Winter in Washington—when rain and slush replace heat and humidity along the Potomac—and when flights to Vail and Los Cabos replace flights to Nantucket and Barcelona on our airport departure boards. Here’s this year’s roster of seasonal flights from Reagan National and Dulles.
This 34-square-mile Caribbean island (also known by its Dutch name, Sint Maartin) has a split personality: It’s a member of the kingdom of the Netherlands to the south and a part of France to the north. The main airport is on the Dutch side, but it’s easy enough to explore the two distinct cultures. Though Hurricane Irma hit the island hard in 2017, many resorts—such as Divi Little Bay Beach Resort—and restaurants have reopened, as well as all of the island’s beaches.
The Dutch side boasts an active nightlife, with casinos and beach bars that welcome US dollars. Sip a frozen mango daiquiri and watch planes land from the Sunset Beach Bar on Maho Beach. The French side offers more low-key white-sand beaches—including clothing-optional Orient Beach—and excellent French cuisine using tropical ingredients, with many restaurants located in Grand Case.
Don’t miss: Fly down one of the world’s steepest ziplines at Rainforest Adventures, with its 360-degree panorama extending beyond the beach to the Atlantic Ocean and neighboring islands.
Getting there: Saturday flights out of Dulles on United, through February 9.
Length of flight: Four hours.
Providenciales, Turks and Caicos
If you want pampering, “Provo”—an Atlantic island in the Turks and Caicos chain—has it. Grace Bay Beach is home to many luxe properties, including the Seven Stars Resort and the Grace Bay Club. The favored pastime is to do nothing but loll on the white-sand beaches and gaze at the turquoise waters, but more active types can snorkel the reefs, explore the ruins of an 18th-century cotton plantation founded by American Loyalists, and eat conch fritters all day.
Don’t miss: While Provo isn’t known for its nightlife, festivities still abound. December’s street festival, Maskanoo, features costumed paraders, and fireworks light up the sky over Grace Bay on New Year’s Eve.
Getting there: Saturday service out of Dulles via United, through April 27.
Length of flight: Three hours.
Fun in Baja
Los Cabos, Mexico
At the southern end of the Baja Peninsula sit two very different Cabos. Boisterous Cabo San Lucas boasts all-inclusive resorts and a party vibe that lasts all day at beach bars such as Mango Deck and the Office on the Beach. Twenty miles away, mellow San Jose del Cabo features quaint streets and stellar cuisine. You can visit the Gallery District for art and fine dining, check out the old Jesuit church Parroquia San José, and people-watch at Plaza Mijares before calling it a night at a trendy boutique hotel. Can’t decide? Split the difference at a beach resort in between, such as Hacienda del Mar or Chileno Bay.
Don’t miss: Chocolate clams, named for their shell color, are a local delicacy. They’re marinated with lemon and lime.
Getting there: United has Saturday service out of Dulles between January 12 and February 9.
Length of flight: Five hours.
Easy, Breezy, Beachy
Flying to the capital of the 700-island Bahamas chain takes less time than driving I-95 to Virginia Beach on a Saturday morning. Once there, you can stay at an all-inclusive resort, such as Hotel Riu Palace or Sandals Royal Bahamian, and lounge on the soft white sand with a beach read. Hungry? Head for the fish fry at Arawak Cay, where more than 30 stalls, stands, and bars serve fresh seafood baked, boiled, and, yes, fried. Wash it down with a Bahama Mama or a Goombay Smash cocktail. And replace your Nats baseball cap with a topper from the Nassau Straw Market.
Don’t miss: The free tour and tasting at John Watling’s Distillery, on the historic Buena Vista Estate, lets you see how the small-batch rum is made.
Getting there: Various airlines have daily or Saturday/Sunday seasonal service out of Reagan National or Dulles, through May 25.
Length of flight: Two and a half hours.
This small town in the Rocky Mountains attracts enthusiasts from around the world for its 5,289 skiable acres, friendly vibe, and chic resorts (try Tivoli Lodge). Whoosh through Vail’s famed Back Bowls—a skier’s paradise of vast, treeless expanses. Novices can take lessons at the Ski & Snowboard School, which has been in operation for more than 50 years. Nonskiers can stroll through the village’s alpine-inspired architecture.
Don’t miss: The 2019 Burton US Open Snowboarding Championships (February 25 through March 2), featuring Olympic medalists and champions from around the world.
Getting there: United has daily service and periods of Saturday-only service out of Dulles, through March 30.
Length of flight: Three and a half hours.
This article appears in the December 2018 issue of Washingtonian.