There’s really nothing like the holidays in Manhattan. December tends not to be too cold in New York -- you may actually pine a bit for snow as you mosey past Fifth Avenue shops, peering in at the elaborate holiday window displays. The rink at Rockefeller Center gets crowded, but catch it midweek and you’ll have room to skate a lap beneath the most famous Christmas tree in the world. And if you’re still picking up last-minute gifts, you really can’t beat the shopping in this town. Even usually gruff New Yorkers seem to have a brighter spirit this time of year, and carols echo through the subway stations thanks to the city’s many transit musicians. There’s no better time to go and bask in the Home Alone 2 Christmas vibes.
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.
You’ve been to Cancun, but have you been to Playa del Carmen? Personally I much prefer it because PdC is a lovely tourist town with hundreds of little hotels and restaurants and bars, unlike Cancun, which is mainly a long string of high-rise beach hotels that are so spread out that you are nearly trapped in your own hotel. It’s about an hour south of Cancun airport by taxi or shuttle. That would be another of your cheaper options, partly because flights into Cancun are pretty cheap. It will be the tail-end of the rainy season in all of these places, but that usually just means a 30-minute rain storm a few afternoons each week.
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.
Portugal does have one of Europe’s best autumn climates, but as you’ve noticed November can be a bit rainy. That said, in my experience it rarely rains for long periods in that part of Europe so I think it’s very unlikely that a big part of your trip would be “rained out.” Also those cities have lots of great indoor attractions so if you see that it’s supposed to be clear in the morning and drizzly in the afternoon, you can plan to explore neighborhoods in the morning and plan to visit a museum or castle in the afternoon. It’s a bit of a crap-shoot and generally Portugal has nicer weather than most of the rest of Europe at any given time. I hope this helps. -Roger
Warm weather, Caribbean beaches, and fascinating history beckon visitors to this coastal city during December. Once a 16th-century Spanish port, Old Town Cartagena, surrounded by ancient stone walls, is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Visitors strolling through its streets will see original Spanish Colonial architecture among new restaurants, restored homes, and boutique inns. From street food to upscale restaurants, Cartagena offers the best in local seafood, meat, and fresh fruits. In December, the city becomes a festival of lights, with nativity scenes, decorations, and holiday celebrations culminating with New Year’s Eve fireworks. Holiday shoppers will want to take home gifts of colorful handcrafts sold at markets throughout the city, with special Christmas markets arriving in December. Colombia supplies nearly 90 percent of the world’s emeralds, and a quality gem from a reliable source would make a memorable keepsake. Nearby Rafael Nunez International Airport makes arriving by air quite convenient, and visitors will find a range of lodging in and around Cartagena. For a luxurious vacation, the new Conrad Cartagena offers four pools, a private beach club, a golf course, seven restaurants, tennis courts, a spa, and stunning ocean views from every room.
If you wanted to spend maybe 7 days outside of Singapore, I think I’d do 2 or 3 in Malaysia and then the rest in Thailand. Bangkok is another huge city but it’s also somewhat exotic compared to the other two, and much cheaper as well. Or if you wanted to spend some time on a beach you could instead go to one of Thailand’s islands. Phuket is the easiest to reach, but it’s not very interesting. Kho Phi Phi or Kho Samui are probably better choices because they really feel like islands (Phuket is more of a peninsula) and there is still plenty to do.
Oh, and I just noticed you asked about general safety as well. Buenos Aires is fine as long as you don’t wander into the bad neighborhoods after dark, which is pretty much true almost anywhere you go, including Europe. But Rio is sadly famous for petty crime and it’s a real issue. As long as you know what NOT to do it’s quite safe, so I’ll still recommend it as long as you read up a bit on the topic. The most common problem is when people walk down to the water on the beach after dark. As long as you know NOT to do that you should be fine, but if you did go for an evening walk near the water and out of sight of the well-lit sidewalks, the chances of getting mugged are extremely high. Again, it’s worth learning about it and it’s easy to stay safe if you do. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger
My family and I are planning our first trip to Europe for the last week of December (2018) and the first week of January (2019), I know this is a long way off but I am a planner and to me that is half the fun! I know to most people that time of year in Europe is not ideal, but we LOVE cold weather, snow, rain, etc. and I am drawn to the lower prices and smaller crowds. So far I am considering Rome for 6 nights, Venice for 2 and Munich for 6 nights. I want to take day trips from Rome to see Pompeii & the Amalfi Coast and from Munich to see Rothenburg and Nuremburg. Does this seem like a good itinerary? Since I love the cold weather are there any other itineraries you think would be ideal for that time of year? Any advice you have would be very much appreciated.
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.
Thailand is far more different and it’s easier to get around. The tourist areas are quite modern and well organized, and enough people speak English that it’s easy to do whatever you like. Again there you have choices of cooler areas in the north such as Chiang Mai, and of course Bangkok, as well as all of the islands. Let me know if you have any questions. -Roger
Visit the Bahia Palace and gardens with its intricate artisan details. An overnight train ride north would bring you to the Moroccan seaport city of Tangier, once the playground for the rich and famous, celebrities, and artists. Admire the unique architectural and culinary influences from Spain, Portugal, France and Northern Africa as well as panoramic views of the city and bay from the hilltop Kasbah. The Musée la Kasbah is fascinating, and Café Hafa is a wonderful stop to quench your thirst and rest your feet. Visitors should visit Cape Spartel and the Caves of Hercules for its incredible history and captivating scenery. Perhaps a camel ride on a sandy beach or through the desert is your thing? Your Moroccan excursion is guaranteed to cover all bases from exotic to adventurous to mystical.
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.
Also, as far as I hear, the worst that ever happens is they take your stuff. So if you leave your passport and most of your money in your hotel room, and keep your phone or camera hidden most of the time, there isn’t much to lose. I’m making it sound worse than it is really. I wouldn’t hesitate to go to Rio again, but of course I’d be aware of those few situations to avoid.
Rio is probably the most beautiful city in the world as far as the setting is concerned, but it’s also famous for petty crime. As you mentioned, I think it’s quite easy to stay safe as long as you are aware of the situation. The biggest problem by far is tourists getting robbed by someone holding a knife or sometimes a gun, and they are often in groups. However, this almost always happens to people who are walking close to the water on the beaches after the crowds have gone for the day. The sidewalks along Copacabana and Ipanema are brightly lit and safe, but there is a mound of sand between the sidewalk and the water, so if you go to the water you can’t be seen by the security guards and police on the street. As long as you avoid that, and any other situation where you are alone in a dark place late at night, you’ll be fine.
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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.
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.
Myself and my girlfriend are looking at travelling to a sunny destination during the first 12 days of December. We like beach and city vacations. Being from South Africa where it is warm in December we would prefer something different to our own culture. We’ve been to Thailand and Malaysia but never India, Sri Lanka or Vietnam. What would you recommend? Thanks Esteen
If you are referring to days trips and that sort of thing, it will be much cheaper if you book once you get there. In Vietnam in particular it’s amazing how cheap tours can be if you book them through your hotel. I once did a 6-hour bus tour to Mỹ Sơn, which is near Hoi An, and I think I paid about US$6. It even included a boat ride and a basic lunch. That same day tour online would probably cost US$30 because the booking company takes a share and there is very little competition.
Yes, Australia is pretty expensive by most standards, although it shouldn’t seem too bad since you are coming from Singapore. Hotels in Australia are pretty expensive no matter where you go, although quite a bargain compared to the same thing in Singapore. Restaurants in Australia will seem quite expensive compared to the hawker centers, but not bad compared to Singapore’s sit-down restaurants.
We are looking to explore warm Central American destinations safe for kids and affordable in price. We love beaches. Not in the typical sun-bathing type of way, but rather appreciating the raw beauty of the nature. We also like to eat out and having activities for the kids and as a family would be excellent. Could you suggest a destination that fits the bill? Central America appeals to me but open to other suggestions you may find worth mentioning.
It’s only fitting that the closest big tourist destination to the North Pole would do Christmas up big. Reykjavik feels almost like a mini-New York in December, with the Oslo Christmas tree standing sentinel over the city and a public skating rink in Ingolfstorg Square. Seeing the northern lights is never a guarantee, even during days of near-perpetual darkness, but your odds are much greater in winter. On the other hand, who needs ’em when you have 13 official Santas walking around town posing for pictures? The Christmas Village at Hafnarfjordur is a top weekend destination for both locals and the newfound throngs of American visitors. Just beware their holiday tradition of eating ruinously smelly fermented skate.
This is a tricky one. Pretty much every destination in the Tropics has its peak rates of the year during the weeks you have in mind. That said, there are still some fairly cheap destinations in the Caribbean, even at peak rates. However, since you live in South Florida and understandably don’t want to go someplace even hotter during the only semi cool time of the year, it sounds like you are ruling out most of the Tropics.
What a fantastic site you have. I am in Dallas, TX and looking for a 7-10 day getaway in late November or any time in December, depending on when my passport renewal comes in. I am going solo and have a reasonable budget. My goal is relaxing mostly but as a solo upper 40’s male, it wouldn’t be bad to run into some people (and ladies) to visit with some of the time. I thought of SE Asia but travel time burns up much of the trip. Do you think all-inclusives are worth it? And any recommendations for places I won’t be overrun with families and screaming kids?
Since flights to Mexico City from the US and Canada are usually quite cheap this time of year as well, this could be a perfect short cultural holiday. This city has great shopping, dining, and nightlife, and the central historic and tourist districts are far safer than most people would expect. There are ruins just out of town as well, so a bit of everything is available.