Top Five Off-Peak Destinations for Winter 2009/2010

by , SmarterTravel Staff
London: Tower Bridge (Photo: iStockphoto/jan kranendonk)
Editor's Note: This story was originally published on November 20, 2009. To see the most recent SmarterTravel articles on related topics, please click on any of the following links: Aer Lingus, airfare, Albuquerque, American, arts and culture, Barcelona, Boston, BritRail, destination, England, festival, Frontier, hotel, Icelandair, Jaclyn Liechti, low season, Madrid, Minneapolis, museum, Ryanair, Scotland, seasonality, Southwest, Spain, sports, United Kingdom, vacation package, Wales, winter.

Winter is a great time to visit some of the most sought-after destinations around the world. While many travelers head to the beach or to popular ski resorts, savvy tourists can take advantage of fewer crowds and off-peak deals for fabulous vacations. And wintertime destinations aren't always snowy; many off-season places experience mild weather year-round, while others make up for dropping temperatures with plenty of activities and festivals to heat things up. Read on for this year's top five off-peak destinations for winter.

Great Britain

While winter may be the rainy season in Great Britain, temperatures in the 30s and 40s provide relief from other blisteringly cold locales. England, Scotland, and Wales have plenty of history and culture indoors as well as out. And this year, Lonely Planet declared London a best value for travelers, so what better time to take advantage than during the off-peak season?

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Traveling to Great Britain is less expensive during the winter, and at press time several airlines were offering sales to London. Icelandair had round-trip fares to London from Boston from $389 and to Glasgow from Seattle from $599 (before taxes and fees). Aer Lingus provided even cheaper rates between New York and Edinburgh or Chicago and Manchester from $364 round-trip (before taxes and fees). When comparing peak and off-peak rates, I found savings up to nearly $500.

Route Off-Peak Rate Peak Rate
New York to London $514 $941
Chicago to Glasgow $778 $1,001
Los Angeles to Cardiff $867 $1,365

Off-peak fares are based on travel from March 1 to March 8; peak fares are based on travel from August 2 to 9. Prices were found on Travelocity and include all taxes and fees.

For travel around the island this winter, BritRail is offering 20 percent off passes purchased by February 15 for travel through February 28. The passes offer flexibility depending on where you want to go and how much time you plan to spend there. Options include London, England, Scotland, all of Britain, or Southeast England, among others.

Once you arrive at your destination, hotel specials won't be difficult to find, no matter which part of Britain you choose. In London, the Sheraton Skyline Hotel offers accommodations from £69 (about $115, check xe.com for current exchange rates) including a full English breakfast. Premier Inns has locations across the country, and is offering a low-season special from December 18 through January 10. Prices start at £29 (about $48) when you book at least 21 days in advance. The Radisson Blu Hotel in Cardiff has "Hot Deals" from £56 per night (about $93) through the end of January.

There are even more ways to save on activities in the United Kingdom. Many museums are free to enter, including the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh; the Kensington Museums in London; and St. Fagans National History Museum in Cardiff, Wales. VisitBritain has a list of other free things to do around the country. And if plans include taking in a West End show in London, the tkts booth offers discount tickets.

For more about travel to Great Britain, see VisitBritain, the national tourism agency.

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