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5 Destinations For 'Dark Week' Travel

Tickers in this article: TRIP
PORTLAND, Ore. ( TheStreet) -- After a full season of holiday travel, just about the last thing people want to do is book a trip and pitch themselves back into the hellscapes that are America's roads and airports.

That's too bad, since they'll be much emptier and cheaper than they were just a month ago.

These next few weeks of January and February are known as "dark weeks" in the travel industry. It's when many potential vacationers have been scared off travel by holiday trips in which 42% of travelers surveyed by TripAdvisor (TRIP) said they expected to be stressed out by the experience. Combine that stress with the cost of those trips -- estimated at more than $1,000 per person, according to Trip Advisor and the American Express (AXP) Spending and Savings Tracker -- and the lack of vacation days accrued by many American workers this early in the year and you get a nation content to take cover for a couple of months.

If the empty hotel rooms, vacant airports and general lack of tourists aren't enough evidence of that early year slowdown, consider the numbers. About 47 million passengers took trips aboard U.S. airlines last January, according to the Department of Transportation's Bureau of Transportation statistics. That's up almost 1 million passengers from January 2011, but still well below the 51.5 million passengers who caught holiday flights a month earlier in December and woefully shy of the 59.6 million who fly during peak season in July.

There is only one month in which travelers get around less, and the 46.4 million brave souls who hit the skies in February paid for their cheap trips in terrible weather and lengthy delays.

If travelers can shake off the holiday trauma and emerge from their winter shelters, there's a chance to save big and stretch out while no one's around. Here are just five places that make for great "dark week" travel destinations:

Costa Rica

This isn't the most expensive destination in the world during the high season, so it's no surprise it's a steal before peak spring travel season.

Travelocity is touting January airfare and hotel packages from New York for as little as $550 per person for four nights, while frozen travelers from the Chicago area can get a three-night stay for $680 and up .

Just don't expect the Costa Rica Tourism Board to lend much of a hand with promotions or deals. They know it's cold up here. They know it's a steady 81 degrees down there. They know the only reason you're not down there already is because you're recovering from the holidays. They're willing to wait.

St. Lucia

We normally wouldn't advise heading down to the Caribbean for the winter, but getting there in early January can save a lot of time and money.