Much of Mexico is ideal in December, after the rainy season has ended; if you go early in the month, you’ll avoid the peak holiday-season rates that kick in around December 18. On the Pacific coast, the landscapes are still ultra-tropical green, and the ocean is bathtub-warm (80s), with exceptional clarity for scuba diving and snorkeling. Mexico City is a smart place to spend the holidays, when the locals have headed to the beach and you’ll find much less traffic in this famously congested city. (Do keep in mind, though, that some of the more sought-after restaurants and galleries will be closed.)
Based on your description, you definitely want to go to Costa Rica. The neighboring countries have many similarities, but Costa Rica is the shining star in Central America for tourism. They have endless national parks and nature sights, but also lovely beaches and adventure activities. The area in the north around the town of Tamarindo is the more luxurious part of the country, but there are many other beach towns on both coasts that could work for you. You will also probably want to spend one or more days in the Arenal volcano area, which has many other great activities. The Caribbean coast is more laid back and less family oriented, so better to focus on the Pacific. Have a great trip. -Roger
As for flight connections, Barcelona and Madrid should have decent connections to Toronto and Delhi, while Casablanca (Morocco’s largest airport) probably does not. So Spain is the better choice by that standard. On the other hand, you can get to Morocco by ferry from Spain in a short time, so you could go to Spain and also visit Morocco for a day or two.
That said, I think going to Siem Reap in Cambodia would also be a great idea. And Vietnam is also really wonderful, especially that time of year. Hanoi is quite chilly in December and Saigon is still very warm. It’s worth visiting both of those along with Halong Bay near Hanoi and Hoi An in the center of the country on your way between them. You could easily spend 10 days in Vietnam or more.
A trip to glittering New York City during the holiday season is exciting, and it’s the perfect place to finish gift shopping while enjoying the festive atmosphere. Ice skating under Rockefeller Center’s fabulous Christmas tree and watching the high-kicking Rockettes are holiday traditions for New Yorkers and visitors alike. Or come at the end of the month for an unforgettable New Year’s Eve watching the ball drop among the crowd in Times Square. If a little bit of country is more your style, you’ll love Austin in December. Whether you travel far or stay close to home, a December trip can be the perfect gift to yourself.
If this were last year I might have also suggested San Juan, Puerto Rico or Cartagena, but both of those have issues at the moment. If for some reason you don’t like what you see in Costa Rica, there are also some really nice resorts in Panama, especially in the San Blas Islands area. Aside from those you’d probably have to fly longer than you prefer. I hope this helps. -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.
For those from the Northern hemisphere in need of decent a blast of winter sun, the picturesque coastal town of Essaouira is the perfect place to put your feet up and relax. Fresh-caught fish sizzles on beachside grills, whitewashed houses with blue shutters lend a Mediterranean vibe, and you can lose hours wandering through the dozens of art galleries and workshops.
You’ve got a pretty good budget so you can afford to go almost anywhere, assuming you are okay with renting one or two houses or villas instead of 4 hotel rooms. If you are willing to fly all the way to Asia, your best bets would be Bali or one of the Thai islands, probably Ko Samui or Phuket. In all of those places you should be able to rent a house or villa near the beach and then do activities and day trips very easily.
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 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
Obviously you’d get a refund if an airline canceled your incoming flight, so I guess it’s more a matter of being able to book an alternative without much notice at that point, and that can be tricky. I’ll probably be coming from Hong Kong or Kuala Lumpur, and those flights are always pretty cheap. If I was coming from Europe or North America, I’d probably just wait and hope that the ash cloud starts to subside, and also get a back-up destination ready. If you mainly just want to hang out on a lovely beach and do some water activities and such, then I’d take a look at Boracay Island. However, it’s small and doesn’t come close for cultural activities or natural sights, although other parts of the Philippines are better in those regards.
In spite of its image of being blazing hot all the time, December in Cairo can actually be on the cool side, at least in the evenings. This is great though because almost all the important sights are outdoors and requite a lot of walking between them. For 9 months of the year it can get very hot doing that, so these few cooler months are ideal for visiting the famous sights.
The 2nd option is a bit early in the year. The Greek Islands are cold and mostly deserted until mid April or so, and the good weather really starts in May or June. This is true in Mallorca as well. The Canary Islands are much farther south so they have acceptable beach weather almost all year, although you might get some cooler days in March as well. Even still I wouldn’t really recommend them for a younger person. In my opinion, the Canary Islands are pretty boring because the majority of visitors that time of year will be retired people from northern Europe who just want to sit in the sun. The nightlife tends to be cheesy and/or weak if you can find it at all. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger
Montego Bay is home to one of the Caribbean's busiest airports in addition to a few hundred hotels and resorts, so it's an ideal destination for even a shorter getaway in November. The rainy season is over but the busy holiday peak season doesn't begin until just before Christmas, so the weather is perfect and hotel prices are still very low. Flights should be cheap from most hub cities as well, so even a long weekend is within reach for budget travelers this month.
Another reason to consider Dubai is that the busy airport has cheap non-stop flights coming in from almost every major airport in Europe and Asia. As a result it's popular to book long weekend trips of 3 or 4 days to Dubai, where you can enjoy some sunshine and shopping before flying back home where it gets colder by the day. You might also consider stopping for a few days in Dubai and then moving onto somewhere else with cheap direct flights such as the Maldives.
