You know the saying "timing is everything?" That's definitely true when it comes to travel. Sure, you could embark on a fabulous getaway at any point during the year and have a total blast. But if you want to save serious coin without compromising on relaxation and adventure, when you plan your trip can make a huge difference.
Our guide below outlines the most fun and wallet-friendly months to visit 12 globe-spanning vacation destinations in 2017. Prices vary depending on how far you have to fly, but expect to save 20% to 50% off regular high-season prices.* Locate your dream hot spot, click on a reservation and count the days until your plane is taxiing down the runway.
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Get started with a free financial assessment.
London, Paris, Amsterdam, Zurich—jet to just about any major hub city in Europe this month, and you can save at least 50% on airfare compared to flying out during the summer peak. “The best price on round-trip tickets from New York City to Europe is about $300 in January and $700 in July,” says Clem Bason, CEO of the hotel search site goSeek.
Lodging right now is also a bargain: Expect about half off on four-star hotels and one-third off on five-star hotels in metro areas. “Major cities have a lot of hotel rooms to accommodate the summer rush that are empty in the winter, which translates into deep discounts,” Bason says. Just because the crowds are gone doesn't mean Europe is any less magical. "City architecture is stunning in a winter setting," he says. “They have markets, sporting events and activities that lend a celebratory feel.”
Economics plays a role in making Europe ideal at the moment. “The U.S. dollar has gained strength tremendously against all European currencies since the 2016 election, so you can get a great rate,” adds Bason. Check out the opaque deals at Hotwire or Priceline, where the name of the hotel is concealed until you book (Bason has seen five-star hotels in Europe selling for $40 a night). Or comparison shop at Trivago, which is based in Germany and tilts its best offers toward Europe.
February: Puerto Rico
This tropical island, a U.S. territory, is currently mired in a financial crisis. But for travelers seeking blue skies, white sand and tons of fun activities, that actually makes it a more attractive destination. “Because the island is in economic distress, your money goes far and flights are consistently affordable throughout the year,” Bason says. (Think: $220 round-trip from NYC and $274 from Chicago.)
You'll likely spend at least $100 less on airfare than you would jetting to most of the other Caribbean tourist favorites. Plus, lodging can be half the cost as well. Go before the spring breakers descend in March and April to save an extra 20% or more on four- and five-star hotels.
Bason suggests starting off with a few nights in San Juan. “It’s steeped in colonial history, and you can find an inexpensive room at a nice hotel like the Hilton or InterContinental using Expedia or Priceline,” he says. Then, hop on a puddle-jumper or ferry to Vieques, a wildlife refuge where wild horses roam. “Vieques is off the beaten track—you’ll feel like you’re on a remote desert island,” Bason says. Since this area is less developed, if you want to stay the night there, rent a house on Airbnb or HomeAway.
March: Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
Book your trip to this resort paradise on the Baja Peninsula for early in the month. The weather is mild, the waves are warm and it's whale-watching season, but you'll skip the spring-break rush. (Think: $400 round-trip from New York City vs. $650 during tourist season.) The U.S. dollar has never been stronger compared to the Mexican peso, says Bason. And thanks to a new airline market deal between the two nations, flights are cheaper than ever, he adds.
When it comes to lodging, you can expect to save about 20% on four-star hotels compared to prime tourist months like January, February, the end of March and April. Cabo has experienced a hotel building boom over the last few years, which is why you can find low prices there.
To save an extra 50% to 60% on top of those hotel rates, look for a deal that bundles the airfare and lodging. But here’s the catch: Instead of purchasing a package through an American-based travel site, check different hotel reservation pages directly. “You get a better discount because it’s listed in pesos converted to the dollar,” Bason says. “When pricing for a U.S. customer, they try to take advantage and set a higher fee."
April: New Orleans
Because the Big Easy is not a traditional spring break destination, you’ll sidestep the crowds (and sky-high rates) while enjoying gumbo and po’ boys, a rocking music scene and perfect weather. The average temperature in April is a comfy 78 degrees; in May, it jumps to a sticky 85.
