New Zealand wines are world famous, and wine tours are popular with visitors. Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city, is set on the waterfront, with beaches, parks, and cruises to the nearby islands. The capital city of Wellington on the southern tip of North Island is home to New Zealand’s national museum, a great place to learn about the country’s cultural history. Christchurch and Queenstown are located on the South Island. There's so much to do in New Zealand — and it's convenient to reach on Air New Zealand’s nonstop flights from Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston, and Honolulu, with a nonstop from Chicago to Auckland beginning Nov. 30.
Picking your next destination isn’t easy, but there’s a better way than spinning a big globe, closing your eyes and slamming your finger down (it’ll probably end up in middle of the Atlantic, and wifi there is patchy to say the least). Introducing our ultimate month-by-month destination guide: your no-fuss list of places to go, things to see, and good weather to chase around the world.
Australia is so large and varied that one cannot simply say ‘go to Australia in November’ and expect everything to be fine beachy. That said, November is probably as close as it gets to being perfect weather country-wide. The tropical rainy season in the North hasn’t properly settled into humid downpours yet, while the cooler southern states of Victoria and Tasmania are shaking off the winter frost and basking in warmer days. Vino and meals are taken al fresco, outdoor music and food festivals pop up everywhere, and beaches across the country begin to buzz.
As for Malaysia, you could book online and it might cost a bit more, but more things go by a fixed price in Malaysia so it might not be much different. Personally I’d probably book tours through my hotel once I got there, just as in Vietnam. But there is a BIG difference between the countries in that Malaysia is a much richer country and there are very few scams to worry about. Vietnam is still fairly poor and they were communist for so long that people got used to trying to scam people a bit as the only way of getting ahead. So the good news is that Vietnam is a gorgeous country with excellent food and very low prices on almost everything. But the bad news is that you have to be more careful in Vietnam because people will try to overcharge you if they can, even though it still might seem cheap to you. That’s one reason I like to book with hotels, because they put the reputation of the hotel on the line when they book something for you, and they can’t afford to get a string of bad reviews by charging an extra US$5 on a cut-rate tour. I hope this helps. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger
Sri Lanka could also be great, and it’s very different. In fact, you might even consider a trip to India itself, which is obviously similar to Sri Lanka. But Sri Lanka is far easier to do in about 12 days, with most of your time spent in the mountains and a bit along the southern coast. Colombo is mainly just good for flying in and getting your bearings. Sri Lanka is also a bit more expensive than Vietnam, but both are great value. And again, you could instead go to Kerala and Goa in India on a short trip, although those are more about relaxation than culture. Let me know if you have any other questions, and I hope this helps. -Roger
The Bali thing is also kind of a mess for those on low budgets. Kuta is a headache, and pretty much the opposite of what is so beautiful about the rest of the island, but it’s also where nearly all the really cheap beds are located. If you go a bit north in that same area into Legian and Seminyak, it’s nicer, but prices also go up. And Ubud is nice, but also more expensive for hotels and such. I’ll probably rent a place in Seminyak for a few weeks, which won’t be cheap.
Weirdly enough, Central America and South America aren’t really known as top “culture” destinations, as the colonial history has mostly wiped out the indigenous history in the larger places. There are Aztec, Maya, and Inca ruins and sights, but not really enough to build a whole trip around. I’d say the most interest of those would be the Inca culture of Peru, specifically around Machu Picchu and the valley around Cusco. Alternatively, visiting Argentina is pretty much like visiting Europe from a culture standpoint. It’s quite nice there and prices are low if you know about the blue market for currency, but otherwise it may not be what you are looking for.
If you’re a bit more on the timid side, you can always use Yelp and TripAdvisor to get good insights on places people have visited. As a disclaimer, some of the ratings may not be accurate on these sites, so make sure you go through and read some of the more recent reviews that people have written. We did this for a few of the places we visited and had no issues.