Best Vacations to Escape the Winter Doldrums

As the new year continues, the tedium of winter begins to set in. Short days, cold nights, and gray skies may leave you feeling a little blue.

We’re not sure about you, but planning a getaway often lifts our spirits.

Whether you’re looking to escape the cold and embrace an island lifestyle for a long weekend or wish to lean further into the season, replacing your dreary commute with a stunning snow-covered mountainous vista, we have some getaway ideas that just might rekindle your spirit.

Here’s a look at some of our favorite vacation spots to help shape your winter travel plans.

Warm Weather Getaways

When you’ve hit your limit on the cold, consider an escape to one of these tropical oases. 

With temperatures averaging in the mid-70s to low-80s during the winter, these locales are ideal if your vision of a dreamy winter getaway includes sunscreen, bathing suits, and rum-based drinks served with a tiny umbrella.

Curaçao

Curaçao is the perfect travel destination within the ABC islands. Less touristy than Aruba but more accessible and livelier than Bonaire, Curaçao offers excellent dining, incredible snorkeling and sailing, and the opportunity to immerse yourself in the local culture.

Stay in Willemstad, the capital, and enjoy its vibrancy. Once you settle into your hotel, stroll down to Queen Emma Bridge, a pedestrian pontoon bridge that spans St. Anna Bay, and take in the city from this unique vantage point.

Then, cross into the Punda neighborhood to explore the murals, mosaics, and art installations that dot the streets. Pop into the shops and chat with locals, and, of course, walk by Handelskade, the colorful waterfront buildings that have become the symbol of Curaçao.

The view from Fort Nassau at sunset.

For dinner, visit Fort Nassau. Originally built as a lookout to protect the city and harbor in 1796, today it is a restaurant offering panoramic views of the island from its perch atop a hill. Reserve at the right time, and you can enjoy a stunning sunset with a cocktail in hand!

If you’ve brought the little ones along for the trip, consider spending a few hours at the Curacao Sea Aquarium, where dolphins leap in sea-fed enclosures, and your family can snorkel with sting rays, tarpons, and sharks in the natural lagoon.

St. Thomas

If you seek a tropical setting that doesn’t require a passport, St. Thomas is the perfect blend of accessibility, beauty, and relaxation. This tiny isle is nestled in the US Virgin Islands (USVI), so American citizens can travel there freely.

If you enjoy shopping, St. Thomas may be the place for you. The capital of the USVI, Charlotte Amalie on St. Thomas, is a major port for cruise ships, and if you’re in the market for a new piece of diamond jewelry, a half-dozen shops are there to help you find yours.

Once you’ve enjoyed the high of shopping, lean into the relaxed vibe of St. Thomas and ease into some downtime on the beach. 

Trunk Bay is consistently ranked one of the best beaches in the world and with good reason. As part of the Virgin Islands National Park, its gleaming white sands remain pristine. It also boasts a 650-foot snorkeling trail that invites you to take a self-guided swim around the coral near the beach and neighboring Trunk Cay.

A bird’s eye view of Trunk Bay and Trunk Cay just offshore.

After a long day of retail therapy and sun worship, it’s time to savor some delicious food. Stop by Amalia Cafe for paella and Spanish fare featuring fresh seafood from the ocean before you. Or, if you’d prefer to experience local cuisine, The Mafolie Restaurant serves up conch fritters, kallaloo soup, and jerked Atlantic salmon.

Why not cap your night off at Duffy’s Love Shack? Grab a drink served in a coconut, groove to the music, and enjoy the people-watching at this eclectic St. Thomas mainstay.

Belize

If you seek outdoor adventure in a stunning tropical setting, consider Belize for your winter getaway. Nestled beside Guatemala in Central America, in Belize, you’ll find acres of unspoiled rainforest and incredible underwater adventures in the Caribbean Sea.

Eco-tourism is a booming industry in Belize, and the country offers many luxurious options for accommodations in this category. Enjoy your time in the jungle, knowing that your hosts run their properties with a focus on sustainability. 

The Copal Tree Lodge and Chaa Creek stand out, offering guests deluxe accommodations, thoughtful activities, and outside adventures. Let the staff create an itinerary for you — perhaps a visit to a cacao nursery followed by chocolate tasting or a helicopter tour that winds above the beaches and jungles.

