If the Caribbean sounds better, I’ll recommend Puerto Rico. The area around San Juan is fairly crowded, although not nearly as crowded as a typical resort area that is loaded with hotels. And there are many smaller resort towns on other parts of the island where people usually rent a condo for a week or two. In a town like Rincon you won’t get crowds, and you will get great beaches.

Tamarindo and Smara are two of the most popular beach areas, but there are other good choices in the area as well. This part of Costa Rica is known for large chain resorts on the beach, and the 4-star resorts can be pricey, while the more traditional 3-star hotels are still very reasonable. Costa Rica is obviously one of the hot countries in December in both temperature and popularity, so book early.
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
If this were last year I might have also suggested San Juan, Puerto Rico or Cartagena, but both of those have issues at the moment. If for some reason you don’t like what you see in Costa Rica, there are also some really nice resorts in Panama, especially in the San Blas Islands area. Aside from those you’d probably have to fly longer than you prefer. I hope this helps. -Roger
Aside from that, this is a bit tricky because you obviously want to avoid longer flights for a short trip and especially with an infant. And some of the closer options are not close to a major airport, so they are still hard to reach in half a day or so. I think if you want to go farther than Goa, it’s probably best to look for other options in Thailand. As you know from previous visits, Thailand really has tourism figured out and it feels safe and well organized there. Cambodia and Vietnam also have beaches, but none that I’d recommend for a short trip. It’s the same with the Philippines, and the flights start getting longer. Phuket is the largest Thai island by far and it’s got over a dozen different beach areas and towns to choose from. Patong Beach is the main beach town and I wouldn’t recommend it for a family, but Kata and Karon beaches are just south of that, and they are nicely family oriented. Phuket also has a large airport, so getting there quickly is pretty easy compared to other beaches and islands in the area. Phuket’s beaches are also very nice. I wish I had more suggestions for you. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger
Cancun is at the north end of the Riviera Maya, which also includes the island of Cozumel, so this is a huge area with over a thousand hotels to choose from. All that competition keeps prices down until the high season begins, so November is still a buyer's market. There are even ruins nearby and other cultural opportunities, so it's not all about sitting on the beach here. If you prefer a high-rise hotel overlooking a beach then stay in Cancun itself, but if you prefer to stay in a friendly town with many restaurant and shopping choices then head to Playa del Carmen, just a bit to the south, instead.
Amazing post! I am taking vacation the last two weeks of November. I am planning to visit Germany for the first week. I also want to soak in some sun and enjoy the beach life during the second week of my vacation . Initially I wanted to go to Spain, but after reading your post I’m a bit discouraged because is not going to be warm enough . I love to sunbathe and outdoors activities . Just as running, hiking, tennis etc . Also I love to learn new cultures and fit in with the locals. Keep it economical .I been to must of the Caribbean and wouldn’t mind revisiting . But open to new warm destinations that would make sense. I would love to hear some of your suggestions .Thank you in Advance and safe travels.. 

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.
Portugal does have one of Europe’s best autumn climates, but as you’ve noticed November can be a bit rainy. That said, in my experience it rarely rains for long periods in that part of Europe so I think it’s very unlikely that a big part of your trip would be “rained out.” Also those cities have lots of great indoor attractions so if you see that it’s supposed to be clear in the morning and drizzly in the afternoon, you can plan to explore neighborhoods in the morning and plan to visit a museum or castle in the afternoon. It’s a bit of a crap-shoot and generally Portugal has nicer weather than most of the rest of Europe at any given time. I hope this helps. -Roger
Thank you for the kind words. I know what you mean about the image of Thailand and Bali, particularly among Australians. On one hand you could go to either of those places and easily avoid the most notorious party neighborhoods, but it’s probably easier to head somewhere else since both of those places are so crowded that time of year anyway. I do have a few suggestions, which I’ll describe briefly and then if you want more details about any that appeal to you I can do that in a follow up comment.
For those looking for an even calmer slice of paradise without all the holiday festivities, try Waimei on Kauai’s southwestern shore, which offers calm waters and sandy beaches that are especially attractive in the early winter months. Get away from all the gloomy weather of the East Coast by trying out a Waimea vacation rental—it’ll definitely make for makes the perfect base to explore all Kauai has to offer.
Gorgeous weather, an enviable winter suntan, and thriving dining and nightlife are obvious reasons for heading to Miami in December. Art Basel Miami Beach 2018, a contemporary art extravaganza and America’s premier art fair, is another incentive for a Miami trip. With celebrities, parties, and unmatched celebrations throughout the city, over 250 world-renowned galleries and 4,000 participating artists will display their creations and collections. The Betsy South Beach, centrally located in Miami Beach’s Art Deco district, will be a major Art Basel venue. Another noteworthy accommodation is The Setai Miami Beach, situated oceanside in South Beach. Featuring 87 Art Deco rooms and 49 ocean suites, the Setai will debut five new retail stores by the end of the year. There is no shortage of family-friendly fun in the Magic City, so named for its rapid growth from 1,000 residents to over 5 million in the past 120 years. Santa’s Enchanted Forest at Tropical Park is the largest holiday theme park in the world featuring carnival rides, shows, games, race cars, food, holiday displays, music, and dazzling Christmas lights. The Miami Lantern Light Festival at the Fair Expo Center celebrates Chinese culture, featuring food, acrobats, handmade souvenirs, rides, and huge handmade lanterns symbolic of illuminating the future and the reunion of family. 

