Stress-Free tips for Getting the Most out of Winter Travel

Travel after the holidays during the middle of winter (and before spring break) can be a good time to avoid crowds and save money. The actual process of travel can of course be complicated by unpredictable weather, but the prepared traveler can enjoy a top destination at a fraction of the “in-season” cost.

Where to go

Many travelers want to escape the sub-zero temperatures that often come with late January and February. Warm-weather destinations such as Miami are very popular, but they don’t have to break the bank. Four-star hotels can be had for $100 a night or less through Getaroom.com’s unpublished rates, which are considerably less than typical rates during the winter holiday’s or spring break.

While Las Vegas is surprisingly cold in the winter, the action and excitement remain the same. The end of January and February are very slow times, and travelers willing to travel from Sunday to Thursday can grab top hotels at very low rates. If your particular timeframe seems abnormally high, then check the convention schedule to see if an influx of people is driving up prices.

If skiing is your thing, then consider alternative towns in Colorado or New England that don’t see the traffic of Aspen, Colorado or Killington in Vermont. A crowded mountain can be a pain, and you might find the perfect black diamond slopes at a lesser known resort.

San Francisco holds to a fairly consistent temperature, and can be a real bargain during mid-winter. Even if the weather is chilly, San Francisco offers delicious chowder, coffee, and other foods that are perfect for bridge gazing.

Planning the flights

It’s advisable to plan your flight route wisely if you are heading towards warm or even moderate climes. If your final destination is south Florida, then routing through Atlanta or Houston is a safer bet than Detroit or Cleveland. Use technology to your advantage, especially if booking a spur-of-the-moment trip. Look at the weather in your connecting city and the surrounding 100-mile area to see if you can spot any likely interruptions. Being stranded for 24 hours out of a four-day trip is not fun. Consider paying more for the better connection to avoid any chance of a disastrous interruption. 

You should also look at alternate airports which are much less crowded and can sometimes be cheaper due to lower demand. Examples include Ontario International in California for LA-area travel, TF Green for those going south or west of Boston, and Oakland International for the Bay Area which does not have the fog problems found at SFO.

Channel your inner Boy or Girl Scout (be prepared)
You can control your layover, but not where your plane is coming from. If weather delays happen, then act quickly by calling the airline to rebook. Don’t wait in a customer service line at the terminal. The possibility of delays means you should always pack an extra change of clothes, basic toiletries, and some snacks. If your delay will be lengthy but you can’t leave the airport due to standby status, then strongly consider an airport lounge pass. Spending $40 for snacks, a place to charge your stuff and maybe even a shower is money well spent.

If your winter plans involve hitting the slopes, then carefully look at the costs of flying with your snow board or skis versus the price of rentals. Some airlines such as Southwest offer free or discounted baggage fee prices for sports equipment. Do some quick research to help keep your costs down.

Traveling during the winter does not need to be a chore. By carefully planning both your destination and route, you can save cash and hopefully avoid some of the common problems that plague cold-season travel.