19 Cheap and warm places to go over 2017 Christmas & New Years weeks

KaronBeachSpending the Christmas and New Year's holiday weeks with family and friends is the longstanding tradition in most of the Western world, but those based in the colder northern climates are looking for alternatives. After a couple decades of being bundled up, many start to wonder if there is another way to spend the holidays.

Those with the resources have been heading to Hawaii for Christmas for a long time, but there are actually dozens of countries and islands with similar tropical climates around the world, and most of them are far cheaper, at least once you get there. Below is a list of nearly every major tourist destination that combines warm weather and low prices during the weeks around Christmas and New Year's.

Updated for 2017: This year's list has been updated and expanded, with current price information for 2017 holidays as of June, 2017.

Myth: Hotels are cheaper in countries that don't observe Christmas

PhuketXmasTreeWhen I first started researching travel prices around the world, I assumed that hotels around Christmas time would be cheaper in countries that don't observe Christmas themselves. Unfortunately, it turned out not to be true at all. Here's the thing, hotels in the tropical beach areas of the world are all priced according to demand, and local customs have nothing to do with it.

A huge majority of the people who are well off enough to fly internationally are those living in countries that have a Christmas holiday, and that's no secret to hotel owners. In other words, hotels in Thailand, Indonesia, Egypt, and India all raise prices for stays during those key holiday weeks because they know those are the most popular weeks of the year for their business. The good news though, is that those countries still offer great bargains compared to, say, Hawaii, which goes off the charts during Christmas week.

When to book a sunny Christmas or New Years holiday trip: As soon as possible

There is all kinds of research showing the cheapest time to book flights and even research showing that hotel prices often drop a month or two out, but the key exception to both of those is around big holidays like Christmas. Suppliers do adjust prices as the months come and go, except for when they know they'll have no trouble filling up even at the last minute.

For flights: Buy ASAP

The research shows that flights for key holiday periods start off at normal levels and then they just keep going up as seats are sold and the date approaches. There are no last-minute deals on flights just before or after Christmas, at least to and from sunshine destinations.

For hotels: Bargains are possible at the last minute, but it's risky

PhuketGoToBeachHotels in tropical resort areas know what the typical demand is for rooms around the holidays, and most of them will charge as much as they can so they can fill every room. If they charged too little they could be sold out many months in advance, which doesn't really help them, so they tend to start with rates high enough that they only sell out a few weeks early at most.

The best and most popular beach resort hotels will usually only have a few rooms left by early December, and they will price those high enough that most people will look elsewhere. But some other hotels can be too optimistic in pricing so they have to cut rates in December just to fill up. In other words, you shouldn't really count on an appealing rate at a specific hotel where you are going, but there's a decent chance you could still get a decent rate if you are flexible enough to accept something nearby.

Package deals: Also buy early

Again, the airfare portion of a holiday trip is almost certain to get more expensive as the year goes on, so a hotel+flight package will generally just keep going up in price as well.

Particularly to places like the Caribbean, Mexico, and Thailand with huge numbers of package visitors, you'll almost certainly get the best rates in addition to the widest choices the earlier you book.

Expedia.com


Cheap and warm destinations for Christmas and New Year holidays

Obviously “cheap” is a relative term, but these are the cheapest holiday resort areas around the world that also have warm and sunny weather in late December and early January.

Hotel rates listed are current as of September, 2016. Rates listed are including all taxes.

1Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

  • December average high: 86°F/30°C
  • December average low: 64°F/18°C

On Mexico's Pacific coast, Puerto Vallarta remains as one of the country's tourism jewels. Not only has it avoided the safety problems that a few other resort areas have struggled with in recent years, but it's also regarded as the most interesting and authentic of Mexico's resort areas.

The weather during Christmas time is pretty much perfect for anyone wanting to escape the cold, and the large international airport also has good deals on flights from many North American cities as well. Hotels for well under US$100 per night per couple are easy to find, although if you want a well-located chain hotel you'll be paying at least a bit more.

  • 3-star hotels from: US$48 per night for two people
  • 4-star hotels from: US$206 per night for two people

>>>Check current Puerto Vallarta resort and package deals


2Cancún/Cozumel/Riviera Maya, Mexico

  • December average high: 84°F/29°C
  • December average low: 69°F/21°C

In case you aren't aware of all of these, Cancún is the purpose-built resort city on the Yucatán Peninsula facing the Caribbean, and the area just to its south is known as the Riviera Maya, which includes the nearby island of Cozumel. In other words, they are all basically the same travel market, with nearly 1,000 hotels in total, and all served by the huge Cancún Airport with cheap flights from all over.

The weather in late December is predictably perfect with barely a chance of a quick thunderstorm, much less anything worse. With so many hundreds of hotels competing for business, holiday room rates for well under US$100 per night are easy to find. Package deals to Cancún are very popular, and probably the best deal for those who book early. As you can see by the room rates below, there is a huge difference between 3-star and 4-star properties in this area. A 3-star can be just a normal hotel room in the city, while the 4-stars are all wonderful resorts with pools, usually on the beach.

  • 3-star hotels from: US$36 per night for two people
  • 4-star hotels from: US$278 per night for two people

>>>Check current Cancun resort and package deals





3Punta Cana/Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic

  • December average high: 83°F/28°C
  • December average low: 72°F/22°C

The Dominican Republic has a reputation for its large all-inclusive hotels at great prices, and its two most popular resort areas are Punta Cana (on the eastern tip) and Puerto Plata (on the northern shore). Each has about 200 hotels to choose from, including dozens of all-inclusive resorts designed to keep you there for your entire stay.

The weather and resort prices are similar in both places in late December, so either one would be a fine choice for someone looking for a cheap and warm place to spend a week. You'll find that flight+hotel package prices are especially appealing to the DR, and those who book early will usually get the best deals.

  • 3-star hotels from: US$40 per night for two people
  • 4-star hotels from: US$140 per night for two people

>>>Check current Puerto Plata resort and package deals


4Montego Bay/Ocho Rios/Negril, Jamaica

  • December average high: 86°F/30°C
  • December average low: 70°F/21°C

Similar to the greater Cancun area mentioned above, Jamaica has 3 busy resort towns that are all served by the same large airport so they are somewhat interchangeable. Montego Bay has the airport so it's the easiest to reach, but it has fewer affordable 4-star hotels so Ocho Rios and Negril might be better options if you are interested in that category.

All three towns have a different vibe, so it's really only the weather and most prices that are similar. Along with the Cancun area and the Dominican Republic, these Jamaican resorts are also known for all-inclusive resorts and appealing package deals. Even during the peak holiday months, it's possible to lock in an appealing deal if you book early enough.

  • 3-star hotels from: US$63 per night for two people
  • 4-star hotels from: US$335 (all inclusive) per night for two people

>>>Check current Montego Bay resort and package deals


5San Juan, Puerto Rico

  • December average high: 83°F/28°C
  • December average low: 72°F/22°C

While San Juan isn't among the cheapest places on this list for Christmas, it's still very good value and it's a great place for a longer stay during this period. The wide and sandy beaches just next to the historic center are some of the best beaches in the Caribbean, and since it's part of the US, things like shopping and sightseeing are much easier here than in most of the cheaper islands.

Especially if you are going to stay for more than a week, it pays to look into an apartment rental instead of a hotel. There is an abundance of nice apartments in the tourist area that are rented out most of the year. If you are staying for a month, you can get an amazing deal compared to a hotel.

  • 3-star hotels from: US$124 per night for two people
  • 4-star hotels from: US$206 per night for two people

>>>Check current San Juan resort and package deals


6Ambergris Caye/Caye Caulker, Belize

  • December average high: 81°F/27°C
  • December average low: 68°F/20°C

Those looking for more of a low-key holiday with no huge chain hotels in sight might prefer the islands of Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker, both just off the coast of Belize City. These are both long, thin islands where golf carts serve as taxis and there is little or no pavement in sight. The diving and snorkeling here are some of the best in the world, even if these islands are short on long sandy beaches.

Belize is (more or less) an English-speaking country, and these islands both have a bit of a Rastafarian feel in places, so it's an interesting mix of culture and convenience. Nearly all 4-star hotels here start over US$200 per night for the holiday weeks, but there are 3-star bargains nearby in addition to holiday villas for rent for those with higher budgets.

  • 3-star hotels from: US$53 per night for two people

>>>Check current San Pedro hotel and package deals


7Roatán Island, Honduras

  • December average high: 84°F/29°C
  • December average low: 75°F/24°C

Similar in most ways to the islands of Belize mentioned just above, Roatán Island is actually just to their south, so it also sits off the world's second largest barrier reef. This means there is excellent diving and snorkeling, plus more sandy beaches than you'd get in the Belize islands.

