By: Stefanie Waldek | January 1, 2020
Start 2020 the right way—with a vacation.
Though you’ve probably traveled over the holidays, we know that many December trips are taken for familial obligations. So now that January has arrived, take a little vacation time for yourself for a real refresh before you dive into the New Year. With a budget of just $500, you can enjoy the sun and sand in Miami, Florida; the Scandinavian charm of Oslo, Norway; the cultural attractions and warm weather of Houston, Texas; or the ski slopes and craft breweries of Stowe, Vermont.
4 Nights in Miami for $500
While it’s prime snowbird season in Miami, there’s a reason travelers escaping the cold fly south in January: the weather is perfect, with highs around 75 degrees and lows around 65 degrees. There’s always the beach and the water for those who want full-on summer vibes, but we love that Miami has so much more to offer. Though Art Basel is long gone come January, you can still get your fill of art at any number of museums and galleries, from the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami to the Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM), plus the Insta-famous street art murals in Wynwood. If you’re in the mood for retail therapy, go shopping at the impressive Brickell City Centre or the Miami Design District. In the evening, sip craft beer or cocktails at local institutions—or go big with the city’s infamous club scene.
Even though January is peak season in Miami, flights are quite affordable: from $75 round-trip from New York and from $150 round-trip from Los Angeles. Don’t forget to check the prices of flights into Fort Lauderdale, too, which is about 30 to 60 minutes from Miami, depending on the neighborhood: we’re seeing flights as low as $65 from Houston and $75 from Chicago. But hotels do have higher-than-normal rates. You’re better off booking an Airbnb, which has numerous options for less than $100 per night. All in, it’s easy to keep to a $500 budget between flights and accommodations.
3 Nights in Oslo for $450
It’s absolutely possible to do a Euro trip on a budget, and this January, we’re recommending a weekend jaunt to Oslo, Norway, for just $500. Thanks to budget airline Norwegian Air, you can often find affordable flight options from cities across the country. From New York, prices are as low as $274 round-trip, while from Boston, you can pay as little as $321 round-trip. West Coast flights are a bit more expensive: from both San Francisco and L.A., you’re looking at approximately $450 round-trip. Though Norway as a whole is an expensive country, hostels in Oslo’s city center are as low as $25 per night for a bed in a dormitory or about $50 for a private room. You can also “splurge” on an Airbnb for around $70 or $80.
In terms of things to do, Oslo is the perfect blend of city life and outdoor activities. In town, there are numerous museums (we recommend the Munch Museum, dedicated to the famous Norwegian painter of The Scream, as well as the Viking Ship Museum), cozy coffee shops, and cultural attractions like the Oslo Opera House and the Vigeland Sculpture Park. But just 30 minutes from the city center is the area’s largest ski resort, the Oslo Winter Park, as well as the Korketrekkeren toboggan run.
7 Nights in Houston for $450
Not only the most culturally diverse city in the United States, but Houston is also incredibly diverse in terms of its activities and attractions. Foodies will want to indulge in the city’s famous crawfish—try Viet-Cajun flavors at Crawfish & Noodles or go classic at Brennan’s of Houston—or the plethora of other cuisines from around the world, like Spanish at BCN Taste & Tradition, Indian at Pondicheri, Oaxacan at Xochi, Japanese at Uchi, or good-old Texan BBQ at Killen’s Barbecue. As for museums, you can go high-brow at the Menil Collection or the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, or offbeat at the National Museum of Funeral History or the 20th Century Technology Museum. And, of course, there’s NASA’s Johnson Space Center and its visitor’s center and museum, Space Center Houston—a must-do. Sure, the weather in January is a bit chilly by Houston standards, but for travelers coming from afar (and particularly up north), the average high of 60 degrees will likely seem balmy. In any case, January has a much more reasonable climate for sightseeing than Houston’s outrageously humid summers.
Round-trip flights are exceedingly affordable in January, with prices as low as $105 from New York, $97 from Los Angeles, and $76 from Denver. Stay in an Airbnb to save some money and extend the length of your visit: rates in the city’s more popular neighborhoods start around $50 per night.
A Weekend in Stowe, Vermont for $500
For a low-key, family-friendly ski weekend, head to Stowe, Vermont, accessible by car from Boston via a three-hour drive. You can also fly into Burlington, Vermont, just 45 minutes from Stowe. While the slopes at Stowe Mountain Resort are the destination’s main draw in the winter, there’s plenty else to explore. For outdoor adventures that aren’t skiing or snowboarding, give snowmobiling, ice skating, or snowshoeing a go. Craft beer lovers should head to the Alchemist, Idletyme Brewing Company, or von Trapp Brewing, run by the same family of Sound of Music fame. Or you can relax at the area’s spas: try the Spa at Spruce Peak, Topnotch Spa, or the Spa at Stoweflake.
Flights to Burlington cost $276 from Miami, $181 from Chicago, and $299 from San Francisco and require layovers. From those same cities, flights to Boston will cost $98, $142, and $197, respectively, though you’ll have to factor in a car rental as well. Lodging in hotels can run from $150 a night at the boutique Field Guide Stowe to $225 at the Lodge at Spruce Peak resort. Airbnbs are a bit more affordable, starting around $100 per night. Depending on where you’re traveling from and what type of accommodation you choose, a $500 budget should cover anything from a two- to four-night night stay in Stowe.