The leaves have fallen, the clocks have turned, and the winter coats are slowly starting to emerge from our closest. But there’s no reason to stick around and watch the mornings become colder by the minute. Besides, who actually enjoys a polar vortex?
Lucky for us, there are some great travel destinations that are easy to get to, cheap when you land, and (obviously) no down jacket is required. So bring the flip flops and sun dresses back into your wardrobe; we have some winter escaping to do!
Forget the theme rides in Disney and downtown clubs in Miami. Jacksonville is the perfect mix of urban and nature energy at a lower cost. Check out the Museum of Science and History (only $5 on Fridays!) and a brewery tour one day, then hit one of their beautiful beaches to fish, kayaking, or simply soak in the sun on the next. When it comes to beach towns, Jacksonville Beach, Atlantic Beach and Neptune Beach are all affordable, hidden gems— full of dive bars, live music, and of course a beautiful view. This Hampton Inn is both steps away from the beach and wallet-friendly.
Gulf Shores, Alabama
Who knew that when it comes to a vacation, Alabama really has it all? From white-sand beaches to fresh seafood, water-sports galore, and hotels with names like Island Shores By Youngs Sun Coast and Crystal Shores, you’ll forget that mittens and gloves ever existed! Golf is another big attraction here, so the affordable Glenlakes Golf Club is a must-stop for tourists. The Gulf State Park Fishing Pier is the longest fishing pier in the entire Gulf of Mexico; permits to fish are only $9, and an entry to see the sights in a mere four bucks.
Nothing says ‘escape the impending winter chill’ like going to a desert paradise. Plus, Phoenix’s abundance of free museums and outdoor movies, beautiful hikes, and downtown art walks make this a must-stop for anyone itching to get away. Hotels in and near the city start at $41, and the average temperatures are around 76 degrees Fahrenheit —two numbers we can’t not love. There are a number of great places to stay in the heart of downtown Phoenix, making getting around by foot a breeze.
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Treat yourself to a tropic paradise that’s a stone’s throw away from the U.S. In Puerto Rico, you can do and see a lot without spending your savings. Grab your meals from local kiosks on the beach (like Luqillo), hike in El Yunque National Forest, or sit yourself on on a beautiful beach for the afternoon. Tune in to some history and walk around Old San Juan before grabbing a room that’s steps away from the dock. Wake up, rent a bike, and cruise in Piñones along the nature boardwalk.
This eclectic and energetic city that’s nestled on the Caribbean sea has everything you need to escape the winter blues. Playa Tortugas and Playa Delfines are two free beaches with relaxed atmospheres, less crowds, and a more local-vibe. Spend the day with iguanas (we’re serious) at the El Rey Ruins, which is located on Cancun Island. For grub, check out the Cancun Bull Ring, which have an abundance of “cantinas” — reasonably-priced bar-restaurants with authentic and delicious Mexican fare. The best part is hotels are just as reasonable as the local food, and there’s even a cozy yacht club that doubles as a hotel.
Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica
There’s no better time to experience Pura Vida then when it’s miserably cold back at home. This corner of Costa Rica is a dream for anyone who enjoys surfing, yoga, eco-friendly tourism, and organic food. Plus, there’s all the lodging anyone could need steps from the shore (and most hotels are very reasonably priced). Make sure to take some time outside the ocean to see the unique wildlife Costa Rica boasts, including sloths, anteaters, and sea turtles (from a respectful distance, of course).