Another consideration is that Thailand is generally easier to get to with far more flights that are often cheaper, and Thailand also has FAR more beach options because of its long southern coastline and especially the islands. The posh beach areas on Phuket are typically the most expensive beach hotels in Thailand, but there are other more remote beaches in Phuket with lower prices so it’s worth a look. Aside from Phuket you should also look at Ko Samui, Ko Pha Ngan, and Ko Phi Phi. You might also look at the town of Pattaya, which is the closest beach resort to the Bangkok Airport. Parts of town have a lot of single foreign men in certain bars at night, but most of the town is actually quite family friendly and very good value. Let me know if you have other questions. -Roger
Since you might be open to flying then another nearby option to consider is Siem Reap in Cambodia. It’s a pleasant tourist town on its own, but it only exists as the gateway to the amazing Angkor Wat temples nearby. Those temples are by far the most dramatic and memorable tourist attraction in southeast Asia, and I think your daughters are old enough to appreciate it all. But again, the town of Siem Reap is nice with plenty of other things to do, so it’s a great all around stop.
Vietnam might fit the bill for what you are looking for. The most popular itineraries are to start in Hanoi and end up in Ho Chi Minh City, or the other way around. There is a nice train connecting them that is scenic in many places, and the best must-stop place in between them is Hoi An. You also don’t want to miss Halong Bay, which is just outside Hanoi. Vietnam mostly attracts cultural travelers rather than party people. The food is excellent (France used to run the place) and there is plenty of culture all around, in addition to some nice beaches in Nha Trang and Da Nang (next to Hoi An).
On the hunt for a non-traditional ski vacation? Look no further than the Japanese Alps. According to American Express Travel, the region has seen an increase in bookings during the holidays in recent years. And while December has historically been less popular than Japan’s peak season—April-November—adventurous travelers are now intrigued by the wilderness of Japan in the winter. The Hida, Kiso, and Akaishi alps are home to indigenous snow monkeys, volcanoes, and lava plateaus, plus, visitors are drawn to the area for its pristine ski offerings, natural hot springs, and rural hiking.
November is a tricky month in tropical Asia, as you’ve discovered. In Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam, it can be rainy, and that includes some days where it rains the whole day rather than the quick cloudbursts you get in June and July. The best tourist beach in Vietnam is in a town called Nha Trang in the south, and there is Da Nang near Hoi An in the center of the country, but you’ll get November rains in both of them.
There's a massive range of quality and prices when it comes to hotels in Bangkok, and the city is enormous as well, so you really want to do your research for this place. Most people are happier paying a bit more to stay near the river and all the tourist attractions, or even in the infamous Khosan Road backpacker district, which is cheap and fun, if tacky.
Cancun is at the north end of the Riviera Maya, which also includes the island of Cozumel, so this is a huge area with over a thousand hotels to choose from. All that competition keeps prices down until the high season begins, so November is still a buyer's market. There are even ruins nearby and other cultural opportunities, so it's not all about sitting on the beach here. If you prefer a high-rise hotel overlooking a beach then stay in Cancun itself, but if you prefer to stay in a friendly town with many restaurant and shopping choices then head to Playa del Carmen, just a bit to the south, instead.
Vietnam might be your best choice of the three. Most people (if they can) fly into Hanoi and fly out of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) or the other way around. Again, you can travel between them by train, although getting tickets can be a bit complicated. Hanoi is really interesting and nice (and super cheap). The best tourist city in Vietnam is Hoi An, which is between the two big cities. There’s a nice beach there and a bit farther away is Denang, which has large resorts along an excellent beach. Nha Trang is another good beach city in Vietnam, but probably not great for families. Ho Chi Minh City is bigger and more crowded than Saigon, but it’s also more modern (and hotter). You could spend two really nice weeks going north to south in Vietnam with a long stop in Hoi An.
Similar to so many on this list, Cape Town begins its busy season in the second half of December, so November is ideal in that the weather is nearly perfect and you don't have to worry about high-season crowds or prices. This is a city that has things available at almost any price level. Many of the hotels cater to the 4-star resort crowd, but there are also plenty of hostels and cheap hotels so backpacker-types should be able to get by on a low budget.
Sunny SoCal may be beautiful all year-round, but the more-than-mild temperatures of November make it an even more stellar choice for those hoping for not-too-harsh sun, sand, and sea to chase away any impending winter blues. Head on over to the world-famous Santa Monica Pier or shop till you drop at Third Street Promenade. Of course, there’s also the good old beach itself, where you’ll find surfers, beach babes, locals, and tourists alike mingling festively together at Pacific Park amusement park, the outdoor gym at Muscle Beach, or on the historic Looff Hippodrome Carousel-- there’s also Bergamot Station in the heart of the city, which houses several art galleries to check out.
A charming, historic city to visit any time of year, Edinburgh is especially festive during December. Walking through its cobblestone streets takes you back to medieval days when sheep, cattle, and grain were sold in what is now the center of the city. Today, the Royal Mile includes shops, cafes, and museums. Edinburgh Castle, a must for first-time visitors, dates to the 12th century, with its dramatic silhouette overlooking the city. For those seeking holiday celebrations, the Royal Botanic Garden is decorated with lights, music, and illuminated trees. European-style Christmas markets pop up at Princes Street Gardens and George Street, offering traditional crafts, gifts, food, and warming drinks, most welcome during chilly December. The annual Hogmanay celebration welcomes the New Year with fireworks, food, and festivities. Don’t miss the delicious and ubiquitous fish chowder called “Cullen skink,” and be sure to try haggis, served with “neeps and tatties” — mashed turnips and potatoes. Buttery shortbread and whisky from the country’s more than 100 distilleries are also Scottish specialties. A stay at the elegant and historic Balmoral Hotel will enhance any visit to Edinburgh, and while you’re there, you’ll notice that Scottish actor Sean Connery was a guest, as was J. K. Rowling who finished the last Harry Potter book in one of its suites.