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Top five off-peak destinations for winter 2005/2006


Winter, typically a slow travel season across-the-board, brings great vacation opportunities to destinations around the world. Some of the top destinations for the 2005/2006 winter travel season experience chilly temperatures, while others remain mild. No matter what temperature, all of our top-rated destination picks experience significant price drops during the off-peak winter season, which may make up for any inclement weather.

Besides lower prices and fewer crowds, winter also has several holiday weekends, such as Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Presidents’ Day, which can make for a perfect mini-break.

Our picks for the top five off-peak destinations for winter 2005/2006 are Austin, Texas; Beijing; Germany; Paris; and Vancouver.

Austin, Texas

Known as the live music capital of the world, Austin combines Texas charm with a funky, free-spirited vibe. Winter temperatures range between 60 and 70 degrees in January, February, and March, allowing travelers to take advantage of the city’s many outdoor activities without the oppressive summer heat. The mild temperatures are ideal for running or biking around the Town Lake hike and bike trail, exploring the music venues in the Warehouse District or on Sixth Street, and wandering South Congress Avenue (or SoCo, locally) in search of Tex-Mex and barbecue.

Some of Austin’s best sights are also free. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center offers free admission through January 2006, allowing travelers a cost-effective way to explore the center’s gardens and four miles of nature trails. Fans of Austin City Limits, the popular PBS live-music television program, can take free studio tours on Fridays, while history buffs can browse the LBJ Library and Museum on the University of Texas campus for free.

Winter flights to Austin will be more affordable than ever in 2006. Low-fare giant JetBlue begins flying to Austin from the Northeast in early January, which will likely cause price drops for those routes on competing airlines.

We searched for airfare to Austin to calculate how much you can save by taking advantage of off-peak flights this winter and found savings of up to 46 percent.

Route Winter fare Spring fare
Chicago (O’Hare) to Austin $203 $377
New York (JFK) to Austin $221 $281
Orlando to Austin $291 $361
San Diego to Austin $234 $304

Winter fares are based on travel between February 15 and 22, 2006, and spring fares are based on travel between June 14 and 21, 2006. Prices were found on Travelocity’s website and include taxes and fees.

To find Austin hotel deals, see’s hotel section, or visit the vacation section to check for airfare-and-hotel packages. Most of the major airlines fly to Austin, as well as low-fare carriers ATA, JetBlue, and Southwest. For airfare deals, check’s airfare section. For general information on Austin, including a visitor’s guide, events calendar, and special offers, go to the Austin CVB website. Top


While Beijing’s winter weather is not considered ideal by many travelers, the off-peak prices may make the temperatures more bearable. In winter, Beijing is relatively tourist-free, except, of course, during the weeks of the Chinese New Year celebrations in late January and early February.

Because winter is Beijing’s off-peak travel season, visitors can see major historical sites such as Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, and the Summer Palace without the hordes of tourists that flock to the sites in July and August. After the Chinese New Year celebrations in February, visitors can enjoy the Lantern Festival, in which thousands of lanterns are lit all over the country, and celebrations that include dancing and theater performances. If the winter cold is too much, several hot springs lie not too far from Beijing.

In recent weeks, airlines including Continental and United have offered late fall and winter sales to Beijing, starting at $650 round-trip. Recent Beijing vacation packages started at $699. We compared off-peak winter flights with peak late spring flights and found savings of up to 28 percent.

Route Winter fare Spring fare
Los Angeles to Beijing $846 $1,021
New York (JFK) to Beijing $860 $1,092
Seattle to Beijing $882 $1,098
Washington, D.C. (Dulles), to Beijing $963 $1,343

Winter fares are based on travel between February 15 and 22, 2006, and spring fares are based on travel between June 14 and 21, 2006. Prices were found on Travelocity’s website and include taxes and fees.

Find low fares to Beijing by visiting’s [%75104 | | Asia airfare section %], and look for vacation packages on the [% 46489 | | Asia vacation section %]. For more information on visiting Beijing, see Beijing Portal’s website. Top


Germany, along with the rest of Europe, experiences a dip in tourism during the winter months, particularly after the December Christmas markets close. Airfare prices also drop, so visitors can save money and soak up the atmosphere in Germany’s cities and countryside without contending with the crowds that will return in spring and summer.

This winter, there are noteworthy celebrations and events in several regions of Germany. Many parts of the world will celebrate the 250th anniversary of Mozart’s birth in 2006. A range of musical events will take place in January and February in Germany, including events in Berlin, Dresden, and Munich.

In February, several German cities also stage elaborate Carnival celebrations, complete with parades, music, costumes, and food. Some of the larger celebrations will occur in Berlin, Frankfurt, and Dusseldorf.

Visitors to Berlin may be interested in visiting the newly erected Holocaust memorial (the Foundation Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe). Guided tours in English are available on Sundays for 3€ (about $3.55, depending on exchange rate).

This fall, we’ve seen Germany sales from Icelandair, Lufthansa, and US Airways starting as low as $360 round-trip. We compared off-peak winter flights with prices for flights in the late spring and found savings of up to 61 percent.

