9 Super Affordable Sunny Escapes
January always starts with a bang, but come weeks two and three, it’s easy to be hit with the post-holiday blues. Our cure for the seasonal slump? Go on a trip, of course. From the vineyards of Cali wine country to the Creole dishes of Martinique, here are 9 baller escapes.
For West Coasters, getting to the 50th state just got easier as Virgin America launched a new route to Honolulu from SFO on November 2. Rates can drop as low as $199 each way, leaving plenty of cash to book a City View Room at the mid-century modern Coconut Waikiki Hotel and enjoy a long weekend at the beach, which is just a block away. There's no restaurant, so plot an eatathon that includes stops at Side Street Inn, Irifune, Giovanni's Shrimp Truck (45 minutes away on the North Shore) and splurge-worthy sushi at Nobu Waikiki.
Check in at the SLS Las Vegas Hotel & Casino where midweek rates are as low as $59 per night throughout the year (just avoid the big Vegas conventions and sports events when prices triple) and make yourself at home among the Philippe Starck digs, 11 restaurants, three nightclubs and mega casino floor. The north Strip locale means a monorail ride to the brightest lights and biggest attractions, but both budget-friendly fried chicken joint, Anchor Bar, and the Bellagio's new gourmet restaurant, Lago, are worth the excursion.
Cali Wine Country
Looking for a cool ride and vineyard views in Sonoma? An easy two-hour drive north of San Francisco across the Golden Gate Bridge, Napa, Sonoma, Calistoga and beyond supply surprisingly low-key escapes that are perfect for seclusion seekers. Hide between the vines at upscale Hotel Yountville or go for a more modern stay at the Sunburst Calistoga, which has three naturally heated outdoor mineral pools year-round. JS Tip: Book a mid-week trip for lower rates and less crowds.
Sun-seeking snow birds push up the rates in flashpack-fave Tulum during January and February, but Design Hotels' Papaya Playa Project is an evergreen bet for a good deal. Standard Rooms are small and frill-free (think concrete rotunda with mattress), but all share access to the beachfront, multi-level drinking and dining spaces and an ocean soundtrack as you snooze. Plan on tacos for breakfast at in-town favorite Taqueria Honorio, and then keep your daily agenda simple: Swim, beach, cerveza, repeat.
Miami is our fix-all escape thanks to plentiful flights that keep prices down, good (and ever improving) eats, constant hotel openings and guaranteed tan lines. Bonus: In January, you can score the best winter rates. SIXTY's brand new Nautilus hotel has mid-week rooms from $250 per night, while at Mid-Beach's revamped Circa 39 Hotel, you can score a weekend stay for $178. Eat well without blowing the budget at low-key favorites like My Ceviche and La Sandwicherie, or go for a very happy hour of freshly shucked oysters at River Oyster Bar.
Life moves at a slower pace in NOLA, whether you're wandering the leafy streets of the Garden District, exploring waterside Crescent Park or gorging on shaved ice at Piety Street Sno-Balls. Bed down at relative newbie the Old No. 77 Hotel & Chandlery for just $107 per night, then take advantage of the downtown Arts District locale during visits to the Ogden Museum of Southern Art and Contemporary Arts Center New Orleans. Extra time on your hands? Head to Royal Street and browse the racks of the city's best boutiques.
Hold fire on your New Year’s Eve celebrations this year and ring in 2016 fashionably late in Bangkok. In January, roundtrip flights from NYC and Chicago are a steal at just over $650 on Air China, while rooms at the sleek Vie Hotel Bangkok start at $83 per night. You'll need the extra cash for a trip to the mega shopping malls close to the hotel; Siam Center, CentralWorld and MBK are all less than 10 minutes away. For a more lo-fi experience, eat and wander your way through the historic Bangrak neighborhood by day and go for cocktails and noodles at old-Shanghai style Maggie Choo's in Silom after dark.
Panama City, Panama
January is the ideal time to visit Panama City as it's pre-rainy season and before the carnival celebration in February. Non-stop flights are just long enough to get through two bad plane movies, and cost under $450 on United or Copa Airlines. Skip the skyscraper-studded Punta Pacifica neighborhood and proceed to the cobblestone Casco Viejo enclave on the water. Here, mix high and low digs with a two-stop stay at the upscale American Trade Hotel (from $299 per night) and at party-loving Tantalo Hotel (from $131 per night), both standouts on Casco's social scene.
With four new direct flights a week from Miami on American Airlines, and non-stop flights from NYC on Norwegian Air launching on December 3, little-explored Martinique is the new Caribbean destination to discover in 2016. Book a stay at foodie-favorite Hotel Plein Soleil or splurge on a shorter stay at the island's only five-star property, Le Cap Est Lagoon Resort and Spa. Hit Les Salines or Diamond Beach for a day of sun worship, and don't miss a meal of classic Creole fare at Le Vieux Foyal and old favorite, Les Tamariniers.