How to plan an affordable winter vacation

The winter holidays are right around the corner, and that means a vacation may be on the horizon for you. What’s on your calendar? A ski trip? A staycation? If you don’t have anything on the books yet, don’t worry—the good news is that there’s still time to plan something within budget, without skimping on the fun. 

Plan and save

Winter is a great time to travel, but traveling during this season can get pricey. With a little research, foresight, and flexibility, sticking to a travel budget can be easier than you think.

  • Use rewards and miles: It should come as no surprise that the demand for rewards travel soars during the holidays. If you belong to a frequent flyer program or a travel rewards credit card, see if you can use your miles or points. However, using your points is a more reliable option than trying to use your frequent flyer miles during peak season It’s important to remember that free seats fill up quickly and airline-imposed blackout dates, days when you can’t apply points or rewards, often apply. Websites like The Points Guy, Nomadic Matt, and Million Mile Secrets can offer insights on how to maximize your points and rewards to get the best deals.
  • Find flight deals: Consider using apps and sites like Hopper, Airfare Watchdog, TravelPirate, or Skyscanner to monitor flight pricing and last-minute bargains. You can also book tickets on the cheapest days, which are on Tuesdays and Wednesdays according to Skyscanner. Keep in mind that last-minute deals could mean taking a red-eye, and flying in and out of alternative airports that are out of the way. You may also have to make several stops en route to your destination.

Embrace affordability

A fun vacation shouldn’t break the bank. Focus on where your friends and family want to go, but make sure you have a budget that fits your means before booking anything. Here are some affordable options to consider when planning your travel:

  • Holiday resort packages: Resort packages are a great way to travel without the worry of overspending. Each vacation package can vary in price. If a budget-friendly holiday sounds more appealing to you, consider a smaller deal that offers some of the same perks as the more expensive, all-inclusive holiday resort package. Check out travel sites like Kayak, Expedia, and Travel Zoo
  • All-inclusive cruises: Not interested in a resort? Consider taking a cruise. Many cruises feature an all-inclusive price that covers meals, cabins, and a variety of activities (think swimming pools, movies, live shows, and more). Check out websites like CruiseSheet for last-minute deals.
  • Vacation rentals: Lots of people prefer to rent a house or apartment instead of staying at a hotel. By going this route, chances are you’ll pay less per person on accommodations. Plus, you’ll likely have a kitchen, which means you won’t have to eat out for every meal. Consider renting from sites like Airbnb or HomeAway.
  • Home exchange: An alternative to resorts and vacation rentals is a home exchange. This exchange means trading places with another individual or family in order to experience a new way of living from across the globe. You can swap places with people from many different countries and cultures. Websites like Love Home Swap, HomeLink, and Intervac screen applicants and offer a platform where you can contact other swappers. Keep in mind that most home-exchange sites charge a membership fee.
  • Road trips: If work and high holiday prices have left you with a narrow window for winter travel, consider hitting the road. With the flexibility you gain by driving, you can think about being more spontaneous and picking a less expensive destination – and make some stops in various cities and towns along the way.
    Campervans and RVs are also great options for a road trip. Studies show that you can save anywhere from 8% to 64% on your vacation by going this route, depending on what kind of vehicle you rent. Check out websites like Outdoorsy and VanX to explore rental options that can accommodate your travel group.

Be a Hometown Tourist

If you don’t have any plans for winter break, you may be wondering how to keep your kids busy while they’re out of school. Enter the staycation, an affordable alternative for a budget-conscious family.

  • Volunteer: Instead of traveling to volunteer, why not find opportunities in your community? Even the youngest member of the family can help clean a local park or collect canned goods for the local food bank.
  • Learn something new: Take advantage of this free time to learn a new skill. Attend a yoga or meditation class, or sign up the whole family for a pottery class. These classes can create memories, and they’ll teach you something new, too. If you find yourself without a class partner, try using to learn new skills, such as photography and animation. 
  • Escape rooms: Ditch your devices and head to an escape room for an adventure. This increasingly popular activity involves working together as a team to figure out how to get out of a room. It’s a great activity to do with friends or family. Check out Room Escape Artist to see if your area is home to one of these escape room adventures.
  • Other activities: One easy way to find out what’s happening near you is to search on online resources like Eventbrite. These online resources feature listings of inexpensive events happening in your area. If your city has a local tourism office, you can also head down there to see if they have resident discount passes to attractions around town.

Get Started

Even during peak winter travel season, you can still find great deals, both locally and further afield, that won’t break the bank. So, plan ahead. Set your budget now, and start researching what kind of vacation (or staycation) works best for you, your friends, and your family.

Santander Bank does not provide financial, tax or legal advice and the information contained in this article does not constitute tax, legal or financial advice. Santander Bank does not make any claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained in this article. Readers should consult their own attorneys or other tax advisors regarding any financial strategies mentioned in this article. These materials are for informational purposes only and do not necessarily reflect the views or endorsement of Santander Bank.

Was This Helpful? Yes No