The largest national park south of Alaska, Death Valley is located 295 miles northeast of Los Angeles and 120 miles northwest of Las Vegas. Much of the park is below sea level, and it is surrounded by mountain peaks, often covered in snow. December’s temperatures are moderate, generally in the mid-60s during the day and 40s at night. Daily guided walks and naturalist talks are presented by the National Park Service, acquainting visitors with the natural beauty, history, geology, and wildlife of the area. Stargazers will be in awe of the Milky Way and starry nighttime skies of this “Gold Tier” Dark Sky Park, a designation by the International Dark Sky Association. The newly renovated Oasis at Death Valley (formerly Furnace Creek), hosts the elegant 4-diamond Inn at Death Valley and the family-oriented Ranch at Death Valley, offering visitors a range of lodging options and activities. At Furnace Creek Stables, guests can explore the valley floor or foothills of the Funeral Mountains on guided horseback rides. The Stables also offer carriage and hay wagon rides. Jeep rentals, tours, and a variety of hiking and walking paths provide many ways to experience Death Valley. Play golf at the world’s lowest elevation golf course or enjoy a rejuvenating spa treatment at The Inn.
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.
We flew with EasyJet and I was pleasantly surprised at the availability of keto food on the flight. I got a tapas box which had jamon serrano, chorizo and a tomato salsa that was, amazingly, sugar free! It was plenty to keep me going until we had dinner at the villa that evening. I didn’t track my carbs on this trip because I was eating keto the whole time so even when I went over slightly I wasn’t massively over. I also spent a lot of time swimming in the Mediterranean Sea and it was so hot I think I must have lost 5lbs in sweat alone! Sorry.
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.
I need some help planning my honeymoon which will be around the last week of November. We plan to spend anywhere from 9-12 days. We aren’t big beach sitters(a day or two by the beach would be enough). I love culture and buildings and my fiance is shopping and nature. I always tend to lean towards going back to Europe but the weather in late decmenber is kind of a detourant. One big issue is my fiance vetos anywhere that is on the CDC’s list of Zika virus areas. We were going to go to Argentina and Chile, but Argentina is now on the list. i’ve considered is still doing Chile(risk is when will it join the rest of south and central america on the zika list), Morocco, and i always think italy is a good option.
This diverse and rapidly growing capital city of Texas is known for its live music scene, world class museums, beautiful outdoor spaces, pleasant weather, fine dining, and nightlife. A little bit city, a little bit country, Austin has no shortage of December activities for all. The Zach Theatre presents a rocking adaptation of the Dickens classic "A Christmas Carol" from Nov. 21 through Dec. 30, guaranteed to have you dancing in your seat. In its 56th year, Ballet Austin’s annual production of "The Nutcracker" returns to the Long Center Dec. 7-23. Holiday shoppers gather at the Blue Genie Art Bazaar to purchase unique handmade gifts including paintings, photography, jewelry, clothing, and more. Zilker Park transforms into a glittery wonderland with more than 2 million lights, 40 displays, interactive experiences, food trucks, and live music on two stages. The Armadillo Christmas Bazaar, an art and music festival, runs from mid-December through Christmas Eve with live music, two full bars, and local food specialties. Over 175 national and local artists display paintings, sculptures, woodworks, and an assortment of handmade gifts. Winter Wonderland at the Circuit is great family fun with holiday lights, a skating rink, Santa’s Village, petting zoo, carnival rides, and of course, live music. In the heart of downtown, the historic Driskill Hotel celebrates with an enormous Christmas tree and seasonal music. On Sunday, Dec. 16, Austin’s best bakers will share their holiday cookie collection, with the event’s proceeds supporting the Driskill’s traditional charity, “Cookies for Caring,” benefitting the community.
Spear fishing, kayaking, and zip lining across the jungle are popular activities. At Hol Chan Marine Reserve, you can safely snorkel alongside sharks and stingrays. The Belize Barrier Reef is a favorite destination for snorkelers and scuba divers and one of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet. Experienced divers may want to plunge into the famous Great Blue Hole of Belize, designated one of the top 10 diving sites in the world by famed French explorer Jacques Cousteau. Family-friendly activities include cave tubing down the rivers of the Belizean rainforest, sailing, bird watching the over 600 species of birds, canoeing, horseback riding, or just relaxing on a beautiful sandy beach. Romantic sunset cruises are a wonderful adult option. Travelers can stay at beachfront properties like Banyan Bay Suites and Grand Colony Villas for an authentic Belize experience.
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.
Capital of the UAR, Abu Dhabi combines ultra-modern structures and attractions with its ancient Arabian culture. This year, the Louvre Abu Dhabi will celebrate the first anniversary of its long-awaited November 2017 opening. Built on a manmade peninsula, its collection ranges from prehistoric to contemporary works, exploring universal human themes. The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, a spectacular architectural achievement, consists of 82 domes clad in pure white marble. Its hand-knotted carpet, the largest in the world, features an intricate Islamic medallion design crafted by about 1,200 artisans. Open Saturday through Thursday, the mosque offers free admission, and visitors must observe proper dress and behavior.
Costa Rica is kind of the Thailand of Latin America in that they have great tourist infrastructure and it’s the easiest place to get around. They also have a lot to offer with the beaches on both coasts and many natural sights and activities, plus of course the Arenal volcano, which is a really nice area. San Jose is best as a place to just pass through on your way somewhere else.
We were able to sit down in the store, relax, and eat our salmon and cheese (pictured above) – separately of course! As you eat, you can watch them hand make their cheese through a glass window, showing exactly what they do in their process to get the food you’re eating in front of you. An experience in itself that I definitely would recommend to anyone visiting this city!
Vietnam is generally cheaper than Thailand, so if that is your primary factor, Vietnam could be the best choice. The beaches in Nha Trang are quite nice and the town is pretty easy for English-speaking tourists. But the other thing about Vietnam is that visitors have to be much more careful, especially when booking tours and that sort of thing. The travel agencies in Vietnam (even those in hotels, but mostly the independent ones) are famous for over promising and under delivering. That said, it’s a lovely country and you can have a wonderful time there on a modest budget. It’s just that you have to be more careful, compared to Thailand where the travel industry is a bit more honest about what you get and how much you’ll pay.
It’s unfortunate and heartbreaking how many times I have recommended San Juan, Puerto Rico in the last few years. Once they get the power back on I’m sure it’ll be back to normal fairly soon after that, but I’m guessing probably March or later. And fortunately, Nate missed the Cancun area for the most part. Have you considered somewhere in the Cancun/Playa del Carmen/Cozumel area? I’m particularly fond of Playa del Carmen, and that flight to Cancun should be pretty reasonable for you.
Never thought of Moscow as a Winter destination! It is quite the place to go especially after the world cup hype. I second Rajasthan, India as one of the best places to travel in December. Love this list, Wendy. I have even listed Rajasthan and other offbeat places to travel in December and January over here: https://www.thegonegoat.com/inspiration-and-tips/2018/11/29/the-best-places-to-travel-december-january
Thank you for the kind words. I know what you mean about the image of Thailand and Bali, particularly among Australians. On one hand you could go to either of those places and easily avoid the most notorious party neighborhoods, but it’s probably easier to head somewhere else since both of those places are so crowded that time of year anyway. I do have a few suggestions, which I’ll describe briefly and then if you want more details about any that appeal to you I can do that in a follow up comment.
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.
As December begins in the Caribbean, the hurricane season is officially over and the weather is pretty much perfect by any standard. Punta Cana is the Dominican Republic's most popular resort areas, especially for those who aren't particularly interested in absorbing the local culture. This is a resort area with wonderful beaches and not much history.
If you’re pretty simplistic when it comes to food, you can always bring nuts with you. They last long, they taste great, and they’re packed full of fats (if you choose correctly). Macadamia nuts and Brazil nuts are among the top high-fat nuts out there, and they’re well worth the extra cost if they save you from an accidental cheat right at the end of a great vacation.
You mention New Zealand and of course it’s summer there then, so it would be a good choice. However, all of these places will be crowded and near peak hotel rates if they are warm. So I’ll be happy to give you advice if you tell me if you’d rather visit one or more European cities in the cold season, or if you are looking for a warm place like New Zealand where it will be fairly crowded. By the way, the southern European cities such as Rome and Barcelona are lively and enjoyable that time of year, as the Christmas season goes on, and there aren’t too many tourists except for a few that travel to see their families around the holidays. So it can be a good time for southern Europe, as long as you don’t mind wearing a jacket or jumper during the day, and maybe a bit more in the evening. Give me a bit more guidance and I’ll be happy to try to help. -Roger