December is the month when stores and streets are decorated for the holiday season, reminding us that we have lots to do, whether it’s gift shopping, travel planning, or finding the right outfit for a party. Savvy travelers know that the early weeks of December provide a perfect opportunity to take a trip. With nearly everyone absorbed in getting ready for the holidays instead of traveling, airlines and hotels are offering great deals. Others might want a change of scenery or a chance to celebrate the holidays in a new faraway place.
To name at least a few, I love Bali and will spend a month there again early next year. Iceland is very high on my list, partly because it’s so different from everywhere else. I also love New Zealand, partly for the same reasons. I’ve really enjoyed much of what I’ve seen in India, and I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that Goa is the place I’d like to go back to most because it’s relatively uncrowded and low-key compared especially to the cities of India. By the way, Varanasi is the single weirdest place I’ve ever visited. I love a lot about Vietnam, although like many other people, I’m not crazy about how you always have to be on guard for people trying to scam you there. Laos is nice, although with no coast and far fewer scammers.

This diverse and rapidly growing capital city of Texas is known for its live music scene, world class museums, beautiful outdoor spaces, pleasant weather, fine dining, and nightlife. A little bit city, a little bit country, Austin has no shortage of December activities for all. The Zach Theatre presents a rocking adaptation of the Dickens classic "A Christmas Carol" from Nov. 21 through Dec. 30, guaranteed to have you dancing in your seat. In its 56th year, Ballet Austin’s annual production of "The Nutcracker" returns to the Long Center Dec. 7-23. Holiday shoppers gather at the Blue Genie Art Bazaar to purchase unique handmade gifts including paintings, photography, jewelry, clothing, and more. Zilker Park transforms into a glittery wonderland with more than 2 million lights, 40 displays, interactive experiences, food trucks, and live music on two stages. The Armadillo Christmas Bazaar, an art and music festival, runs from mid-December through Christmas Eve with live music, two full bars, and local food specialties. Over 175 national and local artists display paintings, sculptures, woodworks, and an assortment of handmade gifts. Winter Wonderland at the Circuit is great family fun with holiday lights, a skating rink, Santa’s Village, petting zoo, carnival rides, and of course, live music. In the heart of downtown, the historic Driskill Hotel celebrates with an enormous Christmas tree and seasonal music. On Sunday, Dec. 16, Austin’s best bakers will share their holiday cookie collection, with the event’s proceeds supporting the Driskill’s traditional charity, “Cookies for Caring,” benefitting the community.
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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