While some people love vacationing in the summer, others prefer going away when it gets colder and seek out somewhere to travel in December for an early winter getaway. After all, not only will it probably be less expensive since you won’t be traveling during peak beach-weather season, but you could also spend time enjoying your favorite winter activities, from ice skating to skiing, in a picturesque winter setting. Hot chocolate while sitting in front of a wood-burning fire, anyone?
Although shoulder seasons are a great time to travel — this is the period of time that occurs during late spring (mid-April through May) and early fall (September–early November) — you can also enjoy less expensive travel during other months. For many popular destinations, another time of year to find affordable rates is in January and February. This is because demand and prices decrease since many people are still recovering from the holidays and are home instead of traveling. This is especially true for places like London and Paris, among others.
So if you know you want to go somewhere wintery, but are not sure where below are favorite winter getaway destinations — so you may want to dig out your down coat and start packing.
1. Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada
Anywhere in Canada would be ideal for a perfect winter vacation. Of course, it depends on where you live. A favorite is Banff, which is just outside of Calgary, as there’s so much to do — from skiing and snowmobiling to ice skating on a pond and ice fishing. However, make sure to dress warm! Banff and Lake Louise is such an incredible spot that is easy to get to once you fly into Calgary — and the drive out to Banff is absolutely breathtaking. Once you arrive, it’ll be as though you’ve stepped into a real-life winter wonderland with all of the winter activities available for you.
2. Fraser, Colorado
Consider taking a trip to Fraser, Colorado for a winter getaway. It’s just two hours away from its better-known neighbor, Breckenridge, but prices tend to be a little less expensive. Fraser is 10 minutes away from the Winter Park Slopes! You can generally expect to find a six-bedroom cabin with a hot tub in Fraser to rent for well under $100 per night per bedroom. Plus, there’s no shortage of activities around what I’d call an under-the-radar winter destination.
3. Zermatt, Switzerland
Another favorite winter destination: Zermatt, Switzerland. This beautiful and romantic city is one of the prettiest in Europe in some people’s opinion. I suggest embracing the cold and frolicking in a true winter wonderland — Zermatt offers plenty of winter activities and is the perfect place to relax. It is a car-free city, which means you park in a town nearby and take the train into the city. There is skiing, shopping, and beautiful scenes — you will feel as though you are in a snow globe.
Of course, the Matterhorn is there and one of the most iconic and recognizable mountains in Europe. The nearby museum in town also offers a wealth of information and shows the daring adventures of those brave enough to make the climb. A great place to stay is CERVO Mountain Boutique Resort, which offers ski-in, ski-out access, as well as has some of the best truffle fries you’ll ever try. Regardless of what you do, you’ll be mesmerized by the mighty Matterhorn and the picture-perfect town that really seems to come to life in winter.
4. Anywhere In Iceland
Why not explore Iceland as a winter getaway. Go to Iceland in March, it is stunning. See the Northern Lights, hike a glacier, do a great road trip to the eastern end of Iceland and back, and have some incredible meals. Make memories going to Friðheimar. It is known as the tomato restaurant — have lunch inside their giant greenhouse. There are bumblebees and tomato plants everywhere, and it feels like a summer day inside. The menu includes everything tomato — pizza, pasta, tomato soup, Bloody Marys, and even tomato ice cream.
5. Bryce Canyon, Utah
There are many options when it comes to experiencing a true winter wonderland. One favorite is Bryce Canyon, Utah. Towering red rock hoodoos melting away into rolling badlands under blue jay skies: Bryce Canyon is stunning at any time of year, but a dusting of snow turns it into a crystalline fairyland. The other benefit of a winter visit: Solitude. The height of summer sees more visits than the snowy months. Also, with fresh snow, Bryce Canyon becomes one of the premier snowshoeing destinations in the U.S. If you don’t have your own, join one of the ranger-guided snowshoe walks, where a pair is provided free of charge.
As for outside of the U.S, Savored Moments Travel recommends Slovakia, which offers high-quality skiing at affordable prices. Food and accommodation are reasonable, too, with Jasná being one of the best Slovakian resorts, full of long descents flanked by snow-laden spruce trees and set in the ruggedly lovely Tatra Mountains.
6. London, England
Of course, going to a major city is another option when considering a pretty winter destination. London in the winter — no tourists, so you have museums to yourself with the bonus of special lectures and short workshops offered. For instance, The Queens Gallery at Buckingham Palace is doing a one-day creative course on portrait painting in February. You can also hit the winter sales at some favorite shops, like Liberty, Bond Street, the Burlington Arcade, and Fortnum & Mason. What can be better than curling up by the fire for tea at The Stafford or Milestone hotels?
7. Lapland, Finland
If you’re looking for a magical holiday travel experience, Savored Moments Travel, recommends checking out Finland’s northernmost region, Lapland. With the chance to witness the elusive Northern Lights, travelers also have the opportunity to visit actual reindeer farms and the famous Santa Claus Village. This getaway is the perfect mixture of a winter wonderland and outdoor adventure — so it’s ideal for getting into the holiday spirit — and Topdeck even has a Lapland Express tour!
We, also suggest Lapland as a winter destination. Flights there are inexpensive, it’s still very off-the-beaten-path, and there are the most amazing activities, like ice floating, snowmobiling, dog sledding, and of course, chasing the Northern Lights.
Alternatively, the Alps are great for a ski destination. Lift tickets can be a third the cost of U.S. resort prices, so for a week-long getaway, it’s not that much more expensive. A favorite is the Austrian ski resort Sölden, which is known for its variety of ski trails, great restaurants, and super fun après ski.
8. Disney World, Orlando, Florida
According to a new Travel Channel survey conducted between 9/13-9/17 of 2019 among 2,000 nationally representative respondents aged 18-54, during the winter, 27 percent of travelers are heading to a vacation destination with families. According to TravelChannel.com a lot of that travel is for an alternative Christmas. More and more families are skipping presents on Christmas Day and instead of using that cash on a group trip. Honestly, we don’t need more stuff — wouldn’t you rather have quality time in a fun place? Disney World at Christmas truly is magical, from the holiday décor to traditional Christmas dinners to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party at the Magic Kingdom.
9. Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Amsterdam, one of Europe’s favorites, is perfect for a winter getaway because of the canals, comfort food, and dreamy winter scenery. If you miss the snow, the city still looks like a perfect postcard. When the canals freeze over, it’s a perfect day for ice skating, and the holiday markets are in full swing, too. One other perk is that you can score a crazy cheap flight nonstop from any major city in the U.S.! Plus, Amsterdam is less crowded in the winter, giving you space to roam and explore without standing in crowded lines for hours.
The Amsterdam Lights Festival showcases several installations that light up the city, as well. And, another highlight in December is the oliebollen. They are what beignets are to New Orleans — amazing doughy goodness rolled up into a ball. You can also do a street art tour, as they have some really cool spaces that the average tourist never gets a chance to see, and a favorite museum there is the Anne Frank House, which takes you through her journey and the actual home she hid in during the war. As far as where to stay, Savored Moments Travel recommends the boutique hotel Kimpton De Witt. It’s perfect and in one of the best locations — you will literally be close to all the action.
10. *Any* European City
A lot of people forget about Europe as a travel destination when it’s wintertime. But German Christmas markets are not to be missed, and you can get them all over the country. Also, Northern lights in Scandinavia put on quite the show, and if you have to stay in an ice hotel on your bucket list, then the only time to do it is in the winter!
Even if you weren’t planning to go away this winter, maybe now you’re inspired after reading the above. And, you don’t have to necessarily go far to transport yourself to a winter wonderland.