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The Best Trips to Book in December: What to Lock In Now

Brook Wilkinson | November 30, 2016

If hiking the Inca Trail, seeing tigers in the wild, or rafting the Grand Canyon are on your wish list for 2017, it’s time to snap into action: December is the optimal moment to book these trips, before the choicest accommodations and the most experienced guides are gone. It’s also the perfect time to snatch great airfare deals to Europe for 2017; sales are going on right now. Read on for our full list of the trips you’d be smart to book this month.

(Don’t miss the rest of our series on what trips to book in each month of the year. If you prefer to know which destinations are ideal for traveling to in any given month, see our Where to Go When series, and don’t miss our comprehensive guide to the benefits of booking early.)

A Caribbean Christmas or New Year’s

For: December

So you never made holiday travel plans, and you’ve finally decided that you just can’t bear another frigid Christmas or those inevitable political discussions that will arise at New Year’s parties. Consider a last-minute getaway to the Caribbean, where a smattering of lovely hotels are not yet sold out.

Why book in December? Quite a few properties still have availability during that “festive season” period. While prices are higher than at other times of year, many resorts are waiving minimum-night stay requirements to fill those rooms.

Wendy recommends: Lindsey Epperly, Trusted Travel Expert for the Caribbean Islands. Contact Lindsey through our site to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

Hiking the Inca Trail

For: March to December 2017

The most famous trek in South America (and deservedly so), the Inca Trail isn’t just a way to get to Machu Picchu: Along the route, you’ll pass three other major Incan ruins and walk through landscapes that range from cloud forest to alpine tundra. A luxury outfitter can hire guides and porters to carry your gear, set up camp each night, and cook your meals so that a multi-day backcountry hike doesn’t actually feel like roughing it.

Why book in December? Permits for the Inca Trail’s entire hiking season (March to December) get released in the beginning of January. If you book your trip in December, you’ll be first in the queue, ensuring that you get a permit for the exact dates you want.

Wendy recommends: Marisol Mosquera, Trusted Travel Expert for Peru and Bolivia. Contact Marisol through our site to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

Tiger Safaris in India

A resting tiger after his kill, at the Kanha National Park, India. Photo by: Sanjay Saxena

A resting tiger after his kill, at the Kanha National Park, India. Photo by: Sanjay Saxena

For: Late March to Mid-May 2017

India is home to most of the world’s population of the rare Bengal tiger, and the window with the best chance of seeing these animals in the wild is short—just a couple of weeks in spring, when the dry season minimizes foliage and brings the animals to watering holes (after mid-May, the blazing temperatures make heat stroke a real deterrent).

Why book in December? The bottleneck in India’s premiere national parks for tiger spotting—Kanha, Bandavgarh, and Pench—is accommodations. The Taj lodges have only 10 to 14 rooms each, the Pugdundee lodges just twice that, so capacity is low. While there are other lodges near the parks, none have the high caliber of naturalist guides that these properties offer.

Wendy recommends: Sanjay Saxena, Trusted Travel Expert for India. Contact Sanjay through our site to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

Tibetan Peaks and Festivals

For: Late April to early May 2017

Tibet is typically closed to visitors in February and March, during the time of the Tibetan New Year. Its reopening, which usually occurs sometime in early April, happens to coincide with a period of blue skies and clear weather—ideal for trekking to Everest’s base camp. It’s also when you’ll get to see monks celebrating the Saga Dawa Festival by putting up brightly colored prayer flags and performing acts of kindness, such as freeing thousands of fish that had been destined for the dinner plate.

Why book in December? Tibet’s high-quality hotels and guides are few, so this month will likely be your last chance to pick from the cream of the crop for a visit during the busy period in late spring.

Wendy recommends: Mei Zhang, Trusted Travel Expert for China. Contact Mei through our site to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

Rafting the Grand Canyon

The Colorado River flowing through the Grand Canyon. Photo courtesy O.A.R.S

The Colorado River flowing through the Grand Canyon. Photo courtesy O.A.R.S.

