This winter has been a tough one, with snow and severe storms hitting most of the country for the last few months. The cold conditions are keeping a lot of people cooped up indoors and likely craving an early spring getaway.
While taking a trip during the winter months certainly isn't a new concept, this year’s polar vortex is making travel to busy, warmer-weather locales more desirable--and more expensive.
Luckily, we've seen a wide variety of temperate cities drop their prices this year to attract travelers who may not have the budget for the tried-and-true mid-winter destinations like the Caribbean. Here are my picks for some of this year's best early spring getaways that won't break the bank.
1. Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
What’s a warm-weather destinations list without at least one beach resort city? The sunny Mexican getaway of Puerto Vallarta is a fantastic place to visit for consistently warm weather coupled with white sands and rushing waves. With almost zero average precipitation during the month of March and average temperatures ranging in the mid-70s, this is paradise from a weather standpoint. Plus, we’ve seen really low prices for the past few months as hotels try to fill rooms. In fact, more low-cost airfare routes were recently added to the area, which is leading hotels to compete for business by dropping prices.
As far as tourist-friendly attractions are concerned, visitors can a take break from lounging on the beach to visit the iconic landmarks of Los Arcos, stroll through the many shops and galleries, or enjoy world-class local cuisine prepared by some of the world’s finest chefs.
Sample deal: $77 per night for a 4-star hotel in the Downtown Puerto Vallarta area
2. Los Angeles, Calif.
If New York and Chicago are too cold for your tastes, and San Francisco and Seattle are too rainy, then odds are good that Los Angeles will be a good fit for a big-city winter getaway. Besides great year-round weather, we’ve seen incredibly reasonable travel prices even during high season, which is why I’ve also listed L.A. as one of the top deal destinations for this year.
This southern Californian city is full of possibilities for late winter/early spring visitors, offering international cuisines, frequent big-name concerts, and cultural centers like Olvera Street and Chinatown. The Cherry Blossom Festival comes around during early April and is a great time to try out some high-quality Japanese cuisine during a time of traditional celebration.
Sample deal: $116 per night for a 4-star hotel in the El Segundo – Manhattan Beach area
3. Barcelona, Spain
Teeming with sophistication and a rich history, Barcelona is a dream for travelers who seek winter refuge in an iconic European destination. Complete with world-class beaches and warm spring weather, the city is also home to one of the most spectacular parks in the world – Parc de la Ciutadella. The park has been around for over 100 years, and its 70 acres contain a lake, historical fountains, open fields, and even a full-on zoo that is widely considered to be the main attraction. In few other places do offerings of local culture, outdoor enjoyment, and fantastic weather combine to create such a cohesive and spectacular vacation.
In addition to all of the city’s attractions, Barcelona is also a hot deal destination for 2014, with a wide share of four-star hotels pricing in the sub-$100 range.
Sample deal: $78 per night for a 4-star hotel in the Forum – Poblenou – Beachfront area
4. San Juan, Puerto Rico
For travelers who want an experience similar to Barcelona but don’t want to cross the Atlantic, Puerto Rico is an ideal option. Known as the Isle of Enchantment, the sunny destination has tons to offer, from bioluminescent beaches that glow during nighttime, to scenic hikes around El Yunque National Forest. While guided forest tours will cost you, there’s no charge for taking a quick hike, and even without a guide it’s still possible to enjoy all of the island scenery and majestic waterfalls that the forest has to offer.
In addition to its selection of free or low-cost attractions, Puerto Rico also offers some great hotel prices during the spring season that are hard to come by in other more popular Caribbean destinations. Hotwire finds that on average, the cost of a hotel in San Juan during the month of March rests at a very reasonable rate of $101 a night.
Sample deal: $97 per night for a 4-star hotel in the Rio Grande - Farjado area
5. Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Although the weather can still be a little spotty during the spring, Amsterdam’s climate is typically “cool” instead of outright “cold,” and the blossoming flowers should be enough to convince any visitor that this European gem still has tons of appeal in the March and April months. During the spring, the Dutch capital is an absolute haven for tulips, with the beautiful plants sprouting up and coloring the city. Visitors to Amsterdam can take a short drive southwest to the Keukenhof – the world’s largest flower garden, which hosts one of the most amazing visual displays that the spring season has to offer.
In addition, Amsterdam is one of Hotwire’s top deal destinations of 2014, with great hotel discounts stemming from the large amount of new hotel openings.
Sample deal: $119 per night for a 4-star hotel in the Rembrandtpark – Lelylaan Station area