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After all this wild winter weather, perhaps it’s time for a spring getaway filled with sunshine and plenty of heat. Here, TPG Contributor Lori Zaino offers some warm and sunny destinations where you can stretch those dollars just a little further.
1. Gran Canaria, Spain
Americans typically aren’t very familiar with the Canary Islands, which are located off the coast of Africa, but they definitely warrant a visit, especially if you’re looking for luxury without breaking the bank. This seven-island archipelago created from volcanic eruptions offers an interesting combination of sexy black sand beaches and dusty Saharan sand dunes. Each of the islands has its own charm and personality, but Gran Canaria is the easiest to get to.
The southern resort area of Maspalomas offers miles of white, sandy coastline and it’s just 3 euros (~$3.30) to rent a beach chair for the day — just slightly less than $20 per day to do the same in Miami. If you’re in the mood for a sleek and sexy Miami-like atmosphere, head over to the Amadores Beach Resort to soak up the sun or enjoy sunset cocktails on the beach. The Ibiza-style lounge music and well-dressed crowd are right on trend, while prices here are quite reasonable (as in $3 beers and $6 Sangria!)
Families love the activity-filled Puerto Rico beach zone, which has shallow waters perfect for children. For a day of romantic relaxation or fun with friends, hit up the four-hour Corallium Spa circuit at the Lopesan Costa Meloneras Resort, Spa, and Casino in Maspalomas. Featuring an igloo room, Turkish baths, a Himalyan salt room, light therapy room and a dead sea saltwater pool among other luxurious offerings, non-hotel guests only pay 40 euros (~$45) for this sweet indulgence.
Getting There: Start by booking a nonstop round-trip flight between the US and Madrid (MAD) using American Airlines AAdvantage miles. If you do this before before March 22, you may be able to snag a round-trip economy MileSAAver award for 60k miles, a business class award for 100k miles or a first class award for 125k miles — if you’re booking on or after the March 22 devaluation, redemptions start at 60k for a peak economy MileSAAver award, 115k for business class and 170k for first class. From there, take a three-hour flight via Oneworld carrier Iberia or Ryanair to Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (LPA) — these short hops are typically in the $50–$150 range (or possibly included as part of your award ticket) depending on the airline and when you go.
Stay: Use Marriott Rewards points to stay at the AC Hotel Gran Canaria. The hotel features a rooftop pool and Suite Bar Planta 23, the highest bar and restaurant on the island, offering gorgeous 360-degree views of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. Each room has a balcony, mini-bar and a plasma TV. Rates at this Category 3 property start at 120 euros (~$134) in March, 72 euros (~$80) per night in April or 15,000 points per night for award stays in both months.
2. Tucson, Arizona
You may be rolling your eyes and thinking, why not Scottsdale? Well, because Tucson has the same amount of sunshine and you can enjoy a luxurious hotel stay, high-end cuisine and plenty of nature for a much better price.
Anyone looking for a truly relaxing or outdoorsy getaway will love Tucson. Enjoy creeks, pools and waterfalls along Sabino Canyon’s Seven Falls hike and see cacti up close at Saguaro National Park. Adventurous types can also mountain bike through tough Fantasy Island bike trails. Seeking a bit of R&R? Miraval Resort & Spa and Canyon Ranch are some of the top-rated spas in world, or just lounge by your hotel pool and bask in the warm sunshine — Tucson has about 350 days a year of it.
The University of Arizona area offers plenty of cultural events as well as a fun bar scene. 4th avenue is a quirky mix of college kids, hippies and families strolling through the eclectic mix of co-op grocery stores, LGBT book shops, vintage stores, dive bars and boutiques.
Head downtown to check out the area’s trendiest restaurants. Try Maynards Market & Kitchen, located inside an historic train station (the fresh fish daily specials are innovative and delicious) or 47 Scott, recently written up in the New York Times for its inventive cocktail creations.If you are craving Mexican food, the options in Tuscon are endless.
Getting There: Tucson International Airport (TUS) is relatively small but receives nonstop flights from several US destinations via American Airlines (Chicago-O’Hare, Dallas/Fort Worth), Alaska Airlines (Seattle/Tacoma), United Airlines (Denver), Southwest Airlines (Chicago-Midway, Denver, Las Vegas, LA and San Diego) and Delta (Atlanta). Wanna Get Away fares on Southwest are available from Chicago (MDW) for 13,897 Southwest Rapid Rewards points one-way from April to mid-June. Note that additional seasonal flights may also be available to Tucson that only operate during the winter and springtime.
