Thank you for the helpful comment. Interestingly enough, I’m in Tenerife at the moment (for a month). I probably will add Tenerife when I update the November list in a couple months, and I already have it listed in much of the year on the other lists. But calling this place “Europe” is a bit of a stretch. There are islands in the Caribbean run by France, Netherlands, and Britain that are also full territories of those countries, and you could just as easily call those “Europe” using the same definition. Still, I appreciate you taking the time to comment. -Roger
The Brazilian currency has been falling in recent years, and if this trend continues then Rio de Janeiro will be squarely back into the bargain category. It's certainly not as cheap as it used to be, but for the amazing beaches and scenery it's easily worth it as long as you plan well and stay safe. In fact, Rio has some of the best beaches in November anywhere in the world, and a vibrant city right next to them.
There are a lot of possible places that might work for you, so it’s hard to narrow my suggestions down without knowing where you are starting from and how far you are willing to travel from there. But two things that come to mind are Bali, Indonesia, and the Cancun area of Mexico. If you are in the US or Canada then it will obviously be a long flight to Bali, but things are quite cheap once you get there so it’s really worthwhile. The island has beaches and water sports, but also really interesting culture, not to mention loads of shopping and beach resorts. Its main problem these days is vehicle traffic, so getting around the island is slower than it used to be.
My recommendations depend on your starting location so for now I’ll just assume you are starting somewhere in the USA. If you are looking for a really nice beach AND really good night life your best choices are the Cancun area, Puerto Vallarta, and San Juan, Puerto Rico. If you are in the eastern US or Canada it’s probably faster and cheaper to go to Cancun and if you are in the west Puerto Vallarta is better. San Juan will be more expensive because there just aren’t many cheap hotels in the good parts of the city. For the Cancun area I would recommend Playa del Carmen (about an hour south of Cancun Airport) because there are fairly cheap hotels near the town center, which is packed with bars and restaurants. In Cancun itself the best nightlife is in the heart of the hotel zone, and all of the hotels there are pretty expensive. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger
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
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.
Let’s get started. For the November trip you are going to have a lot of competition for those flights and hotels because those are prime Thanksgiving flight dates. I would normally recommend Puerto Rico, but they won’t be ready for visitors until next year from what I hear. Just a few days ago I published a new article on which Caribbean destinations have no hurricane damage. There are a lot of great choices, including all of the busiest ones, that were untouched by the storms. You might also consider Cartagena, which is probably the cheapest option once you get there. It’s got a wonderful walled historic town area, and it’s a short bus or taxi ride to the modern area with beach hotels and such. The sand there isn’t great, but the value is very good. I wouldn’t go outside of Cartagena at the moment.
Late October (when the rains end) through February is an exceptional time to visit the northern part of the country, from Sukhothai through Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai. The King’s Birthday, on December 5, ushers in the festive season (Christmas and New Year’s certainly aren’t traditional holidays here, but many Thais celebrate them anyway) and cooler, less humid weather. In general, the beaches are blissful from the end of December through March. Mid-November through January see the lowest temperatures and least humidity in Bangkok.
Steamed pumpkin sautéed and seasoned with fresh orange juice makes a tasty fall or winter side dish. Pumpkin steamed in the pressure cooker is easy to peel and dice and the steaming liquid can be used as a flavorful liquid in another recipe. You can pressure cook spaghetti squash this way too: use the same timing, but tease out the “spaghetti” flesh with a fork instead of dicing it.
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.
Of course, the Caribbean has its own share of problems. As I just mentioned to another reader, my list of Caribbean destinations from cheapest to most expensive has 32 entries and only about 6 of them were damaged by the recent storms. I would probably choose one of those instead. November is still technically the final month of hurricane season, but November storms are extremely rare. And the islands closer to South America haven’t been hit in over 50 years or so, such as Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao.
As you begin to cross off the final 31 days on your calendar you may be tempted to put away the passport and swap those itchy-footed escapades for quiet nights in. But with nearly a year of adventures behind you, why stop now? December is jam-packed with high-octane adventures on mountain peaks and coursing rivers; indulgent escapes with mulled wine, rum cocktails and spicy Malaysian street food galore; walks on the wild side with kaleidoscopic creatures and soaring giants; and countless seasonal celebrations whisking you from the sunny Caribbean to Santa’s hometown.
It's actually a bit chilly in Hanoi in December, but generally very dry and exceedingly pleasant around the clock, so it's a very good time to visit. Nearly everyone who visits Hanoi will be doing it as part of a larger tour of Vietnam or other countries in Southeast Asia, and this is one of the cooler cities this time of year, therefore a nice balance to some of the places that are still quite hot.
