These Are the Hottest Travel Destinations to Visit This Winter
Looking for somewhere to go during the months of December, January, and February? From snow-capped ski resorts to sunny islands, these are the hottest travel destinations to visit this winter.
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The most searched winter destination on Expedia? If you guessed Cancun, great job. And why wouldn’t it be trending? You’ve got beautiful beaches, loads of family-friendly activities, and awesome oceanfront resorts. December brings festive and fun traditions like light-clad palm trees. Plus, restaurants serve all sorts of traditional Mexican Christmas dishes. It’s not just the holidays that delight in Cancun. New Year’s Eve rings in January with fireworks and seaside fiestas that last until the wee hours of the morning. February means even more fantastic weather and frozen margaritas. Before you buy your plane tickets to Cancun, be sure to avoid the most expensive days to fly.
Craving a tropical getaway? Set your sights on St. Lucia. With Kayak reporting a 197 percent surge in interest, this Eastern Caribbean island nation is on the verge of blowing up. Which shouldn’t be a shock given that it delivers a mix of volcanic coastline, lush rainforests, dramatic mountains, coral reefs, and high-end resorts. Simply put: whether you’re seeking romance or adventure, you’ll find it in St. Lucia. For more seaside inspiration, check out these gorgeous beaches with the clearest water in the world.
Mexico City, Mexico
“In the past, Americans might only consider Cabo or Cancun, but the secret is out about Mexico City,” says Christie Hudson, senior communications manager at Expedia. “This cosmopolitan metropolis has absolutely exploded onto the scene in the past couple of years.” With mouth-watering food, vibrant culture, hip hotels, superb shopping, and tons of historic sites, Mexico City is definitely one to add to your list for the upcoming winter season. Since it’s a major international airport, you can usually score flight deals.
Lately, it seems as though everyone is swooning over Marrakech. Not that we blame ’em. The bustling souks, exquisite gardens, hammams, and enchanting architecture are utterly irresistible. If you’re ready to jump on the bandwagon, but don’t feel like contending with crowds and sky-high prices, pack your bags this winter. Wondering where to stay? Opt for a historic riad turned boutique inn or reserve a room at the ultra-glamorous Royal Mansour, which was built for the King of Morocco.
New York City
While there’s no bad month to experience the Big Apple, the frosty season is particularly magical. Guess that’s why New York City ranks among the most searched winter travel destinations, according to Expedia. The most cherished attractions? The ice skating rink at Rockefeller Center and sledding in Central Park. Need a break from the cold? Wrangle tickets to a Broadway musical, explore world-class museums, or cozy up in a rooftop igloo at 230 Fifth.
Lisbon doesn’t see gray skies or frigid temperatures, in fact, its climate remains pleasant year-round. What used to be the off-season is now drawing an increasing number of visitors who relish strolling the cobbled streets, peeping pastel-colored buildings, admiring palace ruins, and chowing down on the local flavors. “You’ll be able to save on flights and hotels in the winter,” adds Elizabeth Johnsen, owner of Gatesbridge Co, an independent affiliate of Montecito Village Travel, a Virtuoso agency. To conserve even more of your hard-earned cash, read up on the 11 secrets booking companies don’t want you to know.
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
One of the most popular destinations in the Middle East, Dubai dazzles with its modern skyscrapers, including the record-holding Burj Khalifa, luxury shopping, upscale restaurants, and glitzy resorts. For an extra dose of extravagance, time your trip to New Year’s Eve when you can see the spectacular fireworks displays. Make this the most unforgettable vacation ever by shelling out a few extra clams for an underwater suite at Atlantis, The Palm.
A picturesque mountain town with snow-capped peaks and legendary ski resorts, Aspen is the quintessential winter getaway. So, its continued popularity should come as no surprise. Spend your days shredding powder, soaking in the scenic views from the gondola, or sipping mulled wine. Of course, all this comes at a price. Got money to burn? Splurge on Hotel Jerome, part of posh Auberge Resorts Collection. On a budget? Book a more affordable Airbnb.
“Many people frequent Paris in the spring and summer,” reveals Hudson. “The trade-off for picture-perfect weather? Long lines at museums, plus a Metro chock-full of map-toting tourists.” Based on Expedia data, the cheapest month to go to Paris is February. Our advice? Pack your chicest raincoat and let the winter woes fade away in the City of Light. Remember to brush up on these basic French phrases in advance.
Canouan, St. Vincent and the Grenadines
For those aiming to flee the cold and precipitation, Canouan is a wonderful choice. It’s not just the warm temperatures and turquoise tides that make it a dreamy Caribbean hideaway. Canouan also has this remote sensibility and far fewer crowds than many of its touristy neighbors. “Instead of spending your vacation racing to nab pool chairs in the morning, you can laze away the hours by the pool, play golf, and hike,” says Kristen Meckem, an independent travel advisor for Brownell Travel, a Virtuoso agency. Don’t miss these other secret island escapes.
Santa Monica, California
When the snow starts falling in the northeast (and much else of the country), it’s comforting to know that sunny skies, sandy beaches, and farmer’s markets are waiting just a plane ride away in Santa Monica. A top-notch dining scene is yet another compelling reason to visit. Who doesn’t love eating outside? Add to that the buzz-worthy opening of the new Santa Monica Proper Hotel.
San Juan, Puerto Rico
“Puerto Rico was rocked by several hurricanes just two years ago, meaning tourism took a pretty hard hit as well,” explains Hudson. But its capital—which appeals to active types, culture enthusiasts, and beachgoers alike—is very much back in business. On the itinerary? Walking around Old San Juan, an excursion to El Yunque Rainforest, and then unwinding with pina coladas at the Caribe Hilton. “Your dollars still help support an economy that’s in recovery. That’s a bonus on top of enjoying an amazing winter vacation.” Plus, you don’t need to pack your passport for Puerto Rico or these 12 other island vacations you can take without leaving the country.
Florida Keys, Florida
Move over Miami! Snowbirds are flocking to an even hotter spot in the Sunshine State that should certainly be on your radar this winter. The southernmost part of the continental United States, the Florida Keys offer friendly locals, incredible snorkeling, and a leisurely pace. There’s literally nowhere else in the country that will take you further away from the stress of the holidays and the post-Christmas blues!
Recently named the “best city in the world,” Bangkok lures couples, backpackers, families, and adventurers. Thailand’s capital is a whirlwind of ornate palaces, eye-catching shrines, and dizzying night markets. It’s also a foodie paradise with scrumptious (and cheap) eats like papaya salad. With average temperatures in the high 70s, you won’t have to worry about packing a bunch of jackets and scarves—so more space for in your suitcase for souvenirs!
Napa Valley, California
You probably think of Napa Valley as a fall locale, but it’s absolutely blissful between December and February. One of the most romantic honeymoon spots in America, this fabled wine region doesn’t just entice newlyweds. Travelers in the 21+ age range can all savor newly released Cabernet Sauvignon, delicious cuisine, and ample time for relaxation throughout the winter. Just don’t forget to familiarize yourself with these 20 essential wine terms.