Honduras is a Spanish-speaking country, though especially with the recent influx of cruise-ship crowds here, it's very easy to get by in English only. There are only about 60 hotels on the island at this point, and holiday rates are still surprisingly reasonable considering what is on offer. Still, booking early is probably wise.

  • 3-star hotels from: US$62 per night for two people
  • 4-star hotels from: US$200 per night for two people

>>>Check current Roatan Island hotel and package deals


8Tamarindo/Guanacaste, Costa Rica

  • December average high: 90°F/32°C
  • December average low: 70°F/21°C

Costa Rica has a wide variety of resort towns along both its Caribbean and Pacific coasts, and all of them will be warm and sunny in late December. There are also national parks and volcanos (not always sunny) in the interior, but if your main goal is to relax and be a tourist, the best area is around Tamarindo in the Guanacaste province. There's even a newer international airport nearby in the main city of Liberia, so finding cheap direct flights is fairly easy.

Most of this northwestern area is new and quite luxurious, so 4-star resorts and rental properties aren't much cheaper than in Hawaii, but there are still some really good 3-star bargains. Nosara is another small town in the area that doesn't feel quite so mass-market compared to Tamarindo.

  • 3-star hotels from: US$120 per night for two people
  • 4-star hotels from: US$342 per night for two people

>>>Check current Tamarindo hotel and package deals


9Panama City, Panama

  • December average high: 90°F/32°C
  • December average low: 70°F/21°C

Panama has some very nice beach resort areas with reasonable prices during Christmas, but it also has this large and mostly modern city at its heart, which appeals to a different type of traveler. You might even consider spending some of your stay at a beach and another part of your stay in the city, as both are very good value this time of year and any other.

It helps if you know at least a bit of Spanish, but even those who don't can find plenty to do here to keep them busy. The city has a few large shopping malls in the tourist area, so it could be a good place to do some Christmas shopping or just hanging around. The restaurant scene here is notoriously good as well.

  • 3-star hotels from: US$34 per night for two people
  • 4-star hotels from: US$66 per night for two people

>>>Check current Panama City hotel and package deals


10Cartagena, Colombia

  • December average high: 86°F/30°C
  • December average low: 76°F/24°C

The entire country of Colombia has been rediscovered by the tourism world in recent years, but the historic beach city of Cartagena has been popular for much longer. Along the country's Caribbean coast (about the same latitude as northern Costa Rica, by the way), Cartagena is an interesting mix of beach hotels and a gorgeous walled colonial city with plenty to see.

Not only is Cartagena popular with international tourists in the winter months, but domestic Colombian tourists taking their holidays as well. So you won't be avoiding the crowds here, but at least it's one of the more affordable sunshine destinations in the region. The 4-star hotels along the beach just west of the historic center are some of the best Christmas season bargains going. Speaking at least a bit of Spanish is helpful.

  • 3-star hotels from: US$35 per night for two people
  • 4-star hotels from: US$111 per night for two people

>>>Check current Cartagena hotel and package deals


11Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain

  • December average high: 71°F/22°C
  • December average low: 61°F/16°C

Tenerife is the most English-language-friendly of Spain's Canary Islands, which are just west of Morocco (and about the same latitude as central Florida). As you can see above, it's not nearly as hot as most others on this list during December, but it's still damn nice so it's very popular among Europeans looking for something warmer.

Partly because it's not really a great beach season, hotels in Tenerife are still quite cheap during the Christmas holiday period. Most everything else is quite affordable as well, at least compared to where you live now. Especially if you are looking for a place with reasonable airfares from elsewhere in Europe, this could be a good choice. The area around Los Cristianos and Playa de la Americas is the easiest for English speakers, and it has the most consistent warm weather as well.

  • 3-star hotels from: US$40 per night for two people
  • 4-star hotels from: US$71 per night for two people

>>>Check current Tenerife hotel and package deals


12Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt

  • December average high: 74°F/23°C
  • December average low: 59°F/15°C

At the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt, Sharm el-Sheikh is more or less the Cancun of the region, although not quite as warm in December. This is a purpose-built resort area that has been popular with Europeans and others for some time now. While it's remote and has generally been safe from the turmoil nearby, most of its fans are choosing to go elsewhere at the moment.

We all hope that one day soon, travelers can head to Egypt without checking all the security warnings every few days. Until then, this one isn't for everybody, although those who do visit are greeted with some amazing hotel rates, including for the popular Christmas holiday period.

  • 3-star hotels from: US$17 per night for two people
  • 4-star hotels from: US$24 per night for two people

>>>Check current Sharm el-Sheikh hotel and package deals


13Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  • December average high: 79°F/26°C
  • December average low: 61°F/16°C

One of the most unusual destinations anywhere, Dubai is a huge and booming city with a few nice beaches and an extremely busy airport. The period in late December is one of the nicer times of the year, so it can get pretty crowded during the holidays. The main activity here is shopping at enormous malls filled with all ranges of goods at reasonable prices.

It's worth noting, however, that the nicer and better located hotels in Dubai will cost at least two or three times the minimums mentioned below. Those on lower budgets can get by pretty well here, but that's not to be confused with the luxury market and beach hotels that rival top room rates anywhere on earth.

  • 3-star hotels from: US$54 per night for two people
  • 4-star hotels from: US$72 per night for two people

>>>Check current Dubai hotel and package deals


14Goa, India

  • December average high: 91°F/33°C
  • December average low: 69°F/21°C

Goa has been a famous hippie hangout for Europeans and some others for decades now, but it's also popular with families this time of the year, including many from elsewhere in India. Goa is actually a small state in southern India with more than a dozen different low-key beach towns, each catering to its own groups of fans.

In other words, it pays to do some research before choosing a beach hotel here because most of them won't be suited to you. Room rates are quite reasonable even during this busiest time of year, although it's important to note that the cheapest hotels in Goa (and all over India) tend to be disappointing and rarely worth the savings. Still, the 4-star hotels in Goa are mostly quite good, and excellent value at Christmas time.

  • 3-star hotels from: US$37 per night for two people
  • 4-star hotels from: US$81 per night for two people

>>>Check current hotel and package deals for Goa


15Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia

  • December average high: 88°F/31°C
  • December average low: 74°F/23°C

Perhaps not as well known as most of the others on this list, Penang Island and its main city of Georgetown are certainly worth a look for some people. The area is quite popular with Asian visitors and adventurous Westerners as an alternative to Phuket and other Thai islands.

The cheaper hotels in the area are those in the historic center of Georgetown, while the beachfront resorts are going to cost quite a bit more. Avoid the cheapest hotels here and pay close attention because most of the cheapest rooms have no windows at all. Still, there is great value here, particularly in the food scene. Penang is known as the culinary capital of Malaysia, with an abundance of cheap and cheerful food courts in addition to some notable fine dining.

  • 3-star hotels from: US$17 per night for two people
  • 4-star hotels from: US$41 per night for two people

>>>Check current hotel and package deals in Penang


16Phuket, Thailand

  • December average high: 88°F/31°C
  • December average low: 75°F/24°C

Phuket is Asia's most popular beach destination, featuring well over 1,000 hotels and resorts. It's actually an island with about 12 different beach areas that are quite different from one another, so this is another destination where hotel research is critical. Patong Beach is by far the biggest and most crowded of the beach areas, to the degree that many people absolutely loathe it.

Karon and Kata are nearby beach areas that are at least a little more serene, and there are several other enclaves of upmarket luxury hotels and resorts. This has been a very popular Christmas destination for northern Europeans for decades, and yet it's still quite affordable even during its peak season. Hotels on or near the beach are going to cost quite a bit more than the prices listed below, but those who don't mind walking a bit can get great value even at Christmas here.

  • 3-star hotels from: US$21 per night for two people
  • 4-star hotels from: US$45 per night for two people

>>>Check for the best Phuket resort deals


17Hoi An/Da Nang, Vietnam

  • December average high: 77°F/25°C
  • December average low: 67°F/19°C

Da Nang is a bit of a wildcard on this list because it's not really suited to mass-market visitors, at least those from the West. This beach city along Vietnam's central coast is a short drive from the ultra-charming Hoi An, and both are quite popular for different reasons, especially for cheap hotels.

Hoi An has been a favorite among visitors to Vietnam for decades, while Da Nang is more of a newcomer after it's built a string of large beachfront hotels meant for foreign guests. Vietnamese food has a large cult following around the world, and both of these towns have an abundance of great and affordable restaurants serving several varieties. This is one to think about if it feels like you've been everywhere else.

