Nothing really says winter vacation like a good trip to a ski resort. If you plan it right, it can be the total package: festive, relaxing, beautiful, and full of activities. But sometimes it can be on the expensive side and it's tough to know how to save money in an area so targeted at tourists. That's why American Express Travel Insiders, who not only have insight into the best hotels, dining and attractions but also the hard-to-find hidden gems of any destination, have shared their top trends and tips for ski vacations fit for those who revel in the sport and those that prefer a more low-key holiday.

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At the top of Tremblant in Quebec (Tremblant Photos)

Location, Location, Location

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Exiting the lifts at Stowe in Vermont (redjar)
Pretty much anywhere you live in the country—barring maybe the deep South—there's a ski resort within a short flight or a few hours' drive. According to American Express Travel, this year's top five domestic ski getaways are at Denver, Vail, Salt Lake City, Jackson Hole, and Montrose.

Skiing in the U.S. has always been dominated by the Rockies, but that doesn't mean there aren't plenty of great slopes to be had on the East Coast. Classic resorts are Killington and Stowe in Vermont, Hunter in New York (notable for its proximity to NYC), and if you have your passport handy, Tremblant in Quebec always tops the list of best resorts east of the Mississippi.

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No need to ski to enjoy views from the Jackson Hole Gondola (Perfect Zero)
If you're a serious skier or snowboarder, a trip to Jackson Hole or Vail is definitely in order—both are common filming locations for extreme sports videos and Jackson Hole even has heliskiing as an option. If you're into signing liability releases and being dropped out of a helicopter onto the peak of a desolate mountain, that is.

If sitting in front of a fire sipping hot toddies after an hour on the bunny slopes is more your speed, Tremblant in Quebec is famous for its ski village as much as its slopes. There's a host of international restaurants and a vibrant aprés-ski scene to help you forget the pains of your first ever snowboarding lesson. Even though Park City in Utah hosts U.S. Olympic training, it's also known for its cultural scene, where there are galleries, Broadway shows, and a certain little film festival in January known as Sundance. Go to AmexTravel.com to find amazing properties in these destinations and more.

Avoid Ski Trip Stresses

Since this is a vacation, you should probably avoid stressing yourself out. A little planning ahead can help make your trip go smoothly for everyone.

Pick a resort that will appeal to everyone. We listed a couple above, but there are plenty of ski resorts out there that cater to novices—and those just interested in sitting around!—as well as more advanced skiers. If you pick the right place, no one will be bored and you won't be forced to babysit your friends on the bunny hills for three days.

Sort out your gear ahead of time. This is a big one. Once you get to the resort and realize you forgot to bring boots or good waterproof gloves, you'll be sorely disappointed. Ski shops will really make you regret that oversight, so make sure to get all your gear before you spend $300 on goggles you could have borrowed from your brother.

It's no big deal if you don't have skis or a board. If you don't plan on becoming a regular on the slopes, it might not be worth it to buy your own skis or snowboard since rentals are easy and convenient. Even if you do own your own gear, sometimes it's worth it to leave it at the hotel for a day and test drive some brand new models of big brands; some resorts will do demo rentals of the high-end items that pros use.

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The Little Nell is nestled in the mountains of Aspen
Stretch your dollar. With a hotel, lift tickets, rentals, apparel, and food, this can be a pricey getaway. But there are options everywhere for saving money. American Express Cardmembers can use Membership Rewards points to offset the cost of nearly every part of a trip, from travel accommodations to ski or snowboard lift tickets and rentals. When booking through the Fine Hotels & Resorts program, American Express Platinum Card members get room upgrades upon availability, special check-in and check-out times, and breakfast options when booking at participating hotels, such as The Little Nell in Aspen, Vail Cascade Resort & Spa, and the Four Seasons Resort in Jackson Hole—which total a $450 value per stay.

If you're thinking about planning a winter vacation, don't let the idea of a ski getaway scare you off. If you plan ahead, do a little research, and use all your resources, you can make it into a memorable trip that will make everyone happy.