Best Cheap Winter Vacations
The holidays are often the most expensive time to travel. But if you choose your destinations correctly, they could also be a great time to get more bang for your buck.
U.S. News and World Report rounded out the best winter vacation destinations that were gentle on your wallet. Some are great for skiing on (relatively) little money. Others are tropical paradises that provide an affordable escape from the cold.
Whatever you're looking for, you'll find inspiration for a perfect winter trip.
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10. Cozumel, Mexico
A small island off the coast of Cancun, Cozumel is a popular stop for cruise ships. The island has access to an impressive barrier reef, where you can dive or snorkel in balmy year-round weather. The beach is another draw for international and national tourists who want to end or start the year with a breath of fresh air.
This part of Mexico isn't the cheapest, but it is quite affordable for someone earning in dollars. And if you need to save money, you can always rely on some amazing street tacos.
Where to stay: Intercontinental Presidente Cozumel Resort Spa, An IHG Hotel
*Rankings come from U.S. News and World Report's "Best Affordable Winter Vacations" list.
9. Santa Fe, New Mexico
Winter is the best time to visit New Mexico. Santa Fe's usual scorching temperatures calm down and sometimes get low enough for some snow. Visitors can enjoy the natural beauty of the surrounding desert without worrying about a heat stroke.
You'll also be near some ski resorts that aren't as expensive as their more popular counterparts in Utah and Colorado.
Where to stay: Inn & Spa at Loretto
8. San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
There is no bad time to visit this gorgeous Pueblo Magico, which we'll venture to say is the prettiest in all of Mexico. But the town is at its most magical during the holidays, when it is adorned with lights and the spirit of festivity.
Christmas is a huge deal in Mexico, a devoutly Catholic country, so take advantage of this time to stroll through the colorful streets of San Miguel de Allende, visit artisan workshops and people-watch in the main square.
Where to stay: Hacienda el Santuario
7. Lake Tahoe, California and Nevada
With crystal clear waters hiding smooth boulders underneath, Lake Tahoe is one of America's most idyllic summer destinations. But those in the know also set their eyes on it for their winter travels.
You won't get to cool off by taking a dip in the lake. Still, you'll get to enjoy ice skating, cross-country skiing and sledding. And the scenery will be as ideal as ever. To save money, look for resort packages that include winter activities.
Where to stay: Edgewood Tahoe
6. Quebec City, Canada
We have traveled far and wide (wink wink) and we have never seen a more postcard-perfect winter wonderland than Quebec City. As you walk around the European-style old city, you'll cross narrow streets twinkling in the Christmas lights and covered in perfect snow.
Will it be cold? Of course. But you'll hardly notice it as you sip hot wine at a bistro and look out the window to this impossibly romantic city. You'll also get to try some other delicious winter treats at the large Christmas market right in the heart of Old Quebec.
Where to stay: Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac
5. Taos, New Mexico
Another New Mexican destination that's perfect in the winter, Taos offers skiing, natural hot springs and the chance to see snow in the desert. Like Santa Fe, it's also free of the smoldering heat that it deals with for most of the year.
Of course, you can't miss out on the chance to visit the Taos Pueblos, a UNESCO World Heritage Site marked by traditional adobe buildings typical of the Pueblo people.
Where to stay: The Historic Taos Inn
4. Tulum, Mexico
Tulum may not be the peaceful fishing village it was ten years ago, but it's still a worthy destination. After all, not many other places offer Maya ruins overlooking the pale blue sea. Sure, you'll have to deal with the boho-chic crowd that comes here to pretend to be spiritual, but if you ignore them you can do some seriously cool things like swim in cenotes (underground sink holes), learn about Maya culture and visit Xcaret Group's fun eco-amusement parks.
Where to stay: Azulik
Apparently, U.S. News and World Report couldn't choose just one place in Jamaica to name for its list, so it added the entire country — and we don't blame them. It seems like every corner of this island is beautiful, from its white-sand beaches to its hidden jungle waterfalls to its cities filled with music.
Montego Bay, Ocho Rios and Negril are three of the most popular spots to visit, and we highly recommend them all.
Where to stay: Jewel Grande Montego Bay Resort and Spa
2. Turks and Caicos
If you love marine life, you'll find a dream destination in Turks and Caicos. This British territory has access to one of the largest barrier reefs in the world, so diving and snorkeling here guarantee numerous encounters with tropical fish — and, yes, maybe a shark or two.
Providenciales is the territory's most popular island, which translates to higher prices, especially near the famed Grace Bay Beach. For an equally beautiful but less expensive vacation, set your eyes on one of the other islands and on less frequented spots.
Where to stay: Wymara Hotel & Villas
1. Merida, Mexico
With three places on the list, Mexico wins the overall price for the best affordable winter destination. But if you want a city that has yet to be invaded by masses of tourists looking for cheap beer and good food, look no further than Merida.
The capital of the Yucatan Peninsula, Merida is fairly close to the sea and to nature preserves, so you'll get the best of the peninsula without having to deal with Cancun crowds and prices. An underrated destination, the city offers museums, a superb culinary scene and several local markets where you'll find gorgeous souvenirs.
Where to stay: Cigno Hotel Boutique