Pay homage to the Native American heritage of the U S of A by taking in the sights and sounds of Arizona’s capital city for pure rest and relaxation before the holiday season. Phoenix anchors a sprawling, multicity metropolitan area known as the Valley of the Sun, which is highly regarded for its luxury resorts, vibrant nightclubs, designer golf courses, and long lasting sunshine and warmth—even through the winter months. Attractions include the Heard Museum and the Pueblo Grande Museum & Archaeological Park. Be sure to check them out!
Thanks. I’ve been to other places in Egypt, but have yet to make it to Sharm el-Shiek. It’s hard to find places that are that inexpensive these days. Most of my best suggestions are in the article above. If your main priorities are beaches, sunshine, and nightlife, my favorites are Goa, India; Boracay Island, Philippines; and almost any of the Thai islands. Goa has many family-oriented beach towns, although some others are not so family oriented so you have to choose carefully there.
Gorgeous weather, an enviable winter suntan, and thriving dining and nightlife are obvious reasons for heading to Miami in December. Art Basel Miami Beach 2018, a contemporary art extravaganza and America’s premier art fair, is another incentive for a Miami trip. With celebrities, parties, and unmatched celebrations throughout the city, over 250 world-renowned galleries and 4,000 participating artists will display their creations and collections. The Betsy South Beach, centrally located in Miami Beach’s Art Deco district, will be a major Art Basel venue. Another noteworthy accommodation is The Setai Miami Beach, situated oceanside in South Beach. Featuring 87 Art Deco rooms and 49 ocean suites, the Setai will debut five new retail stores by the end of the year. There is no shortage of family-friendly fun in the Magic City, so named for its rapid growth from 1,000 residents to over 5 million in the past 120 years. Santa’s Enchanted Forest at Tropical Park is the largest holiday theme park in the world featuring carnival rides, shows, games, race cars, food, holiday displays, music, and dazzling Christmas lights. The Miami Lantern Light Festival at the Fair Expo Center celebrates Chinese culture, featuring food, acrobats, handmade souvenirs, rides, and huge handmade lanterns symbolic of illuminating the future and the reunion of family.
The fastest high-speed trains between those cities only take 2.5 hours, although most departures are closer to 3 hours. Definitely take the train and also buy the ticket as far in advance as possible for the lowest fare. Not only is it FAR quicker than flying (and of course the coach), but it’s far more comfortable and more enjoyable. This is a link to the official Spanish rail site. The scenery isn’t all that special, but it’s still interesting. Have a fantastic trip. -Roger
Early in your message you say the last week of November, and then later you mention “late December,” so I’m not sure which it is. But if it’s late November, I think Italy could be a great option, as the weather there is still quite nice, at least in the south. You could go to Venice for a day or two and then Florence and Rome, and then maybe spend 5 or so days in Sorrento. I spent 5 days in Sorrento in mid November two years ago and the weather was very nice, even if it wasn’t warm enough to sit on the beach.
The December weather is actually warm enough to sit on the beach, but most people who come to Dubai tend to just relax and do a lot of shopping at one of the enormous and modern malls here. The restaurant scene is very interesting as well, and you can eat cheaply if you follow the local workers, or go to one of the hotel restaurants and get world-class cuisine.
It would be hard to beat Chiang Mai for its combination of great November weather and low prices. Even though it's officially the start of the high season for hotels, the beginning of the month is usually very slow anyway, so bargains are common. Hotels in Chiang Mai are among the best bargains in the entire world, so even if you do have to pay full price for a room it'll be cheaper than a dorm bed in most European cities.
In Vietnam every hotel will have a “tours desk” that will happily book a tour or visit to any local sight imaginable. There are also dozens of independent travel agencies around booking these same tours, but some of them are better than others. I prefer to book tours through my hotel, even if it costs a bit more, because it helps them and they have a strong incentive for you to be happy with the tour. If a hotel would consistently book guests on tours that the guests felt were rip-offs, that would be in the reviews and they would lose future business. More expensive hotels tend to charge more for the same tours, but things in Vietnam are so cheap that it’s not worth worrying about. And you might get a better pick-up at the nicer hotels as well.
