December 1, 2017 11:55 am
Updated: December 4, 2017 12:29 pm

13 affordable beach destinations that will bring you back to life after the holidays

Avoid booking holidays at the end of February if you want to avoid the crowds, experts warn.

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Sometimes you just need a vacation from the holiday you’ve just had.

Sure it’s nice to see the family, but all that decorating, cooking, cleaning and hosting can be exhausting. Longing for time away and some rest afterwards isn’t too much to ask.

READ MORE: When Mother Nature ruins your holiday travel plans, here’s what to do

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And usually, when Canadians want a relaxing vacation away from the cold, they can’t help but think of a beach getaway.

But where should you go? At what point should you book for the best deal? When should you carve out your vacation time if you want to avoid the crowds? And which place should you choose?

To help minimize your current state of stress, Global News spoke with KAYAK and Booking.com who both offered up their expertise on when, where and how you should book your next stress-relieving getaway.

Best time for travel deals

If you’re looking to book your trip to the Caribbean, the general rule of thumb is to book two to four weeks in advance if you want the best deal, Steve Sintra, Canada country manager at KAYAK, says.

The same holds true for popular beach destinations in Mexico and Florida.

However, you might want to wait until the new year if you’re thinking about travelling.

“Travelling during December is one of the most expensive months to fly, but if you’re set on travelling during the holidays, avoid flying on Dec. 22,” Sintra says. “Our historical data shows it was the most expensive travel day [for] both domestic and international [flights] last year.”

Hotel rates, however, tend to fluctuate less than airfares, Nuno Guerreiro, regional manager Canada at Booking.com, says.

“Generally, hotel prices will rise when demand increases such as around March spring break and will be at the lowest during off-peak times like early January after the holidays,” he says.

Prices for hotels also tend to go up 14 days to a week out from a desired booking date, in anticipation of higher demand from business travellers, Guerreiro adds.

“Though there are always last-minute sales on vacation packages, this can be highly unpredictable and make planning your travel challenging,” he says. “If possible, be flexible on your check-in and check-out dates. Sometimes you may find great deals if you are able to be open to different check-in dates.”

When to vacation

If you want to avoid the crowds on your getaway, wait until the holiday craziness dies down, Sintra says.

“Book your travel for January where both hotel and flight prices tend to see a decrease in rates and there are fewer crowds,” he says.

READ MORE: Travel Tuesday: Five vacation mistakes to avoid

Early January, however, is a time when resorts and popular vacation destinations tend to be the least busy as this is when many people return to work from the holiday season, Guerreiro adds.

“Avoid travelling around the end of February when university students are on reading week and flock to warm-weather destinations, or March break (typically March 12 to 16) when many families travel. You’ll find less crowd and likely more affordable fares.”

Where to travel to

So you’re dead set on getting away after the holidays but don’t know where to travel to.

Your wallet may be looking a little thin these days, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have options. Here Sintra and Guerreiro offer some suggestions.

Kingston and Montego Bay, Jamaica

After the devastating hurricanes of 2017, Jamaica has emerged as an alternate port for Caribbean cruise lines driving interest to its cities, Sintra says.

Kingston, for example, saw a 42 per cent increase in interest this year compared to last year.

“Kingston is sometimes viewed as an easier and more affordable airport to fly into compared to Montego Bay,” Sintra says. “And, with flight prices this winter down seven per cent compared to last year, it’s the perfect winter getaway that won’t break the bank.”

Speaking of Montego Bay, it has seen a 22 per cent increase in interest among Canadians. Yes, flights are a bit more expensive, but you’ll be much closer to the island’s famous white sand beaches and popular resorts.

Cancun, Puerto Vallarta and Los Cabos, Mexico

“Mexico is a consistently popular destination for Canadians due to the warm weather, but it’s also an affordable and relatively short flight – making it easy and inexpensive for Canadians to get to,” Sintra says. “And the Mexican peso is at a historical low, making it even easier to explore Mexico on a budget.”

Cancun topped KAYAK’s list of trending holiday destinations and interest continues to climb for the hot spot (up by six per cent compared to last winter). Median airfare will cost you around $600 with WestJet and Interjet as they add more flights this winter.

“Earlier this year, WestJet increased service during the winter season to Puerto Vallarta from Regina, Abbotsford, Calgary and Vancouver – a key indicator as to why searches may be up 11 per cent this winter compared to last year,” Sintra points out. “Flights will set you back about $716.”

Then there’s Los Cabos.

“Los Cabos has lots of swimmable beaches, some with snorkelling coves that not everyone seems to know about which makes privacy easy to find,” Guerreiro says.

Hawaii, California and Florida, USA

While Hawaii may be a pricier option, Maui has long been considered a bucket list destination, Guerreiro says.

“Maui has some of the world’s best snorkelling, scuba diving and stunning black sand beaches,” he says.

If staying on the mainland is more your cup of tea, try Los Angeles, Calif., Guerreiro suggests.

“With incredible beaches all year round, like Venice and Hermosa, and more than 20 flights per day out of Canada at modest pricing, Los Angeles is a fun and exciting beach destination for Canadians,” Guerreiro says.

Another option is Miami Beach in Florida as it is considered to be one of the world’s most famous beach cities.

“Miami offers numerous beaches to choose from, all with their own vibe,” he says. “Plus, sparkling turquoise waters and soft sand all along the coast.”

Another Florida destination to think about is Panama City.

“While usually Fort Lauderdale, Orlando and Miami top the list of popular beach destinations for Canadians, Panama City is emerging as a new favourite in 2018 with interest up a whopping 25 per cent,” Sintra says.

Median airfare is $575.

Nassau, Bahamas

Nassau is the main cruise hub for the Bahamas and one of the island’s only cities, Sintra says.

Interest for the destination is up 17 per cent this winter, according to KAYAK’s research.

“Travellers often flock to the famed Atlantis Resort, but you can also use Nassau as a jumping off point for the Bimini Islands, known for its amazing underwater sights,” Sintra adds.

It also tends to be a favourite destination because of its close proximity to Canada, Guerreiro explains.

“At only three and a half hours [from Toronto], the flight here is ideal for families with children,” he says. “Nassau offers both luxury resorts and affordable options for accommodations as well.”

Varadero, Cuba

Cuba is another favourite among Canadian travellers looking to get away from the bitter cold, Guerreiro points out.

“Varadero is a tropical beach expanse, filled with great resorts and plenty of white sand beach,” he says. “Vacations here are extremely affordable for Canadians looking for a quick break from the winter chill.”

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Last but not least, travellers can switch things up and head to South America for some of that sun action.

“With beautiful white sandy beaches, Rio de Janeiro has much to offer in entertainment, samba dance halls, amazing mountain top views, fun-loving people and much more,” Guerreiro says. “From beach to culture, a great destination to explore with very affordable accommodations.”

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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