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Washington, D.C. is America’s No. 2 cold destination for winter travelers

Rebecca Barnabi
(© SeanPavonePhoto – stock.adobe.com)

The latest forecast from the Old Farmer’s Almanac is that the United States will see above-average snowfall and normal to colder-than-normal temperatures.

WalletHub released its 2023’s Best Winter Holiday Destinations report, which is focused on cost and convenience, not scenic beauty.

The personal-finance website compared nearly 70 of the largest U.S. metro areas grouped by warm and cold weather. Each destination was analyzed based on 37 key metrics, including expense and hassle of traveling to each location, weather forecasts, safety and variety of activities.

The best cold destination for winter travel is Atlanta, followed by Washington, D.C., Chicago, New York City and Denver. Philadelphia is No. 9 and Boston is No. 10.

WalletHub’s research revealed that the average flight to a popular cold winter destination costs $399.05, and lasts 3 hours and 35 minutes.

The best warm destinations for winter are Las Vegas, San Diego, Austin, Dallas and San Antonio.

The average flight to a popular warm winter destination costs $503.55, and lasts 5 hours and 26 minutes.

Experts offered opinion about the outlook for this winter travel season.

“Overall, the outlook is fairly robust but with caution. Through the first 3 quarters of the year, domestic travel for vacations and pleasure has been down by approximately 10 percent,” Retired Executive Professor in Residence David Miles at Northern Arizona University and Leadership Consultant with Miles Lehane Companies, said. “Correspondingly International travel has been up by about 10 percent. Realize this is not a direct trade-off in numbers, but a change in mix/diversity of travelers. Net numbers have shown a decline from 2022. Given that as an overview travel destinies have a lot to do with overall costs as well as lodging and activity ticket prices. Start with airline costs using the respective websites. The major airlines have added a feature of “check close by dates” which allows you to find the lowest possible airfares. This will then indicate if this destination is heavily booked or underbooked. Airlines adjust their fares 24×7 in today’s advanced data analytics. Then check Lodging options using similar tools. Then rental cars or ground transportation. Finally book activity tickets. The farther in advance the better off you are. Caution, buy refundable or no cancellation fee reservations for total flexibility even if the price is slightly higher.”

Dr. Linchi Kwok, a professor at Cal Poly Pomona, said winter is a low season for business travel, but many travel for leisure and to visit family.

“However, everything is getting more expensive now, and economic uncertainties continue to linger in the air. Across the globe, ongoing wars are unsettled. Then, regional tensions over wars are unlikely to ease soon either. I expect people are still traveling but may choose a closer destination. Meanwhile, more consumers will look for ways to stretch the dollar,” Kwok said.

According to Miles, the biggest don’t is counting on the synchronization of timing for each part of a travel destination.

“For example, if you have a flight booked to join a cruise ship, allow an extra day if possible. With weather issues, mechanical issues and short staff, all are strained to the breaking point when there is a problem. Count on the ‘when it rains it pours’ scenario. There is nothing worse than spending thousands of dollars for a great winter trip than sitting stranded in an airport or along a highway rest stop. Unfortunately, the way all of this works in a post-COVID labor shortage market is you will wait a long time. Give your vacation some elasticity in your planning. You may spend a few extra dollars but then be able to have a fun-filled winter break,” Miles said.

Dr. Matthew Miller, an assistant professor at Wells College, said a do is to pack appropriately.

“A leisurely South Beach family getaway in December will almost certainly demand different attire than a romantic weekend spent hiking in mountainous Colorado…Also, though not mandated, it’s certainly a nice gesture to bring a little cash on you to tip service professionals for ‘jobs well done.’…Especially on longer flights and travels, it is essential to make an effort to stay hydrated. Even setting a timer several times a day as a ‘reminder’ to drink a bottle of water will do wonders for keeping you healthy on your travels. If you are trying to reset your sleep schedule after extensive flights through different time zones, or red-eye flights, take melatonin 2 hours before bed for a week after your last travel date to put you on a good path to recovery,” Miller said.

When it comes to saving money, Kwok suggests to book travel plans early, book them directly and use points or mileage strategically, but do not trade flexibility for a small discount.

“For example, I will continue searching for a reasonable price but avoid pre-paid hotel stays or basic-economy flights. We may book a hotel stay as soon as possible because hotels usually let us cancel or modify a reservation without a fee (unless you booked a pre-paid package). Airfares can be trickier because of the expensive change-or-cancelation fees associated with the tickets. Setting up price alarms on some travel websites will likely tell us when it is a good time to book a ticket or when the price drops,” Kwok said.

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.