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Make this Maui sunset a January plan.

Ah, the onset of Portland winter. Short days. Naked, bedraggled trees. Persistent gray rain. And that heart-sinking realization that this is our life, all day, everyday, probably till May. (If we’re lucky.)

Time to start planning your first 2018 escape. Yes, you could stay close. (Here’s a cozy alpine hut on Mount Hood for you and seven friends.) But if you’re like us, come January, you might need to flee the state altogether.

But where? Portland International Airport spokesperson Kama Simonds—currently gearing up for Thanksgiving weekend, when more than a quarter-million travelers typically clog PDX’s five concourses—recommends Palm Springs.

“You board here in the rain, and you step off there in this brilliant sunshine,” says Simonds. “In a few short hours you feel like you’re in a different world.”

Below, find five direct-flight PDX winter destinations that offer big thrills, if not necessarily bluer skies. Just check the forecast before you fly: La Niña will likely mean colder, snowier ground conditions from here to the Rockies. 

Palm Springs

Round-trip Jan/Feb tickets start around $370 on Alaska
The antithesis of Portland winter could be this SoCal desert destination, with January/February temperatures averaging a balmy 70 degrees. Mornings at the spa, afternoons by the pool with a cocktail or two? Perfect.
When to go: From Feb 16–18, Art Palm Springs convenes over 70 national galleries and 300 artists.

New York City

Round-trip Jan/Feb tickets to JFK start around $238 on Alaska
Craving your own New York minute? On November 6, Alaska Airlines launched a nonstop red-eye from PDX to JFK.
When to go: Consider mid-to-late January, when crowds are thinner and 2-for-1 Broadway tickets are available for NYC Broadway Week.

Maui

Round-trip Jan/Feb tickets start around $476 on Hawaiian Airlines
The Island of Maui may not be exactly rain-free in winter (technically, it’s still the wet season), but it’s not like you’ll mind as you snorkel in warm coastal waters or dry off as you hike the coastline at Waiʻānapanapa State Park.
When to go: Set sail during January and February, the peak season to catch sight of the majestic North Pacific humpback whale.

Vancouver

Round-trip Jan/Feb tickets start around $210 on Alaska
This cosmopolitan Canadian city is known for urban greenery, swank museums, and diverse cuisines. (One option: travel the urban Dumpling Trail.) Meanwhile, the nearby Whistler-Blackcomb ski area provides the best downhill and cross-country ski-facilities in North America.
When to go: Don’t miss out on Whistler Pride and Ski Festival from January 21–28: it's one of the world's biggest lesbian and gay ski-centric events.

Mexico City

Round-trip Jan/Feb tickets start around $296 on Aeroméxico
Starting December 1, Aeroméxico offers daily nonstop service to this bustling capital city. Must dos: explore the city’s endless museums (nearly 150) and cultural sites, gorge on street food and garden-walled haute cuisine (take your tips from resident food writer Nicholas Gilman of Good Food Mexico), and make sure to head out of town to behold the ruins of Teotihuacan and Xochicalco.
When to go: Consider going in February, the city’s off-season, when the weather begins to warm, hotel rates are still cheap, and Mexico’s biggest art fair, Zona Maco, takes over the city.

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