20 Affordable Christmas Holiday Getaways

Holiday travel isn't impossibly expensive at this point, but it's close.

According to a survey by Bankrate.com, 8 million U.S. adults made hotel reservations for the November/December holiday season by the end of August, while 6 million already purchased airline tickets for holiday travel. That's 23% of all holiday hotel guests and 20% of those making a trip to the airport part of their holiday travel itinerary. Overall, approximately 35 million American adults anticipate staying in a hotel during the holidays (or another type of paid lodging, such as a vacation rental or Airbnb) and about 31 million plan to fly, according to the survey. By the end of August, 23% of those travelers arranged paid lodging and 20% have their plane reservations.

By the end of September, 48% of holiday fliers bought their tickets, while 44% of travelers will have secured a hotel or other paid overnight accommodations. If you're booking a flight for Christmas, you already missed your window, as the best time to book was the first week in October.

Patrick Surry at travel pricing site Hopper notes that the typical domestic roundtrip around the winter holidays is $366, compared to $368 last year. Winter holiday flight prices rise steadily as Christmas approaches, and then spike in the last ten days. Hopper's data finds that the best time to book Christmas flights is about 83 days before departure which is the first week of October.

If you waited util November to book a Christmas flight, you might be in trouble. Around Thanksgiving time, holiday airfare will begin rising by $4 per day. In the final two weeks leading up to Christmas, flight prices jump by $7 per day. There aren't really "deals" to be had, as everybody is trying to fly around the same time, but there are less-bad deals. The cheapest days to depart are Saturday, Dec. 16 or Tuesday, December 19. Either of those days will save you $110 compared to traveling on the busiest day, Friday, December 22. The cheapest days to return are Thursday, January 4, which will save you $97 compared to traveling on New Year's Day. In fact, December 22 through January 2 are all miserably expensive, with Christmas Eve and Christmas Day only providing a slight discount.

FareCompare CEO Rick Seaney regularly advises flying in on the holidays themselves, noting that an early enough flight will still get you there in time for the festivities, but keeps a few other hints squirreled away for just this time of year. By now, you know to consider connecting flights and airports just a bit removed from your destination's main airport. However, you should also consider looking into hotel and flight packages that won't reduce airfare, but often cut you a break on the room. Also, if you find yourself in a pinch, nothing beats a red-eye flight.

"The cheapest times to fly are generally the times no one wants to fly, such as a dawn flight or at dinner-time or overnight flight," Seaney says. "Compare ticket prices for various times; the savings could make an early flight easy to bear."

If you aren't celebrating the holidays with family (or at all) and just want somewhere to hang out for a reasonable price, TripAdvisor rentals notes that there are relatively inexpensive destinations still available. Though a survey travelers revealed that while most travelers book their stay in a vacation rental 6 to 12 months in advance (40%) and 54% of travelers book 3 to 5 months out (34%) a full 20% book just 1 to 3 months out (20%). If you're looking for a holiday vacation but haven't set the bar too high, TripAdvisor has some last-minute options that are still available from December 22 through 26:

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Editors' pick: Originally published Nov. 9.

Arcadian Shores, S.C.
Arcadian Shores, S.C.

Median nightly rate for a two-bedroom: $89

Now, there's really no such place as "Arcadian Shores." What you're seeing here are properties situated around the Arcadian Shores Golf Club in Myrtle Beach. The reason they're this cheap should be fairly obvious, but we'll spell it out for you: It's too cold for a decent round. While the temperature has reached as high as 84 around this time of year, the average high is below 60. Even worse, the average low for that early tee time is below 40. You can roll the dice and hope that climate change is working in your favor, or you can just take advantage of the off-season rate -- even if it never gets you onto this 43-year-old, Rees Jones-designed course.

Hot Springs Village, Ark.
Hot Springs Village, Ark.

Median nightly rate for a two-bedroom: $90

Nothing stirs that warm, holiday feeling quite like hunkering behind the barricades of the largest gated community in the country. That's right: You and about 13,000 homeowners-association-bound residents are locked within this 26,000-acre fishbowl. Why would you do this to yourself? Well, typically, to enjoy 11 lakes, three beaches, two full-service marinas (with boat rentals), nine golf courses a five-star tennis association (with 10 clay courts), indoor and outdoor pools, fitness center, 20 miles of hiking trails, mini golf and the private Diamante Country Club. Granted, it will be awfully cold around the time you're here, but the indoor activities and community centers are a fine way to have a secluded, thoroughly vetted Christmas all to yourself.

Garden City Beach, S.C.
Garden City Beach, S.C.

Median nightly rate for a two-bedroom: $106

Just south of Myrtle Beach in South Carolina's "Grand Strand" of shore points is Garden City Beach. A summer hot spot known for its Fourth of July golf cart parade and its bar-, restaurant-, band- and tourist-laden pier, Garden City Beach can get a bit chilly and awfully quiet around this time of year. However, reverse travel psychology only benefits the holiday traveler who'd prefer to spend Christmas weekend watching the waves roll in and fending off the bitter chill with a cup of coffee and a few layers.