Actually, all of my best suggestions for those things are in the article above. One challenge you’ll have is that all popular tropical destinations have their peak weeks at the end of December because so many people in cold areas have that time off. So flights to Central or South America are going to be fairly expensive, although buying soon can help. For hiking and views I think Costa Rica could be a good choice, or Nicaragua. You could also go to Bariloche in Argentina, though it’s probably not worth going all that way unless you were also going to spend some time in Buenos Aires and such.
Assuming you might be in the US or Canada, my first hunch is Costa Rica, or Panama, which is a bit cheaper though not as well organized. Costa Rica has good surfing on its Pacific beaches, and there are very few all-inclusive resorts, which means that the restaurant scenes in resort areas are vibrant and interesting. Costa Rica also has limitless adventure opportunities, like zip-line tours and such, although they aren’t exactly cheap. Going inland you’ve got loads of national parks, as well as the famous volcano and its little spa town.
The “city that never sleeps” is a delight in December, even if the weather makes it necessary to bundle up a bit. For holiday spirit and things to do any time of year, New York City is a top destination. Broadway and off-Broadway shows are exceptional entertainment, and the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular with the famous Rockettes is a perfect holiday event. The New York City Ballet at Lincoln Center presents the classic "Nutcracker," a seasonal tradition. At the New York Botanical Garden, the toy train will wind its way through a miniature Lower Manhattan for the amusement of kids as well as nostalgic adults who may have once had their own train sets. The dazzling Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, New York City’s centerpiece each year with nearly 50,000 lights, will once again overlook the famed ice skating rink and golden Prometheus statue. Window shopping takes on new meaning during December when department stores along Fifth Avenue entertain passers-by with intricate decorations and displays. Holiday markets at Bryant Park, Columbus Circle, and Union Square also invite browsing and shopping along with warm drinks and food. For a convenient stay, the Renaissance New York Midtown Hotel offers spectacular views and Versa, a year-round rooftop restaurant and bar. Or enjoy the Innside by Melia New York in the trendy Chelsea area with its newly opened seafood-focused dining spot, The Wilson.
New Zealand will also be crowded, but the country is otherwise mostly empty so it is still wonderful. You could fly to Auckland for one day or so and rent a campervan/motorhome. Drive it for 3 or so days on the North Island, and then onto the ferry to the South Island for the rest of your time. The South Island is far more scenic and less crowded. You’ll be doing some driving and looking, but after a few hours of that you can stop at a campground and have plenty of things to do such as hiking or water sports and much more.
Hi Roger, What a great list! Answers to this question may not involve “great” weather. My 40+ yo boyfriend has never been outside the US (!) while I’ve traveled a bit (France, Spain, Italy, Greece, Iceland, Lebanon, E/W Canada, Mexico) and he’d rather go somewhere we both haven’t. We’re in Richmond VA and we’ll be travelling 11/22 – 26 this year. We love being outdoors and solo adventuring, don’t mind putting on rain jackets and lightly hiking/biking around old sites in 50-80 degree F weather; we enjoy delicious cuisine in hole-in-the-wall restaurants and staying in quirky hostels/Airbnb but also spending at least one day being tourons on a big red bus if available. Any ideas in eastern/western Europe? He’s really looking forward to going there. Thanks!
Trekking in Nepal during peak season might not sound like the most sensible choice for penny-pinching backpackers. But you can still enjoy the ideal weather without spending a fortune on in-demand hotels and expensive permits if you're happy to swap big-name trails, like Everest Base Camp and the Annapurna Circuit, for quieter treks to Kanchenjunga Base Camp and around the Langtang Valley. Idyllic conditions (dry but not witheringly hot) are also on offer in Rajasthan, one of India’s most vibrant and varied states. Chug between notable, attraction-rich cities like Jaipur, Jodhpur and Udaipur on an atmospheric and wallet-friendly Indian train, snacking on spicy pakoras and sipping sugary chai en route.
Unsurprisingly, the end of December is the beginning of the peak season for resort prices, so those who are able to come earlier in the month will be getting better deals. Still, the all-inclusive resorts are locked in heavy competition all year so this area can be a great deal compared to the alternatives, even in high season. If you are looking for where to go in December for an all-inclusive beach holiday, this is your best option for most people.