Route Winter fare Spring fare
Atlanta to Munich $445 $1,150
Boston to Frankfurt $497 $904
Los Angeles to Munich $553 $1,074
Minneapolis to Frankfurt $515 $1,144

Winter fares are based on travel between February 15 and 22, 2006, and spring fares are based on travel between June 14 and 21, 2006. Prices were found on Travelocity’s website and include taxes and fees.

Keep track of Germany airfare deals by checking’s [% 249862 | | Europe airfare section %]. Check the [% 56863 | | vacation section %] for the latest vacation packages. For more information on traveling to Germany, see the Germany Tourism website. Top


(Editor’s note: Given the recent civil unrest in France, most travelers are probably not thinking of visiting Paris in the near future. However, the specific cultural events mentioned run from mid-December into March 2006, and the money-saving strategies are valid for any winter.)

Like most of Europe, Paris’ off-peak travel season occurs during winter. However, winter is a great time to bundle up and take to the streets. The City of Lights stays alive with both Parisians and tourists in the colder months, sipping cafe au lait at cafes, or ice skating (for free) at the Hotel de Ville.

This winter brings a host of events that make it worthwhile to brave the chilly weather. Through January 9, 2006, Paris’ Picasso Museum is celebrating its twentieth anniversary with Picasso: A Passion for Drawing, an exhibit featuring important pieces from both the Paris and Barcelona Picasso museums. Throughout winter, the Music Museum hosts John Lennon, Unfinished Music, an exhibition commemorating the life and death of the former Beatle.

Also, as seasoned shoppers are likely already aware, stores in Paris hold sales for about six weeks in January and February, with discounts on clothing, shoes, and other items ranging from 30 to 70 percent off.

Travelers seeking romantic Parisian getaways for Valentine’s Day in February should note that vacation-package providers, including Gate1Travel, are likely to offer discounted long-weekend packages. Some Paris hotels may also have special offers for Valentine’s weekend.

We compared Paris vacation packages from three different providers, and found savings of about 49 percent by traveling in February rather than June.

Package Provider Fall rate Summer rate
Airfare from Baltimore, three nights’ accommodations, river cruise Air France Holidays $689 (January 3 through March 28, 2006) $1,259 (May 27 through June 30, 2006)
Airfare from Los Angeles, six nights’ accommodations Expedia $629 (February 15 through 22, 2006) $1,228 (June 14 through 21, 2006)
Airfare from New York, four nights’ accommodations Gate1Travel $449 (December 28, 2005, through March 26, 2006) $869 (May 31 through June 21, 2006)

Prices were on found the providers’ websites. Rates vary by departure date and may be higher for stays over holidays. Expedia rates include taxes and fees.

To find more information about visiting Paris, refer to the website. For airfare deals, browse’s [% 65622 | | Paris airfare section %], and search for airfare-and-hotel deals on the [% 44477 | | Paris vacations section %]. Top


Vancouver was recently ranked the top city in the Americas by a Conde Nast magazine reader survey, based on factors including culture, restaurants, and shopping. The home to the 2010 Winter Olympics offers a variety of activities, both indoor and outdoor, for travelers this winter. And, no matter what idea “Canada in winter” brings to mind, the weather in Vancouver is not inhospitable, with winter temperatures hovering in the 40s.

Visitors to Vancouver can hit the slopes for a day without trekking too far at Grouse Mountain, located 15 minutes from downtown Vancouver. Grouse offers skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, and ice skating along with complimentary “eco-walks” and free admission to an endangered wildlife refuge.

Vancouver boasts the biggest Chinese New Year festival in North America on January 29. Lasting four days, the festival features live entertainment, shopping, and games. Highlights for the 2006 celebration include a lion dance, fortune telling, a cooking contest, and a fashion show. The event is held in the Pacific Coliseum building.

Wine lovers may want to check out the 28th annual Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival, from February 27 through March 8. The 2006 festival features wines from France, with Alsace, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, Languedoc-Roussillon, Loire, and Rhone wines represented. Tickets to the festival go on sale in November and proceeds benefit the Vancouver Playhouse, western Canada’s largest theater company.

By traveling in the off-peak season, we found savings of up to 42 percent per night at several Vancouver B&Bs.

Room type B&B Winter rate Spring rate
Queen room with balcony A Harborview Retreat $135 (October 1, 2005, through May 31, 2006) $187 (June 1 through September 30, 2006)
Garden suite Johnson Heritage House $114 (February 1 through March 31, 2006) $131 (April 1 through June 14, 2006)
Room with private bath Manor Guest House $68 (October 1, 2005, through April 30, 2006) $95 (May 16 through June 30, 2006)
Cabin room Nelson House B&B $83 (December 1, 2005, through February 28, 2006) $142 (April 1 through September 30, 2006)

Prices were on found the providers’ websites in either U.S. or Canadian dollars. When listed in Canadian dollars, rates were converted in early November at

Tourism Vancouver’s website provides a wealth of information about travel to Vancouver, including accommodations, transportation, and activities. Check’s [% 224886 | | U.S. and Canada airfare deals section %] for sale fares to Canada, or browse the [% 56588 | | vacation section %] for bundled packages. Top

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