Aurora borealis at Chena Hot Springs Lodge
Aurora borealis at Chena Hot Springs Lodge
Chena Hot Springs Lodge
By Diane Rommel / October 24, 2019 8:31 am

New Year’s Eve is a problem. It’s ideally best spent on a beach, or a mountaintop — but oof, those prices. 

To make the process easier, we sought out the best value-for-money destinations from SFO to faraway places — and found cheap (and cheapish) fares to some of our favorite spots. 

It wasn’t easy. Let’s just say it’s been a long time since we’ve seen a $3,300 fare to Portugal. And NYC? At least at the moment, those peak-period round-trips are almost four figures. 

Here, the best of what’s out there.

Chena Hot Springs

You’re going to: Fairbanks


Round trip: $271 on Alaska connecting in Seattle 

Briefly: So you wanted to see the northern lights? 

Stay: We’ll be tucking into the Bear Family Suite (yes) at the Chena Hot Springs Resort

Must-dos: Sort of like an Alaskan version of Iceland’s Blue Lagoon, the hot springs with reputedly healing waters have drawn visitors since they were first discovered. Watching the aurora from the spa, go on a dog sled ride, or snowshoe into the wilderness.

Stein Eriksen Lodge

You’re going to: Salt Lake City


Round trip: $196 on Delta

Briefly: Save on the flights, spend on the slopes

Stay: At the luxe Stein Eriksen Lodge at Deer Valley

Must-dos: If it requires snow and ice, you can do it: ice skating in Park City, fat bike riding on the trails, snowboard at Park City Resort, and, of course, skiing some of the most famous slopes in the world. Plus a horse-drawn sleigh, if that’s how you want to enter 2020.

Life House Little Havana

You’re going to: Miami

Round trip: $516 on American and Frontier

Briefly: Is there a more fun American city than Miami? (Doubtful.) 

Stay: Instead of the usual suspects (the W, the Fontainebleau, the Betsy, etc.) we’ll be at the Life House Little Havana, a Cuba-looking boutique hotel with a mellow vibe. If you can’t live without immediate proximity to the water, try their South of Fifth location in Miami Beach. 

Must-dos: Explore Little Havana. Get cocktails at La Trova. Catch some live music at Cubaocho. And then relax at the hotel’s rooftop lounge ’til the day’s done.

Sunrise at Haleakala National Park

You’re going to: Kahului 


Round trip: $458 on Hawaiian and United

Briefly: Not a bad deal for Maui

Stay: Instead of heading directly for the $1000-a-night oceanside resorts, why not spend 20 percent of that on an oceanside private rental

Must-dos: After you’ve finished the Road to Hana — the 65-mile bucket-list scenic drive — head to the Haleakala Crater at Haleakala National Park for an equally iconic hike. Make a reservation if you want to see the sun rise over the crater’s rim.

é by José Andrés

You’re going to: Las Vegas


Round trip: $131 on Frontier and United

Briefly: New Year’s Eve at the end of the world

Stay: If you want to avoid glitz, glam, gambling and cigarette smoke, definitely opt for a private rental, like this 31st-floor apartment with views of the Strip.  

Must-dos: If you like gambling, you know what to do. If you don’t, Vegas is a foodie paradise, from the make-your-res-now é by José Andrés to the lower-key but still excellent spots like Flock & Fowl, led by James Beard-nominated chef Sheridan Su. 

Suite at The Cape

You’re going to: San Jose de Cabo


Round trip: $627 on United/Alaska

Briefly: Sunny, beautiful, and delicious

Stay: Admire the talent of leading Mexican interior designer Marisabel Gómez Vázqueza from your tranquil room at The Cape, part of the Thompson Hotels brand — all come with balconies and views of the iconic El Arco. 

Must-dos: Eat just-caught seafood (maybe at the extremely laidback Maro Shrimp House), go on a sunset cruise, and shake off the winter vibes at Lovers Beach.