Thank you so much for the kind words and I’m always happy to hear that people find this information useful. As far as Turkey in December is concerned, I wouldn’t recommend it. I actually lived in a small town near Antalya on the Mediterranean for a bit over a year and I was surprised by the fact that almost everything closed down around 1-November and didn’t start opening again until March or April. Actually, I think Istanbul would still be enjoyable in December and so would Bodrum or any of the other larger cities including Antalya. But anywhere on the coast will be a ghost town and I’m pretty sure that Cappadocia would also be mostly shut for the winter. Ephesus probably stays open, but similar to Cappadocia, the attractions are all outdoors and they can get pretty fierce rainstorms in winter.
When you mention, “not too touristy”, the first thing that comes to mind is San Juan, Puerto Rico. I’m not sure if you’ve been there already or not, but one great thing about it is that the “tourist” areas close to Old San Juan are filled more with apartments than with hotels, unlike Cancun, where it’s nothing but hotels and timeshares. I can highly recommend the Condado neighborhood, which does have some large hotels but is mostly apartments for expats and seasonal visitors. There is even a free bus that goes from there to the heart of Old San Juan, which is a gorgeous colonial town filled with great restaurants, bars, and interesting attractions.
There were fresh croissants, cereal, doughnuts, crackers, sandwiches, nutella, jams, fruit juices and the hot option was Spanish rice. I hadn’t eaten anything yet and was starting to feel a bit hungry. I had planned to bring bacon with me (emergency purse bacon) just in case but I didn’t want to have to cook and clean up after I had already showered. I took a couple of the cheese sandwiches and took the cheese off the bread and ate that. I also had a couple of cups of coffee which filled me a bit.
People don’t think of Moscow for winter, but it’s such a wonderful time to be there. The weather is no worse than what you’d find in New York City, and the huge advantage is the people—or, really, the lack of people! No masses of tourist buses descending on the Kremlin, no huge lines for museums (of course, we ensure our travelers skip all museum lines anyway), and no crazy crowds in Red Square. Something magical happens in Moscow in the off-season: It actually becomes more approachable and less intimidating. (Plus, December falls in the heart of the theater season, so for culture vultures this is the best time to visit.)
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
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
The fastest high-speed trains between those cities only take 2.5 hours, although most departures are closer to 3 hours. Definitely take the train and also buy the ticket as far in advance as possible for the lowest fare. Not only is it FAR quicker than flying (and of course the coach), but it’s far more comfortable and more enjoyable. This is a link to the official Spanish rail site. The scenery isn’t all that special, but it’s still interesting. Have a fantastic trip. -Roger
Me and a buddy is traveling late december, till mid january (about 2 weeks). We’re relatively young and would appreciate a combination of some partying, some beach, and offcourse some cultural input. We were in Bali and Lombok this summer and really enjoyed it. Its great to being able to travel around a little, so that would be a plus for sure:) Right now we’re looking at Vietnam, Goa, and some of the Thai islands. I know the two latter can be quite lively, but how about Vietnam? We’re from Norway, so we need it to be as warm as possible.
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
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
Get acquainted with San Antonio on a River Walk boat tour as you pass restaurants, shops, historic architecture, and the Museum Reach, a 1.3-mile section with art installations and native landscaping. November weather, in the mid-60s, makes outdoor activities comfortable for exploring the city and enjoying the month’s events. November begins with Dia de los Muertos, the traditional Mexican holiday that remembers those who have passed away. Music, processions, performances, and costumed dancers will pay tribute in Pearl Park (Nov. 1-2) and Market Square (Nov. 3-4).
The Maldives could be great if you can afford it. December is the most expensive month there, at least the second half of December. There are about 100 private-island resorts there, and most of them have water villas that start at around US$400 per night and go WAY up from there. But island rooms are cheaper. I wouldn’t recommend going to Male or any of the other populated islands that have several smaller hotels. It’s just not the same experience that you get from the private-island resorts. I can help much more with this if you decide to go to the Maldives.
As with most on this list, hotels get very full and more expensive just before the Christmas holidays, so it's better to come early in the month if possible. That way you'll have your pick of places at some surprisingly good room rates, even at some high-end places on the famous beaches. If you are coming during Christmas then book a hotel NOW because they'll be full and will keep getting more expensive the longer you wait.
