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Published: Aug 10, 2023 19 min read

If you want to escape the cold weather — or just need an excuse to get the family out of the house — a winter trip might be exactly what you need. Many of the best travel destinations in the world are more affordable and less crowded in the winter months, and some are even more enjoyable when the weather cools down.

Below, you’ll find a comprehensive guide on the crème de la crème of winter travel destinations, with options tailored to suit any budget, and some travel tips to boot.

Our Top Picks for Best Places To Travel in Winter

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Best Places To Travel in Winter Reviews

We took a deep dive into the best places to travel within the U.S. and abroad. Whether you’re traveling with kids or as a couple, for a few weeks or just a weekend, you’ll find plenty to do in these four destinations.

Best for Warm Beaches: Tampa, Florida

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  • Warm weather year-round
  • Beautiful beaches
  • Affordable flights from within the U.S.
  • Budget hotels in fall and early winter
  • More expensive in January–April
  • Requires a car to get around
  • Best beaches are outside of the city center

Why we chose it: Tampa, Florida is one of the best places to travel in the U.S. if you want to escape the winter weather and spend some time on the beach without paying for an overseas flight. This underrated city offers tons of family-friendly attractions and top-notch beaches.

Located on Florida’s eastern coast, this is a balmy city that rarely drops below 70 degrees, even in the middle of winter. You’ll also have access to a bunch of nearby beaches, like:

  • Ben T. Davis Beach: A scenic beach close to central Tampa that's about a 10-minute drive from the airport
  • Clearwater Beach: One of the most popular beaches in Florida, with white sand and clear blue water
  • Honeymoon Island Beach: A long, open beach known for its unique shells and two-mile-long sand split

Other attractions in Tampa include Busch Gardens amusement park, the Tampa Riverwalk, ZooTampa at Lowry Park and the Florida Aquarium. You’ll find plenty of upscale restaurants and bars, especially along the waterfront. The local cuisine is heavily inspired by Cuban influence and includes a lot of fresh seafood caught in Tampa Bay.

Hotels and attractions in Tampa offer discounts during the least busy season (September through December). You’ll also miss the humidity and crowds of summertime if you travel in January through April, but prices will be slightly higher. Tampa is a sprawling city and the best beaches are located within an hour of the city center, so you’ll get the most out of your trip if you rent a car.

Best for Couples Trips: Mexico City, Mexico

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  • World-class dining
  • Rich culture of arts and music
  • Cool and dry in the winter months
  • Affordable museums and historical sites
  • Language barrier — some Spanish is recommended
  • High levels of air pollution
  • Heavy traffic

Why we chose it: If you’re planning a romantic getaway but want more adventure and culture than you’d find at an all-inclusive resort, consider Mexico City. This is a relatively affordable destination and one of the best international places to travel if you love food, art and history.

While you’re in Mexico City, you check out:

  • Templo Mayor: The ruins of an ancient temple, which you can tour on foot for around $4
  • La Casa Azul: The “Frida Kahlo Museum” where Frida Kahlo worked and lived
  • Museo Nacional Antropología: A museum of ancient artifacts and history
  • Calle Regina: A street in central Mexico City known for its eclectic street art

There are several paid attractions in Mexico City, but you can also get to know the city just by walking around and taking in the public murals, street stalls, taquerias and tree-lined streets. The climate is warm and sunny year-round, making it one of the best winter honeymoon destinations to escape the cold.

Mexico City has a widespread metro system. You can also get around by taxi or rent a car — just be aware that traffic in this city can get intense.

As with all other international destinations, you'll need a valid passport to enter Mexico. However, you won't need to apply for a visa (unless you plan on staying for more than 180 days).

Best for Family Activities: New Orleans, Louisiana

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  • Plenty of family-friendly attractions
  • Easy to get around without renting a car
  • Dining options for kids and adults
  • Comfortable weather in the winter
  • Can be crowded around Mardi Gras
  • Pricey "tourist traps"
  • Weather can be rainy

Why we chose it: New Orleans is known for being a “party city,” but it's also a great place for a family trip. This bustling city is a great place to introduce kids to new sights, sounds and tastes without leaving the country.

New Orleans has plenty of family-friendly attractions, like museums, parks and walking tours, that people of all ages can enjoy. A few good options include:

  • The French Quarter: A famous New Orleans neighborhood with a rich, multicultural history — there are parts of the neighborhood that aren’t kid-friendly, but a walking tour will help you experience the historic parts and avoid the more raucous streets
  • Audubon Zoo: Located in Uptown New Orleans, the zoo features a Louisiana swamp exhibit and mini water park for kids
  • Audubon Aquarium of the Americas: Reopening in the summer of 2023, the aquarium has exhibits on local marine life and a long walk-through tunnel
  • Mardi Gras World: A family-friendly museum showcasing the world of jazz and Mardi Gras

While you’re in the city, you can also ride a street car, stroll along the waterfront, check out one of the annual art or music festivals and try local delicacies like beignets or jambalaya. New Orleans is busiest between February and May when the weather is still cool and annual events (including Mardi Gras) are taking place. If you’re on a budget, you’ll find better hotel rates and flights between November and January. Be aware that New Orleans is located on the Gulf of Mexico and gets a lot of rain year-round, so you'll want to pack a rain jacket.