“From a value perspective, Southwest has been aggressively expanding its footprint in New Orleans, so their flights are cheap and it’s easier than ever to get to,” Bason says. “You’ll save up to 50% on airfare in April compared to major event weeks like Mardi Gras in February and Jazz Fest in May.”
Where to bed down? “You can get a very inexpensive hotel room (as much as half off during peak tourist times) because there are too many rooms for the amount of people visiting this month,” Bason says. Steer clear of big-box chains in favor of tiny boutique inns in the French Quarter or an Airbnb. “Not only are they a value, but you’ll get a good sense of the local culture and history through the owners,” Bason says.
May: Myrtle Beach
The ideal time to enjoy this family-friendly East Coast resort town is pre-Memorial Day—you’ll save at least 25% off hotels and 50% off the price of a summer flight ($120 versus more than $250 round-trip from NYC). “Myrtle Beach has a charming old-school feel,” Bason says. Famous for its golf courses, there’s plenty to do off the green, such as stroll the boardwalk, go fishing, ride bike trails and outlet-shop. And the average high in May is a perfect 79 degrees.
“To find hotel deals, you’ll have to do some shopping around on meta search sites,” Bason says. “Check out BookIt—it’s not a major site, but local hotel owners in Myrtle Beach made deals with online travel agencies like BookIt years ago that still exist today and beat all the other sites in price by about 10 to 20%.”
June: St. Augustine, Florida
Early summer rates in the sunshine state's sandy Northern Coast will run you a cool 10 to 30% less in airfare and hotel costs than if you went in March. “What’s more, many Canadian snowbirds are cutting short their Florida trips because the exchange rate is so unfavorable,” Bason says. That means more plane seats and hotel rooms available at ridiculously sweet prices.
While the low fares and hotel rates apply to many northern Florida destinations, Bason’s top pick is this pretty colonial Spanish city. “It’s the oldest town in America and a throwback to a simpler time in Florida,” Bason says. Fly into Orlando (pretty much all the major low-cost carriers go there) and stop by charming beach towns like Ormond-by-the-Sea along the two-hour drive up the coast.
Mid-summer is the middle of the winter in Brazil, making it a budget-friendly time (you’ll pay 25% less for both airfare and hotels right now) to explore its cities, wetlands and beaches, says Pauline Frommer, editorial director for the Frommer travel guidebooks.
To book plane tickets, try momondo—unlike go-to airfare search engines like Kayak, momondo isn’t affiliated with sites that sell flights, hotel rooms and travel packages. Since they’re not pushing anything, you can feel more confident that you’re getting the best rates. For hotels, head to Booking, which works like a traditional room-booking site yet includes a good selection of the country’s smaller inns and mom-and-pop lodging spots as well as full-service hotels.
Fly into Rio and spend a few nights in areas like Copacabana, Ipanema or Leblon, which are secure areas. Then travel to Paraty, a “glorious little colonial city that’s three-and-a-half hours away by car,” Frommer says. “Once there, hire fishing boats to take you to the lush uninhabited islands off the coast.”
You can also take a quick and cheap flight to Florianópolis—with its seemingly endless miles of sandy beaches, quaint fishing villages and yummy seafood—or Pantanal, the largest inland wetland. “It’s twice the size of Iceland, with jaguars, giant otters and over 500 kinds of birds,” Frommer says.
If the land down under is on your bucket list, this is the time to go. “I’ve seen plane tickets that would cost $2,000 in peak season discounted to as much as $1,100 in August,” Frommer says. “And the American dollar is whooping the Australian dollar right now.”
August is winter in Australia, so you definitely won’t be sunbathing on Bondi Beach. But it’s an ideal time for flying into Sydney and then visiting Outback cities like Uluru or Alice Springs. “Take a wilderness-survival tour, climb in the canyons or go trekking on camelback,” Frommer says. “Stargaze—this is one of the darkest places on Earth, and you’ll see a new set of constellations from the other side of the planet.”