Pay homage to the Native American heritage of the U S of A by taking in the sights and sounds of Arizona’s capital city for pure rest and relaxation before the holiday season. Phoenix anchors a sprawling, multicity metropolitan area known as the Valley of the Sun, which is highly regarded for its luxury resorts, vibrant nightclubs, designer golf courses, and long lasting sunshine and warmth—even through the winter months. Attractions include the Heard Museum and the Pueblo Grande Museum & Archaeological Park. Be sure to check them out!
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!!
Hotels in Buenos Aires are starting to reach their summer peak prices in November, especially toward the end of the month, but still they are a fantastic bargain by European or North American standards. The weather in November is also pretty much perfect, and while there's always a threat of rain in BA, it's mostly an indoor city so it shouldn't be too much of an inconvenience.
When it comes to real R&R, it’s hard to beat a golden stretch of sand and the soothing sound of lapping waves, and in November two magnificent beach destinations come into their own. Goa has been attracting sand-seekers for centuries, and while Anjuna is no longer the fabled hippie enclave it once was, serious solitude can be found on sands at the extreme north and south of the state, with spots like Mandrem and Agonda offering little more than slanting palms and a scattering of welcoming bungalows. Though equally stunning, Australia’s Sunshine Coast offers the polar opposite, with hip vintage shops and fancy restaurants enticing land dwellers while large offshore swells entertain water sports enthusiasts.
In South America, and you start getting into some longer flights here, the best and safest places are Argentina, Peru, and Chile. I’m not sure if this helps you much, but at least it should let you know that you were thinking along the right lines already, and there are no obvious places that you’d overlooked. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger
Cambodia could work because Siem Reap is inland and the amazing Angkor Wat temples are worth a full day or two, and the town of Siem Reap itself is quite nice. You could actually combine a couple days in Siem Reap with a few days in Bangkok, and take a (cheap) luxury bus between the two. Bangkok is a really fascinating city with a lot to see, plus it’s a great transport hub. The other main non-beach option in Thailand is the city of Chiang Mai, which is wonderfully inexpensive with quite a bit to see. It’s even a bit cool during December, so that might be a nice change of pace from India. Many people are also going to Myanmar these days, although I haven’t been yet so it’s hard for me to recommend it. I’d say if you combined 2 or even 3 of these places you could have a very interesting holiday.
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.
My top recommendation would be San Juan, Puerto Rico. It offers a wonderful mix of history and culture and nightlife and great food, alongside excellent beaches and abundant activities. Hotels and rental apartments are mostly in the mid-range for the Caribbean, but food and drinks and most other things are great value. You could get a place in the Condado area, which is close to the lovely Old San Juan neighborhood and plenty of nightlife all around. And then perhaps you could rent a car and stay for a few days at one of the smaller beach towns elsewhere on the island. You wouldn’t even need a passport, although it does feel fairly exotic while you are there. But because it’s part of the US, it’s also well organized and safe. Most people you’ll meet will speak at least some English, and many are fluent, so it’s easy even if you don’t speak Spanish.
The Maldives is amazing for relaxing beach holidays and it’s within your range. The tricky thing for most people is that it’s quite expensive for a shorter trip. Of course the Maldives is famous for its water villa resorts, and those water villas start at around US$350 per night. Nearly all of those resorts also have island villas and rooms and those can start at as low as US$100 per night, but you also have to pay for a speedboat or sea-plane transfer from Male Airport to your resort. That can be as low as US$100 per adult for the closer speedboat islands, and up to US$600 per adult for the more remote sea-plane islands. On a shorter stay, that obviously adds to the price. Speaking of that, I run another site all about overwater bungalows and I have links from an article on this site about the cheapest overwater villas in the world. Have a look at that list as it will show you the more affordable options in the Maldives, as well as even cheaper options in Malaysia and elsewhere.
I too am a planner, which is how I got involved in this, and so I totally understand your motivation. I think your plan sounds quite good. The weather in the places you are planning is actually fairly mild, and none of them are too far north. For some of us it’s easy to forget how far north parts of Europe are, and in those areas it’s not so much the cold but the fact that the sun rises at 10am and sets at 3pm that time of the year.
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.