Getting around New Orleans is easy with public transportation and ridesharing options. Be sure to keep an eye out for expensive “tourist traps” in the city’s most popular areas. For example, hotels in the French Quarter are much more expensive than in other parts of the city.

Best Natural Hot Springs: Monteverde, Costa Rica

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  • Beautiful natural landscape
  • Plenty of safe, guided tours
  • Great for adventure seekers
  • Underrated destination for hot springs
  • Limited direct travel options
  • Most popular/crowded in the winter
  • Tours can get expensive

Why we chose it: If you’re a nature lover, Monteverde, Costa Rica is one of the best winter destinations to add to your bucket list. This small Costa Rican town offers hikes, zipline tours and — best of all — volcanic hot springs.

Monteverde is a high-altitude town that stands out for its cool weather and wildlife. Because much of the area is protected rainforest, you can see most of Monteverde’s attractions on safe, guided tours.

Unlike other parts of Costa Rica, Monteverde has a cool, rainy climate. It might not be the ideal destination for warm weather lovers, but it does offer one attraction to help you escape the cold: natural hot springs warmed by the Arenal volcano. You can visit the hot springs on a guided tour or stay at one of the hot spring resorts surrounding Monteverde.

While you’re in Monteverde, you’ll also want to check out the Cloud Forest to see waterfalls, walk across hanging bridges and look for the rare Quetzal bird. For more adventurous travelers, Monteverde also offers night hikes and ziplining.

There is no public airport in Monteverde. The easiest way to get there is to fly to nearby San Jose or Liberia, then rent a car or travel by bus. Once you’re in the town, you can get around on foot or take public transportation. Monteverde is busiest in the winter months — Costa Rica’s dry season — but the secluded town feels more like a resort than a bustling city even at the peak of tourist season.

To enter Costa Rica, you'll need a valid passport. You don't need to apply for a visa as long as you're staying for less than 90 days, but you do need to have proof of your return flight ticket ready to show immigration officers upon your arrival.

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Other Places To Travel in Winter We Considered

The four destinations listed above are some of the best places to visit in winter on any budget. But the best winter travel destination for you or your family depends on what you’re looking for. Here are a few more cities we considered you might want to check out this winter.

Washington, D.C.

  • Important historical sites
  • Great stop on an East Coast road trip
  • Cold in the winter
  • Limited outdoor activities

Washington, D.C. is a great destination for history, museums and culture. However, the nation’s capital gets cold in the winter months, so you should be prepared for short, frigid days if you visit between November and February. Washington also offers limited outdoor activities within the city, but there are plenty of indoor activities to enjoy, notably museums and gourmet restaurants.

Prince Edward Island, Canada

  • Ideal for hiking and exploring outdoors
  • Fresh local seafood
  • Cold and dark in mid-winter
  • Direct flights can be expensive

If you’re looking for hiking, skiing and other outdoor adventures, consider Prince Edward Island, Canada. This island off the coast of New Brunswick is home to a gorgeous national park and some of Canada’s best farm-to-fork cuisine. It’s great for skiing and other winter activities, but mid-winter in Canada can be brutally cold. You might want to plan your trip in late fall or early spring to make the most of it.

To get into Canada, you'll need a valid passport.

Cape Charles, Virginia

  • Small town charm
  • Safe, uncrowded beaches
  • Free activities are limited in the winter
  • No direct flights

Cape Charles, Virginia is a charming historic town on the Chesapeake Bay. It offers local seafood, hiking, paddleboarding and beaches — but keep in mind that they'll be too cold to swim in during the winter. As a relatively small town, there are no direct flights to Cape Charles, but it can be a fun weekend getaway or special stop on a New England road trip.

Places To Travel in Winter Guide

If you’re not sure where to go in winter, start by considering the type of trip you want to take. Are you hoping to get away from the cold, or do you want a vacation in a winter wonderland? Either way, airports tend to be less crowded (except during the holidays), and hotels and attractions tend to offer their lowest rates in the winter months.

A winter vacation also comes with its challenges. Here’s a quick guide on the pros and cons, plus a few tips to help you make the most of your trip.

The pros of traveling in the winter

Most people travel during the summer months when the weather is warm and kids are out of school. Winter travel is less common but has its perks, especially for those who prefer to avoid crowds of tourists. November to March is often considered the off-peak travel season, even in some of the most popular winter travel destinations. The upsides of traveling in the off-peak season include:

  • Cheaper flights: Airlines offer lower rates during less busy times. Booking a cheap flight in the winter is a good way to maximize your benefits with some of the best airline rewards programs.
  • Fewer crowds: If you want to avoid the crowds in your favorite museum or national park, it might be worth it to deal with a little cold weather.
  • Affordable rooms and attractions: Like airlines, popular attractions and hotels generally lower their prices during the winter. Take advantage of the best hotel rewards to get the lowest possible room rates on your trip.
  • Winter activities: While you might not be able to tan or surf in the winter in the Northern Hemisphere, you can take advantage of fun winter activities like skiing, sledding and ice skating.
  • Comfortable weather: Some of the best places to travel in the winter can be uncomfortably hot or humid in the summer, including Tampa, Florida and Monteverde, Costa Rica. By traveling to these locations in the winter months, you can enjoy them when they're cooler, all while escaping the cold if you live in a temperate place.

