I haven’t followed the Zika list, but I do understand the concern. Since you aren’t big beach people, you might just bring jackets and go to a more romantic city like Paris, and then maybe down to Nice for part of the trip and something a bit different. I’m not sure if this is helping, but if you have any questions about any of this I’m happy to keep trying. -Roger
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.
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.
We spent a month in Costa Rica last year and although we thoroughly enjoyed the trip, we don’t tend to be “repeat customers”, so we’d like to venture somewhere new (we saw that you had mentioned this as kid-friendly a few times, so just wanted to let you know that we’ve already been there). Some available attractions and activities would be ideal, but, we’d also quite enjoy the beach towns of some sort. We love hostel type of accommodations, aren’t overly-indulgent and can get by on a fairly modest budget. We are of the mind-set that spending more time, is more valuable than spending more money.
I too am a planner, which is how I got involved in this, and so I totally understand your motivation. I think your plan sounds quite good. The weather in the places you are planning is actually fairly mild, and none of them are too far north. For some of us it’s easy to forget how far north parts of Europe are, and in those areas it’s not so much the cold but the fact that the sun rises at 10am and sets at 3pm that time of the year.
If you are open to Africa you should consider Morocco. It will be a bit chilly in December, but still warm enough to enjoy everything. The culture there is fascinating and it’s also very tourist-friendly and safe. I think it would be cheaper for you to fly to Morocco than to the Americas, and the daily costs are very reasonable as well. Those should give you some things to think about, and feel free to follow up if you have other questions.
The great thing is, many hotels that have rooms with kitchenettes don’t charge more (or it’s minimally extra) than what a normal room would be. Be sure you call in advance to make sure you’re getting a full kitchen. We spent one night at a hotel that claimed they had a kitchenette, but it was really only a dorm room size refrigerator and a microwave.
By early December the rainy season is pretty much over in Cartagena, and it cools down just a bit more as well, so the weather really doesn't get any better than this. As with most others on this list, right around Christmas you'll find that hotels get more expensive and are more crowded, so if you can go earlier in the month you'll be paying less and dealing with fewer crowds.
For our early dinner (Meal 4) we found a burger joint, where I had a bacon and cheese (shredded, not the gross, carb-laden “cheese” sauce) hot dog. I grabbed some green beans with salt and pepper as my side, and sidled up to their topping bar where I smothered my dog with mayo, mustard, onions, and pickles. Dinner was great, and I wasn’t hungry again until much later in the evening (around 9 pm) when the kids and hubby stopped for ice cream. I walked down two shops to the coffee joint and got a plain iced coffee blended with ice, heavy cream, and some sugar free caramel flavor. I accompanied this treat with one packet of my almond butter and was good to go. I sat with my family while they were enjoying their sweet treat and didn’t feel deprived in the least.
This looks great and I wish I could be of more help. As I mentioned before, my first safari will probably be in 2017. I have a couple safari articles on this site from writers who have done them, and I’ve read a lot about the experience and the extremely positive reviews that most of them get. But having not yet done one, I wouldn’t feel comfortable offering specific advice. There are hundreds of articles on the internet that discuss these safaris, so I recommend you seek advice from someone with plenty of first-hand experience. Just be careful not to rely too heavily on a commercial safari outfitter, and try to seek advice from a travel blogger or other regular consumer. Have a great trip. -Roger
The December weather is pretty much perfect and dry, and airfares and hotel rates are very reasonable up until Christmas itself. If you are in California you might also consider Los Cabos, although Puerto Vallarta is more interesting and usually cheaper as well. This is definitely one of the best places to go in December if you are anywhere near the Pacific Ocean.
I think Sri Lanka would be wonderful for 2 weeks in December. The rainy season typically ends early in December, but even when it’s still going it tends to be quick downpours, as you are no doubt familiar with if you’ve been all over southeast Asia. Still at this point there are very few hostels with dorm beds and not even many cheap budget hotels, but at the age of 30 you are probably happier with normal hotels anyway. Value is quite good in Sri Lanka as long as you can spend at least US$30 or so per night, and hopefully a bit more. Food is also quite cheap in general, although there are still surprisingly few tourist-oriented restaurants in many towns so it feels a bit undiscovered. Just don’t spend much time in Colombo and preferably focus on the mountain areas, and I think you’ll love it.
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.
Traveling during the last ten days of December means crowds and exorbitant prices throughout much of the world, but the first two-thirds of the month—before holiday airfares and hotel rates go into effect—can be a serene, value-laden, and just plain lovely time to vacation. Europe is all decked out for the holidays—with locals generally friendly and in high spirits; in the Southern Hemisphere, spring is in bloom; and in the Caribbean, Hawaii, and Mexico, hurricane season is over, the weather is gorgeous, and there are free upgrades galore.