We choose to live in Montana for various reasons. Maybe your family or job keeps you here. Maybe you love the wide open spaces, lack of sales tax and excellent outdoor recreational opportunities. However, I would venture to guess that most of our residents didn't choose to live in Montana because they love winter.

Honestly, I'm skeptical of those folks that claim to actually enjoy the cold and darkness for nine months of the year. Especially if you're like me and don't snowmobile, ski, ice fish, snowshoe or do whatever it is lunatics like to do out in the cold. So when the weather gets chilly around here, I start thinking of warm places to visit.

It seems like a no-brainer. We go somewhere warm, right? With a sandy beach, palm trees and fruity cocktails. I had some ideas in mind about where Montanan's like to go in the winter, but I wanted confirmation from a pro. I reached out to Betsy Baumgart, Operations Manager at Travel Cafe, Montana's Travel Agency. I asked her what the top places Montana residents like to go when the weather gets cold. She said that while vacation trends vary, these are the top destinations they're getting from travelers this year.

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1. Hawaii. Despite the long flight from Montana, Hawaii is the number one warm-weather destination we like to visit in the winter. Betsy said all of the islands remain popular, with no particular favorites topping the list. With gorgeous beaches, 80 degree average daily temperatures, and normal US rules, currency, language, etc., it's easy to see why Hawaii is the #1 choice.

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2. The Caribbean. There are thirteen island countries that make up the Caribbean, including: Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, Saint Kitts and Nevis and Saint Lucia. And all of them sound delightful. Much of the Caribbean and Gulf coast areas have been experiencing big problems with a gross, smelly seaweed called sargassum. Literally tons of it have been washing up on beaches. It does not happen all the time, so be sure to inquire with your travel agent before booking this island vacation.

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3. Costa Rica. Sure, Costa Rica has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, but it also has amazing tropical mountains and jungles. Look at the picture above! It's like the Beartooth Mountains... only green and warm and not covered in snow. Costa Rica is generally an even 78 degrees year around, but temperatures and rainfall can vary significantly depending on where and when you visit.

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4. Mexico. Despite frequent news reports of violence, Mexico remains a very popular destination for Montana residents looking for some sun and fun. And for good reason. Relatively short flights, fairly affordable and two coasts to choose from, all help make a Mexican getaway pretty appealing. And there's always tequila. Mmmm. Most travel advice experts claim you will be safe if you don't stray far from your resort area. Before you book, do some research. The travel site The Travel.com has a list of 15 places you should avoid in Mexico.

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5. Cruises. Cruises are a popular way for us northerners to escape the cold. Usually these trips depart from southern California or Miami. Your itinerary could be various stops in the Pacific or in the Bahamas. I've never cruised, but I know people who absolutely LOVE them. The trips are frequently all-inclusive, you do most of your traveling at night while sleeping, and you get to see more than one destination on your trip.

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6. Las Vegas. Vegas isn't really very tropical in the winter. Average Jan/Feb temperatures are right around 60. But you know what? 60 is a hell of a lot warmer that -20 and when winter starts to drag on in Montana, a lot of us jump on a cheap Allegiant flight and get out of town for a long weekend in Nevada. Most of the pools in Vegas are not open this time of year, but that won't stop me from pulling up a pool chair near a palm tree or on a Strip patio to soak up some sun.

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Emerging Hot Travel Markets. Betsy at Travel Cafe also told me about some emerging travel destinations that she is seeing Montanan's interested in. Those include Southeast Asia (Thailand & Vietnam) and Egypt.

So, go ahead... let it snow. Let it blow. Let the ice pile up on my car. I'll be inside, planning a trip somewhere warm this winter.