weather. (Nova Scotians go by the old saying, “If you don’t like the weather, wait a minute.”) The historic seaport offers a miles-long waterfront boardwalk, museums, an 1856 citadel, and a burgeoning craft beer and restaurant scene: This is prime seafood territory. Not to mention the stunning natural landscape of the area. Stay at the centrally located Hotel Halifax for under $100 a night. You can also set sail to Halifax onboard one of the 14 cruises you should only take in the fall.
The Hamptons, New York
The drive from New York City to the Hamptons on Long Island can be brutal in summer traffic, but in the off-season is remarkably swift. Couple that with deserted coastline along some of the best beaches in America, perfect for walks with a sweater and scarf; plus near-empty restaurants and reduced hotel prices, and visitors can have a luxury getaway without the stress, crowds, or sticker shock. More and more businesses are staying open as visitors discover the delights of late fall in the Hamptons, so don’t wait: Book a stay in the heart of Sag Harbor at the luxurious Baron’s Cove for under $270 a night.
Palm Springs, California
Whether you want to chill poolside, take in a spa treatment, or explore the area’s natural beauties, Palm Springs, California, has long been a choice destination for relaxation. Just two hours by car from Los Angeles, this desert oasis maintains its 1950s vibe, thanks to one of the largest collections of mid-century modern architecture in the world. Late fall offers comfortable temperatures in the 70s, making it one of the 15 best warm-weather destinations to escape the cold, plus low hotel prices before the winter high season. Stay at the quirky, Hawaiian-themed Caliente Tropics Resort for around $80 a night.
Santa Fe, New Mexico
This vibrant city in New Mexico is a great place to visit year-round, but late fall offers shoulder-season rates before ski season sets in. It’s usually sunny weather will make any temperatures on the chilly side (we’re talking in the 50s) seem warmer. The historic district of “the City Different” features amazing pueblo-style architecture; an artists’ hot spot, visitors must check out the creative shops and galleries of the city. Effortlessly blending old and new, Santa Fe also celebrates its Native American heritage while embracing modern art and cuisine. Plus, it’s one of the 40 affordable destinations for a family vacation. Budget hotel rates under $100 abound; for a touch of historic luxury, included gourmet breakfasts, and a fantastic location, stay at the Madeleine for just around $150.
Winston-Salem, North Carolina
This unexpected travel delight is more than just the home of Wake Forest University, it’s one of the most underrated American cities worth a visit. Originally settled in the 18th century by Moravians from what is now the Czech Republic, Winston-Salem retains its historic charm. There’s also a thriving arts scene, with eclectic galleries, boutiques, and restaurants. And although you might not have heard of North Carolina wine (yet), the area also has over 45 wineries. Divine Llama Vineyards even offers “llama treks,” in which visitors lead their llama on a two-mile hike through the gorgeous countryside before enjoying a wine tasting. Plus, Winston-Salem offers totally affordable hotel rates, many under $100 a night; even the lavish Kimpton Cardinal Hotel, housed in a landmark Art Deco building, is under $150 a night.
If your idea of a pre-holiday getaway is a tropical paradise, hop a flight for less than $250 to Puerto Rico from New York. Late fall visitors avoid peak hurricane season but sneak in before winter high season, so hotel rooms can be had for rock-bottom rates. And with temperatures in the mid-80s, you’ll forget winter is almost upon us. Stay beachfront on a lovely stretch of sand at the Wyndham Grand Rio Mar Puerto Rico Golf and Beach Resort for under $200 a night. The Caribbean island is one of 12 hidden travel gems that are way cheaper in fall.
Whether you’re catching the tail end of fall foliage season or enjoying the first snowfalls of the year, Portland offers a cozy retreat at low season prices this time of year. Settle down by the fire with a belly-warming spiced cocktail, score a table at one of Old Port’s hottest restaurants (usually crowded in summer’s high season), and enjoy the city’s art museums or craft beer breweries. Then snuggle under the covers at luxury bed and breakfast The Danforth for just over $200 a night.
From one Portland to another: The West Coast version offers rock-bottom rates for the rainy season. (Locals, though, attest that the rain is more mist than down-pour.) Portland offers so many great indoor attractions—coffee shops, bookstores, art galleries, theater, restaurants, and museums—that it’s worth the trip. Plus, don’t discount outdoor activities this time of year: The verdant Japanese Gardens are open year-round, and rainfall makes the area’s waterfalls that much more lively. Many top hotels are available for under $200 a night, including the Old Hollywood-inspired Hotel DeLuxe at just over $100.
Just before the snowbirds descend, take a jaunt to the Sunshine State and one of its lesser-touristed Keys for great deals. Flights to Miami are around $200 from New York; but you might be able to score a better deal if you fly into Fort Lauderdale, with flights currently under $150. A short drive away, the sleepy Key of Islamorada offers white sand, gorgeous water, top-notch fishing, and reduced hotel prices this time of year: It just may be one of the beaches that are better in the fall. Stay oceanfront at Pelican Cove Resort for around $200 a night.
Enjoy the Texas city’s lovely River Walk without the summer crowds, prices, or humidity. Late fall’s weather remains very comfortable in the 60s and 70s with low rainfall, so you can enjoy al fresco dining at the many cafes, bars, and restaurants along the riverside pedestrian promenade. Of course, visitors can’t miss San Antonio’s historic sites, including the famed Alamo; after all, it is one of the 16 best American cities for history buffs. Then, get outside the city to enjoy the year-round natural beauty of Texas Hill Country. Many hotels right on the River Walk go for under $200 a night this time of year; stay at the Westin River Walk for under $140.