Travel + Leisure's Best Winter Vacation Spots

ByABC News via logo
December 17, 2005, 4:22 PM

Dec. 18, 2005 — -- For many Americans, seasonal depression is a reality. Some people just can't cheer up when the sun goes down earlier and the air turns frosty.

The antidote? For many it is a winter getaway.

Heidi Mitchell, senior editor at Travel + Leisure magazine, thinks everyone should book a vacation immediately. She gave "GMA" a list of this season's hottest and coolest (pardon the pun) vacation spots -- from Australia's Great Barrier Reef to Utah's slopes.

This is one of the top ten cities around the world, according to Travel +Leisure's 2005 "World's Best" awards. The magazine's reader's survey said that it is a vibrant market town that boasts cultural attractions such as the Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca. Wonderful beaches are located in nearby Huatulco.

Rooms at the Casa Oaxaca start at $100, and at Camino Real Oaxaca start at $215.

Mitchell: There's tons to do there, and it's really easy to get there. You just hop a flight to Mexico City. There are beaches and jungles and tons of culture. It has amazing architecture and fantastic food. It's totally affordable. Flights to Mexico City are generally pretty cheap. And of course, the peso is much weaker than the dollar. And we found this great hotel that is only $100 a night.

The cost of lodging can be considerably more expensive in Utah than in Oaxaca. The Stein Eriksen Lodge offers rooms that start at $375 in value season and go up to $750 during peak period. But the Park City Mountain Resort offers packages from $99 a night.

The Utah Winter Sports Park in Park City offers two-hour ski-jumping lessons for adults and children who are at least intermediate-level skiers. It also offers bobsled rides in the same facilities used by Olympic athletes. Vacationers can go heli-skiing with Park City Powder Cats and enjoy sleigh rides, winter fly fishing and ice skating.

Mitchell: It's cheaper than some of the other ski resorts and the snow is incredible -- so dry and fluffy. And it's a little more laid back than Colorado. It's totally easy to get there -- 800 flights a day go to Park City. And you can stay in really deluxe places, or you can get a package deal that included the room and the ski lift for $99 a night. It's really an incredible deal. And you can do more than ski. You can bobsled and snowshoe and skate. It's also a great place to eat. They have great food there.

Ku is a new hotel, just opened this fall by the owners of luxury resort Cap Juluca. Its rooms start at $295 during the high winter season, and it has 27 suites that overlook Shoal Bay East. The suites are chic, with minimalist white decor, air-conditioning, and full kitchens. The rooms at the recently renovated Rendezvous start at $130. The resort is located on 50 palm-laden acres fronting a 1½-mile-long sugary sand beach.

Mitchell: In my mind, I don't think you can really top Anguilla. The hotel is under $300 a night in high season, and that's a really great deal. The only place in the world that has better beaches than Anguilla is Thailand. So you pay for literally one of the best environments in the world. But there are cheaper. You can get a room at Rendezvous for $130 a night. And of course, you can dive and snorkel and fish and do all the fun water sports -- which isn't bad in the middle of January.

The Great Barrier Reef is a 1,240-mile sweep of spectacular biodiversity off the northeastern coast of Queensland, Australia. It is also one of the seven natural wonders of the world.

The area offers dozens of private island resorts such as Wilson Island, in which doubles start at $605, and Hayman Island, in which doubles begin at $470.

The Great Barrier Reef is wonderful for that once-in-a-lifetime tropical holiday of diving and reef walking, birding and boating, snorkeling and relaxing. It boasts of amazing wildlife and stunning beaches. Qantas Airways is offering a "summer down under" sale which must be booked by Dec. 20 for a vacation between Jan. 2 and Jan. 8.

Mitchell: This is totally insane. If you want a trip of a lifetime, go to the Great Barrier Reef. Australia has the world's biggest reef. And it's just stunningly beautiful. And they have private resorts that are a little pricey. But if you are going to go all the way to Australia, then you should go all out. It's far to go, but there are deals. You can get the "summer down under" sale on Qantas and get flights for as little as $1,300 from the States. So you can get a trip of a lifetime for less than $3,000.