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Sun starved? Here are tips to find a cheap sunny getaway

woman in a sun hat lounges in the water off a beautiful beach, maybe in Cuba

Michael Inselmann

As soon as the temperature starts to dip in earnest, my mind always starts wandering. ("I wonder what it feels like down south today?") I like snowmen and tobogganing as much as the next gal, but I also crave the sun's rays when this country is at its dreariest.

I haven't been to a warm-weather destination in quite a few years though – once kids came along, it seemed like an unnecessary expense and a hassle. Now that they're getting older and easier to travel with, I'm wondering if it might be time to grab a cheap flight and head to a balmy beach somewhere. But unless Santa decides to give me a bagful of cash for Christmas, I'm going to need to know: Where are the deals?

CTV's travel expert Loren Christie says when it comes to flights, the "usual suspects" are some of the cheapest this year, like Cozumel, Mexico and Veradero, Cuba.

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"Bahamas is always very low, Bermuda as well," he added. "But in both those locations, you're not exactly guaranteed bakingly hot temperatures. For those places you could look at flights around $500, which is extremely reasonable."

Caribbean destinations tend to be among the least expensive, partly because so many Canadians love to go there, said Mr. Christie.

"The head of Caribbean tourism was here the other week, and said Canada sends more visitors than any other country, so 2.8 million people were going this year, which was about a 7-per-cent increase over last year," he said. The more people who go to a destination means there are more – and cheaper – flights as a result.

More money-saving tips? You can often save big by flying Wednesday to Wednesday instead of on the weekend, said Mr. Christie, or try a five-day all-inclusive vacation instead of a full week.

Another way to score a bargain is to take advantage of some new Caribbean destinations coming on board, said Mr. Christie. For example, Air Canada is launching a weekly direct flight from Toronto to St. Kitts, which could translate into great deals for accommodation as hotels attempt to generate buzz and attract new Canadian business.

"Curacao is another one, they're going to be doing weekly flights there as well," he said. " Kura Hulanda is a resort down there, and they're offering an amazing sale right now which is a 40-per-cent reduction on all the nightly rates between Jan. 3 and April 7."

Panama and Colombia are also emerging as hotspots in Central America, says Mr. Christie.

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"Panama is really coming into its own and getting a lot of exposure, and Cartagena [Colombia]is just supposed to be lovely," he said. "It's not as dangerous as it was 15 to 20 years ago, people are starting to go there more and you can get some good deals there."

And what about Florida, that traditional bastion of fun family frolic? Mr. Christie says the drive to Buffalo, N.Y. is usually a cheaper option for Toronto dwellers. Also, there's a new airline called Allegiant,which just announced service from Niagara Airport in the U.S. to St. Petersburg, Fla.

"It's a good low-cost alternative to Air Canada and WestJet," said Mr. Christie. "If you've got someone new who's trying to break in, you can find some good prices." (I found flights there for as low as $42.99 – wowsa!)

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About the Author

Shelley White is a freelance writer, editor, video producer and mother of twins. Before taking the plunge into the wild world of freelance work, she produced educational programming at TVO, explored digital culture at the late lamented Shift magazine and entertained young minds at MuchMusic. More

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