My top recommendation would be San Juan, Puerto Rico. It offers a wonderful mix of history and culture and nightlife and great food, alongside excellent beaches and abundant activities. Hotels and rental apartments are mostly in the mid-range for the Caribbean, but food and drinks and most other things are great value. You could get a place in the Condado area, which is close to the lovely Old San Juan neighborhood and plenty of nightlife all around. And then perhaps you could rent a car and stay for a few days at one of the smaller beach towns elsewhere on the island. You wouldn’t even need a passport, although it does feel fairly exotic while you are there. But because it’s part of the US, it’s also well organized and safe. Most people you’ll meet will speak at least some English, and many are fluent, so it’s easy even if you don’t speak Spanish.
December is a popular month to go cruising around Hawaii and Mexico. It’s an ideal family trip, especially with most kids in the US out of school for the holidays. Experience the Hawaii’s tropical paradise. Pick a popular cruise liner and visit ports of call like Nawiliwili on Kauai, Honolulu on Oahu and Kona on the Big Island. If the Caribbean floats your boat, we recommend taking a cruise to explore Mexico’s Costa Maya, Cozumel, Ensenada, Acapulco, Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta and more.
As you begin to cross off the final 31 days on your calendar you may be tempted to put away the passport and swap those itchy-footed escapades for quiet nights in. But with nearly a year of adventures behind you, why stop now? December is jam-packed with high-octane adventures on mountain peaks and coursing rivers; indulgent escapes with mulled wine, rum cocktails and spicy Malaysian street food galore; walks on the wild side with kaleidoscopic creatures and soaring giants; and countless seasonal celebrations whisking you from the sunny Caribbean to Santa’s hometown.
As for alternatives, the most obvious are the various islands of Thailand, with Phuket being the largest. It’s peak season in December in Thailand, but still pretty affordable by most standards. I spent a month in Phuket the following December, interestingly enough, and I prefer Bali even though it’s hotter and more humid. Hopefully this helps and let me know if you have other questions. Helping people figure out where to go is something I really enjoy. -Roger
Interestingly, I had not seen that June travel warning. It’s hard to know what to think of it. On one hand, the US State Department has official warnings like this to many places, including quite a few that people safely travel to every day. And also, even when Colombia had its problems for all those years, Cartagena was considered safe because it’s this tourist beach town and the drug and FARC problems had nothing to do with it. My best guess is that Cartagena itself would be fine and perfectly safe, but I wouldn’t rent a car and drive around the highways myself at this point. Sadly, I think it might be best to save Cartagena for another time when there is no known threat.
And if you are mostly interested in adventure and nature rather than cities, you might also consider India. The cities in India are complete insane asylums, but once you get outside of them it’s a beautiful country. The area of Kerala and its backwaters are a big highlight. They’ll remind you a bit of Sri Lanka in some ways, although things are cheaper and the scenery is quite different. The various beach areas of Goa, just to the north of Kerala, are also worth considering.
The Canary Islands are always an option and the weather in November is pretty decent. I spent almost a month on Tenerife a couple years ago and I thought the nightlife was mostly pretty cheesy, although at least the drinks are cheap. I think in summer the nightlife there might be good, but in the other months I think it’s pretty quiet because it’s mostly older visitors from northern Europe.
I’ll be happy to try. First off, if you are doing the actual Inca Trail hike, you’ll need 4 days for that plus another couple of days in Cusco to get acclimated. So really that whole part of your trip would be a week. Also, to get to Cusco you pretty much have to go through Lima, and it’s also an interesting city so I’d recommend probably 2 nights there. If you don’t do the Inca Trail and take the train instead, you could save 3 days in Cusco.
Sprawled across two countries (Chile and Argentina), Patagonia is one of nature’s last frontiers. For trekking enthusiasts, adventure seekers and nature lovers alike, this remarkable landscape of snow-capped mountain peaks, imposing glaciers, gushing waterfalls, and beautiful national parks is the very definition of ‘epic’.  It’s also one of the most isolated territories in the world, with roughly two people per square kilometre. Here at the end of the world, our planet is at its most wild and spectacular.

From England I would say your cheapest and best late December destination with warm weather and reasonable prices is going to be Phuket. There are some other Thai islands that might be a bit cheaper, but they would be more complicated to reach, and they’d have fewer activities for the boys. Here are some Phuket resorts good for families. You can see that the price range is wide from cheapest to most expensive. In late December it’s peak season so you’ll pay at or near the top of those ranges.
