Far from the crowds and heat of summer, a visitor to Rome in December will find that it’s a lovely time there, with fewer lines at popular tourist spots, more attractive prices, and a chill in the air. With a warm jacket, comfortable shoes, cozy hat and gloves, you’re ready to explore the Eternal City. Stroll through the main streets to enjoy colorful lights, decorated trees, and Nativity scenes. The Piazza Navona hosts a Christmas market, and stores welcome shoppers with longer hours and attractive displays. Rome’s Jewish community celebrates Hanukkah with a large Menorah in Piazza Barberini where candles are lit each evening of the eight-night holiday, this year from December 2–10. The Catholic community celebrates the Immaculate Conception on December 8 when the Pope leads a procession from the Vatican to the Piazza di Spagna. December is the perfect time to visit the Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica, Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, and museums that are usually filled with tourists during warmer months. Even without crowds, it’s still most convenient to book ahead through a tour company such as City Wonders or Access Italy, for no-wait entry, professional guides, and early admission. Food is always one of the great pleasures of a visit to Italy, and in December, a warming plate of spaghetti carbonara or hot chocolate and seasonal panettone taste especially good. The new Pantheon Iconic Rome Hotel, Autograph Collection is a convenient home base in the center of the action with a beautiful rooftop overlooking the Pantheon.
Early December is the end of the rainy season in those areas. The storms tend to be short by that time, but still you will probably get a few quick downpours a week. I’m not an expert on getting around in the Philippines, though I do know that it’s rarely fast or easy. If you want a place to relax then Boracay Island might be the best. Sorry I couldn’t be of more help. -Roger
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Prices go up a bit when you go south into Malaysia, but it’s worth it if you’ve got the money. You might even consider Myanmar as well, which I’ve yet to visit, but I keep hearing great things about. It’s honestly the perfect time of year there. By April it’s insanely hot (the hottest month of the year), but December through February is lovely. It’s all quite safe as well, as long as you keep your wits about you. I’m happy to help with more information if you need it.
From November through February there are literally no European cities that could qualify as having “great weather.” We list Tenerife below because it's technically in Europe, although not really much of a cultural destination. Antalya, Turkey (which technically isn't even in Europe), has the closest thing to a sunny climate with acceptable temperatures. So during the winter Europe is all about cultural tourism, and lower hotel prices make it especially appealing for those who like to stretch their travel budgets and avoid crowds at the same time.
In SE Asia you have many choices, but probably the best choice for a family would be Phuket, Thailand. It’s more expensive than Goa, but the infrastructure there is much better. Patong Beach is the biggest town on the island and the main tourist hub, but for a family I’d recommend Karon Beach or Kata Beach, both of which are just a bit south of Patong, and both lovely.
Oh no. I don’t mind rain but that would be a little disheartening. I come from a tropical place and it wasn’t until I moved to Canada that I realized that “rainy seasons” don’t really mean much. More so, I went to Punta Cana last October during the cold period and it was gorgeous every day, and what little rain fell was usually overnight or little drops that you could stay on the beach unbothered.
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.
While Cancun has become the king of the Mexican beach resort towns in the few decades since it was formed, it's only one of many, and all of them on both coasts have very nice weather in December. In fact, Cancun is probably the most expensive of them, so especially if you are coming from the west coast you are better off in Puerto Vallarta, Acapulco, or Los Cabos instead.
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.
Looking to shake up the traditional holiday season table? We’ve got just the foodie forays for you this festive month. Tuck into a spicy blend of fabulous flavours at Malaysia’s hawker food stalls, where bright bowls of creamy laksa (noodle soup) and deliciously deep-fried lor bak (pork or prawn wrapped in tofu skin, deep fried and served with dips) will soon do away with any cravings for Christmas pudding. With tourist numbers low, now is the ideal time to visit Spain’s Basque Country, seeing out the year with a plate piled high with pintxos (tapas); or check out Cuba’s capital, exploring the crumbling, colonial architecture with a rum-based cocktail in hand.
Morocco certainly qualifies as an exotic destination, and it could be fun to do some holiday shopping at their world famous markets. If there’s time, Abu Dhabi’s unique surroundings would make a memorable pre-holiday excursion. Or enjoy spring in New Zealand along with their fresh seafood, wines, and beaches. In Buenos Aires you can watch tango dancers while sipping a glass of Malbec — or get up and dance. Bermuda’s convenient location, sunshine, luxurious hotels, and November events give visitors plenty to do, but a lounge chair by the pool will be pretty inviting as well. The same can be said for Palm Springs, where it’s warm enough for poolside relaxing or al fresco dining and cool enough for cozying up to an outdoor fireplace at night. Warm weather awaits in Belize along with a clear blue sea ideal for snorkeling and diving.
Your Munich plan sounds good. It can be fun to actually spend a full night in a town like Rothenburg ob der Tauber because it’s filled with day-trippers in the day and you almost have it to yourself at night. But it’s small enough that one night there would be enough. Nuremburg is quite a large city, and you might even stay there a night or two as well. I don’t know if I’ve ever heard of anyone saying they enjoy the cold and the rain, but if you do you’ll love it there. Fortunately, nowhere in the popular parts of Europe do they get extreme winters, and there is a good chance you won’t even see any snow in those cities. Most people are looking for the warmest places, which can be found in Portugal and Spain, but since that isn’t you I think your plan is good. Christmas is a big deal in some European cities such as Rome, but not a huge deal in others. Most businesses will be closed that day in nearly all countries, but of course hotels and many restaurants will be open. I hope this helps. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger
Sports fans might enjoy the World Rugby Classic (Nov. 4-10), The Bermuda Squash Challenge (Nov. 8-10), or Goslings Invitational Golf Tournament (Nov. 26-30). It’s spiny lobster season, and local restaurants are serving the tasty seafood in chowder, tacos, sauces, and for purists, the tail meat broiled with butter. Coco Reef Resort is offering a Thanksgiving weekend package that includes daily breakfast, holiday dinner, taxes and fees, starting at $397 per night. Although it’s near the U. S. — about 650 miles off the coast of Cape Hatteras — Bermuda is a British territory, so a valid passport is required.
As for Europe, it’s the low season there at the end of the year and you might be able to find a reasonable flight. Have a look at my list of best Europe destinations in December for weather and comments about each of the better places. If money is tight then Europe can be challenging because getting from place to place can add quite a bit to the daily total. I think two weeks in Spain and Portugal could be very nice, with reasonable weather and relatively low prices. Let me know what you think and I can try to help you more. -Roger
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.
November is a wonderful time to explore this diverse country without the crowds and heat of the summer months. The ancient city of Marrakesh presents an uncommon blend of ancient traditions and modern conveniences. Accommodations include traditional Moroccan houses, or riads, once the homes of upper class Moroccan families. Riads range from budget-friendly room rentals to luxurious palace-like dwellings. Shop the souks or markets of the old city for leather goods, textiles, pottery, spices, and much more. Be prepared to haggle with the vendors for the best prices.
Unfortunately I’ve only been to Cartagena in Colombia, although I know of some travel bloggers who live in Medellin and love it there. The mild weather year round is one reason people love it. I don’t speak much Spanish, which is a problem in much of Latin America, but evidently there is a pretty big scene of various expats and English speakers, so Spanish isn’t so critical. In other words, I like the sound of your idea and I imagine it’ll be great, but I haven’t been there yet so I am really not qualified to give real advice. Best of luck with whatever you choose. -Roger
November is a month of transitions: weather is cooling in most places, and as the days move towards Thanksgiving, momentum picks up and we’re rushing headlong into the winter holidays. It could be a good time for a trip, whether you’re looking for warm weather, taking advantage of cheap shoulder season rates, exploring a new exotic destination, or heading to the southern hemisphere to trade autumn for spring. Or you just might want to begin the holiday season early, get a head start on gift shopping, and jump right into winter’s chilly weather. Travel during November has something for everybody.
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.
For traditional holiday atmosphere, think about Rome or Vienna, with Christmas markets, nativity scenes, and decorated cathedrals. In Edinburgh, they know how to welcome the new year with several days of celebrations culminating in New Year’s Eve. For travelers seeking a wintery destination, Tromso in Norway has skiing, reindeer, and a chance to see the Northern Lights. Bundle up for a dogsled tour or join a whale watching excursion.
Yet another option would be Goa in India. November is a very dry month there. Goa has a reputation as a party destination, but most of the small beach towns there are actually family friendly. If you’ve never been to India before it can be a bit challenging because it can feel disorganized at first. But it is safe and the locals are very kind and gentle. Those are a few options and I hope this helps. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger
Heading east, India could be a possibility, although it’s not for the faint of heart. As a resident of Singapore, I assume you know a fair bit about India. Outside of Mumbai, it’s all quite cheap and the weather will at least be good. Personally, I love the southern state of Goa, and it has everything you are looking for, without the insanely crowded conditions of India’s big cities.
