Skiing, sledding …

Ahead of a winter that will see above-average snowfall and normal to colder-than-normal temperatures, according to the latest forecast from the Old Farmer’s Almanac, here’s  2023’s Best Winter Holiday Destinations report.

Cost and Convenience

Focusing on cost and convenience rather than scenic beauty, WalletHub compared nearly 70 of the largest U.S. metro areas grouped by warm and cold weather. Each destination was analyzed based on 37 key metrics, primarily the expense and hassle of traveling to each location but also on other indicators, such as weather forecasts, safety, and variety of activities.

Here’s a quick glimpse at some of the report’s most interesting findings:

Best Cold Destinations for Winter TravelBest Warm Destinations for Winter Travel
1. Atlanta, GA1. Las Vegas, NV
2. Washington, DC2. San Diego, CA
3. Chicago, IL3. Austin, TX
4. New York, NY4. Dallas, TX
5. Denver, CO5. San Antonio, TX
6. Cincinnati, OH6. Charleston, SC
7. St. Louis, MO7. San Francisco, CA
8. Kansas, MO8. Houston, TX
9. Philadelphia, PA9. Phoenix, AZ
10. Boston, MA10. Los Angeles, CA

Best vs. Worst

  • The average flight to a popular cold winter destination costs $399.05, lasts 3 hours and 35 minutes, and has 0.34 connections. In comparison, the average flight to a popular warm winter destination costs $503.55, lasts 5 hours and 26 minutes, and has 0.58 connections.
  • Among cold destinations, Chicago, Illinois, has the lowest price for a three-star hotel room, $39, which is 3.5 times lower than Worcester, Massachusetts, the city with the highest at $135.
  • Among warm destinations, San Antonio has the lowest price for a three-star hotel room, $50, which is 3.9 times lower than Honolulu, the city with the highest at $196.
  • Among cold destinations, Chicago has the most restaurants (per square root of population), 6.154833, which is 6.2 times more than Bridgeport, Connecticut, the city with the fewest at 0.991192.
  • Among warm destinations, Miami has the most restaurants (per square root of population), 7.598659, which is 29.4 times more than Deltona, Florida, the city with the fewest at 0.258407.

Outlook for the Winter Travel Season

“Overall, the outlook is fairly robust but with caution. Through the first 3 quarters of the year, domestic travel for vacations and pleasure has been down by approximately 10%. Correspondingly International travel has been up by about 10%. Realize this is not a direct trade-off in numbers, but a change in mix/diversity of travelers. Net numbers have shown a decline from 2022. Given that as an overview travel destinies have a lot to do with overall costs as well as lodging and activity ticket prices. Start with airline costs using the respective websites. The major airlines have added a feature of “check close by dates” which allows you to find the lowest possible airfares. This will then indicate if this destination is heavily booked or underbooked. Airlines adjust their fares 24 x 7 in today’s advanced data analytics. Then check Lodging options using similar tools. Then rental cars or ground transportation. Finally book activity tickets. The farther in advance the better off you are. Caution, buy refundable or no cancellation fee reservations for total flexibility even if the price is slightly higher,” said David Miles, executive professor in residence (retired), Northern Arizona University; leadership consultant, Miles Lehane Companies.

“Winter is typically a low season for business travel, but many people want to travel for leisure or visit their friends and families. However, everything is getting more expensive now, and economic uncertainties continue to linger in the air. Across the globe, ongoing wars are unsettled. Then, regional tensions over wars are unlikely to ease soon either. I expect people are still traveling but may choose a closer destination. Meanwhile, more consumers will look for ways to stretch the dollar,” said
Linchi Kwok, Ph.D., professor, Cal Poly Pomona.

Logistical Dos and Don’ts for Winter Travel

“The biggest one to avoid is counting on the synchronization of timing for each part of your travel. For example, if you have a flight booked to join a cruise ship, allow an extra day if possible. With weather issues, mechanical issues, and a shortage of staff, all are strained to the breaking point when there is a problem. Count on the ‘when it rains it pours’ scenario. There is nothing worse than spending thousands of dollars for a great winter trip than sitting stranded in an airport or along a highway rest stop. Unfortunately, the way all of this works in a post-COVID labor shortage market is you will wait a long time. Give your vacation some elasticity in your planning. You may spend a few extra dollars but then be able to have a fun-filled winter break,”  Miles said.

“It may seem obvious, but pack appropriately. A leisurely South Beach family getaway in December will almost certainly demand different attire than a romantic weekend spent hiking in mountainous Colorado…Also, though not mandated, it’s certainly a nice gesture to bring a little cash on you to tip service professionals for ‘jobs well done.’…Especially on longer flights and travels, it is essential to make an effort to stay hydrated. Even setting a timer several times a day as a ‘reminder’ to drink a bottle of water will do wonders for keeping you healthy on your travels. If you are trying to reset your sleep schedule after extensive flights through different time zones, or red-eye flights, take melatonin 2 hours before bed for a week after your last travel date to put you on a good path to recovery,” said Matthew Miller M.S., Ph.D., CHE – Assistant Professor, Wells College.

Best Ways for Travelers to Save Money

“Book early, book direct, and use points or mileage strategically to save. Meanwhile, be careful not to trade flexibility with a small discount. For example, I will continue searching for a reasonable price but avoid pre-paid hotel stays or basic-economy flights. We may book a hotel stay as soon as possible because hotels usually let us cancel or modify a reservation without a fee (unless you booked a pre-paid package). Airfares can be trickier because of the expensive change-or-cancelation fees associated with the tickets. Setting up price alarms on some travel websites will likely tell us when it is a good time to book a ticket or when the price drops,” said Linchi Kwok, Ph.D., professor, at Cal Poly Pomona.

Source: WalletHub