For the budget traveler, winter can be the jackpot. Fewer travelers tend to mean better prices, especially outside of holiday periods.
Carnival, Norwegian Cruise Lines, and Royal Caribbean all run reasonably priced cruises from Florida ports that will zip you between Caribbean islands, often for less per day than you'd pay for a hotel room. For instance, among Carnival's current specials is a seven-night, early-December Eastern Caribbean sailing starting at about $450 per person. For two people, that's $128 per day for accommodations, food, and plenty of activities, though you'll need to budget extra for shore excursions and certain onboard amenities. Travelers on a tighter budget might consider three- or five-night cruises, which cost less than the traditional seven-night itineraries. Flying to Florida on the cheap is getting easier every winter with service from low-cost carriers such as JetBlue and Skybus.
Gate 1 Travel wasn't kidding when it named its 14-day Affordable Turkey package. A number of the dates are already sold out, but for the current remaining escorted trips in February, $1,299 will get you round-trip airfare between New York and Istanbul (other departure cities are available for slightly more), 12 nights' accommodations, transfers, 19 meals, and sightseeing. The trip includes stops in Istanbul, Izmir, Ankara, and other cities.
Tulum, on Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, has a lot going for it. It's close enough to nearby Cancun to benefit from the impressive number of airlines with routes from the U.S. (including JetBlue and Spirit), but it feels a world away from the high-rise hotels of Cancun. Home to dramatic seaside Maya ruins and exceptional beaches, Tulum provides travelers with plenty of affordable places to stay and things to do. Ranking first of more than 50 hotels in Tulum in the TripAdvisor popularity index and voted a best bargain in the Caribbean in the 2006 Travelers' Choice Awards, the eleven-room Posada Luna del Sur hotel also scores well on the price scale, with rates that range from $54 to $89 per night.
London and Paris package
Though the exchange rate won't be in your favor, visiting Europe during the traditionally slower winter tourist season and bundling your airfare and hotel costs together by booking a package will go a long way towards making a trip affordable. Air France Holidays' Paris and London travel package includes round-trip airfare, three-night's accommodations in Paris, airfare between Paris and London, and then three more nights' accommodations in London, plus daily breakfast. January and February trips start at $669 with airfare from New York. Go-today.com and EuropeASAP also have affordable multi-city Europe packages for winter.
Particularly around the holidays, Mystic bursts with activity. Lantern Light Tours, Holiday Carnival, and a Festival of Lights are among the myriad festivities planned. Many events are free or included in admission to another Mystic attraction. Family-friendly attractions like the aquarium, seaport, and Mashantucket Pequot Museum and nearby adult-oriented attractions such as the Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods casinos continue to attract winter visitors after the holidays. Mystic.org keeps up on the latest discounts and packages at local hotels. In winter, you can find deals such as Best Western's Sea Everything package, which includes accommodations, breakfast, and attraction passes starting at $149 per night.
Salt Lake City area
Air service from all over the country, eleven ski resorts within an hour's drive, and countless ways to save make Salt Lake City and its environs an ideal ski destination for the budget traveler. Saving money can start the day you arrive through Park City's Quick START program, which offers free same-day lift tickets to skiers who arrive at the resort with a flight boarding pass for that day. That's not the only way to ski free, either. After 3:00 p.m. at Alta Ski Area, you can ski free, though with limited lift access. The Ski Salt Lake Super Pass offers skiers access to four resorts at a discounted rate, plus includes free transportation. There are ways for non-skiers to save too: the Salt Lake Connect Pass bundles admission to a dozen local attractions.
Accommodations can be affordable as well. For instance, at the Chateau Après Lodge, located just a short walk from the Park City Mountain Resort lifts, rates start at $100 per night for two people. Plus, low-cost carriers including Frontier, JetBlue, and Southwest serve Salt Lake City, so affordable airfare is easier to find.
Editor's Note: SmarterTravel.com is published by Smarter Travel Media LLC, a member of the TripAdvisor Media Network