Winter is a great time to take a much-needed vacation. The holidays can be stressful and depending on where you live, the weather is pretty dreary. Which is why there’s nothing like a little rest and fun adventure to rejuvenate you.
But many popular winter destinations can get pretty pricey. So we’ve rounded up 10 destinations for affordable winter vacations that will get you the rest you need without doing damage to your wallet.
Most affordable winter vacation destinations
1. Austin, Texas
Austin is known for two important things: music and food. It’s the live music capital of the country, so you’ll find tons of great concert venues all around the city. And you can even find a generous amount of free live music if you’re looking to save.
The food scene is just as noteworthy in the capital city of Texas. From the classic Texas barbecue and Tex-Mex joints, to modern fusions of the two in the city’s lively food truck scene, there are so many tasty reasons why Austin is a great cheap winter vacation idea.
Bonus: The temperatures are mild in the winter. So if you’re needing an escape from the snow, this is one of the best cheap winter vacation spots.
2. Charlotte, North Carolina
Mild winters are one of the big perks of heading to Charlotte, and it’s what makes it one of the best winter vacations in the U.S. While you’re enjoying the weather, check out some post-Civil War history at the Levine Museum of the New South, or head to the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Charlotte also has great activities for the kiddos, like the Discovery Place science museum, making it ideal if you’re looking for winter family vacations on a budget.
3. San Diego, California
With consistently perfect temperatures, San Diego is always a great winter escape. You may not be able to take a dip in the water this time of year, but you can still take advantage of the ocean — the whale migration is in the winter, so go whale watching. And don’t forget about the San Diego Zoo or getting your hands on some fish tacos.
Winter is low season in San Diego, which means you can also take advantage of lower-priced hotels.
There’s no better place to escape a harsh winter than Florida. And the best part is there are so many areas to discover depending on your budget.
You can lounge on the beaches or wander through Everglades National Park near Miami. You can head to the Florida Keys for deals on palm-shaded resorts. You can collect seashells on the white-sand beaches of Sanibel Island, and even kayak in the area. Or, you can check out some lesser-known spots in the state, like Caladesi Island, and see if you can spot a tortoise walking around.
5. Boston, Massachusetts
If you’re looking for a real snow-laden winter, Boston is a great place to go. You’ll definitely need to bundle up, but that’s part of the authentic city experience.
Exploring Boston is easy, and you can do most of it on foot. It’s an especially great spot for history buffs (find a good walking tour or check out the history museums). And in the winter, you can also go ice skating at Boston Common, the oldest public park in the U.S., dating back to 1634.
6. Gatlinburg, Tennessee
The Great Smoky Mountains are calling, even in the wintertime, and Gatlinburg is a great place for cheap winter vacations. Not only are the temperatures mild in comparison to many mountain areas in the winter, but Great Smoky National Park does not charge an entrance fee. There is a parking tag fee for all vehicles parking longer than 15 minutes, but it’s nominal. So go hike the famous Appalachian Trail for phenomenal mountain views, or check out the frozen-over waterfalls on the Rainbow Falls Trail without breaking your budget.
And when you get too cold, cozy up by the fire in a woodsy cabin with a glass of Tennessee whiskey or moonshine.
7. Lake Tahoe
Lake Tahoe, which crosses into both California and Nevada, makes for a fantastic, inexpensive winter vacation if you play it right. Find the right flights, check rental car deals and look for resort package offers to stay at one of the lake’s many resorts. Plan ahead, find a good deal, and you’ll be skiing, sledding and snowshoeing all winter long.
And if you need to give your ski legs a break, take a magnificent drive round the 72-mile perimeter of the lake.
8. Big Sky, Montana
If you’re looking for low-cost access to winter mountain sports, head to Montana. Big Sky has 5,850 acres available for skiing and snowboarding in Montana’s Northern Rocky Mountains. It’s not only downright gorgeous, but it’s one of the best places to travel in December on a budget, especially right after Thanksgiving.
If you book your lift tickets and accommodations in advance (and avoid weekends), you’ll find all sorts of great deals for your affordable winter vacation.
9. Santa Fe, New Mexico
If your perfect vacation combines sports with arts and culture, Santa Fe is definitely one of the best winter vacations in the U.S. You’ll be close to multiple ski resorts, where you’ll ride down comfortably in 40-degree weather. Even more enticing is the price: lift tickets in this area are cheaper than most.
When you’re not hitting the powder, you can wander through a number of free art galleries in town, or get some deals on great Southwestern food during the city’s Restaurant Week, if you time your trip right.
10. Denver, Colorado
Colorado is well known for its ski resorts, like Vail, Breckenridge and Keystone, but if you want an affordable winter vacation beyond the slopes, Denver has plenty to offer. Hit the free hiking trails at the world-renowned Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre, walk alongside hundreds of dino tracks at Dinosaur Ridge and check out the magnificent Garden of the Gods for free. Reach those destinations at an affordable rate by booking a car with Avail car sharing. Back in town, many local museums offer free-entry days if you need a break from the winter chill. And you can enjoy tasty suds along the Denver Beer Trail if you want to park the car and kick back a bit.