Those wanting to hike to Machu Picchu will also find this to be an ideal month, since getting in a group will be easy even without much advance notice. The train to Machu Picchu is expensive year round, and reservations should be easier to get the day before this time of the year. Hotels are always cheap in Cusco so you can afford to get something nicer than you are used to this month.
Santa Barbara has earned its nickname, “The American Riviera,” with its stunning coastline, lush landscapes, cafes, restaurants, and year-round Mediterranean-like weather. Sandy beaches invite sunbathers, and for those interested in more activity, there’s biking, paddle boarding, surfing, and kayaking. In the heart of Santa Barbara County wine country, the city presents more than two dozen downtown tasting rooms on its “Urban Wine Trail.” The artsy “Funk Zone,” with a variety of cleverly designed eateries and shops, is just blocks from the beach. The community is recovering from devastating fires and mudslides, and its resilience is apparent with new hotels, restaurants, and attractions. The Montecito neighborhood, particularly hard hit by the tragic events, is home to the recently renovated Montecito Inn and its new dining venues, Phillip Frankland Lee's The Monarch, and the suave Chaplin’s Martini Bar, commemorating Charlie Chaplin, one of the hotel’s original owners when it was built in 1928. The elegant oceanfront Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara offers a luxurious spa and views of Butterfly Beach. Less than two hours north of Los Angeles, Santa Barbara celebrates the holiday season with colorful lights, a Holiday Parade (Dec. 7), Harbor Boat Parade with fireworks (Dec. 16), European-style Christmas market, and the traditional "Nutcracker Suite" at the Granada Theater.
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.
As for the alcohol thing, I’m a bit of a drinker myself, so it’s hard to offer advice to an AA person. I guess one factor could be that there are many places around the world where alcohol is so cheap and the days are so warm that many people drink during the day AND at night. If I were in your shoes, I’d probably want to avoid those places. Probably the easiest places to go would be Muslim countries and India because there is little or no drinking culture there, so they have endless evening alternatives that don’t revolve around drinking.
The farther, and cheaper, option is Bangkok. A flight would cost more and you might end up having to change planes in Dubai on your way, but once you get there you can find nice hotels starting around US$25 per night, although paying more for a better place is probably worth it. The whole central area of Bangkok around what is called Siam Square is surrounded by about 15 or 20 large shopping malls, many of which focus on clothing. It’s mostly chain stores and prices are good, although it’s not like they are much different from Europe except taxes are a bit lower. You can get locally made clothes at local markets for much lower prices than the chain stores in the malls. Also, Bangkok is a really fun city with plenty to see and do. For what it’s worth, alcohol is much cheaper in Bangkok than in Dubai, and much easier to get as well. I hope this helps. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger
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.
Mauritius would be an interesting option if you wanted to mainly stay in one place, which I think is typical on a honeymoon. Sri Lanka is fascinating and really nice, though most people who visit tend to tour around seeing some beach areas and some of the hills and jungles. So I’m not sure if it’s ideal if you want to just stay in one place. Kerala has some really nice resorts that are within easy reach of the backwater boat tours and other attractions.
If you’re a bit more on the timid side, you can always use Yelp and TripAdvisor to get good insights on places people have visited. As a disclaimer, some of the ratings may not be accurate on these sites, so make sure you go through and read some of the more recent reviews that people have written. We did this for a few of the places we visited and had no issues.