Osage Beach, Mo.
Osage Beach, Mo.

Median nightly rate for a two-bedroom: $120

Bordering the Lake of the Ozarks and Lake of the Ozarks State Park, Osage Beach is a summer fun spot loaded with boating, fishing, waterparks, golf courses, arcades, mini golf, laser tag and more. While much of that will be closed for the season, the nearby distillery, outlet stores, Bagnell Dam and perilous swinging wooden bridge on Highway 42 will still be there for your amusement, though hunkering down after a long hike in the park isn't such a bad idea, either.

Cherry Log, Ga.
Cherry Log, Ga.

Median nightly rate for a two-bedroom: $124

Amid the Chattahoochee National Forest just south of the Tennessee border is this pristine stretch of high country riddled with mountains, streams and forest canopy. Sure, there are antique stores and big plates of pork at The Pink Pig BBQ, but this is the place you visit to get away from everybody. You find a cabin, hike to Fall Branch Falls, make your way back, watch the sun set through the trees, stoke a fire and get nice and cozy. It's right off of Route 76 and highly accessible, yet also in the middle of nowhere. It's great piece of earth on which to enjoy a serene holiday weekend.

Lake Ozark, Mo.
Lake Ozark, Mo.

Median nightly rate for a two-bedroom: $125

Yet another spot along the Lake of the Ozarks that gets a lot quieter when the summer crowds aren't lashing boats together and pounding back beers. Again, most of the recreational activities will be shut down for the season, and with good reason: the average high temperature doesn't get above 50 and the average low is well below freezing. Still, if you're up for visiting wineries, sneaking in a few rounds of golf or visiting a spa and pampering yourself, you couldn't ask for a better time to visit.

Edisto Island, S.C.
Edisto Island, S.C.

Median nightly rate for a two-bedroom: $133

This marshy island is a great spot for dolphin and whale watching, long walks down Edisto Beach and an up-close encounter with alligators at the Serpentarium. However, what this island has in bulk is history. Once serving as a colony for freed slaves after the Civil War, Edisto Island is teeming with ruins of former plantations, shops, churches and grand old homes. Now more of a wildlife preserve than anything else, Edisto Island weathered some of the most turbulent portions of our nation's history to give much of itself back to nature. Many of the buildings stand as a testament to what man did here, but their decay and overgrowth speaks to the healing that can take place once man is gone.

Chincoteague Island, Va.
Chincoteague Island, Va.

Median nightly rate for a two-bedroom: $133

Who wants to see some ponies?! With climate change already taking a toll on the landscape, there is no time like the present to get a glimpse of Chincoteague's feral ponies, explore its wildlife refuge, walk its beaches and take a tour of the active NASA space center and launch pad at Wallops Flight Facility. It's going to be cold, but if the ponies can take it, you can, too.

Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Median nightly rate for a two-bedroom: $120

There are few things more unsettling, yet peaceful, than a boardwalk town in winter. The beach is empty, the taffy stands and rides are closed, the boardwalk T-shirt memes and prizes are six months away from being refreshed, and The Hard Rock Cafe, the bars, the boardwalk, the malls, the golf courses, the theme parks are at rest. In nearby Surfside, the Grand Strand's fishing pier, movie theaters, batting cages, mini golf, zoo, bowling, Ripley's Aquarium and Wild Water and Wheels amusement park all sit largely dormant. There will be some restaurants and amusements awaiting you -- though most of Myrtle Beach's holiday parades and events will be over by this time -- but Myrtle Beach's decorations, lights, holiday shows, Festival of Trees and more make this summer hotspot seem anything but dead.

Pahoa, Hawaii
Pahoa, Hawaii

Median nightly rate for a two-bedroom: $145

All of 945 people live in this town for one big reason: lava. This town, named after a knife, rests on soil freshly deposited by the Kilauea Volcano and has front-row seats to various eruptions and lava flows. A particularly destructive flow hit coursed over the town three years ago, but folks who want to be in striking distance of the water on the windward side of the island, without being overrun with tourists, have few better options.

Townsend, Tenn.
Townsend, Tenn.

Median nightly rate for a two-bedroom: $135

If you've ever dreamed of a Smoky Mountain Christmas, but didn't want to get caught up in the tourist attractions of Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge (firmly in Dollywood country), then Townshend is for you. Located at one of the entrances to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Townshend gladly accepts its title as the "boring" gateway to the Smokies. There's antiquing and restaurants nearby, and you're still along the Tennessee Whiskey Trail, but unless you're into hiking, history and a whole lot of time in the Tuckaleechee Caverns, there's nothing to distract you from enjoying the state park or a few quiet nights by the fire in your cabin.

Outer Banks, N.C.
Outer Banks, N.C.

There are two types of people: those who can enjoy a good, gray walk on a chilly beach with a cup of coffee and those who are sent running to the nearest heated room by the mere thought of it. The Outer Banks are admittedly a summer destination, but marathons, 5k runs, shopping, plays, the Manteo Christmas parade and tree lighting the Elizabethan Gardens' "Winterlights Celebration" and the Poulos family's $3,500-a-month Christmas light display help keep things seasonally appropriate. We won't pretend it will be warm, but those rolling waves and lighthouse views are perhaps even more enjoyable with fewer people around and at a roughly 75% discount from summer.

