I’ve done most of my travel as a solo, and I’m now a couple years older than you, so I know exactly what you are asking about. If you had even 2 full weeks I’d suggest going to southeast Asia, but as you say, the travel time could be a killer for a shorter trip. Still, it’s a unique experience with a lot of positive aspects to it, so you should keep it in mind. If you are still considering it, I’d suggest flying to Bangkok for 4 days or so, and then spend the rest of your time on one of the islands such as Kho Samui or Phuket. If you want more information on that, let me know.
There’s also Mad River Valley in Vermont, another place to spot amazing hues of fall foliage within Green Mountain National Forest, which provides one of the most gorgeous November vacations. Enjoy quiet seclusion in the small towns near and around Central Vermont for a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see autumn’s last breath and the birth of winter white splendor. Plus, November also happens to be primetime for skiers in Vermont and surrounding Eastern states. Enjoy a slice of wondrous heaven this Thanksgiving holiday.
If the thought of another year crawling to a close has left you feeling a little low, November is the perfect time to give yourself a travel-fuelled lift, with an array of destinations primed for exploration during the penultimate month of the year. Trek in perfect conditions in Ethiopia and Nepal, visit Orlando’s theme parks at discount rates, sample an unusual Thanksgiving dinner in Puerto Rico or don your skeleton outfit for Día de Muertos in Mexico – trust us, the year is far from over!
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 I were you I’d fly into Bali and spend a couple days in the Kuta area to get your bearings and then head to Ubud, which is in the foothills and easily reached by shuttle bus. It’s also fairly crowded, but it’s still quite nice and there are scores of little spas and yoga places and that sort of thing. Then after a few days there, head up to the northern coastal town of Lovina, which is sort of like how Kuta was 25 years ago. It’s still only partly developed and there are still many open spaces, which is no longer true in the Kuta area. It’s cheaper than Kuta, and somewhat like Boracay in how mellow it is. You could also take a ferry from Bali to the island of Lombok, which is the next large one over. Things there are also more like Boracay and less chaotic than the Kuta area. Again, I really love Bali and still recommend it, but unless you are an Australian surfer, it’s best to stay somewhere other than the general Kuta area.
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.
This is a very good month to visit because the weather continues to be perfect here, while the largest crowds from northern Europe haven't quite started arriving yet. So finding an affordable hotel or apartment rental should be easy, and the restaurants and bars are always reasonably priced. If you want to be among other English speakers you'll want to focus on the southwest area of the island around Los Cristianos and Playa de la America.
The article was written in 2013, but then updated and expanded every year. Since so many people visiting New Zealand do it in a rented car or camper van, all of the companies have deals that include the ferry crossing and returning the car on a different island. Just shop around online and you’ll find prices that include all of that. And also look into renting a campervan if that appeals to you at all. It’s really a wonderful way to see the country, and it’s cheaper than renting a car and staying in hotels or cabins.
Hawaii, as you probably know, would be great for what you have in mind, except that there are no cheaper options there at all. After that I agree with you that there are places in Mexico that could work. One in particular that I like a lot is the area around Playa del Carmen, which is just south of Cancun. It’s a lively and tourist-friendly town, instead of a strip of big hotels like Cancun, and there is a wide range of activities and accommodations in different price ranges.
We spent a month in Costa Rica last year and although we thoroughly enjoyed the trip, we don’t tend to be “repeat customers”, so we’d like to venture somewhere new (we saw that you had mentioned this as kid-friendly a few times, so just wanted to let you know that we’ve already been there). Some available attractions and activities would be ideal, but, we’d also quite enjoy the beach towns of some sort. We love hostel type of accommodations, aren’t overly-indulgent and can get by on a fairly modest budget. We are of the mind-set that spending more time, is more valuable than spending more money.

A charming, historic city to visit any time of year, Edinburgh is especially festive during December. Walking through its cobblestone streets takes you back to medieval days when sheep, cattle, and grain were sold in what is now the center of the city. Today, the Royal Mile includes shops, cafes, and museums. Edinburgh Castle, a must for first-time visitors, dates to the 12th century, with its dramatic silhouette overlooking the city. For those seeking holiday celebrations, the Royal Botanic Garden is decorated with lights, music, and illuminated trees. European-style Christmas markets pop up at Princes Street Gardens and George Street, offering traditional crafts, gifts, food, and warming drinks, most welcome during chilly December. The annual Hogmanay celebration welcomes the New Year with fireworks, food, and festivities. Don’t miss the delicious and ubiquitous fish chowder called “Cullen skink,” and be sure to try haggis, served with “neeps and tatties” — mashed turnips and potatoes. Buttery shortbread and whisky from the country’s more than 100 distilleries are also Scottish specialties. A stay at the elegant and historic Balmoral Hotel will enhance any visit to Edinburgh, and while you’re there, you’ll notice that Scottish actor Sean Connery was a guest, as was J. K. Rowling who finished the last Harry Potter book in one of its suites.


Hmmm…there may not be a Wow Factor in Puerto Rico, especially if you are that used to Caymen. I was thinking more about a really nice place that was easy and with great weather. Costa Rica could have the Wow Factor, however. The country is something like one-third national parks and it is packed with great scenery and adventure activities. It is the zip-lining and canopy tours capital of the Americas, so there are many great options along those lines. And there is the volcano and hot springs and really nice beaches. I’m not sure what you’d consider a Wow Factor, but Costa Rica is probably the most Wow destination other than Hawaii.

There were fresh croissants, cereal, doughnuts, crackers, sandwiches, nutella, jams, fruit juices and the hot option was Spanish rice. I hadn’t eaten anything yet and was starting to feel a bit hungry. I had planned to bring bacon with me (emergency purse bacon) just in case but I didn’t want to have to cook and clean up after I had already showered. I took a couple of the cheese sandwiches and took the cheese off the bread and ate that. I also had a couple of cups of coffee which filled me a bit.
There is no better time than December to discover a still (somewhat) under-the-radar part of the Caribbean. This verdant, five square mile island has seen a lot of activity recently, from a new mega yacht club to a Soho House to the Mandarin Oriental's first property in the Caribbean. More is on the horizon for this picturesque piece of paradise, but go before everyone else discovers it.

The 17th-annual Hilton Head Island Motoring Festival and Concourse d’Elegance takes place Oct. 26-Nov. 4, attracting automobile enthusiasts and all who enjoy the southern charm, splendid fall weather, and extraordinary classic cars. The Hilton Head Island Oyster Festival (Nov. 9-10) is an oyster extravaganza with live music, crafts, a Kid Zone, and sports lounge. A stay at the Inn and Club at Harbour Town at the Sea Pines Resort will provide luxury and comfort in low country style. Or book a home rental through Vacation Company. 
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.
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:
In her dynamite cookbook “Martha Stewart’s Vegetables,” the queen of domesticity shows how acorn squash can be a canvas for a variety of flavors. Roasted with sesame seeds and cumin, the squash takes on the warmth of the Mediterranean. Tossed with bacon, maple syrup and a touch of cayenne, it echoes the comfort of the breakfast table. And paired with orange peel, sage leaves and a touch of grated Parmigiano offers the perfect balance to rich gravy and herbed stuffing.
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.
With a vibrant downtown, great restaurants, culture, and a recent multi-million renovation to the Ritz Carlton, Naples, one of the areas most luxurious hotels, December is when the town really starts to get into gear. You can spend your time on the miles of gorgeous Gulf Coast white sand beaches, take an Everglades Safari, or head to the Artis-Naples which hosts world class dance, theatre, music, and comedy. And that is to say nothing of the five-star shopping.
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Since flights to Mexico City from the US and Canada are usually quite cheap this time of year as well, this could be a perfect short cultural holiday. This city has great shopping, dining, and nightlife, and the central historic and tourist districts are far safer than most people would expect. There are ruins just out of town as well, so a bit of everything is available.
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