In major cities like Sydney, use hotel loyalty points if you have them. “Chains have promised that the rates you find on their site will be lower than anything elsewhere since they won’t have to pay a third-party fee,” Frommer says. “When you’re in the Outback, check out HotelsCombined, an independent site that rounds up the best deals from all the top travel sites.”
This cosmopolitan city has cutting-edge restaurants and shops, but it's also a playground for outdoor enthusiasts into hiking and mountain biking. “The exchange rate in Canada is strong, but it’s a destination that most Americans don’t think of,” Bason says. By September, summer tourism has died down, yet the autumn rainy season doesn't really kick in until October. Early in the month, you’ll enjoy mild temperatures; later, spectacular fall colors emerge.
Vancouver has relatively cheap flights (about 10% less in September compared to mid-summer) and lodging options, because city developers overbuilt hotels in preparation for the 2010 Olympics. With the money you save, build in a few side trips: take a beautiful two-hour bus ride up into the mountains to the alpine town of Whistler or hop on a ferry to Victoria Island, “a jungle island full of waterfalls that is just awe-inspiring,” Bason says.
October: Park City, Utah
An autumn visit to compact Park City, with its Western frontier-town feel, and the surrounding Wasatch Mountain region is as affordable as it is gorgeous. “You’ll save 20% compared to going in the winter or summer,” Frommer says. “But you still have access to glamorous restaurants, cool boutiques and activities like hiking and mountain biking.” As the host city of the Sundance Film Festival, there’s also a rich cultural element year-round—be sure to catch some indie movies while you’re there.
Since eating out can be expensive in Park City, Frommer suggests renting a place on Airbnb, HomeAway or VRBO so you can cook on your own. That way you can score your alpine fix without the ski bunny prices.
November: Dominican Republic
Thanksgiving week aside, November is a bargain time to enjoy this Caribbean island favorite. “Although hurricanes peak in September and October and almost never hit in November, you still get the benefits of storm-season pricing,” Frommer says. “You could save as much as 50% on hotels and airfare versus peak season.” (Think: $750 for plane tickets and a one-week stay at a basic resort, down from $1500 in the winter or spring.)
A Frommer’s study found that travelers who booked Caribbean airfare and lodging separately spent an average of $300 more than those who purchased packages. So shop around at sites that bundle the two together, like CheapCaribbean and Expedia. Inclusive resort deals are the way to go in the DR: The major areas are Punta Cana, Puerto Plata and La Romana.
The resort you go with will take care of the details, so all you have to do is kick back and get your R&R on. Meals, drinks, kids' activities and all kinds of watersports are right there at your fingertips, Frommer says.
December: Las Vegas
It’s no surprise that Sin City tends to clear out during this holiday month. “It’s not seen as a Christmas destination, plus there aren’t many business conventions at this time of year,” Frommer says. Those empty planes and hotel rooms equal jackpot savings. (Think: $49 a night for a room on the Strip vs. $220 for the same room during peak season.) Find killer deals at TravelWorm, which specializes in Vegas.
Playing slot machines on Christmas Eve not your thing? You’re in luck: “Las Vegas is in transition; it used to be a gambling mecca, but now it’s an entertainment capital,” Frommer says. “People spend significantly more on Broadway shows, concerts and dance clubs than they do at the tables.”
You can also find every kind of restaurant and fascinating, lesser-known museums (don't miss the Mob Museum about organized crime). And with daytime temperatures averaging in the 50s, it's just right for desert hikes in Red Rock Canyon and the Valley of Fire.
*All prices and discount information throughout this article are accurate as of January 2017 and come from the following sources: Clem Bason, CEO of the hotel search site goSeek; Pauline Frommer, editorial director for the Frommer travel guidebooks; momondo.com.