Port Isabel, Texas
Port Isabel, Texas

Median nightly rate for a two-bedroom: $140

On Texas's Gulf Coast just a few miles north of the Mexican border is Port Isabel, South Padre Island's less-rowdy neighbor. Founded by the Spanish in 1519 and with a 165-year-old lighthouse right in the middle of town, Port Isabel is a bustling intercoastal hub of shops, restaurants and marinas. Each year around Christmas, Port Isabel lights its tree, holds a decorating contest and gets its local boat owners to parade their lighted ships just off the shore. It's fairly low-key around this time of year, but with temperatures reaching into the low 70s even at Christmas, Port Isabel offers plenty of company and options for your holiday vacation.

Hilo, Hawaii
Hilo, Hawaii

Median nightly rate for a two-bedroom: $135

Now, if you wanted the big tourist experience on this side of the Big Island, Hilo provides. This 46,000-person city is the home of Mauna Loa macadamia nuts, it's at the base of two different volcanoes, it's home to numerous hotels and resorts, a tsunami museum and numerous gardens and cultural centers. Just don't expect to be alone by any means: People love coming to Hawaii for Christmas, and tourist-packed Hilo is no exception.

Saint Simons Island, Ga.
Saint Simons Island, Ga.

Median nightly rate for a two-bedroom: $144

Saint Simons Island tries really hard to please everyone. If you're a history buff into lighthouses, battlefields, forts, churches (especially Methodist), plantations, oaks and Spanish Moss, there's plenty of that here. If you'd prefer to play golf, shop, sail or eat dinners out, those are options as well. If you'd prefer to kayak the marshes, bike historic trails, go fishing or take ghost tours, knock yourself out. Saint Simons Island largely succeeds in its attempt to be all things to all people, and it continues to do so during the offseason. Christmas tours, mistletoe holiday markets, dog parades and yarn bombing all cater to the slightly smaller offseason crowd, giving visitors more on their agenda than summer spots typically have around the holidays.

Anchorage, Alaska
Anchorage, Alaska

Median nightly rate for a two-bedroom: $135

It's definitely cool in Anchorage during the summer months, but that doesn't mean it's less crowded than its sweltering neighbors in the southern 48 states. Sorry, temperature-shy traveler, but you're far from the only one who thought it would be a great idea to go check out the glaciers, fjords, waterfalls, orcas and eagles of Prince William Sound or grab a beer at Glacier Brewhouse during the beautiful summer months. During the Summer, Anchorage's ports are just loaded with cruise ships full of folks just like yourself who'll be booking horseback trips through the mountains, trying to catch a peek at caribou, lynx and grizzlies during various trail hikes and packing the Alaska Native Heritage Center and the Anchorage Museum. So what can you do to keep from missing out on the last table at the WildRide Sled Dog Rodeo dinner theater or the kite flying at Delaney Park Strip? Grab an Alaska Tour Saver coupon booklet, book early and get half-price deals on Mount McKinley sightseeing, glacier cruises, remote wilderness lodges, Denali National Park train rides and glacier/wildlife/sightseeing packages.

Gulf Shores, Ala.
Gulf Shores, Ala.

Median nightly rate for a two-bedroom: $138

Nearly every television home show based around bargain beachfront property ends up here. With a broad sandy beach lined with condos, hotels and lots of other pay-per-ocean-view facilities, Gulf Shores would be capitalist's dream vacation if the beaches weren't free. Go to the zoo, the water park, one of the 10 golf courses or the mall if you'd like, but strolls along the sand and a decent afternoon of fishing also make fine returns on your discount vacation.

Orange Beach, Ala.
Orange Beach, Ala.

Median nightly rate for a two-bedroom: $149

Much like Gulf Shores, Orange Beach is heavily dependent of families and the weather around this time of year. That more than half-price discount doesn't happen by accident: If Orange Beach businesses can make you take a chance on a hurricane-season trip to its beaches just before the kids go back to school, it's going to do so.

Tucson, Ariz.
Tucson, Ariz.

Median nightly rate for a two-bedroom: $140

Oh, it's going to be hot. The average temperature still gets up around 94 this time of year and you're still in a city in the desert. That said, you're in a city that hippies love, which means a whole lot of outdoor markets, art museums, theater and Sonoran hot dogs. Yes, it's a military town with its own Air Force Base, but it's an even bigger college town with all of the vibrance and amenities that entails.

Branson, Mo.
Branson, Mo.

Median nightly rate for a two-bedroom: $135

The family friendly Vegas of the Ozarks is the place to go if you want to close out the summer listening to the inoffensive tones of Rockapella, Paul Anka, Neil Sedaka, Abba tribute bands, the surviving members of various '50s and '60s vocal groups or any number of Conway Twitty and Andy Williams remembrances. Just snag a $62 room at the Fall Creek Inn and Suites, enjoy a catfish or prime rib dinner and enjoy the aesthetic lobotomy.

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