Off and Running Off-Season

This year, add a New Year's resolution that brings culture and memories to life. Don't just promise to exercise more and eat healthier. Also resolve to travel to the remote, exotic destinations of your dreams — for less.

Follow the best trip tip in budget travel: Think about when to travel. In 2008, leave no corner of the globe unturned by strategically planning your vacation to avoid peak-season pricing.

For example, Europe (yes, we know all about the euro) in the winter traditionally reveals a quieter side in many of its world-famous cities, offering travelers a less crowded, more intimate and relaxing atmosphere to experience culture on a budget (and avoid the museum lines). Europe, Asia, the Caribbean or even stateside — no matter your wish list, there's a time to go that will offer more experience for less money.

Ready to keep that extra New Year's Resolution? Here are a few suggestions for when to travel to some of the world's most coveted destinations, and why you should go in 2008:

· Early winter: During the early '08 wintertime, budget travelers should skip the slopes and hit the big cities that normally welcome visitors in the summer months, such as Paris.

Though chilly, there are plenty of indoor activities to keep you warm. You can visit the Louvre, Nôtre Dame or Napoleon's Tomb to take in the sites and avoid the cold. For a rush, bundle up and head to the Eiffel Tower's ice-skating rink, located more than 180 feet above the "City of Lights."

And while you're at it, how about nearby Spain, where Madrid is aglow with news about the expansion of its world-class Prado Museum, home of the world's best collection of the country's eminent native son, artist Diego Velazquez. The crowds may be less full surrounding his famous "Las Meninas" this time of year.

And tapas never taste better than when in a cozy cafe as the celsius cools off outside.

· Late-winter travel: Start the ski season right with a trip to Lake Tahoe, which straddles the California/Nevada state line and is home to more than a dozen ski resorts. Beyond the slopes, travelers can try the Full Moon Snowshoe Tour offered at NorthStar Resort, which offers a picturesque trek through the mountain trails.

· Spring travel: Check out Hawaii this spring before the summer crowds invade. For inspiration, Pineapple Painting Tours take visitors on the road to experience the beautiful scenery of Hawaii from an artist's perspective.

A springtime experience also means more personal attention from the art instructors and fewer heads to look over. When you have finished creating your masterpiece, check out the works of others at Honolulu's Contemporary Museum.

· Summer travel: Summer is a wonderful time to hit the grassy slopes and avoid the crowds. Of course, skiing may be out of the question, but that doesn't mean you'll be stuck at the lodge sipping iced tea and twiddling your thumbs.

In Vail, Colo., travelers can experience the annual "Mountain Games" — an event that celebrates athletes, arts, music and, of course, the mountains.

The bottom line: whether kayaking, trail-running, mountain biking or just taking in the landscape, top mountain destinations, like Vail, are a great choice for summer travel on a budget.

· Fall travel: Mexico and the Caribbean are the perfect oases for fall travelers. Not too hot and not too chilly, world-famous Caribbean destinations are perfect for a dreamy beach getaway.

Beyond the white sand, great cultural events are another reason to make an autumn trip. In November, for example, Cancun, Mexico, will showcase the International Caribbean Cultural Festival. Performers arrive from all over the Caribbean, and entertainment includes everything from dancing and singing to reciting poetry.

So, pack your dancing shoes and get ready to salsa! 



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