Yes, I’ve been to all of the Nordic countries, but mostly during the summer months. However, I know that those Northern Lights tours are popular and well established. On one hand, you know you’ll be visiting areas where there is only a bit of sunlight in the middle of each day, so it won’t be great for general sightseeing. But the cold months are also the best Northern Lights months, and if you want to see them then it’s your best bet.
Assuming you might be in the US or Canada, my first hunch is Costa Rica, or Panama, which is a bit cheaper though not as well organized. Costa Rica has good surfing on its Pacific beaches, and there are very few all-inclusive resorts, which means that the restaurant scenes in resort areas are vibrant and interesting. Costa Rica also has limitless adventure opportunities, like zip-line tours and such, although they aren’t exactly cheap. Going inland you’ve got loads of national parks, as well as the famous volcano and its little spa town.
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.
Once the scorching temperatures and monsoon rains of summer have subsided, November is the perfect time for exploring this kaleidoscope of colour and culture. Due to India’s size and terrain, you can still expect some variation across the country, but travels through Rajasthan and the Golden Triangle will be mostly dry, clear and balmy with a maximum of 30c (86F). Perfect for tiger-spotting in Ranthambhore, camel rides in Pushkar, and admiring the shimmering Taj Mahal!
If you are going for one week I wouldn’t go all the way to Thailand, but if it’s two weeks I think it’s worth it. It takes most of a day in each direction, but flights are often reasonably priced, and everything there is cheap once you get there. I’ve actually lived in Thailand for 6 months and have visited many more times and it’s actually very easy and stress free once you are there. All the important signs are in English and nearly everyone you’ll encounter as a tourist will speak enough English to help you as well. You can get around by train or VIP bus for cheap, or fly to the islands for cheap. It’s very safe there as well. You could spend a few days in Bangkok and then head to one of the islands or take a train up to Chiang Mai.
Escape the cold weather to sunbathe on the beaches in Rio de Janeiro and ring in the New Year with a fun celebration on Copacabana Beach. And while you're near Copa, visit the neighborhood and beach that inspired the song, “The Girl from Ipanema.” Don’t overlook the other beaches, including Baixo Baby for families, Praia do Arpoador for surfers and Sao Conrado Beach if you want to leap from nearby peaks and go hang gliding.

I am from Chennai, India. Me and my wife are planning to spend about 8 days in SE asia around christmas time. Based on your inputs we are looking at either Vietnam or beaches of thailand. We are on a strict budget constraint so which one of these two will be a better option as far as budget goes ? And if it is thailand beaches, where do you suggest we go to avoid over crowding and for budget deals during christmas ? Thanks in advance 🙂


I’ve yet to do an African safari, although that is probable next year for me, and I know quite a bit about it from reading and publishing articles on them. That certainly would be a Wow thing to do. They tend to last around 5 days, so you could do that in conjunction with a visit to South Africa itself. That is another that I’ve yet to reach, but people rave about Cape Town and many other places in that country.
Santa Barbara has earned its nickname, “The American Riviera,” with its stunning coastline, lush landscapes, cafes, restaurants, and year-round Mediterranean-like weather. Sandy beaches invite sunbathers, and for those interested in more activity, there’s biking, paddle boarding, surfing, and kayaking. In the heart of Santa Barbara County wine country, the city presents more than two dozen downtown tasting rooms on its “Urban Wine Trail.” The artsy “Funk Zone,” with a variety of cleverly designed eateries and shops, is just blocks from the beach. The community is recovering from devastating fires and mudslides, and its resilience is apparent with new hotels, restaurants, and attractions. The Montecito neighborhood, particularly hard hit by the tragic events, is home to the recently renovated Montecito Inn and its new dining venues, Phillip Frankland Lee's The Monarch, and the suave Chaplin’s Martini Bar, commemorating Charlie Chaplin, one of the hotel’s original owners when it was built in 1928. The elegant oceanfront Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara offers a luxurious spa and views of Butterfly Beach. Less than two hours north of Los Angeles, Santa Barbara celebrates the holiday season with colorful lights, a Holiday Parade (Dec. 7), Harbor Boat Parade with fireworks (Dec. 16), European-style Christmas market, and the traditional "Nutcracker Suite" at the Granada Theater.
If you are going to that region I suggest you visit a site called travelfish.org, which is by far the best website on SE Asia and it’s run by a friend of mine who lives in Bali. They have busy forums where you can ask questions and quickly get them answered by experts on every imaginable topic there. I’m happy to help more as you are planning, so let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger
Mexico’s spectacular Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead), bewitches Mexico City at the start of each November. Donning the skeleton face paint for the mass parades in the main Zócalo square is a must, but take time to step back from the party and seek out more intimate family celebrations where deceased loved ones are honoured with candles, sugar skulls and, of course, tequila. If you’d prefer to relax with a rum, then Barbados in November may be more to your tastes. The sugar-cane liquor is thought to have originated here in the 17th century and continues to be the local tipple of choice. Toasting the sunset from one of the island’s magnificent beaches is a quintessential experience.

