Feb 10, 2019 - Travel

Charlotte’s 5 best direct flights for late winter vacations starting at $130

As if January dragging on for what felt like six months weren’t enough, we’ve still got plenty of winter ahead. Here are some of the best nonstop flights to anywhere but here.

Note: Airline pricing is dynamic. Prices reflect fare searches on Google Flights Feb. 8-10.

Easy East Coast Trip: Miami

Distance: 650 miles
Duration: 2 hours
Airport: MIA
Avg. Feb/Mar temp: high mid-70s, low mid- to high 60s
Price: 6-day roundtrip from $130
Budget tip: If prices out of Charlotte Douglas are creeping up, you can fly Allegiant Air out of Concord to Fort Lauderdale (just 25 miles north of MIA) starting at $55 one way.

Eden Roc Resort

I’m a firm believer you can get whatever you want out of Miami. It can be beachy or urban, relaxing or rowdy according to how you plan your itinerary. The city has multiple personalities, from the mural walls of the edgy Wynwood district to the iconic Art Deco architecture of South Beach. I took a solo trip in December and leaned into more of a restorative spa escape with a low-key sober week at Eden Roc Resort, plenty of art exploration and an all-star lineup of must-try vegan eats. Not your average Miami trip.

For its versatility and proximity, Miami is my top domestic pick when you need a quick, easy winter escape from Charlotte. It’s a basic and predictable choice because it’s right. Don’t fight the 305.

Small Town Island Escape: Eleuthera

Distance: 717 miles
Duration: 2 hours, 20 minutes
Airport: ELH
Avg. Feb/Mar temp: high 80, low mid-60s
Price: 7-day roundtrip from $512
Must see: Pink sand beaches of Harbour Island. The rosy hue isn’t an illusion. It comes from the bright pink and red shells of microscopic coral insects called foraminifera. When they die, the shells get crushed by waves and mixed with the sand creating the island’s signature pink color.

For something a bit more tropical but still an equally manageable distance from Charlotte, check out Eleuthera, a thin 110-mile-long chain of Bahamian islands east of Nassau. Barely a mile wide at its narrowest point, Eleuthera (pop. 11,000) is a smaller, less commercial tourist destination known as “the real Bahamas.”

You won’t find any of the major hotel chains here but accommodations run the gamut from solar-powered glamping at The Other Side to luxury celebrity-loved resorts like Pink Sands and The Cove.

Rocky Mountain Retreat: Denver

Distance: 1338 miles
Duration: 4 hours
Airport: DEN
Avg. Feb/Mar temp: high 50s, low 20s
Price: 7-day roundtrip from $137
Skiing near Denver: Diehard skiers are more likely to stay in a mountain ski resort to optimize slope time but there are plenty of day trip options from downtown Denver. Check out Echo Mountain (1 hour), Loveland Ski Resort (1 hour), Winter Park Resort (1.5 hour) and Keystone Ski Resort (1.5 hour).

I spend an inordinate amount of time searching flight prices to Anywhere, USA because I’m more interested in a cheap ticket to wherever than the final destination and I’m consistently shocked to see you can get to Denver under $150. It’s tough to get anywhere else that far west for under $300. We can thank Denver-based budget airline Frontier for this cheap travel blessing.

If you’re a psychopath who wants to venture into colder, snowier weather in the winter, Denver is your gateway to the powdery slopes of the Rockies.

Raucous Party Weekend: Las Vegas

Distance: 1916 miles
Duration: 5 hours
Airport: LAS
Avg. Feb/Mar temp: high mid 60s – low 70s, low 40s
Price: 3-day roundtrip from $358
Throwback residencies: A number of our favorite artists from the 90s and early 2000s have 2019 residencies at Vegas venues, including Backstreet Boys (Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino through April 2019), Britney Spears (Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino through August 2019), Mariah Carey (Caesar’s Palace Feb. 13-21), Celine Dion (ending her 8-year residency at Caesar’s Palace through June 8) and Gwen Stefani (Caesar’s Palace Feb. 27-Mar. 16). And it gets better. Cardi B will debut her Palms Casino Resort residency this summer and Drake reportedly signed on for a $10 million residency at the Wynn’s XS Nightclub.

ARIA Las Vegas

Vegas might just be the bachelor and bachelorette party capital of the world. The always-on desert destination is a no-brainer place to celebrate all the people who got engaged this past holiday season but you, :).

Being in Vegas is like being on another planet but it’s a quick 5-hour nonstop flight away, which is about how long a commute to Ballantyne feels on a bad day.

Tropical Caribbean Vacation: Barbados

Distance: 2029 miles
Duration: 5 hours
Airport: BGI
Avg. Feb/Mar temp: high mid 80s, low mid 70s
Price: 6-day roundtrip from $463
No layover: American Airlines recently rolled out enhanced daily direct service from Charlotte to Barbados, a tropical island in a region of the Caribbean that’ll usually cost you connecting stops in Miami or Atlanta in exchange for a decent price. For example, a flight to nearby St. Lucia will cost you $700+ with not one layover but two. No, thanks.

Barbados is strengthening its ties with the Carolinas. American Airlines’ enhanced daily direct service is part of that initiative along with a sister city agreement recently signed with Charleston. And the small Caribbean island is a guaranteed good time. Geographically, it’s far enough east to be spared by hurricanes and commercially, it’s one of the most desirable places to visit in the world.

Last year Travel+Leisure called it the best destination on earth for traveler satisfaction. That’s according to Norstat’s Destination Satisfaction Index, which rates the island 8.8 out of 10 according to feedback from 70,000 travelers on 20 factors, including weather, accommodations, personal safety, culinary offerings and more.

Prefer to stay closer to home? Check out our Driving Distance series for the best travel destinations within 4 hours of Charlotte.


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