I’m sure you’ll have a great time. I don’t have any good suggestions for where to celebrate Christmas, but I’m sure you’ll have no problems finding something by just walking around or checking online. The top draw in Barcelona is the architecture, and especially the 20th Century buildings by Gaudi. I recommend the hop-on, hop-off bus tour because it allows you to see almost all of the famous buildings from the street in just a few hours. Park Guell is worth a visit, but of course the main attraction is the Sagrada Familia cathedral. Check opening times and reserve a ticket in advance if you can.
Europe in general and Greece in specific are not ideal in January because it’s cold and many sights are closed. I’d go to Thailand, which has a great variety of things to see and do, and January is the best weather month. Spend at least a few days in Bangkok and then either go to one of the islands like Phuket or Kho Samui, or head up to Chiang Mai for its temples and shopping and outdoor activities. You could even head over to Siem Reap to spend a couple days seeing Angkor Wat. Let me know if you have other questions. -Roger
If your real goal is to sit on a European beach and not freeze or be alone in December, your only real choice is the Canary Islands. Tenerife is the largest of them, and the best one for English speakers. The average high in December there is 22C with 16C as a low, and in December it’s packed with Swedes and Brits and Germans who actually do sit on the beach or around pools, even though it’s a bit cool for most of us. It’s important to note though that the Canary Islands are technically part of Europe because they are a territory of Spain, but only the largest cities on each island are “European” at all. The beach resort areas are quite generic, and not very special aside from the pleasant weather and modest prices.
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.
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.
If those flights are too expensive you might think about going somewhere else in Mexico or to Costa Rica. The area around Cancun including Playa del Carmen and Tulum and Cozumel has a LOT going on. And if you’ve been there you could instead go to the Puerto Vallarta area, which is very different and also great. For activities though it’s hard to beat Costa Rica. I think they invented zip-lining and the country is about one-third national parks with all kinds of fun activities. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger
Thank you so much Roger. This is a huge help. Thailand then….Going forward. Assuming I start in Thailand then to ?? What makes sense? i was thinking Peru then? I checked airfare from Lima to Cape Town…Huge money $1600.00. If you were doing a once in a lifetime trip around the world what would you ‘must see’? As I mentioned I’ve been to India, Egypt and Jerusalem but my friend has not. I’m not adverse to revisiting but there might be more sensible options. I need to consider ‘safer’ countries as well. I’m one of those people that sold my house, quit my job and am going to travel. Mid life crisis. LOL. How do you spend 2 years abroad? Do you need special visas for being out of the country for so long. As a Canadian we are restricted to 6 months to retain our health care. Problem!
When you mention, “not too touristy”, the first thing that comes to mind is San Juan, Puerto Rico. I’m not sure if you’ve been there already or not, but one great thing about it is that the “tourist” areas close to Old San Juan are filled more with apartments than with hotels, unlike Cancun, where it’s nothing but hotels and timeshares. I can highly recommend the Condado neighborhood, which does have some large hotels but is mostly apartments for expats and seasonal visitors. There is even a free bus that goes from there to the heart of Old San Juan, which is a gorgeous colonial town filled with great restaurants, bars, and interesting attractions.

Warm weather, Caribbean beaches, and fascinating history beckon visitors to this coastal city during December. Once a 16th-century Spanish port, Old Town Cartagena, surrounded by ancient stone walls, is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Visitors strolling through its streets will see original Spanish Colonial architecture among new restaurants, restored homes, and boutique inns. From street food to upscale restaurants, Cartagena offers the best in local seafood, meat, and fresh fruits. In December, the city becomes a festival of lights, with nativity scenes, decorations, and holiday celebrations culminating with New Year’s Eve fireworks. Holiday shoppers will want to take home gifts of colorful handcrafts sold at markets throughout the city, with special Christmas markets arriving in December. Colombia supplies nearly 90 percent of the world’s emeralds, and a quality gem from a reliable source would make a memorable keepsake. Nearby Rafael Nunez International Airport makes arriving by air quite convenient, and visitors will find a range of lodging in and around Cartagena. For a luxurious vacation, the new Conrad Cartagena offers four pools, a private beach club, a golf course, seven restaurants, tennis courts, a spa, and stunning ocean views from every room.
Orlando’s theme parks are a major draw for families (and big kids, too!), but this iconic experience doesn’t necessarily come cheap. During the pre-Christmas November lull, however, hotels often offer attractive discounted rates, meaning potential savings and – more importantly for the kids – less time spent standing in line. Those looking for a more alternative American adventure should consider the island of Puerto Rico in November. While there’s a chance of rain (but a greater chance of balmy beach-lounging days), the out-of-season discounts are as appetising as the island’s take on Thanksgiving dinner: turkey stuffed with mashed plantain.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a rimmed baking pan with a sheet of parchment paper. In a medium bowl, toss the green beans, garlic and olive oil together until completely coated. Then, spread the coated green beans on the lined pan in a single layer without crowding. Season with salt and pepper, then roast in the pre-heated oven for 15 minutes. Remove from oven once during this time to turn the beans so they cook evenly. When finished roasting, remove from oven and place beans on serving tray. Before serving, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese. This makes a great recipe for Thanksgiving dinner sides.
When you mention, “not too touristy”, the first thing that comes to mind is San Juan, Puerto Rico. I’m not sure if you’ve been there already or not, but one great thing about it is that the “tourist” areas close to Old San Juan are filled more with apartments than with hotels, unlike Cancun, where it’s nothing but hotels and timeshares. I can highly recommend the Condado neighborhood, which does have some large hotels but is mostly apartments for expats and seasonal visitors. There is even a free bus that goes from there to the heart of Old San Juan, which is a gorgeous colonial town filled with great restaurants, bars, and interesting attractions.

If you didn’t want to go to Asia you could instead consider the ABC islands, which don’t get much rain and haven’t had a major storm in many decades. Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao are known for good snorkeling as well and you’d get good hotel rates that time of year. Two weeks might be a long time to spend on those islands though, so I would go to Asia if you can. Late November is a perfect time of year for a visit there, and you can even include a few days in Siem Reap to visit Ankor Wat. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger
Your December plans probably seemed fine until this very moment when you realized they didn’t yet include Reveillon on Copacabana beach -- one of the biggest and best New Year’s Eve parties anywhere in the world. December is summertime here, so you can spend your trip under illuminated palm trees on the beach, before joining two million (yes) other humans for the debauchery of Reveillon. To extend the trip, join a week-long tour that gives you a blend of rainforest, city, and beach.
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..
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.
Depending on where you are going on vacation, you may have a measure of control over what you will be eating. For Keto dieters who are staying at a hotel and will be traveling from tourist spot to tourist spot, check with your hotel and see what kind of meal options their restaurant offers or whether there’s a continental breakfast. There may be fewer Keto-friendly options to choose from, but you will likely be able to find something to enjoy. Also, when out traveling, be sure to stop at grocery stores and purchase some Keto-friendly snacks that travel well, such as cured meats or cheeses, which can help keep you from overindulging.
If I were you I’d fly to Bangkok and stay at least 2 or 3 nights in the famous Khosan Road area, which has a bad reputation with some people, but it’s really fun. It’s also cheap, and a short walk from most of the main cultural sights. After that you could fly to Ko Samui or Ko Phagnan or Ko Phi Phi, and easily find the better party spots. You could also go to Phuket, but I prefer the others for younger people. Phuket has loads of nice beaches for families and couples, but the one “party town” (Patong Beach) is a bit over the top, and mostly geared for groups of men who want to go to the “beer bars” and strip clubs and whatnot. The smaller islands will have a more mixed crowd, including many backpacking females. Hopefully this helps. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger
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.
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.
There’s really nothing like the holidays in Manhattan. December tends not to be too cold in New York -- you may actually pine a bit for snow as you mosey past Fifth Avenue shops, peering in at the elaborate holiday window displays. The rink at Rockefeller Center gets crowded, but catch it midweek and you’ll have room to skate a lap beneath the most famous Christmas tree in the world. And if you’re still picking up last-minute gifts, you really can’t beat the shopping in this town. Even usually gruff New Yorkers seem to have a brighter spirit this time of year, and carols echo through the subway stations thanks to the city’s many transit musicians. There’s no better time to go and bask in the Home Alone 2 Christmas vibes.
Unsurprisingly, the end of December is the beginning of the peak season for resort prices, so those who are able to come earlier in the month will be getting better deals. Still, the all-inclusive resorts are locked in heavy competition all year so this area can be a great deal compared to the alternatives, even in high season. If you are looking for where to go in December for an all-inclusive beach holiday, this is your best option for most people.
I think Sri Lanka would be wonderful for 2 weeks in December. The rainy season typically ends early in December, but even when it’s still going it tends to be quick downpours, as you are no doubt familiar with if you’ve been all over southeast Asia. Still at this point there are very few hostels with dorm beds and not even many cheap budget hotels, but at the age of 30 you are probably happier with normal hotels anyway. Value is quite good in Sri Lanka as long as you can spend at least US$30 or so per night, and hopefully a bit more. Food is also quite cheap in general, although there are still surprisingly few tourist-oriented restaurants in many towns so it feels a bit undiscovered. Just don’t spend much time in Colombo and preferably focus on the mountain areas, and I think you’ll love it.
Vietnam might be your best choice of the three. Most people (if they can) fly into Hanoi and fly out of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) or the other way around. Again, you can travel between them by train, although getting tickets can be a bit complicated. Hanoi is really interesting and nice (and super cheap). The best tourist city in Vietnam is Hoi An, which is between the two big cities. There’s a nice beach there and a bit farther away is Denang, which has large resorts along an excellent beach. Nha Trang is another good beach city in Vietnam, but probably not great for families. Ho Chi Minh City is bigger and more crowded than Saigon, but it’s also more modern (and hotter). You could spend two really nice weeks going north to south in Vietnam with a long stop in Hoi An.
If you are interested in a place that isn’t focused on beaches in that area then I’ll point you to some recent answers just above where I mention the charms of Chiang Mai in northern Thailand, or Luang Prabang in Laos, and/or Siem Reap in Cambodia. All of those are wonderful places with temples and other sights, and they are quite affordable once you are there as well. 

I have been reading the thread with great interest. I took my 2 daughters aged 11 and 18 to SE Asia in December and they loved it. Siem Reap – lovely vibe over new year and not too busy. Would stay longer than 3 days because the heat and humidity slows you down and you would rather want to cool down in the hotel pool in afternoons and try and squeeze in more than 1 wat in a day. Easy to get around and good food and vibe in Pub Street.
November is a perfect time to visit Bermuda, with temperatures in the mid-70s and pink sand beaches that are less crowded than in high season. There are many ways to explore the 21-square-mile island, from under the sea where you can snorkel or dive among coral reefs or shipwrecks to the Bermuda Railway Trail, an 18-mile abandoned rail bed that winds through scenic landscapes and shorelines. The Crystal Caves take you into an underground world with a subterranean lake and white limestone stalagmites. The 36-acre Botanical Gardens, established in 1898, inspired John Lennon during a two-month Bermuda stay that led to his Double Fantasy album.
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.
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.
If you're determined to travel during the holiday periods, though, book your vacation flights, hotels, and cruise far in advance. If it works with your schedule, fly on Thanksgiving Day or Christmas day; those are the least crowded days of the holiday season. And if at all possible, avoid traveling during weekends, on the days right before or after the holiday, and late in the day. It's not only crowded at airports but also northern storms can wreak havoc and create weather delays that cascade across the system.
Flights, on the other hand, can be pricey if you buy too early. My recommendation would be to book a resort soon and then put a fare-alert on the flights so you’ll get an email when the fare drops. For the Caribbean the cheapest fares are usually only 2 or 3 weeks out, and since that is a slow period you really shouldn’t have any problem (unless you are trying to go on popular Thanksgiving dates). Most likely the resort prices won’t change much as November approaches, so you could probably wait on that as well. There will definitely be empty rooms when you get there, so the resorts usually don’t start pushing up rates when they will be partly empty. Best of luck on this. -Roger
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.
Don’t let the last weeks of fall pass by without getting one last glimpse of the season’s best colors by taking a road trip along the Blue Ridge Parkway to enjoy a look at fine fall foliage in Virginia. It’s always around November time when the vibrant bloom of changing leaves begins to lose their glow, so take in a spectacle of brilliant warm autumn hues before the snow starts falling by heading out to Central or Eastern Virginia.
By early December the rainy season is pretty much over in Cartagena, and it cools down just a bit more as well, so the weather really doesn't get any better than this. As with most others on this list, right around Christmas you'll find that hotels get more expensive and are more crowded, so if you can go earlier in the month you'll be paying less and dealing with fewer crowds.
Hotel prices remain low through all of November for the most part, so you'll have a good shot at deals at 3-star and above beach resorts that are trying to fill rooms during the slow season. Even if you are paying near the high season rates the hotels and everything else are bargains here compared to almost anywhere else. Cartagena is one of the cheapest places to travel in November on a beach, and you'll get less rain as the month goes on.

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.
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.
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.
My first thought was Goa, which you say you’ve been to before, but maybe you don’t realize that there are about 20 different beach areas that are different from one another in terms of vibe and types of visitors? Personally, I found that Anjuna and Vagator were both kind of mellow but also busy enough and easy to meet other people. But if you don’t like those, there are many different beaches in the south, which I’ve heard are also great and draw different groups. It’s something to think about because it doesn’t get much cheaper than Goa for beaches anywhere in the world. -Roger

Hi Roger, I plan on being in boracay on Nov 6th and am just concerened about the weather. Is the start of Nov too close to the end of the monsoon season ? I don’t mind a bit of rain but ideally want to be able to spend a few hours on the beach with sunshine per day. Looking at pics it seems to be mostly clouded over all the time. Do you get sunny clear skies around that time ? I just can’t seem to get a clear answer online. Any advise would be much appreciated
Eating out with confidence is a key part of success when traveling. Common sense should rule – say no to bread, ask for double veggies instead of the starch with your main course, and choose olive oil and vinegar for your salad. Ask for butter to melt on your cooked vegetables and protein. Skip dessert, or choose a cheese plate or berries with heavy cream.
Thanks. I’ve been to other places in Egypt, but have yet to make it to Sharm el-Shiek. It’s hard to find places that are that inexpensive these days. Most of my best suggestions are in the article above. If your main priorities are beaches, sunshine, and nightlife, my favorites are Goa, India; Boracay Island, Philippines; and almost any of the Thai islands. Goa has many family-oriented beach towns, although some others are not so family oriented so you have to choose carefully there.
By early December the rainy season is pretty much over in Cartagena, and it cools down just a bit more as well, so the weather really doesn't get any better than this. As with most others on this list, right around Christmas you'll find that hotels get more expensive and are more crowded, so if you can go earlier in the month you'll be paying less and dealing with fewer crowds.
If you are mainly just looking to relax, you've found the perfect place, with warm weather and amazing off-season deals. The all-inclusive resorts tend to be much cheaper in the long run, although they do make it more difficult to experience the local culture and explore the whole island. If you don't care about leaving the resort and you want the best all-inclusive value in the Caribbean, head straight to Punta Cana, which is mentioned just below.

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.
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