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.
i am planning my 2018 trip. i like olive and winery plantation. i would want to have hands on experience for both. i understand that Sicily, Sardinia and Tuscany have these . however Sicily And Sardinia have beautiful beaches especially the emerald sea. which will be the best month to explore all the of these places. Sicily or Sardinia ? i am from Malaysia.
Of the others, I’d say that Thailand would probably be your better choice. Goa is obviously famous for its beach parties, and drugs are easily available there just in case that is important, but there really isn’t much else to see or do there. Goa is a collection of beach towns, some of which are filled with raucous Westerners all winter. But once you go inland, it’s kind of falling apart, and it’s not even very “Indian” because it was run by the Portuguese until about 60 years ago.
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.
Without knowing more about your interests, my top suggestion would be to focus on Sydney and Melbourne and the areas around both. The Blue Mountains near Sydney are also nice for a couple days or so. The main challenge you’d have in seeing a lot of Australia is that it’s all so spread out. You can hire a car for Melbourne and Sydney and that whole area, but it’s better to fly to get to Uluru (near Alice Springs) or Brisbane or Cairns/Great Barrier Reef or Perth. You’d be driving for days in between those places if you started from the southeast area where most people live.
Those who adore the holidays and don’t mind the cold (the average high is around 48 degrees) might consider an end-of-year trip across the pond. Arguably Europe’s most festive destination, December in London promises charming Christmas markets, show-stopping Christmas trees, and streets covered in twinkling lights. A number of posh hotels, like 45 Park Lane and The Dorchester even have Christmas-centric packages available to get you into the holiday spirit.
December is the month when stores and streets are decorated for the holiday season, reminding us that we have lots to do, whether it’s gift shopping, travel planning, or finding the right outfit for a party. Savvy travelers know that the early weeks of December provide a perfect opportunity to take a trip. With nearly everyone absorbed in getting ready for the holidays instead of traveling, airlines and hotels are offering great deals. Others might want a change of scenery or a chance to celebrate the holidays in a new faraway place.
Heat your winter up and pack your backs to explore Australia. Celebrate New Year’s Eve at The Opera Gala in Sydney. Eat your way through the Taste Festival in Tasmania. And if music is your thing, we recommend checking out the Life’s a Beach Music Festival in Rockingham (30 minutes south of Perth) or experience the Woodford Folk Festival in Queensland, one of Australia’s biggest cultural festivals.
The park we visited has an app you can download on your phone that allows you to reserve a table at any table service restaurant on their property ahead of time. The app also lists the daily breakfast, lunch, and dinner offerings at every single food establishment on site. There really is no excuse for settling for the popcorn or french fries when you can easily find a place with compliant options if you’re willing to look and tweak a bit. A lot of other theme parks are either offering similar apps or putting their information online for those who need to research their options ahead of time. If your destination is the beach or a famous city, check out what’s in the area online, or call your hotel to get an idea.
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.
As for Malaysia, you could book online and it might cost a bit more, but more things go by a fixed price in Malaysia so it might not be much different. Personally I’d probably book tours through my hotel once I got there, just as in Vietnam. But there is a BIG difference between the countries in that Malaysia is a much richer country and there are very few scams to worry about. Vietnam is still fairly poor and they were communist for so long that people got used to trying to scam people a bit as the only way of getting ahead. So the good news is that Vietnam is a gorgeous country with excellent food and very low prices on almost everything. But the bad news is that you have to be more careful in Vietnam because people will try to overcharge you if they can, even though it still might seem cheap to you. That’s one reason I like to book with hotels, because they put the reputation of the hotel on the line when they book something for you, and they can’t afford to get a string of bad reviews by charging an extra US$5 on a cut-rate tour. I hope this helps. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger
I’m hearing very mixed things about Cuba visits. The main downside for Americans is that you still have to go as part of a package deal, and those packages are all incredibly expensive for what you get. It sounds like the Cuban government is charging very high taxes and fees on companies selling tours to Americans, so they are really only popular among people who are especially curious about visiting Cuba. In other words, they are poor value unless it’s at the top of your list already. I hope this helps. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger
If you book a resort hotel from home you'll probably think Goa hotel prices are much higher than you were expecting, but if you book a family-run place once you arrive you'll still find fantastic bargains. It's probably wise to book a few nights online before you get to India, because it can be incredibly confusing at first. After that you might be able to find a similar place for half the price by just checking around the same area.