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4 Essential Tools for Planning a Budget-Friendly Winter Getaway

by Staff

We tend to associate the word “vacation” with summer, but taking a trip in winter can be a great way to escape from your humdrum routine. And if you end up traveling somewhere warmer than home, you can also get a break from winter weather in the process.

Here are a few tools to try if you’re hoping to book a winter getaway.

1. A flexible schedule

This might not be a tool in the traditional sense, but I promise you that having the flexibility to book travel based on when hotel rooms, flights, and rental cars are cheaper can go a long way toward keeping your costs down.

I’ve long been a fan of winter travel, and I relish the chance to take a trip away from home during the cold months. Becoming a freelancer has helped with this, as I no longer need to worry about burning vacation time (what vacation time, ha?) to travel. Conversely, I can also write and edit from anywhere, so I usually end up working at least a little on any trip I take.

If you work remotely or otherwise have flexibility in your work schedule, it’ll be much easier to fit winter travel into your vacation budget. According to Thrifty Traveler, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays are often the cheapest days to fly. If you can start your winter getaway by leaving on a Tuesday or Wednesday, and fly home the following Saturday, you might be able to knock money off your credit card tab.

2. Hotel status

Can you pull off a cheaper winter trip without any travel affiliations of any kind? Absolutely you can. But if you already have a relationship with a given travel brand, you might have more options open to you, especially if you’ve attained a higher membership level by having a hotel credit card or using that brand often.

You can use points or miles for a given hotel chain to spend less in actual dollars on your trip (if not cover the cost entirely). You can also take advantage of sweet perks that non-members will pay more for.

For example, if you’re a Diamond-level Hilton Honors member, you’re guaranteed a stay if you book at least 48 hours in advance (even if the hotel is full), and you’ll be upgraded to a better room assignment if one is available, at no extra cost to you. If you have a winter anniversary or birthday, this can make your stay even more special for no additional money.

If you’re hoping to fly somewhere for your winter getaway, the internet has tools aplenty that can help you save on ticket costs. My colleague Natasha Etzel swears by Google Flights, and she’s on to something. Google Flights is easy to use and lets you compare prices by date. You get access to a variety of search fields, too — so you can see how much money you might save by driving a little farther and leaving from the airport in a nearby city rather than your home airport, for example.

You can also leave your destination open, set search parameters (such as the month of travel and how long you want to be gone), and see what Google Flights recommends. I haven’t quite come around to letting fate — or Google — decide where I travel (maybe someday!), but if you’ve got a more adventurous spirit than I do, it’s worth trying this out to find a cheaper ticket this winter.

4. The right travel credit card

You have options for travel credit cards beyond just those associated with a particular airline or hotel brand. Some excellent all-around cards pay a high rate of points or miles on travel purchases — and even higher ones if you book through their proprietary travel portals. The Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal is a great example of this. I have a bucket list vacation coming up later this winter, and I was able to cover a good chunk of the ticket cost by booking through Chase and using accumulated points.

In addition to the more tangible benefits, like points to save you money on travel, you might also have access to perks like rental car insurance, airport lounge access, free checked bags, and more. And if you opened a new card before the holiday shopping bonanza, you might have managed to earn a welcome bonus. You can turn that infusion of points or miles into cheaper travel between now and the end of winter.

If you can be flexible and take advantage of a few of these essential tools, cheaper winter travel plans can be yours. One final tip: Don’t assume that you must take a tropical getaway. While escaping the snow, ice, and lack of daylight that sometimes comes with winter here in the U.S. can be nice, even just a weekend road trip to a neighboring state to enjoy fine dining, museum visits, and a hotel stay can also be a great change of scenery to look forward to.

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