As winter drags on, people's thoughts naturally turn to spring travel. For many destinations, March through May is the shoulder season, which means you can find cheap travel deals before prices heat up in the peak summer travel months or the upcoming holiday season.
Whether you're looking for a beach spot, big city getaway or a foreign destination, you will find a range of options available to you, from all-inclusive resorts to DIY adventures.
Here are eight tips and considerations for maximizing your fun quotient — and your budget:
1. Follow the Weather
From Punta Cana, Dominican Republic to Goa, India, there are at least two dozen cheap travel destinations throughout the Americas, Africa, Asia and even Europe — Spain's Canary Islands, anyone? — that offer great weather in March, according to Roger Wade of PriceofTravel.com.
He notes the payoff for March travel as a combination of "perfect weather with off-peak hotel prices and reasonable crowds."
2. Free is the Best Price
According to Jennifer Plum Auvil of TravelChannel.com, Washington, D.C. makes for the perfect spot for cheap travel. With its abundance of free events and cultural attractions, including 19 Smithsonian museums (with no entrance fees) and the annual spring Cherry Blossom Festival, the U.S. capital is a prime destination for the budget-conscious traveler.
3. Purchase a Spring Break Package
Statravel, a travel company geared towards the college-age population, is offering cheap spring flights and $100 off spring break packages to traditional beach spots like Cancun, Mexico and Panama City, Florida. It also offers fantastic deals to more adventurous locations like Milan, Italy.
4. Worldly Adventures
If you have already "done" the world capitals, like Paris, London, and Rome, consider destinations like Arendal, Norway, a coastal village several hours west of Oslo; Valencia, Spain, with its persistent sunshine; or Kyoto, Japan, with its bountiful cherry blossoms- just a few of the top 15 spring destinations from editors and contributors for Conde Naste Traveler.
5. Consider the Great Outdoors
At Tennessee's Great Smoky Mountains National Park, you can go fishing and access pristine trails and streams, according to BudgetTravel.com's list of 10 "awesome" and "affordable" spring break destinations.
Be sure visit Dollywood in nearby Gatlinburg for less than $100 a night.
6. Go All-Inclusive
According to Auvil, one way to fend off sticker shock is by choosing an all-inclusive resort, such as Beaches Boscobel Resort and Golf Club in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, whose amenities include five restaurants, six bars and a water park. Another great destination is the Sunscape Curacao Resort Spa & Casino in Willemstad, Curacao, where the "unlimited fun" covers all dining, drinks and activities.
7. Have a Real-World Disney Experience
Visit the real sites that helped inspire several Disney movies, recommends Travel + Leisure contributor Lindsey Olander. These locations range from a trio of Scottish fortresses — Urquhar, Dunnottar and Eilean Donan — that influenced the look of the DunBroch family castle in "Brave," to Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy, France, which helped inspire the fictitious kingdom in "Tangled." And be sure to check out Beijing's Forbidden City, the basis for the emperor's palace in "Mulan."
8. Culture Closer to Home
Can't afford to cross the pond for a taste of foreign culture? BudgetTravel.com recommends considering a culturally diverse U.S. destination like New Orleans. The Mardi Gras crowd in the Crescent City will be long gone by March, giving you plenty of opportunities to savor this hot spot for jazz, "unforgettable" cuisine, and events like the French Quarter Festival.
9. Don't Forget Your Peace of Mind
Travel, by nature, is full of uncertainties. It's important to consider the financial obligations that could accompany an unexpected illness or injury requiring immediate medical treatment or hospitalization. If you are traveling internationally, you can account for such problems by purchasing an international travel medical insurance plan like Atlas Premium, which provides coverage for eligible medical treatment, hospitalizations, and emergency evacuations and includes a $100,000 crisis response benefit.