The cons of traveling in the winter

While traveling in the winter can help you to avoid the high prices, crowds and heat of summer travel, it also has its downsides. Those include:

  • Limited outdoor activities: If you’re traveling in the Northern Hemisphere, you might have to deal with rain, snow or clouds, which can limit your activity options.
  • Higher chance of canceled flights: Even the best airlines have to cancel flights when winter storms get out of hand.
  • Fewer festivals and special events: A lot of popular travel destinations save their special events for the warmer months. However, some of the best places to visit during winter offer holiday celebrations such as Christmas fairs or Mardi Gras parades.
  • Higher prices around the holidays: Although winter travel is generally cheaper and less busy, you might encounter more crowds and higher prices if you travel around the holidays when many people are visiting family.

Winter travel essentials

Wherever you’re traveling, there are a few essentials you’ll need to prepare for your winter trip, including:

  • Winter clothing: Even if you’re traveling to a warm destination, make sure you pack a jacket and a few warm layers. Flights can get delayed by winter storms, so you might end up staying in a cold area for longer than expected.
  • Games, books or other entertainment: Bring something to entertain yourself and your family during downtime. Again, it’s always smart to be prepared for a flight delay, especially during the winter.
  • Flexible schedule: Plan on returning from your trip a day or two before you need to be back at work or school. A buffer day between the end of your trip and your normal schedule can help to make delays less stressful.

Winter season travel tips

Planning a successful winter trip all comes down to staying warm and being prepared. Here are a few tips to help your winter vacation go smoothly.

Layer your clothing

If you’re wondering how to pack clothes for winter travel, here’s a tip: Don’t pack only for your destination. You should be prepared for cold weather while you’re traveling in case you face delays. Wearing layers on your flight is also a great way to keep the bulkiest clothes out of your luggage and stay warm on the tarmac, bus or tram. If you're traveling to a warmer place, you can shed your layers once you arrive.

Stay moisturized

Cold, dry air can lead to chapped skin. Be sure to pack plenty of lip balm and moisturizer on your trip. On top of that, staying hydrated on your flight can help prevent chapped lips and dry skin. Some of the best hotels in winter destinations offer complimentary lotion, but you should still pack your own to be prepared.

Be careful on slippery sidewalks and roads

If you’re traveling to a colder climate than where you live, be sure to pack a good pair of winter shoes. Hiking boots or snow boots with grippy soles can help prevent slipping. Even with the right footwear, you should always exercise caution when walking in freezing weather.

Purchase travel insurance

While you’re planning your trip, take some time to look up the best travel insurance companies. Travel insurance can cover you in case your flight is delayed or canceled. It can also provide medical coverage if you’re traveling overseas.

Travel insurance is a good idea no matter when you’re traveling, but it can be especially helpful in the winter when snow and ice storms increase the risk of canceled flights.

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Places To Travel in Winter FAQ

Where is the best place to go in winter?

The best options for winter travel typically fall into two categories: destinations that are too hot and crowded in the summer (and pleasant during the off season), and those that offer ample cold-friendly activities (like skiing and sledding).

What are the best winter honeymoon destinations?

If you're planning a romantic getaway or honeymoon in the winter, consider an area with a balmy climate like southern Mexico or Costa Rica. These destinations are often cooler and dryer in the winter months but still warm enough to relax on the beach.

How to pack clothes for winter travel

Packing for a winter trip is all about the layers. If you're traveling to a warmer destination, be sure to wear a coat over your clothes in case you're delayed somewhere colder. If you're traveling somewhere cold and snowy, don't forget a good pair of hiking boots and plenty of moisturizer.

How We Chose the Best Places To Travel in Winter

To choose the best places to travel in the winter, we looked into a few popular travel destinations and ranked them on factors like:

  • Climate: Some winter travel destinations are renowned for their snowy weather and winter activities. However, this article focused mainly on destinations that have a temperate climate in the winter months.
  • Winter discounts: We looked for winter travel destinations that offer hotel or attraction discounts in the off-season.
  • Accessibility: Winter travelers often have less time for their vacation than summer travelers. We looked for destinations that can be easily reached from the continental U.S. so you won’t waste too much time traveling there.
  • Variety of attractions: We looked for destinations that offer a range of attractions for families, couples, friend groups and solo travelers.
  • Affordability: While some of the cities on this list are more affordable than others, we sought out destinations that you can enjoy on any budget.

Summary of Money’s Best Places To Travel in Winter