WINTER GETAWAYS ON THE CHEAP "Dear Old Man Winter, You're a Jerk!"

Cold winter months can damn-near break a man—days and days of subfreezing temperatures are miserable. Visions of the beach and poolside sunshine consume our thoughts and prayers. Even if it’s just a long weekend, a three- or four-night escape, for the love of god a little sunshine, please! Studies show sunshine boost levels of serotonin, the body's natural happy hormone and also prevents seasonal affective disorder (SAD) aka the winter blues. Hotels and flights on or around Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years are expensive—let’s avoid those. We recommend early to mid-December and the days after New Year’s and before spring break for the best room rates and cheapest flights. Let’s go south! Let’s find some sunshine!

To keep the trips under budget, try to keep flights under or around $500 max. Sometimes flights to budget destinations are slightly more expensive. These exotic four-night vacations can happen for less than $2,500 per person—here are some winter getaway destinations on the cheap.

Vieux Fort, St. Lucia
On the southern tip of St. Lucia, near the world-famous Gros Piton and Petit Piton Mountains is one of the Caribbean’s best values—Coconut Bay Resort & Spa in Vieux Fort. The all-inclusive resort offers cocktails, draft beer (a local pilsner called Piton) and food around the clock. Most of St. Lucia’s adventure is on the southern tip of the island: the drive-in volcano, snorkeling trips near the Pitons and zip-lining are near Coconut Bay (less than five minutes from the airport). The resort also has one of the best water sports complexes in the Caribbean with kite surfing gear and lessons available from November 1 to June 1. All-inclusive room rates are available for less than $150 per person based on double occupancy. And whatever you have to do, make the effort to get to the north side of the island for the Gros Islet Friday Night Street Party. This party happens every Friday and is the longest running street party in St. Lucia; there will be DJs, local musicians, local cuisine and a hell of a lot of rum.

Cartagena, Colombia
The American dollar is strong in Colombia, which is good news for the tourista. Cartagena is known for its “Walled City of Cartagena,” a bustling area within the city. Within the walls are several hotels, restaurants, bars and nightclubs. The wall is a seven-mile loop, which was built in 1614 following several pirate attacks. Francis Drake attacked in April 1586 with 23 ships and 3,000 men—soon thereafter the wall went up. The best hotels in Cartagena are around $100 per night—be sure to choose a hotel within the historic walls. Dining and drinks are a good value—Club Colombia, the local beer is incredible, drafts are less than $2 at most places and cans are sold on the street for even less. Sometimes Club Colombia is served with fresh squeezed lime juice, on the rocks with a salted rim—excelente. Dinner and drinks or hang at the beach or tee it up at Cartagena TPC at Karibana, one of the best golf courses in South America. This is important: be at Cafe del Mar for sunset cocktails, it’s worth the trip alone.

Negril, Jamaica
There are plenty of good deals on Jamaica’s west coast and several nice all-inclusives, which offer quality values. Rates at ClubHotel Riu Negril are less than $150 per person, per night, which includes meals and drinks. Search for flights into Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay, which is a 90-minute drive or look for flights direct to Negril Aerodrome. Also in Negril is Hedonism II, which is self-described as “the world’s most iconic adult playground. An all-inclusive paradise where you can turn your fantasies into reality! Experience what you only read about in erotic novels and let loose!” It’s there for the taking—we present opportunities, you make the decisions.

Cancun, Mexico
Perhaps Cancun will always be best remembered for college spring break, but its magic is timeless. In fact, winter flights to Cancun are some of the best deals available. And while there aren’t as many wet t-shirt contests in the winter months, there’s plenty to do. The Yucatán’s shores are always lovely and there is plenty to see in the area. About two and a half hours from Cancun, a Seven Wonder of the World, the Chichén Itzá is a large Mayan site that should be visited. Also, nearby is the Cancún Golf Club at Pok-Ta-Pok, a quality golf course and there are Mayan ruins on the third hole, so…there’s that. And after a day on the golf course, Cancun’s bars, nightclubs and 50-cent shots of tequila await. Cancun has been described as America’s Ibiza, which might be a stretch, but it’s a hell of a lot cheaper. Legendary nightlife spots Coco Bongo, Mandala Disco, Palazzo and Señor Frog's will be there forever. And the good deals don’t stop with the tequila shots; hotels (and even all-inclusives) are available for less than $150 per person, per night, based on double occupancy. This says it all: there are December stays at the Ritz Carlton available for around $200 a night. Sold!

The sun will come out
Bet your bottom dollar
That tomorrow
There'll be sun!

Not always true, Annie. Sometimes you have to take matters into your own hands.

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