Most hotels these days include at least a small refrigerator, and some even include a full kitchen and stove. This is great because it allows you to shop locally for some fresh food options. Search online for nearby farmer’s markets or grocery stores and see if you can pick up some local meats or fresh veggies to have in your room. This is more likely to be an option in the warmer months.
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?
There are always those travelers who celebrate the end of summer and the opportunity to don a sweater and take out the wool scarves and quilted jackets. For them, Iceland would be a perfect destination, with a chance to see the Northern Lights and adorable sled dogs. Montreal is another place with a winter chill, and at the end of the month, you might even find an early Christmas market. San Antonio gets into the holiday spirit at the end of November as well. Sedona offers chilly nights and gorgeous scenery, while Hilton Head Island still enjoys autumn weather and activities.
The most important holiday in Japan is oshogatsu (New Year), and the month leading up to it is packed with fun festivals and markets. Standouts are Shimai Kobo (December 21) and Shimai Tenjin (December 25) both of which offer great ceramics and handicraft shopping, in addition to lots of good things to eat and drink. From December 8 through the 17th, thousands of lanterns will be placed around Arashiyama, including in the enchanting bamboo forest. If you’re there on New Year’s, you’ll catch the famous the bell-ringing ceremonies -- get up real early and see the monks at Kyoto’s largest temple, Chion-in, or drop by a small-scale local shrine instead.
And as you mention, Bali could actually work for you. I’ve spent two Decembers in Bali, and December is quite a bit rainier on average. Still I had a great time and it was sunny most of the days. The rain in the tropics (and Bali is almost ON the equator) tends to come down in 30-minute bursts rather than drizzling all day, so it’s usually pretty easy to avoid. The best part of Bali is there are loads of things to see and do, and the nightlife is excellent. The Kuta Beach area is fun for at least a few days, but I wouldn’t spend too much time there. You should also spend a few days in Ubud, which is very touristy but also interesting. And you could spend some time in Lovina, which is along the northern coast and it has all of the charm of Bali from 20 years ago before most of it got overbuilt. With all the temples and other local attractions, there is always something interesting to do, which is not true of many other places with great beaches and nightlife. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger
If you are looking for an all-inclusive resort with reasonable airfares from Chicagoland, your best bets will be in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, or the Cancun/Playa del Carmen area. Both have everything on your list, except perhaps wild life, depending on how you define that. You can get cheaper flights into Cancun, and there is a wide variety of offerings once you are there. If you don’t think you want to leave the hotel much, then stay in the Cancun hotel district or along the Maya Riviera nearby. But if you want to interact with a real and lovely town, then stay in Playa del Carmen or over on Cozumel. There are many nearby activities and some very interesting ruins.
Sri Lanka could also be great, and it’s very different. In fact, you might even consider a trip to India itself, which is obviously similar to Sri Lanka. But Sri Lanka is far easier to do in about 12 days, with most of your time spent in the mountains and a bit along the southern coast. Colombo is mainly just good for flying in and getting your bearings. Sri Lanka is also a bit more expensive than Vietnam, but both are great value. And again, you could instead go to Kerala and Goa in India on a short trip, although those are more about relaxation than culture. Let me know if you have any other questions, and I hope this helps. -Roger
Otherwise the big draws are the Great Barrier Reef, which is obviously focused on diving, snorkeling, and water activities, so it may not be too interesting, and Uluru, which is the big rock in the center of the country (and not near anything else of interest). There is also wine regions in the south near Sydney, and of course nature parks to see kangaroos and the other indigenous animals.
Those countries are all very safe, and especially that time of year, you’ll be surrounded by dozens of other backpackers everywhere you go, including many solo ladies or girls in pairs. There is very little petty crime there, although it’s always wise to keep track of your belongings. It’ll be easy once you get there, and Bangkok is the perfect place to start. You can book a place near the famous “backpacker ghetto” of Khao San Road, which is quite affordable and really fun, as well as close to the top sights.
Actually, most of the popular European cities have fairly mild winters, in that they don’t spend much time below freezing and snowstorms are rare as well. It’s hard to make suggestions without knowing about your tastes, but I will tell you that the most popular European cities are London, Paris, and Rome, and none of them get snowed in often. If you are going to Italy, you should also go to Florence and maybe Venice as well.