Thank you. I think Kauai, Cancun, and Costa Rica could all be good choices for you. You’ll be looking at the last month (more or less) of the rainy season in each of them, but in the Tropics that usually means at most a few quick thunderstorms per week that typically last only 30 minutes or so. Kauai would be the most expensive of the three, although the most beautiful as well, and the easiest to visit since Spanish isn’t necessary at all.


There are many other Thai islands that could also be ideal and have what you are looking for. Another option is Boracay Island and I mention it because I spent an evening hanging out with some guys visiting from Saudi Arabia and they liked it a lot. The weather won’t be “cool” but it should be nice, and they do have very good nightlife in the Boat Station 1 area.
Great site and info. My husband and I travel a lot to the Caribbean and Costa Rica. We live in Atlanta. Flights are really high to either place and much of the Caribbean is out at the moment due to the hurricane damage to many islands. I hate to pay close to 3k to go to costa rica (1800 is just the flights). I have thought about trying somewhere new and we are all over the place. We want to book now and go early November. I have read a lot about Rio. My husband is nervous about the safety and cleanliness. Same with Cartagena. I think both would be great places. It sounds like you feel both are fairly safe as long as you are a smart traveler. We love the beach and heat. I thought about Iceland just for a change of pace but looks like it is cold and a little too dark in November. Looks like we missed it by a month or two. And I would have to see the Northern Lights or it’s a no go. Then thought about Lisbon/Malta/Canary Islands depending on how good of a deal we could get, but I am a little worried about the weather being a little too cool to actually get in the water. Any suggestions or ways to narrow down our search or any other places I may want to consider?? We usually travel in September to avoid crowds in most places but we are traveling late this year and looks like it’s not the greatest time to chose a place to go.
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.
The other place that comes to mind is Croatia, which also has reasonable weather in November. I’d recommend focusing on Split, which has many similarities with the more-famous Dubrovnik, but it’s easier to reach, much cheaper, and more authentic because Dubrovnik has become kind of cheesy as a cruise port. You could even take a bus to Mostar or Sarajevo in Bosnia for a couple days. The coast in that area is beautiful and there won’t be many other tourists that time of year. I hope these ideas help. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger
The largest national park south of Alaska, Death Valley is located 295 miles northeast of Los Angeles and 120 miles northwest of Las Vegas. Much of the park is below sea level, and it is surrounded by mountain peaks, often covered in snow. December’s temperatures are moderate, generally in the mid-60s during the day and 40s at night. Daily guided walks and naturalist talks are presented by the National Park Service, acquainting visitors with the natural beauty, history, geology, and wildlife of the area. Stargazers will be in awe of the Milky Way and starry nighttime skies of this “Gold Tier” Dark Sky Park, a designation by the International Dark Sky Association. The newly renovated Oasis at Death Valley (formerly Furnace Creek), hosts the elegant 4-diamond Inn at Death Valley and the family-oriented Ranch at Death Valley, offering visitors a range of lodging options and activities. At Furnace Creek Stables, guests can explore the valley floor or foothills of the Funeral Mountains on guided horseback rides. The Stables also offer carriage and hay wagon rides. Jeep rentals, tours, and a variety of hiking and walking paths provide many ways to experience Death Valley. Play golf at the world’s lowest elevation golf course or enjoy a rejuvenating spa treatment at The Inn.
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
We are looking to explore warm Central American destinations safe for kids and affordable in price. We love beaches. Not in the typical sun-bathing type of way, but rather appreciating the raw beauty of the nature. We also like to eat out and having activities for the kids and as a family would be excellent. Could you suggest a destination that fits the bill? Central America appeals to me but open to other suggestions you may find worth mentioning.
Oh no. I don’t mind rain but that would be a little disheartening. I come from a tropical place and it wasn’t until I moved to Canada that I realized that “rainy seasons” don’t really mean much. More so, I went to Punta Cana last October during the cold period and it was gorgeous every day, and what little rain fell was usually overnight or little drops that you could stay on the beach unbothered.
Interestingly, December though February do get a bit cool in Cairo, so it's not a great winter break, but in November it's still pleasantly warm and bone-dry so you can enjoy the outdoors for long periods of time. If you don't mind staying in a locally-owned hotel you can save a lot of money and see some old-world charm at the same time. Reservations in advance aren't necessary, but it's best to book your first couple of days just to avoid all the confusion once you arrive.