Belize is also known for its Maya ruins. Plan a day trip to Caracol, where you can see pyramids, altars, and other remnants of the bustling trade center that flourished there between the years 250 and 900 AD.

Finally, for those who are scuba-certified, a visit to the Great Blue Hole may be in order. This underwater sinkhole offers a network of stalagmite-filled caves populated by incredible sea life, including nurse sharks and dozens of fish species.

Cold Weather Hideaways

If you prefer to lean into seasonal trends rather than eschew them, consider these cold-weather destinations. Sometimes, the change of scenery — and a hot toddy by a roaring stone fireplace — can make all the difference in elevating your mood!

Banff

This national park in Alberta, Canada, is stunning in all seasons, but during the winter, it is a major ski destination that draws an international crowd. Banff boasts 8,000 acres of skiable terrain, making it a dream location for rugged, serious skiers.

Banff’s major resorts are known as the Big 3: Banff Sunshine, Lake Louise, and Mt. Norquay. Lake Louise has more challenging skiing on the backside, while Sunshine is more accessible to those who are newer to the slopes. Mt. Norquay is the smallest of the three and tends to attract more tourists than locals.

If you’re considering a trip to Banff, it might be worthwhile to hold off until early spring. Even those used to skiing in the Northeast or out West may not be prepared to face the sub-zero Canadian slopes. In January, the average high is 25 degrees Fahrenheit; with wind chill, it can feel as cold as 20 below.

Chamonix

If you’re looking for an international skiing adventure, Chamonix should be on your list. Tucked in the French Alps between Switzerland and Italy, this luxurious locale has world-class skiing and unparalleled accommodations.

If traveling with a smaller group, a hotel like the Hameau Albert 1er or the Hotel Mont-Blanc Chamonix offers beautiful rooms and calming spa services. If you seek a hotel with a lively après-ski scene on the premises, La Folie Douce Hotel may suit you. And if your extended family or a cadre of friends have joined you, consider renting your own chalet

Skiers are spoiled for choice in Chamonix. For advanced skiers, Le Grand Montets offers serious slopes and challenging runs. Domaine de Balme is a gentler option, with blues and reds for the intermediates, plus nursery slopes for any beginners in your group. 

If you’re looking for one area to satisfy all skiers in your party, Les Houches offers gentle slopes for families and beginners while also serving up more advanced terrain for seasoned athletes.

Whether or not you spend time on the slopes, you must enjoy Chamonix’s après-ski — the term originated in the region, and the experience remains unparalleled. 

Head into town and mingle with locals and fellow travelers at the resort’s lively restaurants and bars. Whether you’re looking to chat with ski bums and mountaineers, sing karaoke until dawn, or enjoy an elegant meal, there is something for you in Chamonix.

Montreal

If you enjoy the cold but are agnostic about skiing, Montreal offers a cosmopolitan cold-weather experience.

With its French-speaking locals and a historic district dating back to the 17th Century, you’ll feel like you slipped away on a European getaway, minus the jetlag. Montreal is only about an hour’s flight from Boston and New York.

Once you touch down and get settled into your hotel, where you head next is a matter of taste. 

You may wander the Le Plateau neighborhood, populated by arty hangouts, hipster bars, and galleries featuring local artists. Visit Rouge Gorge for a glass of wine or Dieu du Ciel for craft brews — both open mid-afternoon, so you can start your happy hour early (you are on vacation, after all!).

Or you may stroll the cobblestone streets of Vieux Montreal, the old part of the city. With dozens of shops, bistros, and bars, this is a relaxing and enjoyable place to wander and explore without a set timeline or agenda. Stop in somewhere along your route to enjoy some poutine, the ultimate comfort food dish and a culinary staple of Quebec.

If you prefer a more structured cultural experience, visit the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montreal and take in their vast art collection, ranging from antiquity to the modern era. Or visit the Notre-Dame Basilica and marvel at the stunning painted ceilings and stained glass windows.

As your day draws to a close, enjoy a meal at Foxy, where the aromas from its wood-fired oven waft through the dining room and make you feel warmer before you even remove your hat and gloves.

Wherever you jet off to, a trip toward the end of winter can leave you feeling revitalized and ready to enjoy the last of our cold days before spring’s arrival. Often, the joy of experiencing a new culture and place reinvigorates your senses and helps you rediscover appreciation for the beauty in your life back at home.