Experts say the travel deals available in January often are some of the best offered all year. In particular, experts say, travelers should look for deals to these seven destinations. --KELLI B. GRANT. MarketWatch
THE CARIBBEAN AND BAHAMAS: The islands are a popular holiday destination, but now, everyone is back to work, says Kari Dilloo, a spokeswoman for Bing Travel. That creates lower pricing until demand picks up in March for spring break travel. Hurry and book by Tuesday, for example, and you'll save 30 percent on a stay at the Sugar Cane Club & Hotel on Barbados -- $200 a person per night, including meals and a swim with the turtles (now through Feb. 5, March 7-April 14). Book through travelzoo.com.
CRUISES: The so-called Wave Season -- when many lines offer their best deals -- kicked in in January. "For anybody who's looking to cruise last-minute in January 2013 -- or booking six, even 12 months out -- January is the time to start scoping the deals," says Gabe Saglie, a senior editor for deal site Travelzoo.com. Alaska especially is seeing more competitive deals this year with both Princess and Celebrity adding ships there, he says. (Look for a May or September sailing to maximize savings.) Norwegian has rates as low as $449 a person on some seven-day cruises from Whittier to Vancouver in May and June, a savings of 40 percent.
ICELAND: Concedes Banas of SmarterTravel.com: "Iceland is not top of everyone's mind in the winter." But there are plenty of winter attractions, including hot springs and prime Northern Lights viewing. Some of the most attractive deals stem from Iceland Air. Its Northern Lights Escape package, which starts at $953 a person, includes round-trip airfare from New York, as well as four nights' hotel, breakfasts, intra-Iceland air and bus travel, a Northern Lights tour and entry costs to other attractions. Depending on travel dates, just the flight might cost you that much, she says.
SKI RESORTS: Resorts often reassess bookings this time of year, offering deals to entice travelers before warmer spring weather kicks in during March and April, says Anne Banas, executive editor for advice site SmarterTravel.com. With a warmer-than-usual winter, skiers may even see some deals over Presidents Day weekend, which usually demands premium pricing. At Sugarloaf Inn in Carrabassett, Maine, "Classic Ski Week" five-night packages of lodging and lift tickets start at $425 a person, which is up to 50 percent off prices if purchased separately. Village Inn Plaza in Vail, Colo., has discounts of up to 30 percent, with per-traveler rates on seven-night "Ski & Stay" lodging and lift ticket packages starting at $464 a night.
HAWAII: This is another destination that sees traffic drop off until March spring break traffic. On Hawaii island, for example, Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa offers $245 a night with a $300 hotel credit through its "Island Treasure" package for stays through Nov. 29. At Hawaii Prince Hotel Waikiki, rates start at $300 a night for an oceanfront room (three-night minimum stay) with a $100 dinner credit through the "Romance Package."
IRELAND: Irish tourism groups have dubbed 2013 "The Gathering," and a main focus of the yearlong celebration is enticing travelers of Irish heritage to visit, says Gabe Saglie, a senior editor for deal site Travelzoo.com. "We're seeing already some very aggressive packages, even from tour companies that don't usually specialize in Irish travel," he says. That helps compensate for rising airfares. Great Value Vacations has seven-night hotel, air and car rental packages starting at $1,199 a person for June through August. AerLingus Vacation Store has a Castles of Ireland package from $959 a person for select dates in February, including airfare, an economy car rental and six nights at Dunboyne, Kilronan, Dromoland and Fitzpatrick castles.
NEW YORK CITY: Closer to home, prices have fallen dramatically in January. This month, it's easy to spend less than $100 a night. Even higher-end properties come in at under $200. The Tuscany, a St. Giles Hotel, for example, has January rates as low as $169 for a Saturday night and $119 for Sundays. The Hotel Mela in Times Square is up to 40 percent off, with starting rates of $143.