Starting to think twice about staying home all winter? You can still hit the beach without breaking the bank.

The most popular spots in the Caribbean are generally the cheapest option. The more demand for a destination the greater the chances for cheaper flights. So, think about the usual suspects such as Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Mexico when you start your search for an affordable getaway.

There are also some great deals to the Bahamas and Bermuda right now. However, in both locations you're not guaranteed blazing hot temperatures.

Panama and Colombia are emerging as hotspots in Central America. Panama is really coming into its own and getting a lot of exposure. Ranked by Travel & Leisure Magazine as one of its top 12 in 2012, it's safer than Nicaragua but not as developed as Costa Rica. You can have beautiful beaches to yourself before the rest of the world catches on.

Cartagena, Colombia is charming and lovely. It's not as dangerous as it was 15 to 20 years ago and you can also get some reasonable deals.

In the North East area of Columbia, the Santander Department (their version of a "state" or "province") is an adventure traveller's dream. It has a very diverse geographical makeup and is perfect for adventure and sporting activities like rafting, caving, climbing and rappelling.

Florida, that traditional bastion of family fun, is also good this season. The weather there has been decent. Cheap flights are also available, especially if you fly from American cities like Bangor, Boston, Seattle or Buffalo. For folks in Ontario looking to fly out of the United States, a new airline called Allegiant just announced service from the Niagara Airport in the U.S. to St. Petersburg.

The big question is whether should you book now or wait until the last minute for the best deals. At the moment, prices across Canada seem to be going up rather than down. It's probably best to buy sooner rather than wait it out. However, it does depend on where you'll be flying from. For example, there are currently some good,  last-minute vacation packages departing out of Toronto now. The key is to be flexible and move quickly when you see something that you like.

Other things to keep in mind:

  • You can often save by flying Wednesday to Wednesday instead of on the weekend.
  • Try a five-day, all-inclusive vacation instead of a full week.
  • Air Canada has launched some new weekly direct flights from Toronto to destinations like St. Kitts and Curacao. That could translate into great deals for accommodations as hotels try to generate buzz and attract new Canadian business.