When travel agency owner Melisa Keiser receives calls from December deal-seekers, they're frustrated.
They want the perfect place at the perfect price on the perfect date, which is perfectly impossible, of course, especially during the busy holiday season.
"In most cases, you have to pick two out of three" for location, price and travel dates, says Keiser, the owner of Carmel Travel Co. in Carmel, Ind.
If you need a low price, you might not be able to book your dream destination. If you want the location, your dates might not be available at the price you need.
But wait. Don't resign yourself to dry turkey and family guilt just yet.
For a budget winter travel destination, Bankrate compiled 10 surprising locations that might fit the bill. Price estimates were correct at the time of writing.
The Space Coast of Florida
Deal-seekers skip flights to the Caribbean and Mexico and look to North Florida instead. "The southern, warmer parts are busy, so look further north to find availability," Keiser says.
The northern half is cooler — highs reach the 70s — but this location also halves the prices.
Florida's Space Coast area offers the Kennedy Space Center, a skating rink, easy access to Orlando and Atlantic Ocean beaches.
Real deal: The DoubleTree Suites by Hilton Melbourne Beach Oceanfront offers oceanfront rooms starting around $120 per night.
The recently remodeled DoubleTree by Hilton Cocoa Beach Oceanfront starts around $100 per night and even has a private beach.
Indoor water parks: Ohio and Wisconsin
Two Midwestern cities offer balmy temperatures in indoor water parks.
Kalahari Resorts operates indoor water parks in Wisconsin Dells, Wis., and in Sandusky, Ohio, which is home to Kalahari, the largest indoor water park in the U.S. Great Wolf Lodge has resorts in both locations as well, including restaurants, lodging and smaller water parks.
"They have nice suite setups for families and a deal where you get water park passes for the days you are there, not just the nights," says Julie Sturgeon, owner of travel agency Curing Cold Feet in Indianapolis, referring to Great Wolf Lodge properties.
"One night would be two days' worth of passes."
Real deal: The Great Wolf Lodge Resorts in Wisconsin Dells starts at $129 per night; Sandusky resort stays start around $150.
Albuquerque and Santa Fe, New Mexico
Where else to meet Santa but in Santa Fe, N.M.? Here, tourist crowds drop when the temperatures dip.
So you'll find plenty of rooms and deals amid daytime highs in the 50s and 60s.
Traditional plazas and markets fill with candles, handmade crafts, food and a rich, cultural heritage.
"There is something very appealing about winter in Santa Fe, especially during the December holidays," says Jim Luttjohann, director of the Santa Fe Convention and Visitors Bureau.
"The nearby Southern Rockies are covered in snow, our food scene is at its most savory, and the whole town is filled with yuletide activity."
"Most of the seasonal events are free, including the very popular Christmas Eve Farolito Walk through the historic East side," he says.
The farolitos are votive candles in paper bags illuminating every sidewalk, wall, house and building.
Real deal: Example: The colorful Lodge at Santa Fe starts at a mere $80 per night.
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