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.
If you are referring to days trips and that sort of thing, it will be much cheaper if you book once you get there. In Vietnam in particular it’s amazing how cheap tours can be if you book them through your hotel. I once did a 6-hour bus tour to Mỹ Sơn, which is near Hoi An, and I think I paid about US$6. It even included a boat ride and a basic lunch. That same day tour online would probably cost US$30 because the booking company takes a share and there is very little competition. 

Uruguay is an interesting place. It seems to be a less modern and less developed version of next-door Argentina. Buenos Aires is a larger and more interesting city than Montevideo. There is a town there called Colonia, which is worth a couple days if you like old and charming cities. But most people who go to Uruguay either go to one of the posh beach resort towns (mainly Punta del Este), or they go to the tourist cattle ranches, which are surprisingly popular. If you haven’t been to Argentina yet you might find that it has more and different options, such as the Mendoza wine region and the mountain resort town of Bariloche.
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!
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.
Oh, and I just noticed you asked about general safety as well. Buenos Aires is fine as long as you don’t wander into the bad neighborhoods after dark, which is pretty much true almost anywhere you go, including Europe. But Rio is sadly famous for petty crime and it’s a real issue. As long as you know what NOT to do it’s quite safe, so I’ll still recommend it as long as you read up a bit on the topic. The most common problem is when people walk down to the water on the beach after dark. As long as you know NOT to do that you should be fine, but if you did go for an evening walk near the water and out of sight of the well-lit sidewalks, the chances of getting mugged are extremely high. Again, it’s worth learning about it and it’s easy to stay safe if you do. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

My family and I are planning our first trip to Europe for the last week of December (2018) and the first week of January (2019), I know this is a long way off but I am a planner and to me that is half the fun! I know to most people that time of year in Europe is not ideal, but we LOVE cold weather, snow, rain, etc. and I am drawn to the lower prices and smaller crowds. So far I am considering Rome for 6 nights, Venice for 2 and Munich for 6 nights. I want to take day trips from Rome to see Pompeii & the Amalfi Coast and from Munich to see Rothenburg and Nuremburg. Does this seem like a good itinerary? Since I love the cold weather are there any other itineraries you think would be ideal for that time of year? Any advice you have would be very much appreciated.

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.
I’ve spent a few weeks on Boracay, but not in early November. From what I’ve read, the monsoons there are usually not too bad, and it’s mainly a matter of a couple of hours rain in the afternoon on the bad days. Throughout the Tropics it’s very rare to get rain all day on any given day, and I’ve spent many months in those areas during rainy seasons. So early November isn’t ideal, but if it’s the only time you can go I still think you’ll enjoy it. One nice thing about Boracay is that the hotels are all basically on the beach or right off the beach, so even if it does start raining you can be back in your room in like 2 or 3 minutes. Best of luck with this. -Roger
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
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.

More good news comes with the fact that there are two other great resort areas that are each about 90 minutes by shuttle from Montego Bay Airport, so you can almost as easily reach Ocho Rios or Negril, both of which have a different vibe that you might prefer. Bargain hunters will also find pretty amazing prices at the all-inclusive resorts, particularly those in Montego Bay and Ocho Rios. If you prefer a quiet beach area lined with smaller hotels, restaurants, and bars, then head to Negril.
To the life aquatic now and Micronesia’s little-known islands scattered in the Pacific Ocean, which serve as the mating grounds for giant manta rays. With wingspans that can reach up to 5m, the chance to dive alongside these dancing behemoths shouldn’t be missed. From colossal to downright cute, rare (and ridiculously adorable) pygmy hippos can be found in Sierra Leone, once you've had your fill of lounging on palm-fringed beaches.

I think the best place for what you want is Thailand. You can choose from Phuket or Ko Samui or one of many other islands, and they all have nice beaches and good nightlife at a very reasonable price. There are other places in Asia that have warm December weather, but Thailand’s tourist infrastructure is better than the others so it’s just much easier to get around and do what you want. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger
Anyone in the western half of the US or Canada will probably get a shorter and cheaper flight to Puerto Vallarta than to any of the Caribbean destinations above. The November weather in Puerto Vallarta is pretty much perfect and usually dry, and yet crowds are smaller and hotel prices are lower until Christmas itself. Mexico is, of course, one of the hot countries in November, in more ways than one.
If this were last year I might have also suggested San Juan, Puerto Rico or Cartagena, but both of those have issues at the moment. If for some reason you don’t like what you see in Costa Rica, there are also some really nice resorts in Panama, especially in the San Blas Islands area. Aside from those you’d probably have to fly longer than you prefer. I hope this helps. -Roger
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