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Insider tip: cool winter months offer red-hot vacation savings

Book European vacations during winter months for the year's best deals with an added bonus of fewer crowds.
December 29, 2004 - While summer is synonymous with vacation to many Americans, it is a little known secret in the travel industry that some of the best deals on vacations can be found during the chillier winter months. Sandwiched between the busy holiday season and spring vacations, January and February are two of the best value months to travel around the globe. Whether you're planning travel to somewhere warm or want to catch a European snowfall, you can often find deep discounts by knowing a few tips on smart winter travel.

Off-Peak Season Savings

People who vowed to ring in the New Year by resolving to take a much-deserved vacation will find that January is one of the cheapest months of the year to travel. Known as the "shoulder season," between peak holiday and spring break travel periods, January is a great month for lower airfares and hotel deals in warm destinations. Plan a trip by mid-February for the most savings, and avoid the more popular Martin Luther King and President's Day weekends for the best deals. Best bets for bargains: Florida, California, Hawaii and Mexico. Fly in and out midweek to save even more.

Economical European Escapes

For travelers dreaming of setting off with their passports in hand, trips to European cities are at their cheapest point in the year during this time. Discount sites like, which sells excess airline and hotel inventory, are great resources for booking an off-peak European vacation.

Although popular European destinations like London, Paris and Moscow are chillier, the cultural and historical attractions-from the Eiffel Tower and Big Ben to Red Square-are just as breathtaking as during the busier and pricier summer season. You'll also find virtually no crowds and waiting times to see the sights. Travel before Easter for the best deals.

Fly Away on the Cheap

When shopping for airfares at any time of the year, using simple money-saving strategies is a surefire way to shave dollars off your ticket. Below are four easy tips to keep in mind:

1. Allow flexibility on dates and times to save money. Whenever possible, try to fly on a Tuesday or Wednesday as there are often less expensive airfares than for flights on popular weekend days. Using an online travel site like, which offers lower prices to travelers who can be flexible, can help you save even more.

2. Consider alternate airports to find lower fares. Many major cities have more than one airport and it's worth checking all to compare fares.

3. Avoid peak periods including national holidays, school breaks and popular vacation times like the summer months. Flights and hotels are typically more crowded and travel is more expensive.

4. Book a package. Bundling airfare and hotel into one price via an online travel site can often save even more.

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