Last-Minute Winter Destinations That Offer Bargains & More

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If you’re planning a last-minute meeting for this winter, you may expect to pay more for travel and rooms so close to the date. But there are ways to lessen costs, particularly if you’re somewhat open in regards to time and location. Flexibility allows hotels and venues to work with you on getting to the best price point, and also puts you in a stronger negotiating position if you’re able to choose between several locales.

Not all destinations are created equal of course, and the trick is to find the place that not only has competitive flight and room rates, but also offers enough interesting activities and attractions to keep your attendees happy. Some destinations are traditionally cheaper during their winter offseason. Other spots might simply offer current savings compared to past years or competing locations. That said, today’s prices are never fixed in stone, and could go up (or down) as the season progresses, so the sooner you can lock in rates the better.

With its mild climate and bevy of hotel options, Dallas has long been a popular destination for meetings during the winter months. But after coming out on top of the “lowest travel costs & fewest hassles” category in WalletHub’s list of the best winter holiday destinations for 2016, the Big D might also be your best deal for a last-minute meeting. It’s an easy in and out for attendees, with major hubs for American and Southwest airlines and airlift galore to a host of regional airports around the country. Not only does it improve chances for flight deals, but all but ensures no one will have to spend more than 4 hours on a plane.

Groups won’t lack for activities or attractions in Dallas either, including free museums such as the Dallas Museum of Art and the Crow Collection of Asian Art in the 17-block downtown Dallas Arts District. Outdoor options include a (free) public art walk, the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden, and Trinity River Audubon Center. You could even tie an event into the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo, which runs from January to early February.

The overall winner of WalletHub’s best winter destinations may be a bit of a surprise. Las Vegas certainly has mild, sunny weather, but currently Sin City looks to be offering better flight and room rates than season’s past, especially for mid-week meetings after the holidays. Planners will find plenty of airlift options, but if you check the city’s convention calendar and can plan around some of the huge shows, such as CES 2017 and its estimated 177,000 attendees, your odds may improve for securing better room rates.

Of course, few destinations rival Las Vegas when it comes to entertaining your group, with casinos, clubs and shows for every taste. Besides ongoing productions from the likes of Cirque du Soleil or Blue Man Group, headliners performing this winter range from Cher and Diana Ross to Bruno Mars and Britney Spears. If you book rooms with a hotel where a show is playing, you can negotiate for special ticket rates. Or if your attendees are flexible, you can find half-price tickets the day of the show through sites like Tix4tonight.

If sunny skies and warm days are a big sell for your group, the best weather for the price just might be San Diego. This is particularly true if attendees are located on the West Coast or Midwest where flights from Chicago are currently under $200 roundtrip for much of January and February.

Summer is high-season for the city, so room rates are lower at other times, and downtown properties are typically cheaper than seaside venues. But winter is also popular season for large conventions, so check San Diego Convention Center’s schedule of events and try to plan around any citywides if possible. You can also look for deals in North San Diego County, and towns such as La Jolla, Carlsbad and Oceanside. The Gaslamp Quarter, San Diego Zoo, and the beach are big attractions here, and are no-brainers for tying in a group event.

Instead of chasing after warm temps for your event, why not embrace the wintry weather with a meeting in Colorado. Roundtrip airfare to Denver this winter is currently under $200 from many locations around the U.S., including on the West Coast, and just over that amount from airports in New York or Boston.

From there you can choose a downtown Denver venue, or head for the hills a short distance to the west for a snowy retreat. Either way, winter sports and other outdoor activities are close at hand for your group, with several ski resorts no more than an hour drive away from the city center. Denver is also home to an excellent craft beer and distillery scene, which can make for a fun event tie-in for your group.

Photo credits: Dallas skyline: Shutterstock.com, San Diego Gaslamp Quarter, f11photo/Shutterstock.com

 

John Anderson

John Anderson

John Anderson is an award-winning journalist, travel writer and blogger based in San Jose, California. He has covered the meetings and hospitality industry extensively since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @jcax01

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