Where (and How) to Travel on the Cheap This Holiday Season

When Girlboss asked me some of my top tips on cheap holiday travel, of course I gladly obliged. I’m not gonna lie, I was pretty stoked to be in such great company, with other women in the travel space like The Urban Realist and Jakiya Brown of the Traveling Fro contributing their thoughts.

You can check out my tips on cheap eats, affordable places to stay, and finding discounted flights over at Girlboss, with some kick ass tips from the other female travel experts as well, but I figured I’d expand on my thoughts here, cuz that’s what a blog’s all about. The reporter on the piece, Sophia Kercher, had so many great questions, and it really got me to thinking about sharing them with you all.

So, first of all, let’s talk about WHERE to go for your winter adventure.

If you've got the time and are seeking sunshine, definitely head to the Southern Hemisphere, because as you know, they’re on the opposite seasonal schedule as we are, meaning it’s summertime! One of my favorite world cities is Melbourne — their food scene is off the charts, and it's literally where the craft coffee scene started. There are direct flights from LA, the exchange rates are in our favor, and the beaches are stellar this time of year. You're also just an earshot from the Mornington Peninsula, an incredible up-and-coming wine region that's also home to a hot springs onsen. Paradise! (You can check out my guide on what to do in Melbourne and what to eat while you’re there, too.)

Another amazing spot a bit closer to home is is Baja California, specifically Valle de Guadalupe. There are some fantastic wineries and incredible Baja Med cooking, with the prices being far less steep than, say, a trip to Napa. If you go a bit further South in La Paz, you can even go whale shark diving. The region is what Jacques Cousteau called the Aquarium of the World, and once you see the sea life you’ll be truly humbled.

Yet another really exciting city in MX is Guadalajara. It's super affordable, and so many of the things we think of as being Mexican -- charros, tequila, mariachis -- are all from the region. You can even do a tour of the town of Tequila and visit the distilleries or ride on horseback through agave fields. It's pretty special and so under-touristed. I think it’s definitely a region to watch in the years to come, so get there now before the throngs do.

I absolutely loved visiting Zion in winter, as you could actually do a self-drive through the park as opposed to being mandated to hop on a tourist tram. It made for a more magical, organic experience, especially on hikes like the Narrows, which can be packed with hikers during peak season.

Now, when it comes to getting to these amazing places, my tip (which I mentioned to Girlboss) for flight searches and finding an affordable rate is that if you fly on the actual holiday, for instance New Years Day or Christmas Eve, you can find way cheaper deals. If you can knock off of a day's work, I'd also choose the less obvious return date, say a Tuesday or Wednesday instead of a Sunday at the end of a holiday weekend or break.

It’s worth noting that, while I totally understand the desire to book on budget airlines, do be sure to check on baggage fees and taxes. Some folks really gauge you on those, and it ends up being more expensive (and way less comfortable) than your preferred airline. 

As for hotel bookings, as I mentioned to Girlboss, I’m a huge fan of Hotel Tonight, in addition to the obvious AirBNBs, Home Aways, VRBOs, etc.

Finally, one thing to keep in mind, and perhaps can work to your benefit, is that if you’re going international, Christian/American holidays aren't universal (no, the world does *not* revolve around us!), so that means you may not even have to deal with closures, price hikes, or occupancy issues. 

So whether you’re trying to escape the incessant pressure of the commercial holiday season, or are just trying to do an end-of-year vacay on the cheap, I’d say there’s no time like the present. Travel really is the best present you can give to yourself.