Over in the Americas, meanwhile, it’s all about downhill thrills. Mt Hood, an 11,250ft (3429m) stratovolcano in Oregon’s Cascade Range, has North America’s longest ski season, with good quality powder dumps arriving in earnest at the beginning of November (before the real ski crowds descend). Runs are split fairly evenly between grades, making it a great spot for skiers of all abilities. Those looking to really ramp up the thrill factor, however, should head south to Nicaragua, where volcano boarding – tobogganing down their slopes – provides a one-of-a-kind adrenaline rush.

At the Kimpton Rowan Hotel, admire the appealing outdoor art while you have a quick bite at Juniper Table or head to the roof for dinner at the 4 Saints with its menu of seasonal Mediterranean-style dishes. From the restaurant and rooftop High Bar, you’ll feel as if you can reach out and touch the San Jacinto Mountains. The Palm Springs Art Museum, Indian Canyons, golf, casinos, luxurious spas, and the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway to the mountain top are just a few of the many things to do. Visitors can fly into Palm Springs International Airport or drive about three hours from Los Angeles.
There are many other Thai islands that could also be ideal and have what you are looking for. Another option is Boracay Island and I mention it because I spent an evening hanging out with some guys visiting from Saudi Arabia and they liked it a lot. The weather won’t be “cool” but it should be nice, and they do have very good nightlife in the Boat Station 1 area.
Santa Barbara has earned its nickname, “The American Riviera,” with its stunning coastline, lush landscapes, cafes, restaurants, and year-round Mediterranean-like weather. Sandy beaches invite sunbathers, and for those interested in more activity, there’s biking, paddle boarding, surfing, and kayaking. In the heart of Santa Barbara County wine country, the city presents more than two dozen downtown tasting rooms on its “Urban Wine Trail.” The artsy “Funk Zone,” with a variety of cleverly designed eateries and shops, is just blocks from the beach. The community is recovering from devastating fires and mudslides, and its resilience is apparent with new hotels, restaurants, and attractions. The Montecito neighborhood, particularly hard hit by the tragic events, is home to the recently renovated Montecito Inn and its new dining venues, Phillip Frankland Lee's The Monarch, and the suave Chaplin’s Martini Bar, commemorating Charlie Chaplin, one of the hotel’s original owners when it was built in 1928. The elegant oceanfront Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara offers a luxurious spa and views of Butterfly Beach. Less than two hours north of Los Angeles, Santa Barbara celebrates the holiday season with colorful lights, a Holiday Parade (Dec. 7), Harbor Boat Parade with fireworks (Dec. 16), European-style Christmas market, and the traditional "Nutcracker Suite" at the Granada Theater.

Wine aficionados will enjoy sipping Argentina’s well-respected wines, Malbec, a rich red wine, and Torrontes, an aromatic white. Malbec is a perfect match for Argentina’s beef dishes, and Torrontes would make a delightful partner to Milanesa, whether veal or chicken, pounded thin, breaded, and fried. The country’s cuisine demonstrates the influence of Italy; about 3 million Italians migrated there during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Pizza, pasta, and helado, an ice cream similar to gelato, are as much a part of the cuisine as their asados, barbecued beef grilled on a parillo. Consider a stay at the historic Savoy Hotel, WorldHotels Collection in the artsy Avenue Corrientes area with its elegant neo-baroque lobby, adorned with chandeliers and frescoes.
If you are looking for a cheap, beautiful, and relaxing beach destination during December then Goa is ideal. This has become hugely popular with package tourists from Europe and Israel (and more recently Russia), and the facts that pretty much everyone speaks English and there aren't many cultural opportunities means that it's a perfect place to just vegetate in a beach chair for a week or two.

Thank you, and I’ll be happy to try to help. But first I have to mention that ALL of Europe is quite cold in December and there are no beaches that are anywhere near warm enough to even spend time on, much less go swimming. The only place that could possibly fit the bill is the Canary Islands, which is off the northern coast of Africa although technically part of Spain. It’s reasonably warm there during December, and there is quite a bit to do.
This country-style dish from vegetarian cooking icon Deborah Madison is delicate and delicious and makes a lovely side dish for turkey. The recipe calls for baking it for 50 minutes in a 375 degree oven, but the results can be achieved in a 325 oven – the temperature for most turkey recipes – so it can be baked at the same time as the bird (provided your oven is large enough). Just allow 60 to 70 minutes total baking time.
