The only way to shake the winter blues? By taking a vacation, of course!
Even those who delight in the winter season might be feeling a bit drained from the chilly temperatures and the lack of sunshine, which means it’s the perfect time to get out of town to boost your mood. If you’re on a budget, you can enjoy long weekends in sunny Palm Springs, lively New Orleans, a week-long jaunt across the pond to Barcelona, or even a ski trip to Whistler, B.C., for about $750.
3-4 Nights in Palm Springs for $800
If you’re an architecture buff, there’s no better place to visit in February than Palm Springs, which is hosting its famous Modernism Week from February 13-23. With more than 350 events celebrating midcentury design, from house tours to film screenings to lively fêtes, there’s plenty to keep you entertained. More interested in R&R? Not to worry—the greater Palm Springs area is a leisure lover’s delight, with plenty of sprawling resorts (check out the recently-renovated Renaissance Esmeralda Resort in Indian Wells, which is adjacent to two 18-hole golf courses and has an indoor-outdoor spa and a sand-fringed pool). Want a more active itinerary? Head out into the desert on hikes, take a Jeep tour of the San Andreas Fault, or fulfill your need for speed at the BMW Performance Center.
If you’re based in Los Angeles, you’ve got an easy two-hour drive through the desert. But East Coasters can fly into Palm Springs for as little as $215 from New York, while Midwesterners can hop a flight from Chicago for $234. Keep in mind that hotel prices will be higher during Modernism Week, so you might need to plan a shorter stay to stick within the budget. Hotel rates during the event range from $200 to $400 on average, while prices fall below $200 throughout the rest of the month. Keep an eye on Airbnbs, too—they can cost as little as $100 per night, and you might even get to stay in a historic midcentury-modern house!
7 Days in Barcelona for $650
If you’re worried about contributing to Barcelona’s overtourism, take advantage of the Mediterranean city’s low season, when crowds will have significantly thinned. While it’s not necessarily beach weather—the highs are in the low 60s in February—you’ll experience prime sightseeing temperatures that are not too hot and not too cool. Check out architect Antoni Gaudí’s masterpieces, from the awe-inspiring Sagrada Familia cathedral to the whimsical Parc Güell, stroll the shops of Las Ramblas, and work up an appetite for paella. If you’ve got the time, consider taking a day trip outside of the city: visit the seaside town of Cadaqués, once home to artist Salvador Dalí, for a beautiful afternoon or head to the nearby country of Andorra for some skiing, if you’re feeling a little adventurous.
Flights to Barcelona are more affordable than usual in February: $322 from Los Angeles, $326 from New York and $353 from Miami. If you’re willing to stay in (highly-rated and centrally-located) hostels, you can find some as cheap as $40 per night, while private rooms in Airbnbs are as little as $30 per night. All in all, you can easily plan a week-long trip to Barcelona for $750 or less.
4 Nights in New Orleans for $750
One of the biggest attractions to New Orleans is Mardi Gras which falls on February 25. However, there are many other reasons to visit this vibrant city in February. First and foremost, the weather is ideal for exploring the city, with an average high in the mid-60s—a vast departure from the outrageously-humid summers. But beyond that, you can celebrate the Vietnamese New Year through Tet Fest on February 7, or dive into Black History Month programming throughout the entire month. For quieter activities far from the frenzy on Bourbon Street, go museum hopping and visit the National WWII Museum, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, and the Contemporary Arts Center New Orleans. You can also take a food tour to sample some of the city’s finest bites. And if you do want to indulge in the party scene, it’s right there waiting for you.
Flights to New Orleans are routinely under $200 from a number of major cities across the country: $167 from Miami, $176 from San Diego, and $136 from Boston, just to name a few. And hotels can be reasonable on weeknights, too, when they cost anywhere from $100 to $200 per night (if you can splurge a little, check out the brand new Higgins Hotel New Orleans, which is adjacent to the National WWII Museum). On weekends, hotel prices more than double, so you’re better off booking an Airbnb for around $150 a night. And don’t expect low airfare or room rates over Mardi Gras—things can get pricey fast.
3 Nights in Whistler for $850
As one of the prime ski destinations in Canada, Whistler certainly attracts the majority of its visitors to its slopes but it’s not just about skiing or snowboarding. For those seeking more leisurely activities, you can shop and dine all day long in the walkable Whistler Village, take a relaxing soak at the Scandinave Spa, and visit the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre or Audain Art Museum. There’s also adventure to be found for non-skiers—try your hand at skeleton or bobsleigh programs for an adrenaline rush, or get out into nature via snowshoeing, snowmobiling, or even wintry ziplining. No matter which activity you choose, you’re always welcome to join in on the après-ski fun in the evenings.
The nearest airport to Whistler is Vancouver, about an hour and a half away, and despite February being peak season, flights are still relatively reasonable. From San Francisco, flights cost as little as $230, while from Washington, D.C., they start at $290. Hotels, however, aren’t cheap—weekdays will run you $200 to $400 on average, with prices doubling on the weekends—but Airbnbs can be more affordable, costing less than $200, even on weekends.