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With the colder months often come the winter blues. One of the best cures is dreaming of vacations to warm locales. But you may be thinking there’s no way you can actually afford a winter getaway. In fact, there are budget-friendly vacation options. Plan your travel now so you have someplace to go when the dreary, short days start to feel endless.

1. Mexico

Depending on where you live in the U.S., you can get really cheap direct flights into Mexico. If you’re flying out of Dallas, Los Angeles or San Francisco, vacation spots like Puerto Vallarta are often affordable. From the East Coast, Cancun may be the best option. The flights are relatively short and often direct, making Mexico a perfect destination for a long weekend. Check directly with the airlines’ websites. Often, the airline websites will list cheaper flights or packaged vacations for cheaper than travel websites. Consider using credit card points to help pay for the trip too. Every little bit helps, and some credit cards are better for earning travel rewards than others.

2. Costa Rica

This destination is a favorite of Americans and Europeans alike. The laid-back lifestyle and the warm weather are perfect for a winter vacation. The most expensive thing about a Costa Rican vacation is likely to be the flight. Once you get there, traveling around the country, hotels and food are very inexpensive. Just be aware that Costa Rica is quite popular during the winter months, so be sure you don’t mind crowds.

3. Arizona

Sure, Arizona may not seem as exotic as traveling out of the country, but it’s a quick and cheap getaway that’s warm year-round. Vacation in Scottsdale or Sedona, where you’re likely to find reasonably priced flights and accommodations. Tucson is also a great Southwest vacation, and you can drive into Mexico, which also offers sun and low prices.

4. Florida

Whether you’re looking to ride some roller coasters or relax on the beach, you have options in Florida. Orlando is a family-friendly destination with lots of attractions. Disney offers packages that include the price of park tickets along with hotels and sometimes even food so you’ll know the whole cost upfront. The airport is big and has many flights daily. Miami has beaches and great nightlife. Plus there are other great destinations on both the east and west coasts including West Palm Beach, Tampa, Jacksonville, Pensacola and Fort Lauderdale. You don’t need a passport to get there so you can pick the city with the cheapest flight and go, even on short notice.

5. Anywhere Warm

If you are able to get off work on short notice and you don’t care about your specific destination, try a last-minute deal for your winter getaway. This can save you a ton of money and possibly introduce you to a new destination. Airlines, cruise lines and travel websites have great package deals that include flight, car and hotel. Look for extra ways to keep the vacation cheap like avoiding baggage fees.

6. The Open Sea

There are several cruise lines that offer last-minute package deals to destinations such as the Mexican Riviera. It can be a win-win. The cruise lines want to fill empty cabins and you want to head somewhere warm. One of the nice things about cruise ships is they can sometimes alter their routes to guarantee some sunny weather. If you’re taking advantage of discount cruises, be aware that not all cruises are created equal. Check for guest testimonials to find out if the cheaper price tag is worth it.

A winter getaway can give you something to look forward to during the short, dark days ahead. Just be wary of winter travel troubles. Plan your trip smartly — it may not be worth saving a little bit of money to fly through Minneapolis if your flight gets canceled because of a snowstorm.

Image: Wavebreak Media

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