Make like a Viking and soak those sore muscles in one of the many outdoor heated pools, some hidden away and others modern day gathering spots. The famed Blue Lagoon is Iceland’s best-known geothermal spa with temperatures of 98-104 degrees Fahrenheit. The lagoon’s waters are rich in minerals like silica and sulfur and are reputed to have healing powers for skin problems. There are saunas, lockers, showers, and towels available for a reasonable fee as well as restaurants and a lagoon side bar. Whale watching, though not prime season, is always an option in Iceland, as is dog sledding — on snow if available or dry land if not. Either way it is an amazing experience, and the meet and greet part allows you get up close to these beautiful dogs. The younger crowd might enjoy the Iceland Airwaves Music Festival to be held in Reykjavik this Nov. 7-10 showcasing hundreds of acts, both famous and newcomers. Venues include bars, bookshops, theaters and concert halls.
The three places that jump out to me are the Playa del Carmen area just south of Cancun in Mexico, the island of Puerto Rico, or Costa Rica. All of those have endless beach activities and sights and great food and everything else, and they are all well within your budget. Puerto Rico would be easiest, and probably my first choice. Costa Rica is better known for adventure activities that might suit the younger ones. There are several good resort areas along the Pacific coast that would work.
But again, Vietnam can be a bit complicated for first-timers. Specifically, you need to book trains and tours through travel agencies, and Vietnam’s many travel agencies have a worldwide reputation for being hard to trust. They are all great salespeople but the product they deliver isn’t always what you expected. I spent 4 months in Vietnam and loved most of it, though I think it was much easier as a solo traveler who didn’t have a set schedule.
In November you can find excellent resort deals all over the Dominican Republic, but Punta Cana is typically the first choice, especially if you are looking for an all-inclusive resort with all the luxury extras at a great price. The resort is actually a collection of little beach areas on the eastern tip of the island, so it's very secluded and well away from some of the confusion closer to the capital city.
While it's true that it might be a stretch to call Cusco's November weather “great,” this is perhaps the best month of the year to visit, and the weather is quite good anyway. The high season for hotels in Cusco ends in October, yet the rainy season doesn't begin until late December, so November is that perfect combination of small crowds, low prices, and very good weather.
Interestingly, December though February do get a bit cool in Cairo, so it's not a great winter break, but in November it's still pleasantly warm and bone-dry so you can enjoy the outdoors for long periods of time. If you don't mind staying in a locally-owned hotel you can save a lot of money and see some old-world charm at the same time. Reservations in advance aren't necessary, but it's best to book your first couple of days just to avoid all the confusion once you arrive.
The final month of the year marks the time when people in northern climates start looking around for an escape to the sun. Fortunately, there are big parts of the world that have their best weather of the year at this time, and are very cheap as well, once you get there. The best places to visit in December are of course close to the equator or even below it.
Still, this is a perfect time of year to find bargains, as the full-on busy season doesn't begin until mid December. You might have to stay a few blocks off the main tourist strip if you are looking for something in a backpacker price range, but fortunately there are still plenty of very cheap restaurants and bars all over the city if you scan the menus carefully.
Writer, photographer, potato aficionado. In 2015 I sold all my belongings, ignored mum’s advice, and left to travel through 28 countries in one year. Lessons learnt: beer is tasty, Nepal is life, and I regret nothing. The word ‘adventure’ is great, whistlers are not, and once I took a 44-hour bus ride from Malawi to Johannesburg which has led me to make better life decisions ever since. I’m also one half of The Common Wanderer blog, follow along at @thecommonwanderer
That’s an interesting question. On my main list of Caribbean destinations ranked from cheapest to most expensive, I have a list of the 6 islands that suffered heavy damage and are not going to be open for normal business this coming winter. But that leaves 26 other destinations on the list where things are totally normal. Fortunately for the industry in general, the busiest destinations such as Jamaica, Dominican Republic, and the Cancun area, are all still unscathed.
If those flights are too expensive you might think about going somewhere else in Mexico or to Costa Rica. The area around Cancun including Playa del Carmen and Tulum and Cozumel has a LOT going on. And if you’ve been there you could instead go to the Puerto Vallarta area, which is very different and also great. For activities though it’s hard to beat Costa Rica. I think they invented zip-lining and the country is about one-third national parks with all kinds of fun activities. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger