As for the Northern Lights, Iceland is one to consider, and its Aurora Tourism sector is pretty famous. You can get a cheap flight to Iceland from London or most other large cities in Europe, and it’ll cost about the same as a flight to Stockholm or Oslo. If you want to stay on the continent, I’d think about Sweden, even though Norway has more northern area. Both are very expensive, but Sweden is a bit cheaper and easier to get around in.
St. Bart's is a French island and a member of the European Union. First discovered by Columbus in 1493 and named after his brother Bartolomeo, St. Bart's has been populated through the years by native Arawaks, pirates, French colonists, Swedish settlers, and French citizens attracted by the island life. Owned for a time by Sweden before being returned to France, St. Bart's capital, Gustavia, was named for a Swedish king, and the language, along with French, is used for many street signs. In Gustavia, visitors interested in the island’s history can explore 17th-century forts, a lighthouse, and the small Wall House Museum. With 14 public beaches, there’s one for every taste and activity, including a swimsuit-optional spot. Boating, windsurfing, kayaking, sunbathing, shopping, people watching, and exploring the island’s shallow reefs are favorite pastimes. Last September’s Hurricane Irma caused significant damage to the island, but recovery has been swift. After closing a year for renovation, Le Barthelemy Hotel & Spa has just re-opened. Set on the Anse de Grand Cul de Sac, an ideal area for watersports, the eco-friendly hotel emphasizes wellness, with an expansive spa offering hydrotherapy, sauna, and beach yoga. This perfect December island escape is accessible by air or ferry from nearby St. Maarten.
I’m happy to help. As mentioned above, November is a very tricky time for a sunshine holiday because so many of the better places have their rainiest season then. I agree about the DR. It’s an excellent place for big all-inclusive beach hotels, but outside the hotels there isn’t much of interest unless you are fluent in Spanish and hopefully know a local. One you might consider is San Juan, Puerto Rico combined with some stops elsewhere on the island. November is part of the rainy season there as well, but I don’t think it rains all day very often. And the city of San Juan is excellent for nightlife and things to do, so even if you get a couple rainy days you should be able to find some things to do. By then it’ll be over a year since the hurricane and San Juan has already been close to normal for a while now. There is still some damage, but it would be easy to avoid.
On Monday morning we arrived at our hotel, dropped our stuff in the room, and headed out to our first stop. We had a light breakfast at home, and mine consisted of a fatty coffee and 2 pieces of bacon. So we were all pretty hungry by around 1 pm. We headed to one of the food joints nearby, and I found a southwest grilled chicken salad (Meal 1) on their menu. After asking them to hold the black bean relish and sugary dressing, I ended up with a decent sized bowl of salad mix topped with half a grilled chicken breast and a good-sized scoop of chopped avocado. I topped it off with salt, pepper, and a packet of blue cheese dressing.
December is a popular month to go cruising around Hawaii and Mexico. It’s an ideal family trip, especially with most kids in the US out of school for the holidays. Experience the Hawaii’s tropical paradise. Pick a popular cruise liner and visit ports of call like Nawiliwili on Kauai, Honolulu on Oahu and Kona on the Big Island. If the Caribbean floats your boat, we recommend taking a cruise to explore Mexico’s Costa Maya, Cozumel, Ensenada, Acapulco, Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta and more.
As the year winds down the parties amp up, none more so than in Scotland’s capital, where Hogmanay celebrations see flaming torches, fireworks displays and night-long parties take over the usually quiet cobbled streets. Slightly more sedate, the Caribbean’s southernmost island Trinidad simmers with stirring Spanish-style musical performances as the locals usher in the start of the dry season.
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.
Yes, these lists are reviewed and updated at least once a year. I’ve been adding new cities each year and even removing a few that have become too expensive to be on a “cheap” list. Personally, I’m an obsessive travel planner (which is why I do this for a living) and I like planning at least a few months in advance. You usually get the cheapest flights around 3 months out, although it can range from 2 to 5 months for longer flights. In other words, now is a great time to plan a November trip.
The Bali thing is also kind of a mess for those on low budgets. Kuta is a headache, and pretty much the opposite of what is so beautiful about the rest of the island, but it’s also where nearly all the really cheap beds are located. If you go a bit north in that same area into Legian and Seminyak, it’s nicer, but prices also go up. And Ubud is nice, but also more expensive for hotels and such. I’ll probably rent a place in Seminyak for a few weeks, which won’t be cheap.
From Atlanta, the places that come to mind with the theme of “nature” would be Costa Rica and Belize. Costa Rica is probably the better choice, as it famously has around a third of its land as natural parks. Much of it is jungle, and they have all sorts of activities including zip lining, but also canopy tours and much more. There is also the Arenal volcano there, which is really nice and has some fun hot springs around it. They also have beaches, of course, but there is plenty in the interior of the island to keep you busy. If you know a bit of Spanish, it helps, but most other visitors know little or none.
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.
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.
That definitely helps! Though I think I was quite unclear in the first place. Being in the same region is definitely not a constraint. We’ve been considering Africa as well, for example! Also, a couple of days of beach time is also sort of desirable, and we’re not really into visiting cities as such. Ideally, we wish to have some time to spend on beaches/resorts/hotels along with some time in a place like a safari or something.
I’m looking for some ideas for driving holidays and have a month off over December and January. I’m not into trekking and looking for good warm/hot places to visit for the less mobile. Went to South Africa last year which was amazing. I like diversity, definitely not into trekking or just laying on a beach. Ideas that are floating around in my head are Bolivia, Chile and Argentina (worried about accessibility and state of roads) but loved Buenos Aires when I went there. Was also considering NZ with a fun stop on the way. I’ll be flying from the UK and will be solo.
In colder weather it’s probably better to focus on the great cities rather than places more known for scenery and outdoor activities. If your budget is generous then my top choice would be London, Paris, and Amsterdam. You could fly into any of those and then visit the others by high-speed train. The train that connects London to Paris and Amsterdam is called the Eurostar, and the earlier you buy your tickets the cheaper they will be. Paris and Amsterdam are linked by normal high-speed trains, which are also cheapest when you buy early. Speaking of that, your dates are prime travel dates over the Christmas holidays so the airfares will be kind of expensive and they will only go up from here. In other words, buy as soon as you can.
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