The Best and Most Affordable Places to Travel in January
After the hustle and bustle of the holiday season dies down, you may be itching for a weekend away, especially if your in-laws camped out on your pull-out couch for an entire week like ours did. From the playa to the mountains, we’ve rounded up the top destinations for easy and affordable travel this month, whether you’re looking to ring in the new year or avoid the soul-crushing first couple weeks back at work. After all, vacation time resets in January.
BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS
Kick off your 2019 with a warm-weather sailing in the Caribbean. After last year’s devastating Hurricane Irma, BVI is back on its feet and open for business. With gorgeous aquamarine water, unspoiled white-sand beaches and lush tropical landscapes, BVI is an absolute paradise. And, The Yacht Week still has two-person cabins and full yachts available for its January sailing. You’ll live on a yacht (minus the drama of Below Deck) and do as much or as little sailing as you want and get to destinations you can’t access any other way. Plus, there are parties and wellness and adventure activities. However you decide to see the islands of this volcanic archipelago, though, you won’t want to miss the white, sandy beaches of Jost Van Dyke, the rum distillery on Cane Garden Bay or the raucous floating bar Willy T’s, where tradition says you should jump into the water naked.
Where to Stay: On land, BVI is laid-back Caribbean, unfussy with beach shacks and rum bars. Embrace its rustic charm and go glamping at the Anegada Beach Club. Its colorful, luxury palapas are on a tranquil stretch along the Atlantic coast of BVI’s northernmost island, a short walk from snorkeling at Keel Point. Or, if you’re looking for an even better value, seek out a private home or villa on Airbnb. We found some great options available on Tortola and Virgin Gorda.
New England charm meets nature, arts and culture in Burlington, Vermont’s largest city. This month, SkyScanner shows round-trips for less than $150 (as of press time). Nestled between the Adirondack and Green mountains on the shores of Lake Champlain, Burlington truly is enjoyable year-round, but there’s something magical about seeing the destination in the winter. A few suggestions: Hit the hip South End Arts District and enjoy a tasting at Citizen Cider; visit Lake Champlain Chocolates to watch master chocolatiers at work; peep the art galleries and shops along Pine Street and don’t forget to stop in ArtsRiot’s warehouse for a show. If you’re in the mood to shop, stroll down Church Street to browse some more established shops and boutiques, or you could stop into Common Deer or Frog Hollow for Vermont-made goods and gifts. What’s more is that when you stay in Burlington, some of Vermont’s most popular ski mountains like Stowe Mountain Resort, Smugglers' Notch Resort and Mad River Glen are all an hour or less from downtown.
Where to Stay: Hotel Vermont. This downtown lodging is bright and modern while still being cozy, rustic and oh-so Vermont. The lobby has a wood-burning fireplace and weekend local cider and spirits samplings. Wood and stone accents were pulled from local forests and quarries and local artwork graces the walls. Plus, there are Vermont Flannel robes in each closet and the top-floor king rooms have a hot tub and in-room fireplace, which helps when you’re visiting Vermont in the wintertime. Hotel Vermont is also home to three of Burlington’s top dining options: Juniper Bar & Restaurant, Hen of the Wood and Bleu Northeast Seafood.
Speaking of destinations that are a bargain during winter, if you’re not afraid of a little cold, Montreal is a great winter wonderland. In fact, it even embraces hiver by hosting Igloofest, the coldest music festival (and dance party) in the world, which is held outdoors on the Old Port waterfront from January 17 until February 2nd. But you don’t have to warm your body to the beats of electronic music to enjoy the town, because Montreal is bursting at the seams with Euro-French vibes, and it’s also blessed with enough indoor, enclosed cultural institutions to keep you busy and warm for a weekend—like the incredible Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the Stewart Museum,and even a casino that’s minutes from downtown. The city also boasts a serious food and nightlight scene and plenty of wintry romance when you do journey outside. We’d suggest strolling the cobblestone St. Paul Street in the old city and ducking into the lively restaurants there, all tucked into the neighborhood’s 17th-century buildings. Or, explore the hip and vibrant Mile End district.
Where to Stay: In the heart of the Golden Square Mile, Le Mount Stephen Hotel, one of Montreal’s brightest stars on the luxury hotel scene, is worth the splurge. With large floor-to-ceiling windows, the contemporary Hôtel Monville—just a few months old—offers enviable views over much of the city. Get more bang for your buck at AC Hotel Montreal Downtown. The modern high-rise is steps from everything you’d need.
When you’re officially ready to stick it to the cold and cut your losses with a warm-weather winter escape, Costa Rica should top your list in January, generally a safe bet filled with tropical weather and sunshine. As a bonus, it’s also *much* cheaper to get to, according to SkyScanner, than many of the Caribbean Islands to its northeast during the same month. Obviously, there’s plenty of beach access, but there are also jungles, volcanoes, abundant biodiversity and countless outdoor activities to keep you busy: hiking, boating, fishing, swimming, surfing and snorkeling. You can see the humpback whales as they migrate north and the nesting sea turtles on the Pacific beaches, too.
Where to Stay: Stay in Tamarindo in the Guanacaste Province on the Pacific side. The primary attraction is the sandy beach that stretches along the main road. It’s home to one of the country’s best surfing beaches, especially for beginners. From here, you’ll have easy access to the caves at Barra Honda National Park, hiking, waterfalls and volcanoes of Rincon de la Vieja National Park and the tropical dry forest in Santa Rosa National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The beach-front, adults-only Tamarindo Bay Boutique Hotel has rooms from just $118.
SANTA BARBARA, CALIFORNIA
Whether you’re shopping on State Street, enjoying the oceanfront, wine tasting (the Santa Barbara Urban Wine Trail showcases the county’s best wineries), or hiking the weather in this area of California is pleasant year-round. In January, temperatures range from the mid-60s during the day to the mid-40s at night—freezing by Southern California standards, but a welcome reprieve for frost-bitten East Coasters and Midwesterners. It’s also one of the wettest months of the year by local standards (~5 days out of the month), which can make sightseeing or lounging more difficult, but if there is an opportune beach day, you should soak it up by eating and drinking right on the beach at Shoreline Beach Cafe, a local favorite. The best apart? The less-than-ideal weather means prices are also at their lowest. SkyScanner shows flights from NYC to LAX from $168 roundtrip. Flights directly to Santa Barbara’s adorable municipal airport start at $320.
Where to Stay: In Santa Barbara, the charming and hip Agave Inn, part of the Shelter Social Club, is great for those on a budget with rooms around $125 a night. The Kimpton Goodland is a boutique hotel/retreat near the beach in neighboring Goleta that does not disappoint. And, the Spanish-style Casa Del Mar Inn is walking distance from West Beach. If you need a spa reset to ring in 2019, drive down to neighboring Ojai and check in to the Oaks at Ojai, an all-inclusive wellness resort downtown, or the Ojai Valley Inn, a luxury resort with an on-site spa and golf course.