QOTW: What are your best tips for planning winter vacations on a budget? 🛫

QOTW: What are your best tips for planning winter vacations on a budget? :flight_departure:
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#1

Sick of the snow and dreaming of a tropical getaway? :desert_island: Winter travel can be a pricy, but crucial part of maintaining your sanity until spring rolls around. And while your wallet may still be recovering from holiday expenses, a rejuvenating vacation doesn’t need to break the bank :money_with_wings:

What are your best tips for taking winter trips on a budget? :snowflake:

Do you…

  • Choose less popular destinations whose hospitality prices aren’t driven up by tons of tourists?
  • Take advantage of credit card rewards and perks, like free checked bags?
  • Use public transit instead of renting a car or splurging on Lyfts?

Let us know your hacks for affordable winter travel here! :snowboarder:


#2

When I lived in Alaska, GETTING OUT was pretty much essential by February. Fortunately there were regular, not-too-expensive direct flights to Hawaii or even Seattle, because cold and wet is at least a change from dark and freezing.

Now I look for closer-to-home travel deals on sites like TravelZoo or Groupon. Driving obviously cuts the cost, and fortunately there are plenty of options within a two-hour drive of LA. We’ve gotten some great deals by booking Sunday night instead of Saturday, even on three-day weekends that you think would be in high demand (MLKJr Day and President’s Day, in particular).


#3

#4

Although I don’t live in a cold place anymore, my go-to money-saving tip is to convince friends to travel with us. Easiest way to cut down on Airbnb or hotel costs. Depending on the destination, this can also mean buying drinks/groceries and making at least one meal at the Airbnb, which also saves money.


#5

Love that, @ajayakumar. When my friends and I went to Sundance last winter, five of us split a one-bedroom condo with a pull-out couch and a recliner that one person very gamely slept in all week (seriously, I think we still owe him for that). This amounted to a massive savings, considering how much hotel rooms can go for during that week in Park City. We also loaded the kitchen up with groceries and only splurged on one fancy meal out as a group.

This felt especially worthwhile since we were there for a special event and not so much for relaxation, which would’ve been tough with so little personal space and time. Of course YMMV - I emerged from that trip feeling appreciative and somewhat impressed that no one in our group had gotten cranky or sick of one another. Choose your travel buddies wisely!


#6

@lweston I agree with your approach of “just get out,” even if it’s not heading for a sunny destination. Simply getting a change of scenery for a long weekend is rejuvenating! When everyone else is heading for the sun or the ski slopes, you can find bargains at less-typical destinations.

And if you’re really adventurous, you can try one of the true last-minute websites … last-minute flights and “excess inventory” hotel rooms for cheap. Those deals might be to a destination you hadn’t considered but it could be fun anyway.

If you’re dying for a change and need to be super-frugal, even a short drive to a nearby city and a one-night stay can work. Pick out a route that has some attractions along the way (if they’re free, even better!), take a cooler with snacks and a lunch, find a cheap hotel that offers a decent breakfast for free. If you plan it out correctly, you only have to pay for gas, the room and dinner. This type of super-cheap short break can save your sanity if you’re trying to travel for cheap with little kids — they can’t tolerate a long car trip anyway and will likely be very happy if the hotel simply offers a pool to play in.


#7

One of my secret frugality weapons is my friend Marla, who is amazing at finding travel deals – and at convincing a bunch of her friends to travel with her! We’ve rented 1) an RV together for a Dead festival, 2) most of a motel in Joshua Tree to celebrate her birthday and 3) a big house together in Lake Arrowhead for Memorial Day for many years. She’s also the one who recommended a wonderful casa particular [private B&B] for $30 a night in Havana and a charming colonial hotel for even less in Oaxaca. So I guess my tip is find someone who knows how to travel cheap but well and travel with them, or at least where they recommend!


#8

We’re fortunate to live quite close to the Olympic National Park where there’s a ton of fun outdoor stuff to do all year round.

When I really need to get away but don’t want to spend tons of money, I can usually find some great off-season rates at area lodges within a few hour drive, often including breakfast. We can play in the snow, hike, have beach bonfires, etc. w/o the crowds!

Taking a cooler of snacks (like @khinson suggested) is super helpful. If we don’t, we generally end up stopping at weird places (which can definitely be it’s own kind of fun!) and spending way too much for what we get.


#9

For me, the best way to save money on winter (or anytime of year) travel is by cashing in my credit card rewards. Last year, my husband and I took our two kids skiing in Utah with several other families and we paid for the cross-country flights entirely on points and used straight cash-back rewards to pay down most of the cost of the Home Away rental. Ski trips are never much of a bargain but knocking out the cost of airfare and reducing the overall lodging made a huge difference. We also had a kitchen in the condo we rented so breakfast, dinner and snacks were mostly eaten there.

This year, we are taking them skiing in Vermont instead, mostly because its a LOT cheaper than skiing out West. My kids don’t know the difference and we will still have the exact same experience (snow, skiing, snowmen, mountains, etc) but at a fraction of the cost.

I also own two hotel credit cards which each give me one night free annually at a low to mid-range hotel in their portfolio. We used one night over Thanksgiving towards a three night stay in Orlando at a Residence Inn which also came with a huge free breakfast buffet. Last time we went to Orlando we were stuck paying for hotel breakfasts which is always overpriced and underwhelming. Between the one free night and three free hotel breakfasts for a family of four, we saved a ton. Oh yeah, there was a free shuttle to the parks too so no parking fees. I guess my tip is use points and try to eat for free :slight_smile:


#10

@lweston - I’ve never used Groupon for travel and thought I’d take a look after reading your post. I’m seeing lots of great deals, which is very dangerous during No-Spend February!

Still happy for this resource - thanks!