For: May to September 2017

Rafting the Grand Canyon is on many a bucket list, but most of us don’t have two weeks to spend floating the entire length from Lees Ferry to Lake Mead. So try a five-day “sampler” that includes a night at a working dude ranch, a helicopter transfer into the canyon, and three days of rafting. It’s a great option for small kids and multigenerational groups, since the stretch of the river these trips run is more moderate than sections upstream, and you don’t have to hike into or out of the canyon.

Why book in December? Most guided Grand Canyon rafting trips for 2017 are already sold out, but there is space left on some of these shorter trips; act now to nab dates that’ll work for you.

Wendy recommends: Mindy Gleason, Trusted Travel Expert for River Rafting Vacations. Contact Mindy through our site to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

An Alaska Cruise

For: May to September 2017

Alaska is one of those places that converts even the most skeptical cruise-goer: Only by boat can you see some of its most knockout landscapes and abundant wildlife. The best itineraries encompass both the Inside Passage (an archipelago of 10,000 islands in the Alaska Panhandle near British Columbia) and the Gulf of Alaska (the coastline farther north that gives you access to Alaska’s interior, including Denali National Park).

Why book in December? In December and January, cruise lines such as Princess and Holland America offer their best promotions on these Gulf of Alaska sailings. The early-booking discounts for summer departures tend to expire in February, but in December you’ll reap the benefits while still having a wide range of ships and cabins to choose from.

Wendy recommends: Tom Baker, Trusted Travel Expert for Large, Affordable Ships and River Cruises. Contact Tom through our site to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

Summer in Ireland

For: June to August 2017

Ring of Kerry, Killarney. Courtesy Jonathon Epstein

Ring of Kerry, Killarney. Courtesy Jonathon Epstein

Ireland is enticing more and more travelers—the country just concluded its busiest tourism year in history—and most Americans who go choose it for their big once-a-year summer vacation that combines history, scenery, and culture with a little R&R.

Why book in December? Given Ireland’s summertime popularity , the days of booking a summer vacation there in April—and getting your top-choice hotels and experiences—are over. In December, there will still be some availability, but by January many of the best hotels will be booked up. Also, as more rooms sell, rates climb, especially in Dublin, so your trip will cost less if you book it ASAP.

Wendy recommends: Jonathan and Preston Epstein, Trusted Travel Experts for England, Ireland, and Scotland. Contact Jonathan and Preston through our site to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

A Private Villa in Bali

ubud bali

Ubud, Bali. Photo: Yoan Carle/Flickr

For: July to September 2017

Summer is Bali’s dry season and brings the best all-around weather that the island sees. Imagine having your own private villa: a pool where you can skinny-dip, and a kitchen in which to make your own dinner with the produce you pick up at a local market. If it’s a beachfront villa or a place near the action in Ubud that you desire, however, the supply is quite limited.

Why book in December? Starting in January, many people are making their summer travel plans; by booking in December, you get a jump on your competition for the most coveted beachfront and in-town villas.

Wendy recommends: Diane Embree, Trusted Travel Expert for Bali. Contact Diane through our site to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

A Holiday Safari

Singita Grumeti reserve in the Serengeti, Tanzania.

Singita Grumeti reserve in the Serengeti, Tanzania. Photo: Nina Wennersten.

For: December 2017

The Christmas/New Year’s period is a popular time for safaris. It falls during the southern hemisphere’s summer and at a time when getting away from work is relatively easy. But the most in-demand African safari camps have only a few rooms each, so availability is always low.

Why book in December? The top camps and lodges in southern and East Africa often sell out by January for the following December. Book now if you want to spend next year’s holiday season in style at a place like Royal Malewane or one of the Singita properties.

Wendy recommends: Nina Wennersten and Dan Saperstein, Trusted Travel Experts for East Africa and South Africa Safaris. Contact Nina and Dan through our site to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.


Be a smarter traveler: Use Wendy’s WOW List to plan your next trip. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.

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