What You Need to Know About Winter Getaways

You can still take a cheap trip to Europe or the warm waters of the Caribbean.

1. Put down the snow shovel. Time for a break from Old Man Winter? You're more likely to find a bargain if you're flexible about where you go. "If you have a set destination in mind, it's going to be difficult to make it work at the last minute," says Anne Banas, of SmarterTravel.com (opens in new tab).

2. Fire up the PC. SmarterTravel offers daily alerts, including for social-media sales usually found only on Twitter. For example, go to SmarterTravel to see JetBlue's Web-only Cheap Tuesday sales, which start at $10 (one way) for domestic flights. And from Monday through 8 A.M. Wednesday, the site scours the Internet to bring you news of seats that airlines couldn't sell for the following two weekends. LastMinute.com (opens in new tab) offers packages for most U.S. cities.

3. Pick a package deal. You can often save by booking your airfare and hotel together because travel agencies typically lock in low rates early. For example, if you're keen to see the lights of Paris (or London or Berlin) despite the weather, Go-Today.com (opens in new tab) offers exceptional off-season packages. The site recently offered a trip to Berlin for $999, including round-trip airfare (but excluding airport taxes and fees), six nights at the four-star Park Inn Berlin-Alexanderplatz Hotel, and breakfast daily.

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4. Sip a California red. Napa Valley is a good spot to escape the winter cold. Many hotels are offering rooms at rates that are up to 20% to 30% off their usual rates, plus a three-course meal at one of their Michelin-rated restaurants. For instance, the boutique Maison Fleurie (opens in new tab), in Yountville, Cal., recently offered 25% off for one night, including complimentary wine and hors d'oeuvres, breakfast at the Four Sisters Inn, and bicycles to explore the surrounding area.

5. Go to the islands, mon. Cheapcaribbean.com (opens in new tab) offers all-inclusive vacation packages, which recently ranged from four nights at the three-star Viva Wyndham Fortuna, in the Bahamas, for $349 per person, to five nights at the four-star Frenchman's Reef & Morning Star Marriott Beach Resort, on St. Thomas, for $849 per person. Airfare is more affordable as airlines launch new routes and low-cost carriers expand their Car-ibbean destinations. Starting February 17, JetBlue will fly from New York's JFK airport to the Turks & Caicos islands, and Continental is starting service there from Newark. For accommodations in Turks & Caicos, the luxury West Bay Club resort (opens in new tab) is offering a fourth night free through April 30 if you book three nights.

6. Fly south of the border. New air-service routes to Cozumel, Mexico City and Guadalajara (far from Mexico's troubled border areas), coupled with discounted vacation packages and lower rates on resorts, offer travelers great value. Southwest Airlines is partnering with Mexican carrier Volaris for air service from many West Coast destinations, and Alaska Airlines is launching routes from San Jose and Sacramento to Guadalajara. American Airlines will offer a new route between Chicago and Cozumel beginning February 12. For great deals on lodging, check Apple Vacations (opens in new tab).

Jennifer Schonberger
Staff Writer, Kiplinger's Personal Finance