Sure, when it comes to the winter holidays there is something charming and festive about a white Christmas. Snow falling outside your window, warm sweaters and curling up in front of a fire while you sip hot cocoa all seem like appropriate parts of the winter holiday season. But you know another fun way to spend your Xmas break? On a beach, in a bikini, with a cocktail in hand and absolutely no snow in sight. It’s time to plan your beach-bound holiday trip, and yes, you still have time to make it happen. There are tons of last-minute steals and deals when it comes to holiday travel, so even if you don’t live anywhere near a beach, you can be on the sand in no time winter holidays season.
According to travel expert John DiScala of JohnnyJet.com, the first step to spending the holidays poolside is to be flexible about when you go. Of course, certain travel dates will be extremely popular (read: busy and expensive) so if you are able to travel on other dates you’re far more likely to make a trip happen and stay within your budget. He explains that when it comes to planning a last minute trip, it’s “only too late if you’re not flexible. There will be days that are much cheaper to travel on if you’re just flexible by a few days.”
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Step 2: stay in tune with the latest and greatest deals out there in the travel world. And how do you access all of that information at the click of a button? With social media of course! Starting now, follow all major airlines, hotel chains, travel experts and travel magazines/websites on social media. Chances are they will post deals, recommendations, destination ideas and travel tips regularly, so you’ll not only have an easy time figuring out where to travel but you’ll be able to jump on the deals as they occur.
Stick to all-inclusive options if you want a resort experience. After all, time is of the essence when you are planning a last-minute vacation, and you don’t want to spend hours on the phone with multiple different hotels, activities, restaurants and travel companies when you could make one phone call to book everything.
If you’re looking for a home away from home experience, forget hotels (which will undoubtedly be busy and overpriced during the holiday break) and instead opt for a homestay trip. You can use websites like homeaway.com, vrbo.com or airbnb.com to find home rental options in warm-weather destinations around the country and the world. Remember, you’re not the only one who wants to travel during the holidays. Capitalize on the fact that people everywhere are leaving their posts to visit family and friends, and find houses or apartments that you can rent, even on a budget.
If you’re in a bind, sometimes hotel loyalty programs can help you. When you look on the website they may show blackout dates, but for loyal members and regular customers they offer perks and free nights, so make sure you call the loyalty desk to find out what is available to you. In addition, even if hotels or destinations show that they are fully booked and at capacity, there will always be people who need to cancel at the last minute. Their loss can be your gain. Ask to be added to cancellation lists so that you are notified if anything opens up for your desired timeframe. And again, if you can be flexible with dates, you’ll be more likely to squeeze in a trip should someone else drop out.
Another tip: competition is a good thing and can work in your favor when booking holiday travel. According to George Hobica, founder of airfarewatchdog.com, argues that the busier an airport is, the better it is for your wallet. “The regular, nonpeak rates are so low that the peak fares are reasonable, even for holiday travels,” Mr. Hobica said. That said, even if and when the airline tickets can be expensive, you can balance out your spending with hotel deals. Sarah Gavin, a senior editor at Expedia, explains “the big secret for both Thanksgiving and Christmas is it is absolutely true that airfare is more expensive but hotels are a lot cheaper.”
Last but not least, think outside the box when it comes to beach destinations. Of course there are some islands in the Caribbean, cities in South Florida and locations on the California coast that will always be in high demand. But there are tons of other options for warm-weather vacation spots that can cure your winter blues. Either speak to a travel specialist, or do your research with the travel blogs and magazines to find out the best options for you. You will be inspired to visit somewhere new, and you’ll be sporting a bikini with a piña colada in hand in no time.