Vacation might be all you ever wanted, but vacation at a discount sounds like an even sweeter deal. When you're tired of freezing to the bone in the middle of January, consider it a sign that it's time for a getaway — both you and your wallet will be grateful. Here are 10 reasons you should push your vacation to January.
1. Flights Are at the Cheapest Rate All Year
If your idea of the best winter vacation involves airfare, waiting until January can be a savings solution, said Wojciech Borkowski, a professional travel hacker for Flightfox.
Borkowski found that the priciest time to travel all year is between Dec. 15 and Jan. 1 — as well as the week before Thanksgiving. “The most expensive day to fly is Dec. 26,” he said. “A seven-day trip will, on average, cost more than double than in January, followed by Dec. 27 and Nov. 20.” He added that January is on average 15 percent cheaper than November and 23 percent less expensive than December, but the cheapest time to fly is between Jan. 17 and Jan. 19. And if you really want to get frugal, travel on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday, he suggested.
January is also the time to take advantage of promotions on flights. If you are flexible on destination, visit sites such as AirfareWatchdog or Kayak for the cheapest fares from your departure city.
2. Hotels Can Be More Affordable
If you have the freedom and flexibility to stay put during the holidays, you could score serious deals on lodging. Along with airfare, hotels are the second-biggest expense on holiday vacations — and just like with flights, some hotel stays go on sale after the new year. Some cities even offer deals to address the historical occupancy dip, like Hotel Week NYC for example, a promotion that has been running since 2010.
3. Plan for Paris in January
Unlike travel around Christmas and Thanksgiving, the January dip in scheduled travel allows you to be spontaneous — and what's more romantic than spontaneity? If you're dying to take a trip to the "City of Love," January might be your best bet. Travel experts have determined the best time to buy a last-minute ticket to Paris is on the third weekend of January — but be prepared for the weather. January is the coldest and wettest time of the year in Paris, with average temperatures around 41 degrees Fahrenheit with almost no variation throughout the month. Although it might get a little chilly, you can use that as an excuse to snuggle up with your sweetie on this discounted romantic excursion.
4. Hit the Five Boroughs After the Ball Drops
Paris isn’t the only popular destination that’s cheaper in the winter. Like Paris, New York City’s cheapest travel deals are the during second week of January. Similarly, hotel prices and vacation rentals in New York City also take a dip this month.
You could experience temperatures in the 20s and 30s, but your wallet will thank you. If the weather and cold temperatures don’t stop you, New York can be one of the best places to visit in January.
5. Shorter Lines and Fewer People as You Travel
Traveling in January could be a cure to the aggravatingly long security check lines, said Lee Huffman, a travel expert who writes about travel at BaldThoughts. “Seasoned travelers know to take off their shoes, take laptops out of their bags, and use the 3-1-1 bags for their liquids,” he said. “The people who only travel once or twice a year completely forget these rules and clog up the TSA lines because they, and their bags, need to go through screening multiple times.”
6. There Are Added Health Benefits
Seasonal affective disorder is a form of depression that some people experience at certain points of the year, most commonly in the fall or winter — and it affects an estimated 10 million Americans. According to the Mayo Clinic, SAD is a subtype of major depression that comes and goes with certain seasons.
“The combination of cold weather, darker days, bills from Christmas expenses, broken resolutions and spring seeming far off can leave us feeling down or unmotivated,” said Daisy Cropper, a travel expert with Insight Guides.
Feeling depressed, experiencing low energy and having trouble sleeping are just a few SAD symptoms. Some treatments include light therapy and medications, but another route to take involves getting outdoors and making your environment sunnier and brighter — which sounds like a great excuse to travel.
“Having a trip planned for January, or even early February, can stave off these feelings and keep us motivated throughout the season,” said Cropper. “Nothing beats having a great, exciting trip to look forward to.”
7. Cruises Are Less Expensive
If you are looking for cheap cruise holidays, January might be your most cost-effective time of the year, said Tanner Callais, a cruise expert with Cruzely. “The basic rule of thumb with cruises is that fares are highest when kids are out of school,” he said. “That means you’ll see the highest fares of the year in December around the Christmas holidays.”
Just a few weeks later when kids go back to school, cruise fares plummet. For example, one cruise to Mexico sailing on Dec. 28 costs more than $700 per person. "The exact same trip sailing just two weeks later on Jan. 14 costs only $309,” Callais said. “That’s more than $400 cheaper.”
And if you’re more of a calypso kind of cruiser, no problem, said David Yeskel, a travel writer known as The Cruise Guru. “For example, Holland America Line’s Eurodam, a premium ship recently refreshed with the line’s new Music Walk nightclub venues and top-notch restaurants, offers seven-day Caribbean cruises starting at $799 in January, a value that can’t be beaten,” he said. Yeskel added that in addition to saving money, you’ll enjoy less-crowded ships and beaches in January.
Keep on Cruising: 7 Bargain Shore Excursions to Do on Your Next Cruise
8. You’ll Get Better Service Overall
Dream of getting the VIP treatment the next time you travel? Wait until January for your winter getaways. Whether it’s a burger and beer by the pool or steak and wine at a fine eatery, there’s nothing like great service to make you feel like you’re on vacation.
“As hotels, resorts and popular tourist spots are less crowded, travelers enjoy quieter accommodations and more attention from hotel staffers,” said Maria Lalonde, a content editor for Offers.com. One reason could be because the staff is as relaxed as you are.
“Staff at restaurants are way less stressed in January, as everyone books tables in November and December to celebrate the end of the year, especially companies that go with large groups,” said Andre Arriaza, a foodie, travel writer and co-founder of BarcelonaEatLocal. “So, it’s pretty likely that chefs will be cooking at ease and that you will be served an extra dish as a gift from the house.”
9. Abundantly Cheap Parking at Airport Lots
Many travelers, especially those taking short trips, park at the airport. During the holidays, this could result in a stressful, pricey surprise, said Jennifer Church, who owns and operates AirportParkingHelper, which finds and reserves inexpensive parking for travelers at more than 100 airports in the U.S. and Canada. She said parking spots in airport economy lots become scarce during the crunch of holiday travel.
“If the lots are full and flight times are looming, travelers usually have no choice but to park in daily lots at much higher rates,” said Church. Private off-site lots that allow travelers to book online in advance — and offer free shuttles directly to the airport terminals — can save time and reduce stress, she said. “Waiting [to travel] until January means these off-site businesses will have greater inventory, likely resulting in even lower rates,” Church added.
10. Better Rental Car Deals
Along with the dip in hotel occupancies and cheaper flights, you might also find great deals on car rentals. With rentals, it’s always a good idea to book early and then check rates as the trip gets closer. Most car rental agencies do not charge change fees or cancellation penalties, which means you have the freedom to search for a better deal right up until you take the keys.
Valerie Ashton contributed to the reporting for this article.