  • 3-star hotels from: US$13 per night for two people
  • 4-star hotels from: US$36 per night for two people

>>>Check current hotel and package deals in Hoi An


18Bali, Indonesia

  • December average high: 86°F/30°C
  • December average low: 76°F/26°C

Unlike the others on this list, Bali is (slightly) in the Southern Hemisphere, and December is actually one of the rainy months so Christmas visitors can expect at least a few downpours per week. But the rain usually doesn't last long so it's still very popular here on the Christmas holidays, particularly with Australians. The cheapest hotels here are of low standards and often without A/C, which you'll really need in December.

The most crowded and popular area is the famous surf beach along Kuta, Legian, and Seminyak on the west coast, but there are many lower-key beach areas in addition to Ubud a bit up in the central hills. Well-heeled visitors might also consider the tourist zone of Nusa Dua in the south, which is filled with large chain hotels that are often loaded with honeymoon couples.

  • 3-star hotels from: US$20 per night for two people
  • 4-star hotels from: US$26 per night for two people

>>>Check current Bali hotel and resort deals


19Boracay Island, Philippines

  • December average high: 82°F/28°C
  • December average low: 75°F/24°C

December marks the tail end of the rainy season in Boracay Island, but those tropical storms rarely last long so the place is very popular over the Christmas holidays anyway. This gorgeous strip of sand is lined with hotels, as well as a sand pathway along the beach, making it possible to spend days at a time in bare feet.

There are no super-cheap hotels on Boracay Island, but that's mainly because every hotel is within 100 meters or less of the sandy beach. There are many choices of international cuisine here, including many chain restaurants. The most obvious choices are the great number of affordable all-you-can-eat buffets that set up every evening right on the beach. There's also plenty of live music, as you'd expect in the Philippines.

  • 3-star hotels from: US$28 per night for two people
  • 4-star hotels from: US$72 per night for two people

>>>Boracay prices
>>>Check Boracay resort deals


There will be quite a bit of overlap with this list, but you might also be interested in:



73 Responses to “19 Cheap and warm places to go over 2017 Christmas & New Years weeks”

Blake Young says:

Please email me some suggested places in Mexico for Christmas

 
    Roger Wade says:

    Blake,

    I won’t email suggestions to you but I will list a few here. If you closer to the Pacific coast then Puerto Vallarta and Los Cabos are the two best choices by far. Puerto Vallarta is a real historic town with great hotels nearby, and Los Cabos is more of a purpose-built resort area.

    If you are closer to the Caribbean coast then the greater Cancun area is the best choice. The main hotel zone in Cancun is a strip of large hotels and time shares with a few chain restaurants and nightclubs clustered around the point. If you prefer staying in a town where you have access to many different restaurants, bars, and shops, then head for Playa del Carmen, which is about an hour south of the Cancun airport by car or shuttle. The beaches aren’t quite as nice, but it’s a much more interesting and diverse place to stay. -Roger

     
Angelina says:

Hey Roger, have you been to any of these places during xmas/new years season? I’m researching myself on where to go during that time. I’m going solo so looking for the best spot. I would say Asia so my mind is set on somewhere there. But there are so many choices. What do you recommend?

 
    Roger Wade says:

    Angelina,

    I’ve spent quite a few Christmases in Asia in the last 10 years, and many friends and family members have spent them in the Caribbean and other places closer to the Americas. As mentioned in the article, all of the places on this list get a pretty strong influx of visitors who are on a Christmas break, even if Christmas isn’t celebrated much there. I’ve done most of those stays as a single person as well, so I’ll take that into account.

    As long as you don’t care much about actual Christmas music and celebrations and all that, I can highly recommend Bali as a great place for a solo Christmas adventure. Thailand is also really good if you don’t mind being in a minority of single women, as it mostly attracts couples, families, and single men. There are single women in Thailand as well, but it’s more of a party atmosphere.

    Obviously I’m not sure what you are into, but one great thing about Bali is that it attracts great numbers of more “spiritual” visitors, partly in the wake of the Eat, Pray, Love phenomenon. The town of Ubud, where I actually spent Christmas about 4 years ago, is loaded with yoga studios and a lot of that sort of thing, in addition to plenty of affordable guesthouses and restaurants and whatnot. You might spend some of your time in Ubud, and other days on or near one of the beach areas. I can give you more info on that if you like. You’ll get some downpours in December, but they are over in 30 minutes or less most of the time.

    Along the same lines, you might enjoy India. I have Goa on the list because it’s the most popular beach area for Western tourists, but there are many other good options as well, including Kerala just to the south. You could also visit some of the cities or other tourist areas, as the weather in December will be quite nice. India is another place where solo male travelers don’t vastly outnumber solo females.

    Many of the others in Asia on the list are more geared for families or couples. Let me know if any of this sounds good at all, and I’m happy to add more details if you like. -Roger

     
Lesa says:

Most of the places on the list are unsafe. Really?

 
Debbie says:

Hi…I am wanting to go with my 3 daughters…ages 9..13 and 23..all adventurous souls…I was thinking about Bali…watched are your thoughts?

Kindest regards

Debbie

 
    Roger Wade says:

    Debbie,

    I love many things about Bali and have spent a lot of time there. But I’m no longer a fan of the main cluster of tourist towns stretching from Kuta to Legian to Seminyak. Unless you are an Australian surfer looking to get drunk most of the time, that whole area is just annoying, in spite of the nice beaches. I’d recommend Sanur as a mellower beach area, or better yet head to Lovina in the north. It’s cheaper and more beautiful than the crowded beaches in the south, but there is still plenty to do. And you’ll want to spend some time in or near Ubud, which is the arts and crafts capital of the island, in the foothills just a bit north of Kuta.

    If you have more specific questions I’ll be happy to try to answer. I used to adore almost all of Bali, but parts of it are just too crowded and overdeveloped to recommend at this point. -Roger

     
Oliver says:

Hi Roger,

Thanks for the ideas. One concern of ours is Zika. We love warm weather winter vacations, usually travel for New Years, did Mexico last year and BVI the prior year. You have listed several areas that are seemingly Zika-free, but the travel distance to those is quite immense (we are in Chicago – quite a hike, and not cheap, to the Canary Islands or SE Asia). Any good ideas for warm, Zika-free destinations that aren’t super expensive or difficult to travel to?

Thanks!
Oliver

 
    Roger Wade says:

    Oliver,

    I’m looking at the Zika map of the Americas as of now, and the only countries that are still Zika-free are Uruguay and Chile. Both of those are very nice destinations that will obviously be in their summer season at Christmas. You could visit Santiago and Valparaiso, which are close together and quite different. Or you could visit Montevideo and Colonia del Sacramento, or one of the beach resorts, or one of the cattle ranches. Avoiding any possibility of Zika really does limit choices in the warm parts of the Americas in the coming months, unfortunately. Good luck. -Roger

     
John U says:

I am interested in visiting Dominican republic but I am not sure which town. This is my wife 30th birthday surprise so I am trying to visit in January, Can you give me an idea of a great scene for a birthday celebration, good restaurants and clubs.

 
    Roger Wade says:

    John,

    The Dominican Republic is an unusual destination since the vast majority of its hotel rooms are at large, mostly all-inclusive hotels in beach areas such as Punta Cana and Puerto Plata. Both of those areas have small towns with independent restaurants and clubs and bars, but most visitors never leave their own resort. Or you could go to Santo Domingo, which is the large capital city. It has some nice areas, and good nightlife, although very few people there speak English. I hope this helps. -Roger

     
TUSHAR says:

Hi Roger,
We are 2 adults and a boy of 12. want to go on 10 days holidays starting from last week of dec till 1st week of jan . we love be beaches and shopping . Kindly suggest location each in Europe ,Africa, South America or any other suitable place. Budget is USD 500 – 600 Per day all inclusive. We live in Lagos .Nigeria .

 
    Roger Wade says:

    TUSHAR,

    The only destination in “Europe” with fairly warm weather in late December is the Canary Islands. Tenerife is the largest and most popular island.

    You’d know more about Africa than I will, but the one beach resort area in northern Africa to consider that time of year is Sharm el Sheikh on the Red Sea. It’s very affordable, but there was one incident at the airport there a couple years back and many Europeans are no longer considering going there.

    In South America the most popular and famous area is obviously Rio de Janeiro. It won’t be cheap that time of year, but it is a gorgeous city with plenty to do. Other beach resort options are Punta del Este in Uruguay and Mar del Plata in Argentina. Those are both very nice, and with less petty crime, although they might be slightly challenging unless you speak at least some Spanish. I hope this helps. -Roger

     
      TUSHAR says:

      Hi Roger,

      Thanks for the suggestion as this has been really very very helpful to decide on my vacation otherwise i was in a fix what to do since don’t really want disappoint my family . After much thought i have selected 2 locations SHARM EL-SHEIKH Egypt or Cape Town or Durban in South Africa, now need your advice on the following.

      1) what was that incident happened at Sharm el sheikh and when ?and if you had visited the place yourself? which location will be the best to stay.

      2) Which location or locality or hotel i shall go for in cape town / Durban .

      3) What is your thought on KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa ? and which particular hotel or town ?

      eagerly awaiting for your advice to complete my itinerary

      Cheers

      Tushar

       
        Roger Wade says:

        Tushar,

        The incident at Sharm el Sheikh was a bit over a year ago when a chartered flight bound for Russia blew up en route, and it was suspected that a bomb was smuggled aboard by airport staff. That was evidently targeted at Russia. I’ve yet to make it there or to Durban yet either, but if the incident troubles you then Durban is a better choice. I’ve heard great things from friends that have been there. Sorry I couldn’t help more on these. -Roger

         
          TUSHAR says:

          Hi Roger,
          No problems . thanks for your response. will take it forward from here.
          must say, you have been of great help.
          thanks

           
James says:

Hi Roger, love what you’re doing on this site!

I’m a 28 year old writer from London looking to head somewhere where I can create over Christmas, but also where there is good night life.

It would help if there is good amount of English spoken so that I can interact with people and get around without getting too lost or distracted logistically.

I’m a bit of a newbie to travelling internationally so would want somewhere safe and possibly reachable by coach to save on money. I’m thinking of renting using Airbnb. Any advice would be great!

James

 
    Roger Wade says:

    Thank you. I’m actually here in London myself for the last 6 months, although I’m heading back to the US soon. Do you mean somewhere you can reach by coach from London? That obviously limits your choices. And as you probably know, almost anywhere beyond Paris will be cheaper to reach by plane than by coach.

    Since you don’t mention that you want a warm destination, I’ll assume you are thinking about a city in Europe. If you want good nightlife, safe, and a place where you can get by well only in English, my first thought is Berlin. It’s a fantastic city and you could get a rental at a very good price. Amsterdam could also work, although rentals are more expensive there.

    If you want to go lower down the budget range you could head to Prague or even Krakow. Prague has great nightlife and there are many English speakers there. If you had something else in mind, let me know and I’ll come up with different suggestions. -Roger

     
urie says:

This has been super helpful, thank you for sharing this. My boyfriend and I want to take a trip out of the country day after christmas during winter break. We don’t want anything fancy but somewhere warm would be nice. Do you have any recommendations?

 
    Roger Wade says:

    Urie,

    I’ll be happy to help but I’ll need some more information. Where are you starting from? And are you looking for a beach? Or should there also be nightlife and/or cultural sights? If you are in the United States you might consider Belize or Puerto Rico, but I can give more choices with the other answers. -Roger

     
Phyllis says:

What do you think about taken holiday at Cabarete Dominic republic

 
    Roger Wade says:

    Phyllis,

    I’ve not been to Cabarete, but some friends of mine have been. It seems to be more of a kite surfing place with older hotels compared to the new modern ones in the Punta Cana area. Sorry I can’t be of more help. -Roger

     
Kay says:

Hi Roger,

I ran across this site by chance and I’m so glad I did. After 32 years, I finally got a passport. I know! What took me so long? Anyway, now I’m indecisive on where to go. I know I want a good mix of delicious foods and possible access to a thriving social scene (not necessarily clubs, but the opportunity to mingle). I know I don’t want my first overseas trip to be in any Asian countries or Mexico – those are on my list, but aren’t top choices for a first trip. I’m open to anywhere in the world!

Any suggestions for a young-ish, solo, African American woman from Seattle?

I really enjoyed this post and I hope you can guide me a little.

Thanks!
Kay

 
    Roger Wade says:

    Kay,

    Congratulations on the passport, and I’m glad you found this site too.

    Since you’ve ruled out Asia and Mexico for now, and you’ve asked this question below an article discussing late December destinations, that does limit things a bit. Assuming this is for a December or January trip, I wouldn’t recommend Europe as the days are short and the weather is chilly enough that it’s just not a good first impression.

    I’ll throw out a few suggestions that could work with a short explanation for each, and I’ll be happy to provide more details if any of them jump out at you. You don’t provide enough details about climate or cost or cities or beaches and so forth for me to confidently narrow it to a few, but I’m happy to give it a try anyway.

    In the Caribbean you have many options but I’d recommend San Juan, Puerto Rico. It’s a bit ironic because you wouldn’t even need that passport to get there. Still, it’s fantastic with great food, a great social atmosphere (without big clubs), and friendly locals. Speaking Spanish helps, but you can easily get by in English. The beaches there are excellent as well.

    Cartagena, Colombia is another interesting possibility. The historic walled city is loaded with great (and cheap!) restaurants, bars, and cafes. There is a decent beach a short bus or taxi ride away, and there are plenty of historic sights as well. Spanish is even more dominant, but English still works (I speak only a tiny bit of Spanish and I’ve visited all these places with little stress, by the way). There are some nearby places to visit on day trips as well.

    Rio de Janeiro might have the most beautiful location of any city on earth, and it’s really fun as well. It’s very popular around Christmas, partly as it’s their summer, but the USD is strong enough there that you could still pull off a pretty good trip without spending a fortune. Petty crime is a real problem there so it’s critical that you stay in one of the better areas and also heed the warnings. All of that said, it’s worth it and plenty safe if you are careful.

    Buenos Aires is another wonderful city, which doesn’t have a gorgeous location, but it’s very well organized, really fun, and extremely safe. The food there is wonderful as well, especially for those who enjoy beef and probably less so for vegans and such. Spanish is quite dominant, and there are very few African locals or even tourists compared to the places listed above, but being from Seattle I’d imagine you are used to that. You could also do side trips to Bariloche and/or Mendoza.

    South Africa is obviously a long way away, and I’ve yet to make it there myself, but people rave about Cape Town and the other main tourist cities, and it’s quite affordable once you get there as well.

    Again, these are my best suggestions once we’ve eliminated Asia, Mexico, and Europe, and knowing we want a destination with culture and social opportunities. Let me know what you think and I’ll be happy to provide more information. -Roger

     
Chad says:

Roger,
I’ve been reading your posts and have found them very helpful. Heres my scenario
My friend (girl), and I are looking for somewhere warm and beachy to visit leaving the day after Christmas and returning after new year. We’ve both been to Playa to an upscale all inclusive (the Royal) and had a great time! Lots to do in downtown at night and great beaches during the day. Looking for something similar but in a different area. Doesn’t have to be all inclusive by anty means . We are flying out of New Orleans, La. where would you suggest? We are both early 40’s .
Thank you!

 
    Roger Wade says:

    Chad,

    If you are looking for something similar to Playa del Carmen, but different with its own charms, I highly recommend San Juan, Puerto Rico. The beaches in the city are even nicer than those in the Cancun area, and the nightlife is fantastic, especially for people out of their 20s. The Old San Juan area is gorgeous and really fun, while the beach areas such as Condado just east of there are loaded with really good hotels and restaurants. There are pretty much no all-inclusives in Puerto Rico, but food and drinks there are in all price ranges. In other words, if you want a local meal for US$4 and a cold beer for US$1.50, they are easy to find, even in the touristy areas.

    You might also consider an Airbnb or other apartment rental. There are many thousands of Americans who own apartments there are rent them out most of the year, so you can usually get a better place for the same or less than a hotel. There is a rain forest near there and many other things to do as well. I honestly think it’s exactly what you are looking for. If you’ve been there already or it doesn’t sound right, let me know and I’ll try again. But really I can’t think of any other place in that whole region that has everything you are looking for like San Juan does. -Roger

     
Swathi says:

Hi Roger

I have come across this site and I must really appreciate you taking so much time to address people’s queries
I and my husband are interested in going to Phuket for new year after going through your suggestions
We are from India and a newly married couple planning to stay for 3-4 days
Can you suggest some good places within Thailand that we should not miss going to or any specific activities

Thanks in advance

 
    Roger Wade says:

    Swathi,

    I’ll be happy to try to help, although I’m not sure it will be a great answer. Phuket in particular is dominated by visitors who are simply looking for a warm-weather beach area to relax in. Patong Beach is the largest beach town by far, and it has a fancy shopping mall plus hundreds of other little shops and restaurants and bars. Nightlife is also a big attraction there, including “adult oriented” nightlife, if you know what I mean. Couples are usually happier in any of the other beach areas, such as Karon or Kata Beaches just a bit to the south of Patong. They are close enough that you can easily get to Patong during the day for shopping, but they are still quiet and family oriented in the evenings.

    Many people spend time on the beach or in spas. There are a few golf courses as well. But there are very few cultural offerings to speak of. The largest city on the island is Phuket Town, and there is nothing much to see there either. In other words, Phuket is fairly generic when it comes to things to see and do. It’s a wonderful place to relax and sit on a beach or do some shopping, but not much else.

    If you are more interested in temples or boat trips or cultural sights, you might be happier on the smaller islands of Ko Samui or Ko Phi Phi or Ko Phang An. Or if you want to see the temples and cultural sights you’ll want to go to Bangkok and/or Ayutthaya, which is near Bangkok.

    Hopefully this answer helps a bit. If you have more questions please ask and I’ll try to help more. -Roger

     
Tom says:

Hi Roger, thank you for sharing your insights.

Ok so as a single male in his 40s I’m looking for a sunny week’s vacation end of Dec – early January somewhere new – looking at your list I’ve been to cancun/cozumel, Puerto Vallarta, and I want to stay close to the Americas (vs far east, Australia etc).

I love beaches, surfing, scuba, tennis, exploring natural sites, I’m a foodie, love mixing with the local culture, cigars, wine and maybe even some poker/casino action. Wouldn’t mind being in an environment where it’s easy to mingle with nice ladies ie away from families with 10 kids.

Any recommendations that fit the bill? Hotels? Cruises?

Thank you again,
Tom

 
    Roger Wade says:

    Tom,

    I did a crazy amount of solo-male travel in my 40s (I’m now 52) so I think I know what you mean. My best recommendation for what you want is San Juan, Puerto Rico. Unlike almost anywhere else in the Caribbean, there are excellent beaches AND a fabulous and historic city in the same place. Seriously, Old San Juan is gorgeous and really fun, and it’s quite easy to meet people there since it’s a real city rather than a “couples resort” sort of place. I went there for the first time just last year and I was extremely impressed.

    The San Juan area has loads of tours and activities and even a rain forest nearby. You can cheaply rent a car and drive to other parts of the island if you like for some alternative scenery. I’d recommend staying in the Condado area, which is a tourist district on the beach just next to Old San Juan. Hotels there aren’t exactly cheap so you might consider an apartment rental instead. There are hundreds or thousands of apartments in that area that are only occupied by owners for short durations each year, so the rental market is very competitive. There are plenty of restaurants and bars in all price ranges, and real supermarkets and other conveniences because it’s the US. Speaking Spanish helps, but fortunately San Juan is filled with younger people who grew up in the US (mostly New York and Florida) and speak English fluently. There are also a few more “edgy” nightlife areas where it’s like a street party every night, and meeting people is extremely easy.

    If you would prefer something a bit more exotic and a bit cheaper where your Spanish skills are more important you could consider Cartagena, Colombia instead. It is similar in many ways, but it would be more challenging to meet people if you only know restaurant Spanish. If you can afford San Juan, and I think you can, I’d go there for sure. Let me know if you have any other questions.

    Oh, a cruise could also be fun but it’s much harder to meet other single people unless it’s a Singles Cruise. I got one of those single cabins on a Norwegian ship in the Caribbean last year as well. I had an excellent time, but most of the other single passengers were older ladies. So you’d have fun, though it would take a lot of luck to find some party friends, if you know what I mean. -Roger

     
Crystal Smith says:

Hello Roger, Single lady here looking for someplace warm but in the states. I don’t have my passport yet. Any last minute suggestions? Love the water and the mountains so not picky at all.
Thanks for any ideas.
*Merry Christmas*

 
    Roger Wade says:

    Crystal,

    This could be a bit tricky because there are no really great late-December destinations in the US that won’t be expensive and/or crowded. One that might not be too obvious, which I do highly recommend, is San Juan, Puerto Rico. You don’t need a passport to get there from a US airport, as it’s part of the US. My favorite neighborhood is Condado, which is just east of the lovely Old San Juan historic district.

    If you can afford to go to Hawaii then that one is hard to beat. Mingling with other people is easiest on Oahu, but there are other options as well.

    The warmest part of the continental US is obviously south Florida, namely Key West. That will be VERY expensive and crowded in late December. Miami and the Naples/Ft. Meyers areas usually have nice weather then, and the Ft. Meyers area is more affordable.

    You might also consider New Orleans. I actually spent a Christmas Eve there about 12 years ago and it was a lot of fun, and almost everything is open. You could also try St. Augustine, Florida or Savannah, Georgia, both of which have reasonably nice weather. Let me know if any of these sound interesting and I can provide more details if you need them. -Roger

     
Aj says:

Hi,
Looking for a destination to go for 4 nights from east coast after Christmas till new year. Been to San Juan. Something other than DR, Cancun. Something different. Good food necessary. Some activities.
Any suggestions? Thank you
AJ

 
    Roger Wade says:

    AJ,

    If you are looking for a new stop in the Caribbean and really good food is a priority, then look no further than the islands that are part of France or run by France. Everyone seems to agree that most of the best dining in the Caribbean can be found on these islands. So I’m specifically referring to Guadeloupe, Martinique, and St. Martin (which is the northern half of the island with the Dutch Sint Maarten in its south). And there is St. Barts, if your budget can take it. Of all of those I’d say Sint Martin offers the most. Have a great trip. -Roger

     
Tami Campos says:

Hello! We are considering traveling as a family (32 y/o wife, 40 y/o husband & 2 boys 6/9) for Christmas. We live in Oregon (USA) and don’t have too many must haves other than someplace warm and someplace with plenty to do. We are considering staying for up to 2 weeks. Any recommendations would be greatly appreciated 🙂

 
    Roger Wade says:

    Tami,

    I lived in Portland for a few years myself recently, and unfortunately there are no inexpensive winter places that are close. You could obviously go to Hawaii, but around Christmas you are looking at a minimum of US$200 per night for the most basic place. You might consider Baja California, although I believe it’s only the southern tip around Los Cabos that is considered totally safe these days.

    If you are willing to fly to the Caribbean coast of Mexico or the Caribbean you have many great options. You could go to Playa del Carmen, which is about 50 miles south of the Cancun Airport. Unlike Cancun itself, which is mostly just a series of resort hotels, Playa del Carmen is a real town with hundreds of restaurants and activities and shops and whatnot.

    Another place that I recommend highly for a longer visit like this is the San Juan, Puerto Rico area. It’s a really nice town with a gorgeous historic center. One of its nicest features is that there are thousands of apartments and condos owned by part-time residents, and you can often get those at very good rates for weekly rentals so it’s good value. There are large supermarkets with all the conveniences, so having your own kitchen can save you a lot of money compared to eating out every meal. The beaches right in the tourist center are excellent, which is rare for a Caribbean city. And there are other areas outside of San Juan that are even more affordable.

    You could do an even cheaper vacation in Asia in a place such as Phuket, and that includes the flights, but with kids that age I really wouldn’t recommend it because the flights are so long.

    There are a few other Caribbean spots that could also work, but for a family trip where you want the most attraction and activity possibilities, I really like Playa del Carmen and Puerto Rico. -Roger

     
Amanda says:

Hi Roger,

I’m in the UK and I’m looking for a nice hot holiday next December (around 22.12.17 for 7 or 10 days). There will be my husband, our 2 children (ages 3 & 4 at the time of the holiday) and myself. I would prefer all inclusive. Do you have any suggestions for a family friendly holiday at this time of Year?
Thanks

 
    Roger Wade says:

    Amanda,

    The article above is meant to give you as many ideas as possible for what you have in mind. The only missing thing is the all-inclusive part, as that tends to be rare in most of the Tropics. The places that are famous for all-inclusive resorts in the Tropics are Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, as well as Montego Bay and Ocho Rios, Jamaica, and the area around Cancun. I’d think that Cancun would have the most affordable flights from the UK, although Punta Cana might have plenty as well. Jamaica is my third favorite of those three.

    You might also consider Thailand. Phuket is the most popular and easiest to reach destination there. You don’t get many all-inclusive resorts, but that’s partly because food, drinks, and activities are all quite cheap there. Another favorite of mine is Boracay Island. It is more complicated to get there, but partly for that reason it feels like paradise when you do. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
Emmie says:

I’ve never been an adventuresome traveler, so most of my travel has been limited and stateside. After marrying my best friend later in life last year (kids grown…) we want to start doing more traveling on our limited pre-retirement budget. We want to go in May, and have eight days to play with. Neither of us has ever been to the Tropics, and we’re curious. Where would you suggest would be the best for us – as fifty-somethings who are a bit past the serious partying phase – who like a beach and a good book, good accommodations and restaurants, and a nice warm, safe location.

 
    Roger Wade says:

    Emmie,

    Part of this depends on how far you are willing to travel. For 8 days, starting in the United States, I’d suggest the Caribbean or Central America because Asia would require a full day in each direction and serious jetlag.

    One place that I often recommend is San Juan, Puerto Rico. The hotels there can be a bit expensive, but there are many short-term apartments on Airbnb and elsewhere that are quite reasonable for what you get. The historic Old San Juan is gorgeous and filled with great restaurants and a few worthwhile sights. The beaches along the city are among the best in the Caribbean, and it’s all quite safe (for the Caribbean) since it’s technically the United States. Knowing some Spanish helps, but you can easily get by in English. My favorite neighborhood is Condado, which is right next to the Colonial town so you have easy access to both. There are some party areas nearby, but it’s mostly an older crowd and some families.

    Another place that I like and recommend for you would be Playa del Carmen, which is just south of Cancun. It’s a bit cheaper than Puerto Rico and the beaches aren’t quite as nice, but it’s a really nice tourist town with plenty to do. Let me know if you have any questions. -Roger

     
      emmie says:

      Thanks. After some investigating picked an all inclusive just north of Playa del Carmen. Glad to have you confirm what a few other more seasoned travelers were telling us as well.

       
Lori says:

Hi roger, my boyfriend and I are looking to take a trip for two weeks from dec 27-Jan 12, and was wondering if you could tell me about the safety of Colombia. I have heard that it is getting better recently, and I have been to peru, equador, Bolivia, chile, and Argentina, al I would like a warmer adventure. I speak a little Spanish, but my boyfriend doesn’t speak any and has never left the United States (we are in Colorado). We both love to hike and are looking for a low budget adventure with hiking, good food, and some relaxing beach time as well. I know you mentioned Cartagena which is on my list, any other places in Colombia you recommend, or recommend staying away from? Also, is bus the best way to get from city to city in Colombia, and is it easy to navigate with minimal Spanish? We are deciding between Colombia, Belize, and Costa Rica right now, and I’m mostly wondering about safety of each (I’m guessing Costa Rica is the most safe but I would like something less overrun with tourists), and ways to get involved locally volunteering if you know about that! Sorry this is all over the place, I’m hoping you can give me a bit of advice on any or all of it! Thanks is in advance, I look forward to hearing back!

 
    Roger Wade says:

    Lori,

    At this point Colombia is as safe as any other country in South America (and MUCH safer than Venezuela) as far as the primary tourist cities. The drug wars mostly based in Medellin have been over for many years now, and now expats are starting to move there in addition to Bogota. So I wouldn’t hesitate to go to any of those cities or even other cities with more than a few hotels.

    Since there are no trains, your long-haul transport options are obvious buses, rental cars, and flights. The buses in that region tend to be slow, so you might compare prices of flights.

    You are right that Belize is the easiest for non-Spanish speakers and Costa Rica is a bit easier than Colombia, but I wouldn’t let that stop you. I speak almost no Spanish and I’ve been to all of these countries and many that are more challenging, and it’s never too difficult. Colombia now has quite a few non-Spanish tourists going to all of these places, so all important signs are also in English, and pretty much all tourist hotels and restaurants have English speakers. The only thing to be careful about is that the cheaper and smaller a hotel is in a place like Colombia, the less likely that there will be an English speaker on staff at any given moment. If you are paying at least US$50 per night and if the hotel has a website that is at least translated into English, you should be okay. If you speak some Spanish you should be okay pretty much anywhere.

    I hope this helps. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
Ursula says:

This is an interesting blog! I am looking for a sunny beach with activities (sailing, jet skiing, snorkling, things like that, or close by tours)for 3 older teens and enough variety in restaurants to make it interesting. We are sort of tired of Mexico (we live in CA) and Costa Rica seems like it might feel like a Mexico repeat? I hate windy areas. We’re hard to please because we want something that doesn’t feel overcrowded/Waikiki or too remote! Any ideas? We all have passports and would prefer an int’l destination.

 
    Roger Wade says:

    Ursula,

    Hmmmm…first off, Costa Rica is quite different from Mexico, at least as long as you avoid the northern Pacific coast in Costa Rica, which has become a bit generic (although very nice). If you went to the beaches in the center and south on the Pacific, or any of the beach areas on the Caribbean, it would be quite different. Also, Costa Rica is known for being something like one-third national parks. There is a wide variety of natural sights, not to mention the Arenal Volcano and hot springs around there. So you might think more about Costa Rica.

    It’s obviously not close to California, but I think Puerto Rico could be a winner for you. The beaches right in San Juan are fantastic, and the city is very historic and interesting. There is plenty to do on the beaches and elsewhere on the island. There is even a rain forest there that you can take a tour through. My favorite area is Condado, which is close to Old San Juan. You can rent apartments there easily at reasonable prices, even though it’s a fairly upscale area. It’s a bit like Waikiki, but definitely much less crowded and more laid back.

    Belize is another one to consider. The main tourist islands are Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker. They feel a bit like Jamaica in that English is the main language and you’ll hear some Reggae, but they are also fairly small islands and people don’t hassle you there like they do in Jamaica. The beaches aren’t great, as most of the coasts are mangroves, but it’s still very nice and there are some patches of sand here and there. The snorkeling is excellent since the second largest coral reef system in the world is just off shore.

    If you don’t mind a longer flight, you could consider Thailand, which is even cheaper once you get there. Phuket is the easiest and largest island destination there, but there are others I could mention if you are interested. I hope this helps. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
      Ursula says:

      Thank you! That was REALLY nice of you to take the time for such a personal reply. I had briefly looked into Phuket and it seemed a little overwhelming to research but I have plenty of time (not traveling until Christmas). Puerto Rico sounds good, too. Again – greatly appreciated!! I may post additional questions once the real planning begins!

       
Cheryl says:

Hi Roger, I am researching for 2017 Christmas to New Years family holiday (5 adults & 3 boys 5, 4 & 2.5 yrs) I live in Ontario Canada and my kids & grandkids live in Netherlands & Sweden. We are hoping to find a house near a beach where we can all meet and thinking of the Canary Islands. Any advice and suggestions greatly appreciated. – Cheryl

 
    Roger Wade says:

    Cheryl,

    The Canary Islands could be a great choice for what you have in mind. The December weather is mostly sunny and fairly warm, but it’s not in the Tropics so it’s not warm enough for sunbathing every day. I spent a month last year on Tenerife, which is the largest and most popular of the Canaries. The best weather and most English-speaking restaurants are in the southwest of the island around the town of Los Cristianos and north along that coast. There aren’t many houses there, but there are loads of apartment buildings on and near the beach. That area is very popular with Dutch and Swedes as well.

    If you wanted something with real sunbathing weather in December you might think about San Juan, Puerto Rico. It’s more expensive than the Canary Islands, but it’s very good value and it’s very nice. You could rent a condo or even a small house for a week or so, very near the wonderful beach in the Condado area just next to historic Old San Juan. Your flights would obviously be cheaper, which could help make up for the more expensive flights for the Europeans. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
Carla says:

Hi Roger,
Just discovered your blog, very interesting!
I am from Belgium and thinking to leave Dec 26 till Jan 6 with all of my family (7 adults and 5 kids under 12 + 1 newborn).
We were thinking about Cape Verde, what are your thoughts about this place? Or South Africa? Is it safe there you think? Also Canary Islands could be an option. As there will be a lot of kids, we need to keep them entertained as well…
Thank you so much for your help and have a great day!
Carla

 

    Carla,

    I’m glad you found this website as well. I’ve actually yet to make it to Cape Verde or South Africa, although South Africa will be in the next year or so. As for Cape Verde, I just researched it an included it on my recent article discussing the cheapest all-inclusive resort destinations in or near Europe. Since it’s actually in the Tropics, the December weather there is warmer than the Canary Islands, so you could actually spend your days on the beach. In the Canary Islands, December is just a bit cool. That doesn’t stop armies of Swedes, Danes, Norwegians, and Finns from sitting in the sun anyway, as it’s usually sunny and warm enough on the beach in some places.

    I spent a month on Tenerife last year so that’s the only Canary Island that I know well. Aside from pools and such, there didn’t seem to be many activities for kids. There were definitely some families there, but it was mostly older couples. Some of the larger hotels have Kids’ Clubs and that sort of thing, but otherwise it doesn’t seem too kid friendly.

    I’ve researched South Africa quite a bit and know many people who have gone. Everyone insists that it’s very safe, especially in Cape Town. Evidently it’s main just a few of the rougher neighborhoods in and near Johannesburg that tourists should avoid. I’ve heard that Cape Town is good for families as well, since it’s a full city on the beach and it’ll be gorgeous in December. I hope this helps. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
Mark says:

Hi Roger,
Thank you so very much for all the help you provide through your blog, which I’ve only recently discovered. I am trying to do research on a holiday trip (last week of Dec through early Jan) to decent weather places in western Europe (i.e. no snow)and I’ve narrowed it down to Spain and maybe Portugal. Do you have any additional suggestions or insights? I am aware of the Canary Islands but am hoping to be able to see more history and cultural sites.
Thanks again for all your invaluable assistance!
Mark

 

    Mark,

    I’m happy to hear that this information is useful. I get questions kind of like this from time to time, so I started a new series a few months ago, which highlights which European destinations have good weather and good reasons to go each month of the year. The first one was best Europe destinations in February, it the December list will be quite similar when I publish it in a few months. The temperature ranges will be similar, and the reasons for going will be too.

    Unfortunately, the only place in “Europe” with close to sunbathing weather in winter is the Canary Islands. Spain and Portugal are obviously warmer than most of the rest of Europe, but not warm enough to spend time on the beach. With that in mind, you might prefer to just bundle up a bit and head to the best cities such as London and Paris. Hotel prices will be lower and crowds will be smaller, so putting up with a bit of cold can be worthwhile. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
Veronica F says:

I am a single mother traveling with a 9 year old. I stumbled onto your blog and have tried to read all entries. I am looking for somewhere she and I can go out of the country to celebrate the New Year. Last year we were in the Bahamas which was really cool. But I want to go somewhere warm. We will live in a cold state in the winter. Thanks for reading this and hopefully you have some suggestions.

Thanks

 

    Veronica,

    Actually, the whole article above is full of my best suggestions for what you have in mind. I could be more specific if I knew more about what you were looking for, like a beach or city or both or nature or somewhere remote? A personal favorite of mine is San Juan, Puerto Rico, which is obviously still in the US, but it feels quite exotic to most Americans. -Roger

     
Johnny says:

Roger. We have been to Thailand, Puerto Villarta, and a few others on this list. We are gay and I am wondering if Malaysia and Goa are gay friendly destinations.

 

    Johnny,

    I wish I could do better answering this question. I’ve spent a long time in both Malaysia and Goa and my best guess would be that you’d be fine as long as you didn’t get into a lot of public affection, but that’s pretty much true of straight travelers as well. Unlike Thailand, which seems to tolerate anything, Malaysia is a more conservative (mostly) Muslim country where most Malay women wear headscarves, although the Chinese and Indian women usually do not. So if a straight couple were to be making out on, say, a train, some of the locals might think that it’s inappropriate and insensitive. And if a gay couple were to do it, it might be even a bit worse, but I don’t think it would be a big problem. I’d imagine that you can find better info on this somewhere else.

    Goa is mostly a Catholic state and it’s generally very tolerant with the alcohol and drug scenes being notorious, but again, outward displays of affection might not be welcome at certain beaches and markets and such where locals dominate. But there are other beaches such as Anjuna and Vagator where it’s pretty much all tourists, and I’d guess that you’d feel very welcome there. Best of luck and I hope you find better info somewhere on this. -Roger

     
Amber says:

Hi Roger,
This blog is great! I’m opting out of Christmas this year and an looking for a warm place to take my two kids who will be 1 and 3 years old. I’m looking for somewhere warm and safe away from the crowds, but still with things to do with toddlers, like easy nature hikes, beaches, zoos, parks, family-friendly dining, etc. I would consider an area with larger resorts that has kids clubs, but I’m afraid that would be overcrowded. I’m open to international travel, but somewhere not too difficult to get to, as I would be flying with them by myself. We live in Utah.
Thanks!

 

    Amber,

    Thank you. Yours is a bit of a tricky situation because Christmas week is the busiest week at nearly every destination that has good weather and is easy to reach from the US or Europe. One option would be Costa Rica. There are little towns up and down both coasts, and some are packed with hotels while others are mostly local residences. The area in the north on the Pacific side is where you’ll find most of the upscale developments, although there are many other options as well. Costa Rica is famously one-third national parks, so nature hikes and that sort of thing are in abundance. And it’s pretty good for families as well in that it’s a popular destination for people bringing children.

    Another option that I like a lot is the area around Cancun. If you are up for an all-inclusive resort you’ll find about a hundred of them in that area stretching south to Playa del Carmen and over to the island of Cozumel. Those resorts will be full that time of year, but the big resorts there are HUGE and built to be comfortable when they are full. Flights to Cancun are plentiful and fairly cheap as well. That whole area is one to consider, and there is plenty to do in terms of hikes and nature and such as well.

    The first thing that came to mind is actually Puerto Rico, which I’m a big fan of. The San Juan area is always fairly crowded because it’s a large city, but the beaches in San Juan are excellent and it won’t feel too crowded because there are far more apartments than there are hotels. In fact, you can get a good deal on one of those apartments compared to a similar hotel. You could even choose one of the less popular areas in Puerto Rico such as Rincon. Rental cars there are fairly cheap, and it’s all very organized (compared to most other Caribbean islands) because it’s part of the US.

    Lastly, if you can afford Hawaii, you can’t do any better than that. As you may know, all of the islands aside from Oahu are never very crowded, and the resorts and towns there are nicely spaced out. It’ll be expensive, especially that week, but you’d love it. Hopefully this helps at least a bit. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
Charmaine says:

Rodger.Just enquiring whether Bali would be a good vacation for a family of 5.This includes 3 adult children- early twenties and parents.Fun activities? Shopping? Travel time Dec 2017 for i days.Am from South Africa.Charmaine

 

    Charmaine,

    The first two times I visited Bali I did it in December. That is one of the wet months, but the storms are almost always very short (and intense) and often they happen at night. I wouldn’t hesitate to go to Bali again in December, although you do have to be aware that you might get caught in a quick rain storm, and that rain makes the already-frustrating traffic even worse.

    There is plenty to do in Bali all year round. As for shopping, depending on where you stay, you might be surrounded by dozens of chain fashion retailers (all the famous brands) or you might be near locally-owned shops selling Balinese clothing and souvenirs and such. But Bali doesn’t really have any large malls and huge stores if that is what you are after. The local stuff is quite cheap and usually well made, by the way.

    I used to adore Bali but after my one-month visit last year I feel that most of the popular areas are too crowded and overdeveloped. I mean, it’s really fun for Australian surfers and party people, but I no longer recommend the main Kuta-Legian-Seminyak area for other types of visitors. That said, the big resorts down in Nusa Dua are very nice, if a bit expensive. And there are other areas in Bali that aren’t so overdeveloped. It just depends on what you are looking for and I’m happy to help if you comment again.

    Other options to consider would be Boracay Island, which might be perfect for you, or even Phuket or one of the other Thai islands. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
Vince says:

Hi Roger. I wanted to get a head start on birthday vacation planning..December 31st. I was wondering where’s a good place to go for a group of young adults that’s also affordable. All inclusive would be nice but not necessary. US and abroad is fine too. Thanks!

 

    Vince,

    For a group of young adults who want to visit a fun place that is also affordable, my top suggestion would be Playa del Carmen, which is just south of Cancun. Unlike Cancun, which is mainly a long strip of big hotels and timeshare buildings, Playa del Carmen is an actual lively town with hundreds of bars and restaurants and everything else. Cancun is better for big nightclubs and fancy restaurants, and the beaches are a bit better as well. But Playa del Carmen is far more interesting and fun, in my opinion.

    Fortunately there are also dozens of all inclusive resorts in that general area as well. Personally, I’d rather stay at a normal hotel in or near the town center area and then just buy food and drinks wherever I wanted because things are pretty cheap there anyway. But if you wanted to stay at an all-inclusive you could do that and still go into town in the evenings or whenever you liked. Flights into Cancun are pretty cheap from most places as well, and a taxi or shuttle down to Playa del Carmen is cheap for a group. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
Erin says:

Roger,
Single mother of 1 girl (19), 3 boys (16, 15, 13). Want to treat them to a vacation over Christmas break after rough divorce. I notice you recommend Puerto Rico quite a bit. Would you recommend it for teens? How long would you recommend staying? Also, any tips on airlines, hotels etc would be greatly appreciated. We are pretty adventurous so we are willing to stay in not so touristy areas. Any other places you would recommend? I am a teacher so budget is important.

 

    Erin,

    I do recommend Puerto Rico often and I think it will fit well for you too. Compared to the other modestly priced Caribbean islands such as the Dominican Republic and Jamaica, I think Puerto Rico is much nicer for just about everything except for all-inclusive resorts. San Juan is a fun and very interesting town, and the Old San Juan district is as gorgeous as it is historic. Better still, San Juan has excellent sandy beaches right in and near the city center, which is surprisingly rare in the Caribbean, especially in a city.

    Another reason I think San Juan, Puerto Rico might be good for you is that it has a huge supply of rental apartments in the better tourist areas near the beach. Some other islands are nothing but hotels, but San Juan has some hotels and far more apartment and condo buildings. You should be able to airbnb an apartment large enough for the 4 of you for less than the price of the two hotel rooms you’d otherwise need. And of course you’ll have a kitchen so you can cook some of your own meals and save more money and hassle as well. They have full size supermarkets there with products you’ll recognize, and the USD is the currency, of course.

    I think the kids will love it because the beaches are really good and there are also various water sports available at reasonable prices. There is an interesting rain forest just about 15 miles outside of San Juan, and that makes for an interesting day trip. My favorite area is called Condado, and it’s adjacent to Old San Juan, but you can probably find something cheaper if you stay in Isla Verde, which is closer to the airport. If you book an apartment a few blocks off the beach it’ll be cheaper than one closer to the beach, of course. American Airlines has many flights going there every day, but I’d just pick the cheapest one from wherever you are starting from. Again, one of the reasons why an apartment rental would be a good budget option for you is that it will be your main expense, and if you spend time on the beach or touring around Old San Juan, those things are free. If you stay in a hotel you often have to buy expensive meals 3 times a day because there are no other good options nearby. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
Nicole A says:

Hello Robert,

I live in Texas but my BF lives in Amsterdam. We want to spend this Christmas + New Years together. What would be a good middle-ground destination. I am the main problem and don’t want to pay too much for a flight. We love nature and enjoy exploring more than partying. We love to eat so food must be relatively cheap and somewhere with water or land sports would be perfect as we like to do more than lounge on the beach.

Thanks in advance!

 

    Nicole A,

    I’m actually living in Texas myself at the moment (in Kerrville). If you want something between Texas and Amsterdam that is warm in late December, you definitely want to head to the Caribbean. Fortunately you’ll have quite a few good choices. Have a look at this article we have on the Caribbean destinations from cheapest to most expensive. A handful of those islands are still Dutch territories, and several more are so popular with the Dutch that they have nonstop KLM flights from Amsterdam.

    If you do a text search on that page for the word “Dutch” on that page you’ll find 8 of the 32 destinations are popular enough with Nederlanders that KLM has nonstop flights. Since they are closer to the US, you should both get reasonable airfares to any of them. I wouldn’t recommend the Dominican Republic for you unless you wanted to meet at an all-inclusive resort. And in Jamaica I’d only consider Negril, as the other two main places are also better more for large resorts. I’d probably shoot for St. Maarten or one of the smaller islands such as Curacao, which might be the best one for you. Even in the more expensive Caribbean islands such as St. Maarten, you can usually finder cheaper hotels a few blocks from the beach that are great value.

    Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
Maggie says:

Hey Roger,
I am graduating college and our family wants to celebrate. Problem is, my sister is in medical school so she can only travel in December but is also married and her first anniversary is Dec.17th and she won’t miss the first Christmas with in-laws. That being said, I would like to leave from South Carolina the afternoon of Christmas day and return on New Year’s Day or Jan. 2nd. I have been researching prices for quite some time now and travel does not seem to be budget friendly (5 of us). Is this too wishful of thinking?
We want somewhere warm and somewhat local- we love renting houses as opposed to hotels but are willing to do a hotel.
VERY open minded in terms of location- we have done Mexico and Bahamas multiple times but are looking into Chile, Spanish islands, Costa Rica, Cabo, etc. ANY advice would be so appreciated!

 

    Maggie,

    As mentioned in the article, the week you want to go is literally the peak (highest price) week of the year in nearly all Tropical destinations. And it’s no secret either because so many people have nearly two full weeks off that time of year. I think the keys are to lock in your airfare as early as possible, and then focus on the cheaper places in general because they are all at peak price that week.

    Chile would be a long flight for just a week, and I think the flights would be very expensive as well. The only Spanish islands that aren’t cold in late December are the Canaries, with Tenerife being the largest of those. But honestly I wouldn’t recommend it because it would also be an expensive flight (transfer through Madrid or Barcelona) and it’s kind of boring there. Also, it’s just barely warm enough to walk on the beach, and sometimes not warm enough to sit on the sand in December. You really want something in the Tropics or south of the equator.

    Costa Rica and Cabo will both be packed at peak prices. There are so many places you can go in Costa Rica that finding something that was reasonable is possible, but it probably wouldn’t be in a location that you liked much.

    At times I feel like a broken record on here, but once again I’m going to push for San Juan, Puerto Rico. It will be peak season there as well, but one nice thing is that there are hundreds or even thousands of buildings that are only occupied part time by their owners and rented out the rest of the year. Hotels in Puerto Rico can be a bit expensive, but the rental market is more reasonable. My favorite neighborhood is Condado, which is right next to the gorgeous Old San Juan historic area. The beaches in San Juan are also some of the best in the Caribbean.

    Another thing I like about it for you is that there are far more apartments and condos than hotel rooms in that area, so it’s more of a “locals” place. And there are full-size supermarkets selling everything you need at decent prices where you pay in USDs. I’d think that you could get a rental condo that fits all of your for much less than 2 hotel rooms. But again, there are no cheap places during that week. The only place that is also nice and is at least a step down from San Juan on the price scale is Cartagena, Colombia, but I don’t think they have too many rental apartments or condos there. I hope this helps and let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
Rick says:

Hi Roger,
We are a family of 6. Ages 19, 21, 24, 25,57 and 58. Currently 4 live in NY, one in Tampa and the other in Los Angeles We love the warm weather and are an active bunch.Looking to travel either the week or two before Christmas. We’ve done all the Caribbean Cruises (loved it) and looking to switch things up this time around. Our budget is around 15K. What might you suggest. Thanks

 

    Rick,

    Since you say you’ve done the Caribbean cruises, I assume you are pretty familiar with the various Caribbean islands and have dismissed them. As you might have seen already, my choice for a longer stay in a Caribbean beach area that also has great access to culture is the Condado neighborhood in San Juan, Puerto Rico. It’s a wonderful city on a great beach and the rental market there is quite good.

    And while we are discussing the obvious, you didn’t mention Hawaii. I don’t have it on the list above because you couldn’t really call Hawaii “cheap,” but it should easily fit into your budget. You could rent a large condo on Maui or Kauai that would fit everyone, and you’d have excellent December weather and close access to plenty of great activities. Especially if you went two weeks before Christmas, you could get a pretty good deal.

    Another suggestion would be Costa Rica or Belize. Costa Rica is obviously much larger and has many more options than Belize, but either could work well. Belize also has the world’s second largest coral reef right off its coast, so it’s a short boat ride from Ambergris Caye or Caye Caulker, which are the most popular tourist islands. You could get a house rental on one of those. But really you’d have many more activity options in Costa Rica. The area around Guanacaste in the north is where you’ll find most of the modern resorts and tourist-oriented house rentals, but there are areas all along the Pacific coast that could work, or even along the Caribbean coast.

    Those would be my first suggestions. I hope this helps as a starter. I’m happy to answer more questions or try again if you add information. -Roger

     
Diane says:

I live in AZ and my friend lives in NY. We would like to plan a trip together starting Jan1. Would like a warm place to visit. Thinking of a cruise or an island. Any great resorts you can share? Don’t want to go to a party type place.

 

    Diane,

    If you are up for a cruise I think you should try one. You really do get amazing value out of them and they allow you to experience several islands or destinations in a short time. They will be relatively expensive in the first week of January, but that would also be true of any sunny island you might visit instead. Personally, I’m mostly an “independent” traveler and I assumed I would be bored on a cruise, but I did one from Miami on Norwegian in 2015 and I absolutely loved it. We stopped at St. Thomas, Tortola, and Nassau, Bahamas, which is one of the classic Western Caribbean itineraries. I was actually happy to spend only 10 hours or so on each island because honestly they would be boring for a whole week.

    You could go on a Mexico cruise out of Los Angeles or a Caribbean cruise out of Miami or Fort Lauderdale. In either case one of you is going to have to take a cross-country flight. I think either option would be fantastic for you.

    If you were thinking more of an all-inclusive resort then Punta Cana, Dominican Republic is the best place and excellent value. If you were thinking more of a warm city with great food and culture and beaches then San Juan, Puerto Rico is my pick. Puerto Vallarta is also great if you prefer the Pacific coast. I hope this helps. -Roger

     

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