Still looking for a last-minute winter break getaway for the family somewhere warm, that doesn’t require an entire day of travel or you staying at a mediocre hotel miles from where you want to be? While Christmas and New Year’s Eve are pretty much sold out everywhere, if you can travel during the period in between (meaning checking in on the 26th and out on the 30th) there are still a handful of sunny options ... and even some holiday travel deals still available, all within a four-hour flight. And speaking of flights, there are seats available to all of the destinations we researched, but prices are always higher than usual during a holiday week so it might be a good time to cash in those airline miles ... or at least set up a Google alert to get notified if they drop. Hey, Christmas miracles can happen!
You already know that if you wanted to book a trip to Disney over Christmas week, you needed to do it a while back (like last Christmas a-while-back) ... at least if you wanted to stay within the park (which makes life so much easier, right?). But turns out there’s one lone Disney resort that’s still got availability if you check in on the 26th – Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort in the Animal Kingdom area. The Spanish Colonial-style resort has a Mayan ruins-themed pool complex with, giant waterslide, Disney’s largest hot tub, and multiple pools along with outdoor movie nights and campfire activities. Rooms are currently going for $309 a night. The caveat is the place is undergoing renovations but none of the pools or recreation or dining areas are affected so it’s most likely tolerable ... and kind of’ your only choice right about now. Packages with park tickets for the whole fam are also available.
It’s probably called One Happy Island because Aruba is always full in winter, making local businesses very happy, but you can currently still get into the high-rise oceanfront Divi Aruba Phoenix Resort, which has slashed 30% off its prices, knocking its 400-square-foot studio suites (with a queen and sofa bed) down to $550 a night and its 600-square-foot Beach Towner one-bedroom suites (with a king and sofa bed) to $590. The place has everything you’d expect from a big Caribbean resort on the beach with plenty of pools, water activities, restaurants, and a kids’ club, and it’s also affiliated with a 9-hole golf course and is set right in front of a wildlife sanctuary. Tip: Check out Expedia before you book directly as the travel site was throwing in free parking and breakfast along with discounted golf for the same price.
As far as we can tell, it’s nearly impossible to stay at a nice beachfront hotel in South Florida during the week of Christmas without having to take out a home equity line, but the Westin Fort Lauderdale is the exception. It’s charging a base rate of $386 a night for a room with two double beds if you pre-pay. (there’s a 4th night free promotion going on too but, oddly, the total ends up being higher.) The rooms are sleek and modern, there’s an onsite restaurant, water sports available and – while it may not be South Beach -- Fort Lauderdale offers families a ton to do, from surf school to riverboat cruises to a “Swamp Safari” in the nearby Everglades.
If all-inclusive is your thing, you can currently get a pretty discounted deal at the Royalton St. Lucia Resort and Spa via BookIt.com. Rates for a luxury family suite – normally $432 per person per night – have been slashed to $151, so you’re looking at around $600 a night for a family of four including all meals and a resort credit. The lush beachfront resort offers both kids’ club and a teen club along with gazillions of tours and activities, including our favorite – sitting quietly on a lounge chair while the kids are busy with their new friends.
Charleston, South Carolina.
The historic city does it up for the holidays with walking tours, lighting displays, and special events and offers a variety of holiday-themed hotel packages. The harborside Francis Marion Hotel is about as Charleston-esque as it gets and its Holiday Festival of Lights package – for $274 a night -- includes admission to the festive display of more than 2 million lights (though you’ll need a rental car for the three-mile tour). As part of the attraction, visitors can also take a holiday train ride, stop into Santa’s Sweet Shoppe, roast marshmallows, and walk an enchanted forest trail. The hotel package includes breakfast for four each morning. As for weather, it may not be lying-by-the-pool temps this time of year, but average highs are in the low to mid 60s and temps were over 70 earlier this week. (Read: We’ll take it.)