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Hot Winter Vacation Spots For Less

If the holidays have left you needing a vacation, you're not alone! And you don't have to wait until spring to get some R&R.

Travel and Leisure magazine Senior Editor Heidi Sherman Mitchell

that could offer lots of fun without breaking the bank.

She explained on The Early Show Thursday that you can find good deals, if you keep an open mind.

"First," she told co-anchor Julie Chen, "think about if you want a hot destination or cold destination, and how flexible you are and how far you're willing to travel. Remember, it's high season in places that have snow or beaches, and prices can get pretty expensive.

"So you should think about booking packages, look at Web sites to see if there are any deals out there. And there can be some, especially in January, when we're just coming off the holiday season."

Mitchell's top five:

  • Whistler, British Columbia has become the "it" destination for winter. It's set to host the Winter Olympics in 2010. If you love to ski, this is a great destination, because there's great skiing as well as great non-ski activities. There are spas, great shopping, and dining. If you live on the West Coast, this is a definite must! The Four Seasons Hotel offers pampering off the slopes, while the skiing is as good (or better, some claim) as Aspen or Vail, Colo. Also, many of the locals are mostly between 20 and 34, so there's a lot of ambient energy on the streets.

    The Four Seasons Resort, Whistler is a great luxury choice ($417); also the less expensive Pan Pacific Whistler.

    For families, there are 700 acres of newly-opened, patrolled back-country (as opposed to off-site, which isn't patrolled).

    Also, the currency rate is great for Americans, so it's very affordable.

  • Lake Placid, N.Y. is a great place to check out if you're in the Northeast. The former Olympic site has a wide range of winter activities for both kids and adults. Lake Placid has long been a favorite of Travel and Leisure editors. They love its accessibility and its family atmosphere.

    Stay at Mirror Lake Inn Resort & Spa (from the Travel and Leisure 500 list of best hotels), rooms from $270 a night, surrounded by seven secluded acres. You can do all the winter sports there, and there's an 11,000 square foot spa. They also have a club for kids.

  • Riviera Maya is a hot resort destination for 2006. If you've never considered Mexico as a vacation site because you thought it was only for spring break kids, you're wrong!

    There's so much going on there, and every range of spots for couples, families. Everyone can rent a little palapa on the beach with a shared bath for $40 a night, or head to the luxury Orient Express resort, Maroma for $480 a night (that's new to the Travel and Leisure 500 this year). It's a very romantic resort, right on the beach. Or, further down the shore in Tulum is the Maya Tulum, which will run you $200 a night or so. It's where yoga devotees do downward dogs at dawn every day.

    There's even a new place called Amansala that has a bikini boot camp to get you in shape in one week, at $1800 a week.

    Families can rent villas through Akumal Villas, with their own spit of sand and cleaning services and everything else a family would need, for $2600 a week or so.

    You can find great flight deals right now, as well as some great hotel deals, because this region is trying to overcome the perception that Hurricane Wilma destroyed everything. The location is pretty much back in action and worth looking into.

  • Maui: We often think of Hawaii as a honeymooners' location. But it's a great vacation spot for those living on the West Coast. Why fly to Europe when you can head to Hawaii? Maui boasts the Waianapanapa Black Sand Beach, a top-secret beach. The beaches of Maui are supposed to be some of the most glorious.

    Great hotels there include the Four Seasons Wailea, for $395 a night, the Grand Wailea, at $495, and the Hotel Hana-Maui, at $425.

  • Los Angeles: Yes, Los Angeles! If you think there isn't anything to do or eat in L.A., think again. The city is undergoing a transformation. For example, check out the newly-redesigned Sunset Tower Hotel, as well as the new Hollywood Roosevelt, where the current Hollywood "A-listers" love to party. You can also cruise Melrose, Sunset Blvd and have access to beaches, hiking up Will Rogers Park. The city also has a lot more culture, and more money has been poured into the arts. Los Angeles also isn't too expensive, certainly not when compared to New York or San Francisco. The large amusement parks are also nearby, so it's great for families who want to go to Disneyland, but you can also look into Hollywood or see the Guggenheim Museum.
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