Brazil, on the other hand, has a famous problem with petty crime in tourist areas so I wouldn’t recommend it for a woman and young child. Another to consider is Puerto Rico, which has a lot to offer including great weather, and it’s also more or less part of the US, so it’s fairly safe and well organized. Hotels in Puerto Rico are a bit expensive, but you should be able to get an apartment rental in the San Juan area (gorgeous, by the way) for a modest price if you are staying for more than a few days. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger
As for the alcohol thing, I’m a bit of a drinker myself, so it’s hard to offer advice to an AA person. I guess one factor could be that there are many places around the world where alcohol is so cheap and the days are so warm that many people drink during the day AND at night. If I were in your shoes, I’d probably want to avoid those places. Probably the easiest places to go would be Muslim countries and India because there is little or no drinking culture there, so they have endless evening alternatives that don’t revolve around drinking.
If your real goal is to sit on a European beach and not freeze or be alone in December, your only real choice is the Canary Islands. Tenerife is the largest of them, and the best one for English speakers. The average high in December there is 22C with 16C as a low, and in December it’s packed with Swedes and Brits and Germans who actually do sit on the beach or around pools, even though it’s a bit cool for most of us. It’s important to note though that the Canary Islands are technically part of Europe because they are a territory of Spain, but only the largest cities on each island are “European” at all. The beach resort areas are quite generic, and not very special aside from the pleasant weather and modest prices.
Hello. I love what I have read and hoping you can solve our family vacation debate. We are from the US (MI) and have two families (4 adults) plus kids aged 20, 17, 16, and 12 (8 total travelers). We are an adventurous bunch and want A TRIP OF A LIFETIME experience THIS Dec. 26th with two weeks ANYWHERE in the world. We all agree WARM, and money in the range of $35,000 total with airfare. How about 2 or 3 suggestions of some amazing, extremely fun vacation destinations with lots of activity 🙂 ???

Traveling around India is a shock to the system, but it’s not as bad as it looks. If you pay a bit more for the AC3 class on trains (air-conditioned, 3 bunks per side of the compartment), or AC2, it’s pretty comfortable and civilized. Mumbai is worth a couple days before you’ll be desperate to get out, but many parts of Rajasthan are much nicer and fascinating.

I’m in the Texas Hill Country myself at the moment (Kerrville to be exact), so we are almost neighbors. It really depends on whether you’d like a city or a beach or national parks and such. My first recommendation is Mexico City. You’ll be able to get cheap flights from Dallas, and the weather there in November is very nice and dry. Honestly, the whole huge city center is as nice as any large Texas city, and the architecture is far more interesting. You can even visit some pyramids just a bit outside of town. Before I went I assumed Mexico City would look run-down like many border towns, but it’s actually very fancy.
If you have a budget that allows at least US$300 per night, you should be able to rent a nice condo in Hawaii. If you haven’t been there before, it’s worth knowing that each of the 4 main tourist islands is quite different from each other, and only Oahu has an urban center that should probably be avoided. You’ll want to rent a car as well, as getting around is difficult without one.
A visit to Vienna in December might be a holiday experience of a lifetime. From the festively adorned palaces, magical Christmas markets, classical concerts, and choirs to the cozy cafes and restaurants, the surreal atmosphere seems like a Hollywood movie. With nearly a dozen Christmas markets to choose from, the one in front of City Hall is notable for its giant tree, ice skating rink, carousel, and reindeer train. At another in Freyung Square, you’ll find delicious mulled wine, gingerbread, roasted chestnuts, and a variety of regional snacks in addition to jewelry, handmade toys, candles, and more. The market at Spittelberg, set amidst lovely townhouses and narrow streets filled with bars, restaurants, and galleries, is a wonderful place to sip champagne and browse the many shops. Set in front of the world famous baroque residence, the Christmas Village at Belvedere Palace should not be missed. Book a Christmas concert at the renowned Kursalon where Johann Strauss was the concertmaster or enjoy a recital at one of the many distinguished churches through Vienna. You can even take a walk or a “hop on, hop off” bus to enjoy the Christmas displays. No winter night is complete without a stop at a sausage stand for a succulent bratwurst served with mustard, horseradish, and a classic bun. In the heart of the city, the magnificent Hotel Grand Ferdinand would be the perfect home base for exploring Vienna.
