5 Fabulous and Affordable Destinations to Beat the Winter Blues

The cooler weather we experience in the Northern Hemisphere is often a source of SAD. Seasonal Affective Disorder can hit even the most upbeat of people.

With cold weather comes the rain, snow and grey weather all around. And with the added pressures put on many of us during the holiday season, it’s no wonder some of us tend to get a little down.

What better way to remedy SAD then to take an affordable vacation!

Here are five destinations worth considering to beat the winter blues.

Sun Valley, Idaho

Sun Valley
Sun Valley. Credit: Tory Taglio // Visit Sun Valley

Ski Bunnies will appreciate that Sun Valley is less crowded than the slopes in Colorado or British Columbia, while also being more affordable all around.

Even the flights are cheaper from most major airports. You can grab a nonstop flight from cities such as Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Denver, San Francisco, Seattle, and Portland.

This part of Idaho gets plenty of sunshine in the winter, so harsh conditions don’t hinder your powder time.

Non-skiers will enjoy sleigh rides, art galleries, live music, movies, and shopping.

Sun Valley Pro Tip:

Winter time is the high season in Sun Valley, so opt for checking out vacation rentals rather than booking expensive hotels or resorts.

Also, if you will be skiing other nearby destinations such as Aspen or Jackson Hole, these are all part of the Mountain Collective, and you can take advantage of a savings season pass.

Quintana Roo, Mexico

Beach Cancun
At the beach in Cancun, Mexico. Credit: Captain Les

Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Cozumel, Tulum… this destination is hot (literally) all year round, but the mugginess subsides in winter.

So come on down! The pristine beaches of Playa del Carmen beckon you to sunbathe the day away.

And when you’ve had enough rays, the shopping there is impressive.

Down the coast is Tulum, with is historical allure, coral reefs, and Mayan ruins.

In the Mayan Riviera, find a magical swimming cave, or cenotes.

Take advantage of the strong dollar versus the dropping value of the peso and have that extra margarita and street taco.

And don’t forget Cancun’s Carnival in February and March!

Mexico Pro Tip:

When visiting Cancun, opt for staying somewhere on the outskirts, as accommodations tend to be pricier in the heart of Cancun.

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Key West, Florida

Visit Key West, Florida
Key West is a popular destination for tourists. Credit: Courtney Clayton

There’s just something amazing about driving the southernmost point in the U.S., with open ocean on both sides of you.

It’s just so cool!

Once you’ve arrived in Key West, an interesting place to visit is Hemingway’s house.

One of the first houses on the island to have indoor plumbing and a second-floor bath room.

Duval Street is Key West’s answer to Bourbon Street in New Orleans, with lots of bars, eating joints and tourist traps to choose from!

Join the crowds at the Mallory Square Sunset Celebration, a boardwalk area along the water.

Every night there is a celebratory atmosphere, with street performers and other artists to entertain you until the main event, the setting of the sun.

Key West Pro Tip:

Fly into Ft. Lauderdale rather than Miami as prices will most likely be cheaper.

Also, opt for staying at one of the other keys along the way, or on mainland Florida. Key West hotel prices tend to be expensive.

Costa Rica

Visit Costa Rica
Costa Rican beach. Credit: Matthew Brodeur

Not only is winter the dry season for Costa Rica, but it is also the peak time for baby sea turtle hatch-ling watching.

Whale watching is also happening this time of year.

For you surfers, check out Salsa Brava at Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean coast. The beaches here are prime for both surfing and sunbathing.

Exploring rain-forests and active volcanoes will satisfy the adventurer in you.

Take an exciting day tour whitewater rafting on the Sarapiqui River.

Hike in a rain-forest trail over a hanging bridge, and join a night walk to view some exotic nocturnal wildlife.

Costa Rica Pro Tip:

Many cheap flights are to be had from major U.S. coastal cities to San Jose, Costa Rica’s capital.

Madera, Portugal

Madera cliffs. Credit: Telegraph

Just off the coast of Morocco, about 750 miles southwest from Lisbon, sits a semi-tropical island archipelago.

Madeira is a great year-round destination, but winter time is ideal.


Its slightly cooler temperatures mean fewer crowds and more relaxation time for you. You will experience temps hovering around the ’60s, which is perfect for chasing away the winter blues.

Here in Madeira, you can indulge in wine tasting in European-style villages and vineyards, surrounded by lush landscapes.

When the conditions are not optimal for sunbathing, explore the island’s volcanic surroundings.

Tour pristine gardens and castles. Play a round of golf. Casinos and nightclubs will entertain you at night.

Madera Pro Tip:

Flights land in Funchal, Madeira’s capital, which is a 90-minute flight from Lisbon.

And it’s easy to catch an affordable flight from any major east coast U.S. city to Lisbon.

Flights from Lisbon to Madeira are around 50 bucks.

The accommodations are affordable as well, averaging less than $100 per night.

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