This sounds like a really fun trip you have in mind. I think the challenge is that most of Europe is much closer to 50F than 80F in November, and a good chunk of Europe is already colder than that. I’m running a new series highlighting the best places in Europe (and Asia) to go each month of the year, and I think that the best Europe destinations in November would be helpful to you. Another tricky thing is that you’ve been to many of the warmer places already, and I do understand your boyfriend’s desire to go someplace that neither of you have been.
This is a really interesting question. If you want to avoid crowds then you have already figured out that it’s best to avoid Honolulu and I would avoid Oahu completely. The Big Island is very interesting because of the volcano and some of the other scenery, but the most beautiful islands are Maui and Kauai. I haven’t made it to Kauai yet, but everyone I know has been there and they swear it’s the most photogenic, which looks right based on the photos I’ve seen. Maui is also really gorgeous and all islands other than Oahu are uncrowded even in high season. I drove all over Maui in a rental car and loved it and I don’t think there is as much to see on Kauai. So either of those will be great choices and the weather should be almost perfect in December with warm (but not scorching) temperatures and almost no rain. Have a great trip and let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger
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
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.
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
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.
Actually, most of the popular European cities have fairly mild winters, in that they don’t spend much time below freezing and snowstorms are rare as well. It’s hard to make suggestions without knowing about your tastes, but I will tell you that the most popular European cities are London, Paris, and Rome, and none of them get snowed in often. If you are going to Italy, you should also go to Florence and maybe Venice as well.
Just came back from Luang Prabang, Laos. Cheap and easy to navigate. If with kids you can do an elephant training camp few days. Airport 15 min from hotels and just 2 minutes to get visa (30USD). Not so much to see, but nice vibe and cheap. If you have to choose between Luang Prabang and Siem Reap, Siem Reap has more to offer, but is much hotter than LP in December.
There is no better time than December to discover a still (somewhat) under-the-radar part of the Caribbean. This verdant, five square mile island has seen a lot of activity recently, from a new mega yacht club to a Soho House to the Mandarin Oriental's first property in the Caribbean. More is on the horizon for this picturesque piece of paradise, but go before everyone else discovers it.
Thanks for all of this Roger! It looks like in the comments you mention Portugal a couple times and I wanted your opinion – we’re looking at the first two weeks and probably focusing on Lisbon to Porto (since we know it will be too cold to do the beaches in the south). While Portugal seems to be highly recommended, I keep seeing conflicting information about November being rainy – we definitely don’t want to spend 2 weeks in the rain but in your experience what are the chances of that? Thank you!!
If you ask at a hotel in India about getting train tickets, they almost certainly know a way of getting them for you. They share in the profits of the commission, so they will usually find a way. However, perhaps in Goa it is less common because the train stations are a long way from the beaches so it could be a 3-hour return trip to the station instead of a 20-minute trip in the cities.
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.
Montreal’s oldest Catholic Church, dating to 1656, includes stained glass that chronicles the history of the city. The city’s Parisian-style historic district, with cultural landmarks, boutiques, cafes, and restaurants, can be toured in a horse-drawn carriage for the full vintage effect. La Grande Degustation de Montreal (Nov. 2-3) attracts wine producers, distillers, and brewers from around the world. Montreal also hosts the 24th-annual French Language Film Festival (Nov. 1-11) featuring contemporary films from around the world subtitled in English. When it’s cold, visitors can head to the underground city, a network of tunnels, corridors, and plazas with more than 1,000 retailers and restaurants. The Montreal Tower Observatory, the world’s tallest inclined tower, provides breathtaking views of the city, the Laurentian Mountains, and St. Lawrence River Valley.
If you really want to see the city up close, visit in November or December, when the crowds have dispersed. Hotel prices are comparatively low, and gondoliers are more appreciative of customers. And once you have your fill of religious art, head for the Peggy Guggenheim museum, which displays 20th-century American and European art in a home and garden setting. Note: October through January is the time of acqua alta, when Venice may flood. Usually it's not severe, and the city puts up wooden walkways for visitors and residents to traverse the water.