Stay: Starwood’s Westin La Paloma Resort & Spa offers 457 guest rooms and suites, five pools, a 27-hole Jack Nicklaus signature golf course, a super-fun water slide, and a Westin Workout Fitness Center. Standard guest rooms feature a flatscreen TV, Wi-Fi access, a private balcony or patio — some suites also include a fireplace and separate bathtub with deluxe amenities. Those in need of some serious relaxing should check out the Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spa.
Rates at this Category 4 property start at $189 or 10,000 Starpoints per night in late-March. If you are looking to use points or miles Tucson also has plenty of Hilton, Marriott and Hyatt properties to suit your needs and budget. Check out our Destination of the Week: Tucson post for additional options.
3. Mexico City, Mexico
Mexico City is an up-and-coming tourist destination, especially for foodies and art lovers, and one of the coolest spots in the world to see murals thanks to revolutionary painters like Diego Rivera. The weather is also warm and sunny for most of the year and overall, prices are very affordable.
Culture is in abundance here and Mexico City is a haven for museum-lovers, who can check out popular spots like the National Museum of Anthropology, the Fine Arts Museum (Palacio de Bellas Artes) or the Contemporary Art Museum designed by famous architect Teodoro González de León. Of course, you can discover plenty of bizarre niche museums like Museum of Antique Toys, the Narco Museum, The Museum of Mexican Medicine or the Mucho Mundo Chocolate Museum, among others.
Foodies will love all the cheap and flavorful street food as well as exciting cuisine from chefs like Enrique Olivera at his restaurant, Pujol. Explore cool neighborhoods like Roma Norte and Condesa, and visit one of the many food markets like popular hotspot Mercado Roma.
Getting There: Fly round-trip from destinations like LA and Chicago for 35k American AAdvantage miles in economy, 60k for business class or 80k for first class before the devaluation — award redemptions start at 30k in economy, 50k in business or 100k in first if you book on or after March 22. United offers round-trip economy award flights from the US starting at 35k United MileagePlus miles for economy or 60k for business class in March. You can also use Delta miles to fly on Aeromexico, with nonstop award redemptions starting at about 35k in economy and 60k in business class from New York in March.
Where to Stay: The W Mexico City has true Mexican flavor inspired by the artistic delights of Frida Khalo and Diego Rivera. This vibrant and colorful hotel offers the W Signature Bed, 42-inch plasma TV’s and rainforest showers in every guest room. Located in the upscale Polanco area, rates at this SPG Category 6 hotel start at $189 or 20,000 Starpoints per night in March.
4. Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Fort Lauderdale is Miami’s younger, fresher sibling. While the city may not be quite as hip as Miami, it’s definitely up-and-coming, and a more affordable option compared to its South Florida sister.
Craft brews and cocktails are quickly becoming the IT thing in Fort Lauderdale. 1920’s-themed bar Stache now serves Miami-favorite Panther coffee by day (try the cold brew) and is a cool cocktail lounge/speakeasy/burlesque club by night. The Tap 42 bar conveniently has 42 beers on tap — in-house mixologists love to blend beer and liquor together into creatively crafted cocktails — while new restaurant Burlock Coast Seafare and Spirits offers a rum cart that rolls through the dining room, allowing diners to mix up their very own custom rum creations. YOLO is another hot spot featuring curated cocktails and an eclectic menu.
Proof that this town is a hot dining and drinking spot, Miami’s South Beach Wine & Food Festival has expanded to Fort Lauderdale, offering a variety of different events in the area. Once you’ve chowed down and sipped to your hearts’ delight, nurse your hangover along one of the many white sand beaches.
Getting There: It’s often cheaper to fly in and out of Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL) as opposed to Miami International Airport (MIA) thanks to a variation in airport taxes — you can often find great deals on JetBlue and Spirit Airways depending on when you go. Alaska Airlines, Allegiant Airlines and Southwest Airlines also fly into FLL from various US destinations, as do American, Delta and United.
Where To Stay: The W Fort Lauderdale overlooks the beautiful South Florida coastline and offers a rooftop pool and lounge as well as complimentary beachfront bootcamp or yoga sessions. Rates at this Category 5 property start at $308 per night or 16,000 Starpoints per night in March.
With a little planning, you can have a great budget-friendly spring break getaway at one of these sunny spots in the US and abroad. Best of all, credit cards such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Citi Prestige don’t charge foreign transaction fees, making them ideal to use while on vacation in Gran Canaria or Mexico City. Check out our Top Credit Cards With No Foreign Transaction Fees post for more fee-free options overseas.
Are you heading anywhere this season for a sunny getaway? Have you visited any of the above destinations? Share your experience in the comments, below.
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