Prepping for the Polar Coaster? The famed Farmers’ Almanac predicts record-low temperatures across much of America this year, so it’s high time to plan a trip to someplace warm.
Below are our top picks for the best places to go this winter for a different kind of chill.
Nassau and Paradise Island, the Bahamas
An easy-breezy island getaway, the Bahamas is ideal for a super-tropical quick trip, with direct flights from many major airports on the East Coast, so you can hop countries in a snap. The Bahamian islands of Grand Bahama and the Abacos faced major devastation after being pummeled by Hurricane Dorian in September, but luckily for the island-hungry, the best way to help with recovery efforts is to go and visit.
Tourism makes up more than one-third of the Bahamas’ Gross National Product and employs about two-fifths of the workforce, so booking trips is vital to directly support the local economy and help the islands bounce back. Most of the Bahamas’ 700-plus islands, including Nassau and Paradise Island, were unaffected by the hurricane, so visitors can plan a dreamy vacation while feeling good about what they’re doing with their dollars.
The Pack with Love package at Baha Mar gives guests the opportunity to pack items in their luggage to be donated to victims of Hurricane Dorian. They can even deliver their items personally to shelters in Nassau that are housing displaced Bahamians from Grand Bahama and the Abacos.
Head south for the road trip of the future on Nevada’s Nevada Electric Highway (NEH), equipped with a strategically placed network of electric vehicle charging stations, including Tesla superchargers, to make long-distance electric vehicle travel more convenient and efficient. Nevada’s goal is to serve the entire state by 2020, becoming a model for sustainable travel. Southern Nevada is warm even in winter, dropping only as low as the 60s during the chilliest months of the year, and a road trip through its expansive deserts is peppered with ghost towns, Gold Rush-era saloons, funky art, and more. Popular routes include the Free Range Art Highway, Neon to Nature, and the Death Drive.
Accessible via direct flights from many U.S. cities, Cartagena is a historic port city in Colombia, located on the country’s Caribbean coast and with the colorful, colonial-style buildings to show for it. Between the vibrant palenquera women, who balance bowls of fruit on their heads, and the cobblestone streets, white sand beaches, coral reefs, and a walled Old Town that dates to the 1500s, visitors are treated to a culture-rich visual feast. The five-star Conrad Cartagena provides a welcome wintertime respite with four pools, a private beach, and a Nicklaus Design golf course for an upscale and leisurely getaway.
Charleston, South Carolina
By now, Charleston is well-known for its culinary scene, but fewer realize it’s a solid choice among the Southern latitudes during wintertime, with or without sought-after dinner reservations on the agenda. In December, go for city-wide holiday events like James Island’s 30th Annual Holiday Festival of Lights and Candlelight Tours at the 19th-century Nathaniel Russell House.
Want to really up the Christmastime ante? Stay at the French Quarter Inn and book the Southern Sleigh Bell Suite, which comes decked in holiday décor with garlands, mistletoe, and a tree. Or opt for the Andrew Pinckney Inn and participate in their complimentary 12 Days of Christmas programming—highlights include truffle-making demonstrations and a hot buttered rum turndown service.
Costa Rica’s dry season starts mid-November, so winter’s arrival presents a perfect opportunity to hop down to this Central American gem and spend a few adventurous, eco-friendly days checking items off your bucket list. Popular items on a Costa Rica itinerary? Surf lessons, whale watching in Marino Ballena National Park, hiking (stay at Senda Monteverde Hotel to also zipline through the majestic Cloud Forest), and maybe checking out an active volcano or two. Do it all with a sustainable twist—Costa Rica makes that easy—and feel good about your travel footprint this season.
Montego Bay, Jamaica
Plan an early-winter trip to Jamaica for shoulder-season savings and a warm-weather getaway sans crowds. November and December are off-peak season for Jamaica, providing savvy travelers the chance to save nearly half off the price of typical room rates. Take the all-inclusive oceanfront Hilton Rose Hall Resort & Spa, for example: rates start at $266 per room per night during these off-peak periods, and that includes unlimited food, drinks, and other amenities, like a kids club and waterpark.
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
What’s better than a snowy season trip to sunny Florida? Long regarded as one of the nation’s favorite winter retreats, Florida has plenty of freeze-free destinations on its ocean-lapped shores, and Fort Lauderdale is among the best of them. With a beachy vibe and all the amenities of a big city—but with less headache than a metropolis like Miami—visitors can score a sandy beach vacation for a great price.
Head to mural-coated Flagler Village for trendy to-dos like an axe-throwing bar, a bar with old-school arcade games and pinball, a microbrewery, and more. The Dalmar, a design-driven urban lifestyle hotel in Flagler Village, draws inspiration from the 1950s and 1960s eras of travel and features a rooftop bar, infinity saltwater pool, and signature restaurant, with a location near buzzy Las Olas—free shuttles to the beach are a bonus.
Best of all, with the debut of the Brightline rail system, visitors to Fort Lauderdale can easily hop up to West Palm Beach or down to Miami to pack even more into their trip. Football fans who want to join in the fanfare should plan a February trip to coincide with Super Bowl LIV, held in nearby Miami Gardens.
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Why not travel a world away this winter? Dubai is an epic bucket-list destination for many, and its average wintertime temps of 70s to mid-80s are going to sound all the more appealing the first time you have to shovel snow off the driveway this season.
Bask in the multitude of outdoor attractions available in this desert oasis: at iconic Atlantis, The Palm, for example, kids and adults alike will have a blast at Aquaventure Waterpark and its adrenaline-pumping activities—there’s rapids, tidal waves, a near-vertical drop slide that ends in a clear tunnel through a shark-filled lagoon, and even up-close animal encounters with dolphins and sea lions. And when it’s time to dry off, book a Bedouin experience with Al Marmoom Bedouin Tours and learn to saddle and ride a camel on a traditional caravan through the desert. It’s even better than a snow day.
Skye Sherman is a freelance travel writer based in West Palm Beach, Fla. She covers news, transit, and international destinations for a variety of outlets. You can follow her adventures on Instagram and Twitter @skyesherman