Traveling during the last ten days of December means crowds and exorbitant prices throughout much of the world, but the first two-thirds of the month—before holiday airfares and hotel rates go into effect—can be a serene, value-laden, and just plain lovely time to vacation. Europe is all decked out for the holidays—with locals generally friendly and in high spirits; in the Southern Hemisphere, spring is in bloom; and in the Caribbean, Hawaii, and Mexico, hurricane season is over, the weather is gorgeous, and there are free upgrades galore.
As for alternatives, the most obvious are the various islands of Thailand, with Phuket being the largest. It’s peak season in December in Thailand, but still pretty affordable by most standards. I spent a month in Phuket the following December, interestingly enough, and I prefer Bali even though it’s hotter and more humid. Hopefully this helps and let me know if you have other questions. Helping people figure out where to go is something I really enjoy. -Roger
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.
It would probably be a bit more expensive, but another idea that could be great would be to fly to San Juan, Puerto Rico, and rent an apartment for two weeks. It’s a wonderful place that is family friendly, and rental apartments can be good deals. It’s obviously peak season there as well so nothing will be cheap. But the weather will be fantastic and the beaches are great, even in and near the city. I hope this helps. Let me know if you have any other questions.
First of all, applause to all your kind help (and your time). My 8 years old boy and I want to travel in December to a warm country and I am a little bit nervous to be only two of us since my hubby could not join us. I am just wondering if Costa Rica (or Brazil) safe to travel for a woman alone with young kid? Any other safe countries in your mind (with affordable price)? We live in D.C and don’t want to fly too far like Asia, Australia, etc. We have been in Dubai and Mexico.
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.
This popular island in the Andaman Sea boasts mountains, rainforests, white sand beaches, nightlife, and a range of hotels from casual to ultra-luxury. Watersports of all kinds are popular, with snorkeling and scuba diving among the colorful fish and coral reefs a favorite. Boat trips take visitors to smaller nearby islands and among the limestone cliffs, caves, and karsts — steep limestone structures rising from the clear aqua sea. The white marble “Big Buddha” statue, nearly 150 feet tall, on top of Nakkerd Hills is visible from miles around, and it provides a stunning viewpoint. The island has been settled from early times and through the years with migrants from India, Arabia, China, Portugal, Sri Lanka, Netherlands, France, and Great Britain, all attracted by Phuket’s natural resources. Old Phuket Town’s shrines, temples, museums, shophouses, and buildings provide some evidence of the island’s history. Today, for lively nightlife, head to Bangla Road at Patong Beach for restaurants, pubs, music, open air cafes, and street performers. For many visitors, Phuket’s beaches are the main attraction, and with more than 30 around the island along with ideal December weather, everyone can find the perfect spot for sunning and swimming. For the ultimate in luxury, the beachfront Banyan Tree Phuket offers villas with private pools and open-air bathtubs, an award-winning spa, several dining options, golf, and a tranquil saltwater lagoon.
It's been said Jackson Hole is where Aspen meets Palm Springs. Ski season, however, really starts in mid-December. There's world-class—not to mention some of the most vertiginous—skiing in the continental U.S. Plus, miles and miles of trails and nature to enjoy less vertically trekking through Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park. To put much of this at your fingertips, the Four Seasons Jackson Hole has a ski concierge and is a ski-in/ski-out property.
Pretty much everywhere is going to be at or near capacity for those dates because half the world is on Christmas break. Between Australia and New Zealand, I think New Zealand would be far more interesting for 10 to 14 days. In Australia you pretty much have to spend a few days in Sydney, a few days in Melbourne, and a few days at the Great Barrier Reef, all of which require flights and will be very crowded over those weeks.
If you’re highly susceptible to the Christmas spirit and haven’t already committed the entire holiday season to wrapping presents with Aunt Linda, consider Cologne. The city has a whopping seven main Christmas markets -- definitely don’t miss the Cathedral Market, which has the largest Christmas tree in the Rhineland, or Angel’s Market, where you can sip eggnog punch and weave around people actually dressed as angels; Santa comes through once a week as well… on horseback. All that’s left for you to do is listen to the festive music and browse the stalls for an apology gift to send to Aunt Linda.
As for Indonesia vs. Philippines, I’ve been to Bali quite a few times but I haven’t been to Bandung. And for the Philippines I’ve spent time in Manila and in Tagaytay just to its south, and I don’t think I’d recommend those for a longer trip. And I also spent two weeks on Boracay Island, which is quite nice, but it’s small and also a place I wouldn’t recommend for a longer trip like yours. For information on Indonesia you might go to my friend’s site – travelfish.org – which is an excellent resource. Unfortunately, they don’t cover the Philippines yet. Best of luck with what you end up doing. -Roger