This French-speaking Canadian city has a definite European vibe, from its cobblestone streets to its quaint boutiques and cafes. The city has a wide array of museums covering interests from nature to stargazing, art, and history. The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts features temporary exhibitions that combine various artistic disciplines — fine arts, music, film, fashion, and design — that are popular around the world. Multi-day museum passes are available.
Thank you for the kind words. If you’ve got 30 days in Thailand I would recommend spending more time in Bangkok and probably in Chiang Mai as well. Bangkok is huge and in December the weather is actually quite nice, so two days seems way too rushed. As for which islands to consider it sort of depends on why you don’t want to go to Phuket. Phuket is the largest and busiest island and it’s got just about everything that the rest of the islands has. I can understand not wanting to spend time in Patong Beach, which is the shopping and nightlife capital, but there are many other wonderful beaches and towns on Phuket that are quite different from that.

I’m not really an expert on surf destinations and even less so on skate parks, although I am aware of many places that do have good surf beaches. From Ireland I think your two best bets would be either Rincon, Puerto Rico, which has the best surfing in the Caribbean and is good for longer rentals like that. You could get a reasonably priced flight into San Juan, which is also a really nice place with some surfing and great beaches, and then hire a car for the drive to Rincon.

It’s going to be pretty cold in December all over Europe, although not quite so bad in the south, of course. As far as where to go, I’ll refer to our Europe 3-star traveler index, which lists every major city in Europe from cheapest to most expensive. The price is the typical daily expense per person for a couple traveling and staying in 3-star hotels. Once you scan through that list you should have some ideas.
It’s no wonder this charming southern city has become an increasingly popular destination over the past few years among domestic and international travelers alike. You’ll find rich history, delicious food, swoon-worthy architecture, and of course—perhaps most importantly—unparalleled southern hospitality. Mild temperatures (think high 60s and low 70s) during the month of November make it an ideal time to visit. While you’re in town, be sure to check out the new South Carolina Historical Society Museum, which opens in September. The building is a National Historic Landmark, and promises to be a major draw for history buffs. There are plenty of great boutique hotels to choose from, but our favorites include 86 Cannon, Zero George, and The Dewberry.
If you are looking for something far less developed than Phuket or any other Thai island, Boracay might be for you. This gorgeous strip of sand is a bit out of the way, but partly because of that it still feels only partly discovered. You'll spend your days relaxing along White Beach or walking up and down the sandy paths that serve as the only real form of transport for most people. Many visitors come every year, and quite a few of those never seem to leave.
Not surprisingly, the weeks around Christmas and New Years are literally the busiest of the year in Goa, so either book a hotel way in advance or be flexible once you arrive. Some towns, like Calungute, are lined with package hotels that fill up completely, but other towns, like Anjuna and Vagator, are usually booked in person or by email, so you can often find a place just walking around. If you are in the mood to tour around, Mumbai has great weather during December, and Delhi has warm days but cool evenings this time of year. Goa has some of the best beaches in December in all of Asia, so give this one a serious look.
Increasingly popular, Lisbon is quite warm in summer, but November’s cooler temperatures and fewer crowds make it a pleasant time to visit. A city of hills and spectacular views, many terraces (miradouros) offer vistas for those who climb (or take a taxi) to the top. Alfama is the city’s historic district, defined by hilly, narrow cobblestone streets. The Fado Museum, in Alfama, honors Portugal’s soulful folk music and provides some background on the sounds heard nightly in the city’s fado houses and bars. Seafood is plentiful in Lisbon, and the traditional Portuguese dried salted cod (bacalhau) is on most menus along with octopus, shrimp, sardines, clams, and tuna.
Blisteringly hot in summer, Tokyo is a breeze in the cooler months. Fight the dizzying jet lag and head out for the world's best sushi or ramen, shop in the city's amazing department stores, and visit the parks surrounding the Imperial Palace in the center of the city. Escape the crowds somewhat by heading to Yanaka Ginza, which retains a bit of old Tokyo and has plenty of places to eat and shop. Do make time for a side trip to Hakone, where you can visit a Shinto shrine and see magnificent Mount Fuji on a clear day.
Fortunately, Bangkok remains very cheap by almost anyone's standards. If you want to splash down for a nice 3-star room then it'll be half the price of a similar room in Europe or the US, and if you are fine with something more basic then you can find a room for next to nothing, even in the fun Khaosan Road backpacker district. Street meals for around a dollar are always there too, so you'll be able to afford a bit more for a room anyway.
