The heart of winter is the ideal time to start planning that summer vacation. Thinking of going abroad this summer? According to Expedia's 2015 Air Travel Trends report, the cheapest international flights go on sale 171 days before departure—meaning if you want to tavel in June or July, now is your time to buy. Staying Stateside? Summer wilderness permits are just becoming available, race registration times are closing in, and tickets for those wild summer festivals will soon go on sale. The deals and deadlines you should be taking seriously right now? Just this way.
Don’t Stop Carving Lines—Plan a June Ski Trip to Chile
Like to ski? You can still carve lines in summer, so long as you go south—and Chile’s got some great runs. As of last year, Chile no longer charges a $160 reciprocity fee for American tourists. Which means you should pack your skis and head south in June, when the country's slopes open and airfares fall (as low as $530 roundtrip from Miami, or $1,000 from JFK on LAN, Chile's national airline; lan.com). Most travelers head to Ski Portillo, about 100 miles from Santiago—a smart option considering that the resort just announced a price freeze on 2015 packages. But experts looking for an affordable bucket list adventure should consider a multi-day cat skiing trip at Ski Arpa, two hours from Santiago in the shadow of Mount Aconcogua. You'll have access 2,000 above-tree-line acres, guaranteeing fresh lines in wide open bowls. The average run here has 2,500 feet of vertical drop, so think of it as heli-grade powder skiing for half the price. Santiago Adventures runs all-inclusive trips, from the pickup in Santiago to lodging and meals ($1,275 per person for two days and two nights, including most meals and all avalanche equipment). Add it all up, and this might be the year to check “sub-Equatorial powder binge” off your bucket list.
Finally Book That European Vacation
The Euro is weak—and forecasted to stay that way at least through the end of the year. Plus, new long-haul flights from budget carriers such as Norwegian and WOW Air are lowering fares across the board. So why not take advantage and road-trip across the Wild Atlantic Way—west Ireland’s answer to the Pacific Coast Highway? Or head to Zermatt, Switzerland, to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the first ascent of the legendary Matterhorn. Music, food and cultural festivals are planned, plus they’re reopening the famed Hörnlihütte, the first lodge to open at the foot of the mountain. And a word to the wise: The major European rail companies now offer the best deals months in advance. Eurail, for its part, starts to sell its passes six months out. The trick here is to reserve your seats early—even if you have your pass, some trains still require a reservation, which you can begin to make three months in advance. Book your pass now—and check out the new options—and get to mapping your route for a May or June trip (avoid the more crowded July peak if possible).
Reserve Those Wilderness and Backcountry Permits
Looking to go off the grid (or close to it)? Now’s the time when many wilderness areas release their spring and summer permits. Yellowstone National Park began accepting backcountry permits on January 1, while the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness will take reservations for all entry points starting January 28. Grand Canyon National Park takes written permit requests four months from your start date, though trips three months out or less must be booked in person (note: the river permit system for the Grand Canyon and other national parks is a totally different animal, with its own set of policies and reservation windows, so plan accordingly—i.e., a year out or more). Finally, a note to those interested in overnight climbing trips to places such as Mt. Rainier: In addition to a climbing pass, you’ll need a wilderness permit in order to pitch your tent. Mt. Rainier’s go on sale March 15.
Enter a Race Worth Traveling for—You Can’t Lose
Registration for the TCS New York City Marathon (11/1) is open through February 15. Or, if cycling is more your speed, sign up for the giant, touring, cycle party across Iowa that is RAGBRAI (7/19–25) by February 15.
Party Smart: Buy Your Festival Tickets
If Burning Man (8/30–9/7) is your thing, tickets go on sale February 18. If not, try indie music fest Sasquatch, held Memorial Day weekend at the Gorge Amphitheatre in Washington’s Columbia River Valley. The lineup and tickets will be available sometime in February. And don’t forget Jazz Fest in New Orleans, tickets are already up for the taking.