The holiday travel season is one of the busiest times of year — according to the U.S. Department of Transportation, the number of long-distance trips rises 23% during the holiday season compared to the rest of the year.

So, if you’re looking to beat the crowds and find some cheap winter vacations — and you’re prepared to go beyond the usual popular travel destinations — it helps to start early and book in advance. Fortunately, budget-conscious travelers have more options than ever before to find cheap winter vacations and save money while still getting a much-needed getaway — especially if you’re willing to look beyond the holidays and travel during less popular dates during January and February.

Here are five ideas for how to find cheap winter vacations that suit your budget:

1. Go to a warm weather city that doesn’t have beaches.

Many people want to go on a winter vacation to a warm, sunny beach destination, but the beach will cost you extra. If you’re willing to look beyond Florida, California, Mexico, the Bahamas and other popular beach destinations, you can get away from the big tourist crowds while still having a fun and memorable winter vacation.

There are often many great cheap winter vacation deals to be had in inland cities like Dallas or Albuquerque or Santa Fe that are not typical “tourist destinations” in wintertime, yet the temperatures are still comfortable and the cities offer plenty to do, with great shopping, museums, culture and restaurants. You’ll be so busy having fun in the city that you won’t even miss the beach — and you can probably get a hotel with a great pool, too.

2. Go to Las Vegas after the holidays.

Vegas often has cheap airfare and generous hotel deals in the weeks after January 1. There’s not truly an “off-peak” season in Vegas, but early January is often as close as it gets to calming down.

3. Rent a mountain cabin at off-peak rates.

Did you know you can rent cabins at the YMCA of the Rockies — Estes Park Center in Colorado for big savings during the winter months? There are many YMCA camps, national parks and state parks that rent cabins and lodges year-round for groups, couples or families — and you can often save big money when you book in the winter.

Don’t assume that certain attractions are only open during the summertime. Many mountain tourist resorts are open for business during the winter, and at cheaper prices than in the spring, summer or fall.

4. Go to a cold weather city.

Sometimes you may as well just admit that it’s winter. Some of the best cheap winter vacations can be found in a cold weather city in the Northern U.S. or Canada — there are often great discounts available on airfares and lodging during the winter months, when most tourists are trying to head south.

If you enjoy winter weather or aren’t afraid to shiver a bit, you can explore great restaurants and city culture at a big discount off of peak tourist season. Try Minneapolis-St. Paul (fun museums, parks and nightlife), Cleveland (home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and a highly praised restaurant scene), Detroit (a resurgent restaurant scene, Detroit Red Wings hockey and Detroit Pistons basketball), or Montreal (European-style culture and cuisine but without the transatlantic flight).

With a bit of creativity, advance planning and flexibility, finding cheap winter vacations is more possible than you might expect. Just be prepared to avoid the most popular locations on the most popular dates, and be willing to expand your idea of what your winter vacation might look like: Sometimes the most fun can be had in the most unlikely locations.

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