The best places in December with good weather and that are inexpensive and also fairly close to India are Sri Lanka and Thailand, and they are both mentioned in the article above. Sri Lanka is obviously closer and you have many nice and scenic areas in the hills as well as the beach areas along the southern coast. But Sri Lanka has many similarities to India, as you may know.
In the desert city of Albuquerque, winter is cold but not too cold. The Downtown Growers’ Winter Market usually wraps in November, but this year you can still catch it December 1 and 8. Local produce, artists, live bands -- it is all good. And the whole month of December you can go to ABQ BioPark Botanic Garden to see River of Lights, the largest walk-through holiday production in the state, and one of the most sparkly light shows anywhere in the country.
Costa Rica, as you probably know, is all about nature and adventure sports, along with some decent beaches. It would be perfect if you are up for that sort of thing. If not, Santiago and Valparaiso (nearby cities in Chile) could be good for more of an urban adventure. Or Buenos Aires is even nicer and more interesting (and probably cheaper if you bring cash) if you can get a deal on a flight there.
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)!
Once the scorching temperatures and monsoon rains of summer have subsided, November is the perfect time for exploring this kaleidoscope of colour and culture. Due to India’s size and terrain, you can still expect some variation across the country, but travels through Rajasthan and the Golden Triangle will be mostly dry, clear and balmy with a maximum of 30c (86F). Perfect for tiger-spotting in Ranthambhore, camel rides in Pushkar, and admiring the shimmering Taj Mahal!
The only other suggestion I have, which gets almost no rain in November, is Goa, India. There are about 20 different beach areas in Goa, and some of them (Anjuna and Vagator) are famous as party beaches, while many others are more mellow and family oriented. It’s also very cheap and beach massages and that sort of thing are excellent value. Let me know if you have more questions about that. I hope one of these things works out for you. -Roger
The biggest single highlight in the region is the Angkor Wat temples near Siem Reap in Cambodia. It’s one of the most impressive tourist sights in the entire world, and Siem Reap is a fun and mellow town that you can linger in for a while. Vietnam is really lovely and cheap as well. The food there is excellent, as it’s a fusion of French and traditional Asian. You can go from Ho Chi Minh City in the south on the train to Hoi An near Da Nang, and then up to Hanoi to see Halong Bay. I wouldn’t start in Vietnam because it can be a bit trickier than the others. In the rest of the region it’s easy to book tours and buses and such, but in Vietnam the travel agencies are a bit harder to trust, so you have to be more careful. Things there are very cheap though, so even if you pay more for a reputable agency, it’ll still be cheap.
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.
From the Art Deco architecture to fabulous restaurants and nightlife, Miami is truly a city that appeals to every type of traveler. Art and culture lovers should plan a trip during Art Basel, which officially kicks off on December 6. The weeklong affair attracts celebrities, tastemakers, and bold-faced names, who come for the world-renowned art exhibitions, but stay for the swanky parties and events. Be sure to book a hotel well in advance, as prices skyrocket and availability becomes increasingly limited.
New Zealand is an excellent option in December, as it’s before the Christmas crowds and just before the summer holidays there. The best and most popular way to explore New Zealand is to rent a camper van or a car and drive from one “holiday park” to another. Auckland is a pretty generic city so it’s not worth spending more than 1 or maybe 2 days there. Just fly in, and rent a vehicle to leave the next morning, and drive south. The North Island has a lot to see, but the South Island is even more scenic and pleasant. You can take a ferry between the two with your vehicle.
There are not one but a cornucopia of hotspots to check out in the Aloha State come November. First, Oahu, which has, throughout the years, been transformed by Asian-Pacific locals from a holiday outpost into a globalized, cosmopolitan destination that offers all the glory of paradise in one locale. You’ve got the allure of the Island landscape, plus the buzz of modern living mixed in a relaxed, slow-paced daily lifestyle near the shores. It is (along with Honolulu) the center of the Hawaiian universe, and will no doubt sprinkle excitement into any Thanksgiving celebration. You might even want to go all out by getting a taste of authentic, fantastic Hawaiian flavor by cooking that turkey in a traditional imu (underground oven)! Those who want to work off all that feasting can hop on into the Turkey Trot 10 Mile Run on Thanksgiving morning and then spend Black Friday enjoying the annual Waikiki Holiday Parade—instead of braving those restless shopping crowds.
Eat Breakfast In – I know this isn’t always possible, and it’s certainly not a deal breaker, but we ate breakfast in most mornings. This started my day off on the right foot, and I could make my eggs exactly how I like them. I didn’t get tired of eating bacon and eggs all week, but if you do there are so many keto breakfast options if you’d prefer a variety of foods. For me, this was budget friendly, and I didn’t have to buy a ton of extra groceries. Also, I have a big family with two of my four kids being 3 and under. It takes us forever to get out, so cooking breakfast is an easier option for us. If you’d rather eat out, I get it! Keep scrolling for other helpful tips.
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
If you are going to that region I suggest you visit a site called travelfish.org, which is by far the best website on SE Asia and it’s run by a friend of mine who lives in Bali. They have busy forums where you can ask questions and quickly get them answered by experts on every imaginable topic there. I’m happy to help more as you are planning, so let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger