CBSN

Affordable Winter Vacations

image
AP
January and February is a great time to get away because there are a lot of travel deals being offered for everywhere from the slopes to the beaches.

The period right after Christmas is wonderful time for bargains, says "Travel & Leisure" associate editor Laura Begley.

The magazine's January issue has a list of great winter destinations and she shares a few Thursday on The Early Show.

Many of the destinations she mentioned will have good deals only until about the last week of February, which is the beginning of spring break for many schools.

Here are six destinations you may want to consider:

Jamaica

Many islands feel a bit sanitized, but Jamaica has an edge, history, and depth. It also has lots of sunshine, countless white-sand beaches, villages, resorts to suit every taste, and more direct flights from major U.S. cities than any other.

This Caribbean island boasts beautiful waterfalls, beaches, and tropical rainforests. And it offers better rates than most of its Caribbean neighbors.

Try river-rafting on the Martha Brae River or tour an old coffee plantation, such as the Old Tavern Coffee Estate

Fun affordable hotels include: Jake's, ($115/night) which has thatched-roof huts in a riot of colors, and Rockhouse, ($100/night) which has 28 rooms carved into Negril caves.

Miami

Winter is high season in Miami. You can save on airfare by flying into nearby Fort Lauderdale airport, a 40-minute drive from South Beach.

People party up and down Ocean Drive at places like the Nikki Beach Club, which rents out four-poster beds on the sand.

Visit up-and-coming areas in Miami such as Little Havana - you'll find cafes that play traditional Cuban music, funk, and rock.

The big news is that a couple of major hipster hoteliers have taken over South Beach hotels: Ian Schrager at the Shore Club (where he has opened an outpost of L.A.'s Skybar--more mattresses for lounging while you drink!), and a few doors down, Andre Balazs at the Raleigh.

There are affordable hotels including the Clinton Hotel ($140/night)
the Lily Guest House ($125/night), and the Aqua (from $90/night), where Begley herself stayed two weekends ago.

Shopping is fantastic in Miami from eclectic furniture and art shops to hip, big-name stores in nearby Coral Gables.

Nearby Everglades National Park is a great place to see such animals as alligators, bobcats, and 300 species of birds. The Everglades comprises 1.5 million acres. Winter is a perfect time to visit the Everglades because the mosquitoes decamp and many of the creatures come out of their hiding places.

Utah

Utah offers a variety of different ski/snowboarding experiences. If you are looking for undisturbed powder, Powder Mountain has almost 5,500 acres of fluffy snow.

A downhill purist will find Snowbasin great for downhill skiing with a 2,940-foot vertical drop.

For a classic skiing experience, Alta offers groomed trails and very few snowboarders. There are also 200 acres of lighted terrain for for night skiing at Brighton.

Utah is cheaper for skiing than Colorado, Begley says, because it doesn't have the "glitz" factor of Aspen or Vail.

It's not just about skiing anymore; some of the top hotels have opened spas. These include Robert Redford's Sundance Resort (30 minutes outside Salt Lake City) and Grand America Hotel, which has shiatsu therapists and a sea-foam cocoon treatment for tight muscles.

A great value is the Peery Hotel ($129/night), which has an Old West flair.

Ottawa, Canada

Ottawa is often long overlooked in favor of its sister cities - Toronto or Montreal. But Canada's capital has acquired a sense of style, revealed in some sophisticated new restaurants and an ultra hip boutique hotel.

The historic Byward Market neighborhood of low-rise brick-and-stone buildings has been taken over by trendy shops, pubs, and cafes.

Ottawa boasts a wealth of museums: Canadian Museum of Civilization, National Gallery of Canada, and the Canadian Museum of Nature.

Through Feb. 16, Ottawa has Winterlude: a celebration of the season that's in its 25th year. It features an Ice Cafe (made of ice), a five-mile long stretch of ice for skating, snow sculptures and outdoor jazz.

Ottawa has direct flights from a number of East Coast cities. The favorable exchange rate is another great reason to visit Ottawa.

London

The city is less traveled right after Christmas, so it is a nice time to really get to see it as a local would, without the tourists. The only drawback is that the weather is cold. The temperatures are in the 40s.

London is never really cheap to visit, but this time of year there are fantastic savings in combo packages.

There are lots of museums to take in: the Tate Modern, National Gallery. Cultural offerings include a new hot play, "The Talking Cure" with Ralph Finnes.

The trendy neighborhood these days is Marylebone, filled with cafes, galleries, eclectic boutiques, and a holistic day spa named Calmia.

Try Sir Terence Conran's intimate restaurant on the top floor of an old stable.

The Berkshires

While many people know about the music/dance/theater festivals that take place in the Berkshires in summer, fewer people realize how appealing it is in the winter.

Hotel prices drop dramatically in the off-season: rates at Canyon Ranch spa resort, for example, are slashed by 30 percent.

The Berkshires doesn't attract as much ski traffic as Vermont in winter, though the scenery is similar.

There's great antiquing in Sheffield, as well as 138,000 acres of near-empty nature preserves for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.

Great art can be seen at Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, the Norman Rockwell Museum, and the new Mass MoCA.

If you fly to Albany, it's a 45-minute drive; if you fly to Boston or to New York, it's about a three-hour car drive.