Traveling during the holiday season, when hotel and airline prices skyrocket, can be seriously pricey. But January is the cheapest month of the year to book a vacation (just when you need an escape the most). Here, nine places that are ideal during the affordable travel window.
GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA
Often overshadowed by Sydney and Melbourne, Queensland’s east coast—nicknamed the Gold Coast—is known for its laid-back vibe, long stretches of sandy beaches, tropical rain forests, national parks and mountain retreats. Plus, with over 300 sunny days each year, you’re bound to catch some good weather. December, the peak of summer, is Australia’s busiest travel month, but according to the handy Hopper app, the price of flights to Brisbane drop significantly by the end of January.
Set between the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea, this Central American country is drawing in tourists for its affordability and proximity to the U.S. Plus, it boasts everything you could ask for in a vacation, like culture, natural beauty and outdoor activities. By January, the weather is ideal for exploring the country’s beaches, rain forests and volcanoes since the rainy season has just ended and the days are pleasant but not too hot.
WEST COAST, THAILAND
The thought of visiting an exotic paradise sounds pretty nice right now, huh? So head to Thailand’s west coast, where you’ll find the tropical islands of Krabi and Phuket. The cost of living is already very affordable, and hotel prices drop even more after the Christmas vacation surge. Best of all, the islands experience their best weather from December to January, when every day is sunny and 80 degrees. What better time to dip your toes intothe crystal-clear Andaman Sea?
PALM SPRINGS, CALIFORNIA
The temperature at this oasis in the Sonoran Desert in Southern California often hits 100 degrees. But January marks the beginning of the most pleasant season, when the days are sunny and warm but not cripplingly hot—perfect for hiking Joshua Tree National Park or the trails at Indian Canyons, golfing at one of the many world-class courses, exploring the chic downtown area or just lounging by the pool. Also, you’ll only be taking a domestic flight (cheaper and quicker).
One of the coolest and driest months of the year, January is ideal for visiting this Caribbean island. During this time of year, the island is not affected by frequent hurricanes, so you can take advantage of the outdoors. Bask in the sun at the many surfing and swimming beaches, explore Hunte’s Gardens, trek through the island’s sea caves and watch a cricket match, a national pastime.
Teeming with beaches, tropical rain forests, waterfalls, hot springs and volcanoes, Costa Rica has it all. By the New Year, most tourists have dispersed, but the country’s dry season is in full swing. While the rain forests remain lush, the days are clear and there’s no better time for outdoor adventures. At Arenal Volcano, for example, you can zip-line through the trees, hike in the national park, white-water raft down the Balsa River and relax in the natural hot springs.
January falls during Patagonia’s summer, when the days are sunny and endless. In fact, you’ll get over 16 hours of daylight each day. Despite the snowy landscape, January is very warm. Temperatures can rise as high as 70 degrees, perfect for exploring the azure lakes, enormous glaciers and grassy Pampas of Torres del Paine National Park.
CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA
Winter is the most underrated time to visit Charleston, and as a result, hotels and flights are cheaper than ever. January might be the city’s coldest month of the year, but the temperature still reaches the high 50s most days, which is just right for window shopping on King Street, exploring the French Quarter and touring the old plantations. Plus, the slight chill makes it all the more acceptable to spend most of your time eating your way through the city (which is why you went, after all).
Sure, traveling to an arctic region during the summer has its perks, like almost 24 hours of daylight, but there are plenty of reasons to go during winter. Not only are flights and hotels at their cheapest, but it’s the best time to see the Northern Lights. If you’re staying in Reykjavik, guided tours will take you outside the city to see the aurora borealis light up the sky in fluorescent colors.