This is a very good month to visit because the weather continues to be perfect here, while the largest crowds from northern Europe haven't quite started arriving yet. So finding an affordable hotel or apartment rental should be easy, and the restaurants and bars are always reasonably priced. If you want to be among other English speakers you'll want to focus on the southwest area of the island around Los Cristianos and Playa de la America.
Thank you for the insightful details about South America and the others! Peru, Costa rica sound ideal! Always wanted to work at a sustainable place is Costa Reecs. However, I am also quite interested to know what Brazil , rather the different parts of Brazil are like, since it is so huge would be interesting to visit during the same time of the year.. Since I love and play Capoeira too, I’m pretty tempted to visit Brazil and draw inspiration. 🙂 And what is Colombia like?
If you are looking for an island that is moderately priced in late November I would probably head to Thailand. The rainy season typically ends in the middle of November in Phuket and Ko Samui and the other popular islands, although you might still get a few quick storms in late November. One nice thing is the crowds don’t start coming until mid December so you have a huge selection of hotels at really good prices.
As for key events in December, I typically avoid those sorts of things myself, so I’m not a good source on that. I actually visited Rio de Janeiro during Carnival, by accident, and it drives hotel prices so high and also crowds that it’s probably the worst time to visit unless you specifically want to spend all night watching the parades. And Oktoberfest, as another example, literally triples the prices of hotel rooms in Munich, so it’s only worth it if you REALLY want to get involved in the Oktoberfest thing yourself. But plenty of other travelers love to go witness the biggest events, and I assume they love it, so there is no right or wrong.
If you are looking for beach weather in December then most of your list won’t work, and several of them are only on rivers. Starting from Kolkata you have many good choices that are much closer to you than anywhere in Europe or the Canary Islands, or the Caribbean for that matter. In fact, I’m a bit confused by your list because there are so many different types of places on it, many that aren’t warm or on beaches.

If you are very sensitive to humidity (I normally am, to be honest) then you’ll find more pleasant weather pretty much anywhere else in Southeast Asia in December. It can actually be cool at night in places like Chiang Mai that month. On the other hand, I LOVE Bali and I’ll probably spend all of next February there, which is still in the wet season. I’d still seriously think about Bali if I were you.
Another option is Chiang Mai, Thailand, which has wonderful weather in December as long as you don’t require constant heat. It is popular with tourists and expats, but it’s not an overly touristy city so it never seems too crowded. Other options in that general area to consider are Luang Prabang, Laos, and Siem Reap, Cambodia. Let me know if any of these sound interesting and I can provide more info if you need it. -Roger
Bali, which is just south of the equator, would be a good choice in November. It does rain a bit that month, but they are summer storms that tend to only last 30 minutes or so. It’s a wonderful island with great prices on most things, including massages. The complicated thing about Bali is that the main tourist areas of Kuta, Legian, and Seminyak are now so crowded that they can be unpleasant. I spent a month there again earlier this year, and I don’t think I’ll go back to that part of the island.
Hi Roger, Just wanted to thank you for taking the time to compose this list. I always refer to your destinations (with great weather) lists prior to booking future-dated vacations. I was a little worried that you didn’t mention Bali but there was more than enough in the comments to reassure me that it would be a great spot to visit in December. I also saw your other post for places to visit over Christmas and NYE. Thanks again!

