7 Reasons Winter Travel is Totally Underrated

Winter is finally here, and, once the new year arrives, you may be saying hasta luego to your passport and au revoir to your suitcase for the next few months. Cold, gloomy weather and short days are enough to keep many travelers away from winter globetrotting. The period after the holidays and before the start of spring is one of the quietest times of year for travel, but should it be? No way! Here’s why winter travel is completely underrated.

Winter travel in Asturias, Spain

A sprinkling of snow as winter approaches in Lagos de Covadonga, Asturias, Spain

Perks of Winter Travel

Avoid the Crowds

I’ll start with the most obvious one: if you’re hoping to see the world—and not just the back of other people’s heads—winter is a fantastically off-peak time for most destinations around the globe. Warmer weather and school holidays make spring and summer the most popular seasons for jetsetting, so go against the grain and head overseas during the cooler months.

Sure, airports can get insanely busy around the holidays, but once the new year starts, travel tends to be pretty smooth sailing. In fact, reports from a few years ago show that 37% fewer people fly in February, the year’s slowest travel month, compared to July, the year’s busiest. This handy series of maps can help you plan around crowds: they summarize which months are low, shoulder, and high season for countries around the globe.

Menorca, Spain

We had the island of Menorca, Spain almost entirely to ourselves during a January trip AND saved big money on flights and accommodation

Save Money

Low travel season also means low impact on your wallet, fortunately! Hotels, airlines, and tour operators usually offer lower prices because of the decreased demand, so if you’re looking to save a bit of cash this year, definitely consider traveling during the winter. According to Investopedia, January 9th through March 9th (with the exception of Presidents’ Day weekend) is an exceptionally inexpensive time for U.S. tourists to travel.

To find the best prices, book about three months to two weeks before a domestic trip or five months to one month before an international voyage. Keep an eye out for special deals, and be sure to use travel comparison sites like Google Flights, Skyscanner, or Booking.com for the absolute best deals.

Traveling in the winter: Madrid, Spain

Enjoying a winter hike near Madrid

Partake in Winter Sports

Traveling in the winter isn’t just about avoiding the pains of peak season travel, though: some of the most exhilarating activities are best experienced in the winter. Skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, dog sledding, and other cold weather activities allow you to see new destinations through totally different eyes.

Sure, it’s hard to resist the appeal of sunbathing on a tropical beach or sipping wine in a sunny Italian vineyard, but winter sports are well worth the chill. Bundle up, find yourself some fantastic ski deals, and take the winter bull by its horns. The adrenaline rush, stunning views, and cozy evenings will add up to a trip you’ll never forget.

Perisher tobogganing, Australia

Tobogganing in Perisher, Australia

Join the Festivities

No matter which holiday you celebrate, winter is undoubtedly a fabulously festive time of year. Enjoy your favorite traditions in an entirely new setting or learn about another culture’s winter customs by scheduling your travel around the holiday season. Stroll through a Christmas market, admire the light displays, taste seasonal food and drink, and learn about local traditions.

Watch New Year’s fireworks over Sydney Harbour, join a Lunar New Year parade in Beijing, marvel at Niagara Falls’ Winter Festival of Lights, or take to the streets for Rio de Janeiro’s Carnival, just to name a few. Whatever your brand of celebrating, you’ll find something around the world that tickles your fancy this winter.

Christmas lights, Puerta del Sol, Madrid, Spain

Enjoying Christmas lights in Madrid

Experience the Northern Lights

From Christmas markets to ski holidays, there are plenty of activities that can only be enjoyed in the winter. But if there’s one that tops my bucket list year after year, it’s witnessing the Northern Lights. Long nights in winter (which last for months in some destinations!) mean that winter is the only time to catch the aurora borealis in some parts of the world. And that’s one light show you don’t want to miss.

Iceland, Finland, Norway, Canada, and Alaska are some of the world’s best places to catch the Northern Lights. Check out these suggestions for specific locations that make great viewing points for the lights. Seeing the lights can be a bit tricky to plan since auroral activity and clouds aren’t always predictable, so check out this aurora forecast in the days leading up to your trip.

Tromsø, Norway Northern Lights

Northern Lights in Tromsø, Norway (photo credit)

Give the Gift of Travel

Dear friends and family, as much as I loved all of your gifts last year, the absolute best present I received last Christmas was one I gave myself: I used Christmas Eve to book myself a trip to Cancun a few weeks later. Whether you’re figuring out what to give a loved one or just looking to treat yo’self, there’s no better holiday present than travel.

Christmas, Hanukkah, and other winter holidays are the perfect excuse to plan a trip. If you’re given time off from work or school, use that time to explore a new location. Surprise someone with an adventure or give them hotel, airline, or other travel gift certificate to do so—especially if you get to join them for the trip. It’s a win-win for everyone.

Tulum, Mexico

Visiting Tulum, Mexico in January after gifting myself a trip to Cancun

Escape the Winter

If you’re still not convinced, winter travel doesn’t have to be about actually experiencing winter! One survey found that nearly half of U.S. adults would consider a long distance international trip in the winter if it meant a change in weather.

Skip straight into summer by heading to the other hemisphere, hit up the tropics for some balmy rest and relaxation, or simply enjoy somewhere a little more mild like the Mediterranean. You’ll still find plenty of celebrations, and, in many cases, smaller crowds in the winter months. Plus, how better to escape winter blues than by checking out a new destination?

Sea turtle, Caye Caulker, Belize

Not your typical winter view: snorkeling in Caye Caulker, Belize in January 2017

Winter definitely doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. Smaller crowds, cheaper prices, and seasonal activities make winter one of the best times of the year to see the world. Next time you’re thinking of booking a trip, why wait until spring or summer when there’s so much to enjoy about winter travel? Be sure to also check out my best ideas for a winter trip. Wishing you warm and happy travels this winter!

Disclaimer: This post may contain compensated links, but all opinions are entirely my own, as always.

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