If you are looking for first-rate destinations that are among the cheaper European cities, I’ll suggest Prague, Budapest, Krakow, and Berlin. You could visit all four of them by taking trains, or choose any one, two, or three. In December you can get quite a nice room in any of those cities, with Berlin being the most expensive by a bit. Food and attractions are also quite affordable in those cities.
The mountains of Canada include the gentle slopes of Mont Tremblant in the east to the towering ones of Whistler in the west. Note that Canadians celebrate their Thanksgiving before the United States does, which makes our neighbor to the north a particularly good place for couples who won't be visiting family during that U.S. holiday—especially if you're willing to forgo turkey and stuffing for crepes and poutine.
Based on your description, you definitely want to go to Costa Rica. The neighboring countries have many similarities, but Costa Rica is the shining star in Central America for tourism. They have endless national parks and nature sights, but also lovely beaches and adventure activities. The area in the north around the town of Tamarindo is the more luxurious part of the country, but there are many other beach towns on both coasts that could work for you. You will also probably want to spend one or more days in the Arenal volcano area, which has many other great activities. The Caribbean coast is more laid back and less family oriented, so better to focus on the Pacific. Have a great trip. -Roger
Escape the cold weather to sunbathe on the beaches in Rio de Janeiro and ring in the New Year with a fun celebration on Copacabana Beach. And while you're near Copa, visit the neighborhood and beach that inspired the song, “The Girl from Ipanema.” Don’t overlook the other beaches, including Baixo Baby for families, Praia do Arpoador for surfers and Sao Conrado Beach if you want to leap from nearby peaks and go hang gliding.
If you really want to see the city up close, visit in November or December, when the crowds have dispersed. Hotel prices are comparatively low, and gondoliers are more appreciative of customers. And once you have your fill of religious art, head for the Peggy Guggenheim museum, which displays 20th-century American and European art in a home and garden setting. Note: October through January is the time of acqua alta, when Venice may flood. Usually it's not severe, and the city puts up wooden walkways for visitors and residents to traverse the water.
Yes, it's high season and rates edge up, but that's only because everyone wants to make the scene and flee cooler climes. Whether you prefer a hotel right on the beach, one in the midst of Miami's trendy Art Deco or Wynwood art district, or a tower with horizon views and vast swimming pool, there's a place for you. And each December, Art Basel in Miami Beach brings together artists with knowledgeable collectors and gallerists.
If you’re pretty simplistic when it comes to food, you can always bring nuts with you. They last long, they taste great, and they’re packed full of fats (if you choose correctly). Macadamia nuts and Brazil nuts are among the top high-fat nuts out there, and they’re well worth the extra cost if they save you from an accidental cheat right at the end of a great vacation.
New Zealand is an excellent option in December, as it’s before the Christmas crowds and just before the summer holidays there. The best and most popular way to explore New Zealand is to rent a camper van or a car and drive from one “holiday park” to another. Auckland is a pretty generic city so it’s not worth spending more than 1 or maybe 2 days there. Just fly in, and rent a vehicle to leave the next morning, and drive south. The North Island has a lot to see, but the South Island is even more scenic and pleasant. You can take a ferry between the two with your vehicle.
The fastest high-speed trains between those cities only take 2.5 hours, although most departures are closer to 3 hours. Definitely take the train and also buy the ticket as far in advance as possible for the lowest fare. Not only is it FAR quicker than flying (and of course the coach), but it’s far more comfortable and more enjoyable. This is a link to the official Spanish rail site. The scenery isn’t all that special, but it’s still interesting. Have a fantastic trip. -Roger
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.
Still, this is a perfect time of year to find bargains, as the full-on busy season doesn't begin until mid December. You might have to stay a few blocks off the main tourist strip if you are looking for something in a backpacker price range, but fortunately there are still plenty of very cheap restaurants and bars all over the city if you scan the menus carefully.
In addition to the obvious perks of pleasant weather and fewer tourists, off-season rates at accommodations are abundant. Voted No. 1 continental U.S. island by Travel + Leisure readers for the third time in 2018, Hilton Head has much to offer visitors. One of the most popular activities, perfect with autumn temperatures, is biking on the more than 60 miles of pathways covering the island, including along 12 miles of beaches. Bird watchers will keep busy spotting egrets, sandpipers, wood storks, sea gulls, pelicans, and ospreys. Well known as a golfer’s paradise, the Hilton Head Island area boasts more than 33 courses.
The subtropical climate of Hong Kong means that summers are particularly hot and wet, and spring is warm and humid. November is the sweet spot, with clear, sunny days and mild temperatures. During your trip, you'll want to take a traditional junk boat ride on the harbour (seen here) and check out the sweeping city views from Victoria Peak, which you can reach by tram. Another can't miss? Stockton, a hidden speakeasy-style whiskey bar in Central.