By the way, Costa Rica is quite different from the popular countries of South America itself (Peru, Argentina, Brazil etc), so it’s a different experience and not much of an introduction. I think in 12 days you could have a great time in several areas of Costa Rica, and maybe also spend a few of those days in Panama or Nicaragua. As always, feel free to ask more questions if you have them. -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.
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.
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.
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 great thing is, many hotels that have rooms with kitchenettes don’t charge more (or it’s minimally extra) than what a normal room would be. Be sure you call in advance to make sure you’re getting a full kitchen. We spent one night at a hotel that claimed they had a kitchenette, but it was really only a dorm room size refrigerator and a microwave.
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).
Over in the Americas, meanwhile, it’s all about downhill thrills. Mt Hood, an 11,250ft (3429m) stratovolcano in Oregon’s Cascade Range, has North America’s longest ski season, with good quality powder dumps arriving in earnest at the beginning of November (before the real ski crowds descend). Runs are split fairly evenly between grades, making it a great spot for skiers of all abilities. Those looking to really ramp up the thrill factor, however, should head south to Nicaragua, where volcano boarding – tobogganing down their slopes – provides a one-of-a-kind adrenaline rush.
It’s going to be pretty cold in December all over Europe, although not quite so bad in the south, of course. As far as where to go, I’ll refer to our Europe 3-star traveler index, which lists every major city in Europe from cheapest to most expensive. The price is the typical daily expense per person for a couple traveling and staying in 3-star hotels. Once you scan through that list you should have some ideas.
Regarding Thailand, I’m not familiar with any islands that are beautiful and not touristy. Phuket has beaches all over the island and many of them are isolated so the only guests are those staying at the resort in front of them. If you search other travel sites, including travelfish.org, which I think is the best site for southeast Asia and it’s run by a friend of mine, you can find more information about more obscure Thai islands. One challenge could be that you might have to take two or three total flights and then a ferry ride to reach them.
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.

Really my first bit of advice is that the best place to get a really nice hotel that is on a beach or a hill and has the other nearby and also has great weather in December is Phuket, Thailand. You could go almost anywhere in southeast Asia in December and get good weather and low prices. But Phuket has over 1,000 hotels and hundreds of those are wonderful fairly luxurious hotels or villa complexes that could be perfect for a romantic honeymoon stay.


I’ll be happy to give you some suggestions, but it would really help to know your starting point and approximate budget. At this moment I am writing this reply from Cancun, which could be perfect if you are in or near the US, but if you are in another part of the world there will likely be better choices. Although thinking about it, even if you are in Europe, a place like Cancun might still be best. Let me know and I’ll give you my best answer and an alternative or two. -Roger
If you are open to Africa you should consider Morocco. It will be a bit chilly in December, but still warm enough to enjoy everything. The culture there is fascinating and it’s also very tourist-friendly and safe. I think it would be cheaper for you to fly to Morocco than to the Americas, and the daily costs are very reasonable as well. Those should give you some things to think about, and feel free to follow up if you have other questions.
As for flight connections, Barcelona and Madrid should have decent connections to Toronto and Delhi, while Casablanca (Morocco’s largest airport) probably does not. So Spain is the better choice by that standard. On the other hand, you can get to Morocco by ferry from Spain in a short time, so you could go to Spain and also visit Morocco for a day or two.
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