Summer crowds and top-tier pricing not quite your thing? That’s why we love finding affordable winter destinations for getaways during the chilly season. Even if you have to pack a sweater instead of a swimsuit, saving money and enjoying amazing places without rubbing shoulders with a few million other people can more than make up for a little cold weather. Plus, it gives you an excuse to wear a great scarf. Winter’s in, summer’s out. Case closed.
So where should you head this winter? If you’re thinking of taking a trip in January, February or March, you’ll want to check out our favorite affordable winter destinations, so you can start narrowing down your choices before your booking window closes.
Affordable Winter Destinations: Sweater Weather in Spain
When we think of Spain, we usually think of heat: tropical flowers nodding around a fountain, a cloudless blue sky over a sunbaked plain dotted with windmills, late evenings spent roaming city streets in search of tapas and drinks. But Spain gets a winter season too, and down in its soaring Sierra Nevada mountain range, the ski season can actually extend into May.
In the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, you’ll find incomparable views of whitewashed villages and hillside groves. This region’s Moorish roots are evident in its whitewashed villages and architecture featuring elegant arches and elegant tile work. Near Granada, the incomparable Alhambra Palace perches atop a hill. It’s a must-visit that is swarmed in summer; in the cooler months you’ll have breathing room as you explore a palace built to represent Heaven on Earth. In February and March, days slowly warm into the 50s while nights remain chilly with a chance of frost.
Along the Mediterranean, cool breezes off the water refresh the beautiful boulevards of Barcelona. It’s sweater weather in Madrid, as well, which is perfect because you’re going to be doing a lot of sightseeing, shopping and sipping in these stylish cities. Celebrate Valentine’s Day with tapas and flamenco, and you’ll find the weather manageable: average highs in Madrid are in the 50s and creep upward as the month progresses towards March.
Put Spain on your list of affordable winter destinations, and consider exploring this beautiful country with a Fly & Drive package that includes car rental along with a selection of great hotels (here’s what a road trip through Costa del Sol can look like); or an Escorted Tour like our Off Season Spain Escape, which includes tours and leisure time so you can get the best of Spain.
Museum Season in France
Paris might not be known for its mild winters, but with so many wonders housed in its museums and historic landmarks (to say nothing of its cafes, restaurants and bakeries) you shouldn’t let a little chilly weather stop you from taking advantage of low crowds and value pricing on winter and early spring in France. It turns out, the cold season is the perfect season to enjoy Paris! And with February average temperatures hovering in the 40s, we aren’t exactly talking arctic conditions, here. Valentine’s Day in Paris? Great art, great dining and the endless romance of the City of Lights should make up for short days and sweaters.
As for the fashionable French Riviera, savvy travelers say March is the right time to explore Nice – the sky is just as blue as in summer, but the breezes are refreshing and the sidewalk cafes have open tables, perfect for enjoying a fresh spring day.
Find France one of your favorite affordable winter destinations with our Paris city stays, or the Off Season France Escape, which offers you tours and leisure time from Paris and Versailles to Avignon and Nice.
The Big Three of Italy
Just like Spain, your visions of Italy might be perpetually warm-weather. And just like Spain, Italy isn’t always sun-drenched (and sweaty). Of course, the boot runs north-south, so if you’re visiting Rome, Florence and Venice on your trip, you’re going to get some temperature variations. Rome’s mild winter averages in the 50s in January, while Venice, away to the north, might get some icy nights in the dead of winter.
But like Spain and France, you’re trading off summer crowds and summer weather which can be ferociously hot. A heat wave with temperatures climbing above 100 degrees isn’t unheard of during a Roman summer, which can make the Colosseum and other outdoor landmarks a heck of a lot less interesting. (To say nothing of dining outdoors when the street is hot enough to fry an egg.) Wander the Renaissance wonders of Florence when it’s cool out — they didn’t have air conditioning in the 1500s, after all.
Italy definitely deserves a spot on your affordable winter destinations short-list. Try a multi-city vacation with stays in Venice, Florence and Rome, rail transfers included. Spend a week in Rome (here’s what to do!) Or be sure to see it all with an escorted tour, with itineraries ranging from leisurely introductions to in-depth cultural immersions.
Greece: An Empire on a Budget
Go back in time without breaking a sweat. Here’s one more notoriously warm (and crowded) summer hot-spot that becomes an affordable winter destination when the temperatures drop. Athens averages highs in the mid-50s in February — perfect weather for strolling the ancient streets in search of history, souvenirs and something delicious.
While the water’s a bit too chilly for the Greek islands to welcome many guests, Athens is a perfect winter destination for anyone on a budget. Make it happen with an Athens city break for a value price.
Winter is truly the perfect time for a vacation, whether you’re on a budget, hoping to avoid crowds, or both. From December to March, you’ll find some of the most famous vacation destinations in the world are also affordable, giving you the opportunity to take the trip of your life.