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.
Overall, I’m declaring this vacation a great success! Not only did we have a wonderful time at the parks riding all the rides and enjoying the shows, I did not feel at all deprived or put upon food-wise, and not even once did I go hungry. All but one of our meals, including those at the hotel, were counter-service only establishments and I was able to find something filling and tasty for each meal. After this experience here are my recommendations for eating on vacation:
If you have a budget that allows at least US$300 per night, you should be able to rent a nice condo in Hawaii. If you haven’t been there before, it’s worth knowing that each of the 4 main tourist islands is quite different from each other, and only Oahu has an urban center that should probably be avoided. You’ll want to rent a car as well, as getting around is difficult without one.
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 🙂
If you are looking for a cheap, beautiful, and relaxing beach destination during December then Goa is ideal. This has become hugely popular with package tourists from Europe and Israel (and more recently Russia), and the facts that pretty much everyone speaks English and there aren't many cultural opportunities means that it's a perfect place to just vegetate in a beach chair for a week or two.
Two of the easier other choices would be London or Madrid. From Amsterdam you can take a train to Brussels and then change for the Eurostar train to London, or you can fly. From London to Barcelona you’d want to fly for sure. If you chose Madrid you can go to Amsterdam and then fly to Barcelona and then take a train from Barcelona to Madrid in only 2.5 hours.
During the holidays in Europe, Christmas pop-up markets open in November, bringing intoxicating tastes and aromas (mmm...gingerbread) that brighten even dreary-weather days. On Viking Cruises, for example, the Danube Waltz itinerary enables passengers to experience a variety of markets, which are great places to shop for affordable holiday gifts. Vienna and Budapest both host multiple markets, and each one is different and features different merchandise. Smaller Passau has a more intimate market, and you get to stroll through a charming town to reach it.
The rainy season is still finishing during November in Central America, but a bit north and south of that it's dry enough to make visiting very worthwhile. Better yet, it's still low season for hotels in most places even though the weather has gotten nice. Latin America is filled with excellent bargain choices and it has some of the best places to visit in November.
The 2nd option is a bit early in the year. The Greek Islands are cold and mostly deserted until mid April or so, and the good weather really starts in May or June. This is true in Mallorca as well. The Canary Islands are much farther south so they have acceptable beach weather almost all year, although you might get some cooler days in March as well. Even still I wouldn’t really recommend them for a younger person. In my opinion, the Canary Islands are pretty boring because the majority of visitors that time of year will be retired people from northern Europe who just want to sit in the sun. The nightlife tends to be cheesy and/or weak if you can find it at all. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger
December might be the only month of the year in the Canary Islands where very few people would consider sunbathing. Still, compared to everywhere else in Europe, Tenerife is balmy. The largest and most English-speaking of the Canary Islands, Tenerife is no mystery to the hundreds of thousands of northern Europeans who spend a month or more here every year.
The next morning we hit up the hotel dining area around 7 am for a large breakfast before going out for our second day. They had gigantic breakfast bowls (Meal 3) as part of their offerings, so that’s what I got. I asked for a southwest bowl with no potatoes, and received a heaping plate of eggs, chopped ham, onion, green peppers, and melted cheese. I also got a side of bacon and had a fatty coffee that I made in my blender bottle with powdered coconut oil, liquid stevia, and half n half. I added some salt, pepper, and butter to my breakfast bowl and was very full. So full, in fact, that we did not eat again until 4 pm.
For a cheap destination in December that has great clothes shopping opportunities I can only think of two really good options. The closer of the two is Dubai. I’m not sure if you’ve been there before, but it has some of the best shopping in the world with every store imaginable and very good prices because duties and taxes are low. In spite of its reputation, Dubai can actually be visited quite cheaply if that is important. It’s famous for expensive hotels, but it’s got hundreds of more affordable hotels that can be pretty nice.
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.
As for your Europe trip, I highly recommend spending 3 nights in any city you visit. If you change cities every day or every other day you’ll end up spending most of your holiday on trains or in airports rather than seeing the places you flew all that way to see. So if Amsterdam and Barcelona are musts, I would add exactly one other city if you’ve only got 9 days. Unfortunately it’s not on your list, but the best and easiest one to add between them is Paris. There is a train from Amsterdam to Paris in a bit over 3 hours, and another high-speed train to Barcelona from Paris in 6 hours 27 minutes with no changes. Paris is easily one of the most impressive European cities for tourists, but if you’ve been there before and don’t want to go again you can obviously choose something else.
If you are looking for first-rate destinations that are among the cheaper European cities, I’ll suggest Prague, Budapest, Krakow, and Berlin. You could visit all four of them by taking trains, or choose any one, two, or three. In December you can get quite a nice room in any of those cities, with Berlin being the most expensive by a bit. Food and attractions are also quite affordable in those cities.
Turkey has bars all over Istanbul and the other tourist cities, but there are also cafes and tea shops and that sort of thing that are filled with locals (and some tourists) all evening. In Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the only bars are attached to hotels (and there are a LOT of them), but almost no locals drink, so there are unlimited evening alternatives. Other nearby Muslim countries such as Oman and Bahrain are similar, except with far fewer tourists (and drinkers).
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.
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.
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.
Sri Lanka doesn’t really have a good infrastructure for budget travelers at this point. There are loads of nice hotels if you are willing to pay US$40 or more per night, but almost nothing below that except for a few hostels. I haven’t been to Palawan but I have been to Boracay and Palawan can’t be too much cheaper. Boracay doesn’t have many budget options either, so my guess is that Thailand or Cambodia is your best bet.