What with holiday gifts, heating bills and cold-weather wardrobe upgrades, winter can be expensive, to say the least. But you don’t need to shell out a million bucks just to get out of town from November to February. Here, the six best places to travel on a budget this winter.
Visit the beautiful Scandinavian country in its snow season for relatively next to nothing. (Google flights lists round-trip airfare from NYC to Helsinki as $363.) Go skiing in Lapland, see the historic sites of the nation’s capital or celebrate Christmas in the birthplace of Santa (there’s not one but two theme parks dedicated to the jolly ol’ Saint Nick).
For a couple hundred bucks, you can hop on a plane to the Great White North (just don’t forget the puffy coat). Go ice-skating down Ottawa’s five-mile-long frozen canal, experience the Olympics-worthy downhill skiing of Whistler, or take the kids to a hockey game in Toronto. (We spotted flights from NYC for $200.) If putting up your feet by the fire is more your speed, you can toast to the holidays with a glass of Ontario’s famous ice wine (made from grapes that have frozen on the vine for the perfect balance of sweetness and acidity).
But if you’re looking for a warmer getaway, you can hop over to the Mediterranean for around $500 (much less than in the summer months). The catch? You may get a few chilly, rainy days, but you’re also more likely to eat better food and get better deals on hotels, since many of the touristy (read: overpriced) places close in the off-season. Athens Acropolis sans crowds? We’re in.
Similarly, you can score some amazing deals for Barcelona and Madrid when temps are more comfortable and the crowds aren’t as thick—we eyed a round-trip to Madrid for around $380. Or head south to Granada and take in the stunning “palace city” of Alhambra, then ski the Sierra Nevada, Europe’s southernmost ski resort famous for its five-month-long ski season and sunny winter days.
Guys, a trip to the Emerald Isle drops to around $300 round-trip from major airline hubs during winter months. The main reason: You’re gonna have to bundle up (and pack an umbrella). But who cares when you can get to Europe for the price of a winter coat? Warm up in a cozy Irish pub, take in the Cliffs of Moher without running into someone’s selfie stick every five steps, and visit the Guinness storehouse in Dublin minus the hours-long lines.
Low season in China means you can do Asia on a dime (OK, maybe a few dimes), so pack your bags, baby, ’cus we’re headed to the Great Wall. You’ll probably see a bit of snow, so make sure to warm up in one of China’s many hot springs. Also on the itinerary: shopping in Shanghai, delicious dim sum in Hong Kong and one of the world’s most famous snow and ice sculpture festivals in the northern Chinese city of Harbin.