Editors' pick: Originally published Feb. 9.
Roughly 52 million passengers took trips aboard U.S. airlines last January, according to the Department of Transportation's Bureau of Transportation statistics. That's up almost 3 million passengers from January 2013, but still well below the 57.9 million passengers who caught holiday flights a month earlier in December and not close to the 66.1 million who fly during peak season in July. The only month when folks travel less is February, with a scant 51 million passengers putting up with foul weather and delays during that month. That's why you can slip in and nab some deals.
The folks at travel site Hopper have been charting average airfares throughout the season and, despite "dark weeks in early December, average airfare in the U.S. still hovered between $215 and $220." January is where the holiday travel price hikes comes to an end.
"The good news is that the best flight prices of the year are right around the corner," says Hopper data scientist Patrick Surry. "Historically, flight prices bottom just after the holidays in January at $211 round-trip."
Rick Seaney, chief executive at FareCompare.com, notes that setting airfare alerts, buying tickets between 3 months and 30 days before departure, comparing fares, flying on the cheapest days (typically Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday) or flying into or out of an airport an hour or so away rather than from the more closely-located hub can reduce off-peak travel costs even further. Packing light, avoiding baggage fees and staying with friends or relatives can also keep costs down, but so can paying attention to the calendar. With help from the folks at travel sites SmarterTravel, Airfare Watchdog and TripAdvisor Vacation Rentals, we took a peek at some of the best and least-costly winter travel destinations in the world. If you have a passport and and an open mind, here are some of the spots that beckon now: