Costa Rica, as you probably know, is all about nature and adventure sports, along with some decent beaches. It would be perfect if you are up for that sort of thing. If not, Santiago and Valparaiso (nearby cities in Chile) could be good for more of an urban adventure. Or Buenos Aires is even nicer and more interesting (and probably cheaper if you bring cash) if you can get a deal on a flight there.
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.
You could go somewhere that’s cute in December, or you could go somewhere that’s iconic. If you choose the latter, here’s absolutely everything you need to know about traveling to Yellowstone. In brief: There are tons of winter activities (snowmobiling, skiing, etc.), and even though most of the roads will be closed, there’s oversnow transport to get you around the park. Look for wolves at dawn and dusk, watch frost-covered bison plowing through the deep snow, and see the steam rise off Mammoth Hot Springs. If you’re a backcountry camper who knows what they’re doing, permits in wintertime are free.
Venice can get pretty cold and they also have those famous Acqua Alta floods in winter, so read up on that before you go. But Rome and Munich should be easy to visit in December. One suggestion I will make is to consider visiting Rome for 3 or 4 nights and then base yourself down on Sorrento for the remaining 2 or 3 nights. Rome is one of those cities that is crowded and chaotic even in winter, to the point that just crossing the street can be frustrating, so many people get tired of that after they’ve seen the main sights. And Sorrento, on the other hand, is a lovely small city that is close to Amalfi, Pompeii, Naples, and the Isle of Capri, so it’s an ideal base to visit all of those. Sorrento is also cheaper than Rome, and a surprising number of locals speak English there, so it’s easy and pleasant. That time of year I’m not even sure if the tourist buses are running to Amalfi, although the local ones will be.
In Rome, the Coliseum and Ancient Rome are outdoors, but the city also doesn’t get as cold as the others so most likely you’ll be fine if you bundle up a bit. In Venice, they often have those floods during December, but they come and go every 6 hours so even if you get unlucky you’ll still be able to get around half the day, and it’s a small city anyway.
Wine aficionados will enjoy sipping Argentina’s well-respected wines, Malbec, a rich red wine, and Torrontes, an aromatic white. Malbec is a perfect match for Argentina’s beef dishes, and Torrontes would make a delightful partner to Milanesa, whether veal or chicken, pounded thin, breaded, and fried. The country’s cuisine demonstrates the influence of Italy; about 3 million Italians migrated there during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Pizza, pasta, and helado, an ice cream similar to gelato, are as much a part of the cuisine as their asados, barbecued beef grilled on a parillo. Consider a stay at the historic Savoy Hotel, WorldHotels Collection in the artsy Avenue Corrientes area with its elegant neo-baroque lobby, adorned with chandeliers and frescoes.
Another destination that might not exactly have “great” weather in December, yet deserves to be on the list, Sharm el-Sheikh is famously Egypt's most popular Red Sea beach resort. Those following the news might still hesitate to book a trip here, whether that is a rational decision or not. But at the very least this is one to consider in the future, as it's an amazing bargain once you get here.
A trip to glittering New York City during the holiday season is exciting, and it’s the perfect place to finish gift shopping while enjoying the festive atmosphere. Ice skating under Rockefeller Center’s fabulous Christmas tree and watching the high-kicking Rockettes are holiday traditions for New Yorkers and visitors alike. Or come at the end of the month for an unforgettable New Year’s Eve watching the ball drop among the crowd in Times Square. If a little bit of country is more your style, you’ll love Austin in December. Whether you travel far or stay close to home, a December trip can be the perfect gift to yourself.
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.
For our early dinner (Meal 4) we found a burger joint, where I had a bacon and cheese (shredded, not the gross, carb-laden “cheese” sauce) hot dog. I grabbed some green beans with salt and pepper as my side, and sidled up to their topping bar where I smothered my dog with mayo, mustard, onions, and pickles. Dinner was great, and I wasn’t hungry again until much later in the evening (around 9 pm) when the kids and hubby stopped for ice cream. I walked down two shops to the coffee joint and got a plain iced coffee blended with ice, heavy cream, and some sugar free caramel flavor. I accompanied this treat with one packet of my almond butter and was good to go. I sat with my family while they were enjoying their sweet treat and didn’t feel deprived in the least.
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 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
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.
One of the best things about Puerto Vallarta is that, unlike most of the Caribbean destinations, this is a real historic town rather than a purpose-built resort community. That means that there are small and authentic (and cheap) restaurants catering primarily to locals, so you get a much more authentic experience if you prefer one. The hotel zone close to the airport is modern and posh, but you are a short taxi ride away from the lovely center of town.
I too am a planner, which is how I got involved in this, and so I totally understand your motivation. I think your plan sounds quite good. The weather in the places you are planning is actually fairly mild, and none of them are too far north. For some of us it’s easy to forget how far north parts of Europe are, and in those areas it’s not so much the cold but the fact that the sun rises at 10am and sets at 3pm that time of the year.
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
Increasingly popular, Lisbon is quite warm in summer, but November’s cooler temperatures and fewer crowds make it a pleasant time to visit. A city of hills and spectacular views, many terraces (miradouros) offer vistas for those who climb (or take a taxi) to the top. Alfama is the city’s historic district, defined by hilly, narrow cobblestone streets. The Fado Museum, in Alfama, honors Portugal’s soulful folk music and provides some background on the sounds heard nightly in the city’s fado houses and bars. Seafood is plentiful in Lisbon, and the traditional Portuguese dried salted cod (bacalhau) is on most menus along with octopus, shrimp, sardines, clams, and tuna.
My other two suggestions are San Juan, Puerto Rico and Cartagena, Colombia. Both cities have really wonderful colonial districts and modern resort districts nearby. San Juan is more expensive, but still reasonable, and it has far better beaches. Both have a bit of rain in November, but it tends to come and go quickly. You’ll get similar rainstorms in most of the Caribbean in November, so it’s a bit tricky. I hope this helps. If you had something else in mind let me know and I’ll try again. -Roger