Never thought of Moscow as a Winter destination! It is quite the place to go especially after the world cup hype. I second Rajasthan, India as one of the best places to travel in December. Love this list, Wendy. I have even listed Rajasthan and other offbeat places to travel in December and January over here: https://www.thegonegoat.com/inspiration-and-tips/2018/11/29/the-best-places-to-travel-december-january
As far as finding work on the road, the only decent-paying job that is fairly easy to get that I’m aware of is teaching English, but I think those gigs tend to last at least a few months. Right now Thailand is trying to get rid of any foreigners who are working in hotels and bars without permits, so Cambodia might be better at the moment. I’m one of the thousands of people who work online while traveling, and it seems much easier to make a decent living that way compared to working in hostels and such. Good luck with whatever you decide, and maybe I’ll see you on the road at some point. -Roger
If your real goal is to sit on a European beach and not freeze or be alone in December, your only real choice is the Canary Islands. Tenerife is the largest of them, and the best one for English speakers. The average high in December there is 22C with 16C as a low, and in December it’s packed with Swedes and Brits and Germans who actually do sit on the beach or around pools, even though it’s a bit cool for most of us. It’s important to note though that the Canary Islands are technically part of Europe because they are a territory of Spain, but only the largest cities on each island are “European” at all. The beach resort areas are quite generic, and not very special aside from the pleasant weather and modest prices.
That is an interesting request. I’ve spent about 18 total months in those countries you mention and I’ve yet to see a single rat. If your fear of rats is just that, you could go to any of them. But if you have a more general fear of things that are untidy then I’d definitely avoid India. It’s a fascinating country, but there are piles of garbage all over the place.
The idea of holidaying in a country where the depths of winter are approaching may seem a little counter intuitive but stick with us. The aurora borealis, or Northern Lights, is the best light show on Earth, and a trip to Iceland in November is the perfect ticket to see them. Explore thermal geysers, stunning waterfalls, and epic glaciers by day then stay up late and watch the skies dance with green light by night. Just make sure you pack your thermals though – the average day time temperature only reaches highs of 4c (40F)!
If you’ve got 5 to 7 days and are starting in India I don’t think you want to fly halfway around the world, so it’s probably best to go somewhere between Dubai and Bali. Dubai has cheap flights from most places and it’s very family oriented with large play parks inside shopping malls and that sort of thing. You could get an apartment there in one of the many apartment-hotels for a reasonable price, and the December weather should be pretty good as well.
Hmmm…this is a tricky one. Since you want to get out of SEA, you might have to go a long way to reach someplace that could be considered cheap and also has decent weather in December. Japan and South Korea will be cold, and not really cheap. If you go south you hit Australia, which is very expensive by most SEA standards (although not bad by Singapore standards). Perth is obviously closest and it’s a real city, and of course Sydney and Melbourne will be in early summer in December so those could work if your budget allows. Brisbane and Cairns are both known for outdoor activities, although nightlife might be tough for teenagers and there are no real cultural sights.
Those who find a healthy dose of decadence aids the de-stressing process should make a beeline for UAE capital Abu Dhabi, where infinity pool-rimmed spa hotels offer a taste of the world of the rich and famous amid guaranteed November sun. In Madrid, it’s the laid-back lifestyle of the madrileños that draws travellers, who can browse works by Picasso in the Reina Sofia, quaff Tempranillo in grand plazas and tuck into warming cocido madrileño (traditional chickpea stew), without the stifling crowds of summer.
However, I also happen to be an athlete and about a month ago I reached the point where I had almost no power, no energy, constant hunger (and “hanger”) and cravings for practically anything bad like alcohol, sweets, carbs, artificial sweeteners or energy drinks. I tried to fight it. I started over multiple times. At one point I just couldn’t stick to any sensible dietary routine for longer than a day or two. Intermittent fasting, OMAD (one meal a day), TMAD (two meals a day) and keto all seemed to stop working.
One of the best things about Puerto Vallarta is that, unlike most of the Caribbean destinations, this is a real historic town rather than a purpose-built resort community. That means that there are small and authentic (and cheap) restaurants catering primarily to locals, so you get a much more authentic experience if you prefer one. The hotel zone close to the airport is modern and posh, but you are a short taxi ride away from the lovely center of town.
If you book a resort hotel from home you'll probably think Goa hotel prices are much higher than you were expecting, but if you book a family-run place once you arrive you'll still find fantastic bargains. It's probably wise to book a few nights online before you get to India, because it can be incredibly confusing at first. After that you might be able to find a similar place for half the price by just checking around the same area.
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