We know you’re busy figuring out your summer travel plans, but now’s the time to be firming up your winter holiday trip too. We’re not kidding: If you’re hoping to use frequent-flier miles or find a decent coach airfare for late December, it’s important to check seat availability in June, and many hotels in popular December resort destinations will be sold out by the end of the month. Haven’t even started making summer plans yet? Never fear: We’ve got that covered too.
(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.)
Paris and London Apartment Rentals For the Holidays
For: December 2019
Savvy travelers are already booking their families’ December getaways to Paris and London, two cities that sparkle even more than usual during the holidays, what with all the Christmas markets and festive lights. Go early in the month for Christmas shopping, or ring in the New Year London-style (the fireworks show over the Thames is one of the best in the world). By staying in an apartment, you can slip easily into local life, enjoy shopping for meals at neighborhood markets, and often house a family more affordably than in a hotel.
Why book in June? Plan now, while there is still a good selection of suitable apartments and space for you at the most festive events, whether it’s The Nutcracker at London’s Royal Opera House or a soufflé class with the former chef of the American Embassy in Paris.
Indonesia: See Komodo Dragons While You Still Can
For: September and October 2019
Indonesia’s Komodo National Park, which spans two major islands and several smaller ones, is home to the famous giant monitor lizards known as Komodo dragons. Tourism to Komodo has jumped dramatically over the past few years, and for ecological reasons the Indonesian government is seriously considering closing the most heavily trafficked portion of the park on Komodo Island for one year, beginning sometime in 2020. (Current plans keep Rinca Island open and its resident Komodo dragons on display, though that could change.) While negotiations are still in the works, anyone who has Komodo Island on their bucket list should visit this year. September is an ideal month weather-wise; October is also pleasant, before the rainy season begins in November.
Why book in June? If the government does announce a future closure, demand will skyrocket, so get your plans in place sooner rather than later for the coming dry season.
Kenya: A Brand-New Safari Camp
For: August, September, and December 2019 and January 2020
This August, the owners of the much-loved Mara Plains Camp will be debuting a stunning new camp, called Mara Nyika, located in a private conservancy bordering the Masai Mara National Park. It will be small and intimate, with just four rooms, all under canvas and on raised decking. Guests can enjoy walking safaris, night game drives, and off-road driving, all of which are not allowed within the park itself. Each traveler’s stay supports more than 500 Maasai families and ensures the conservation of this vital section of the Masai Mara ecosystem through the payment of conservation fees. The camp still has availability over the holidays and during the peak of the Great Migration in August and September.
Why book in June? Once word gets out, this camp is sure to be booked up far in advance; take advantage of this insider intel to get there while it’s still a secret.
Egypt’s Ideal Weather
For: December 2019
Temperatures in Egypt are perfect in December, when the summer’s crushing heat has given way to warm days and cool nights in Cairo, and Upper Egypt’s desert is a dry 85 degrees. Plus, the government is now allowing travelers to visit the tombs of Queen Nefertari and Pharaoh Seti (both of which are closed to the general public) much more affordably than they could in the past: This special insider access—which Trusted Travel Expert Jim Berkeley can obtain—currently costs approximately $300 per person, down from a whopping $6,000 a few years ago.
Why book in June? While fewer Americans have visited Egypt in recent years, it’s still a popular winter destination among Europeans, and Egyptians themselves love to spend time in Luxor and Aswan over the holidays. Book now while there is still good availability on Nile cruises and at the five-star hotels.
A Disney Park for Christmas
For: December 2019
At Disney Parks, dining reservations become available 180 days in advance. Everyone wants that holiday dinner in the castle with the princesses, or the fine-dining restaurant seating timed to watch the fireworks; some options are so popular, they fill up within a day. So if you’re planning to be in one of the parks during December, then June is the time you need to start reserving those special activities.
Why book in June? You might get lucky and snag a reservation later, but paying attention in June means that you can be first in line for Christmas dinner reservations.
Iceland: Next Summer’s Adventure
For: July and August 2020
Tourism to Iceland has skyrocketed over the past couple of years: Where else can you hike through moonscapes, dive into volcanoes, walk atop glaciers, and hop into geothermal pools? Summer is the prime time for many activities, since the temperatures are mild and the days are long.
Why book in June? In Iceland demand still far outweighs supply when it comes to accommodations, all-terrain vehicles, glacier guides, and other elements of the country’s tourism infrastructure. That’s why you have to book a trip now to be assured of reserving the best-qualified guides and the most comfortable accommodations in the locations you want to visit.
For a WOW trip, contact Mads Tange Christensen and Tina Thorman, Trusted Travel Experts for Iceland, Greenland, and Denmark and the Faroe Islands via Wendy’s trip request form. You’ll be marked as a VIP and get a trip like this.
Newfoundland: A Summer Escape
For: August and September 2019
Ever since Wendy went there one August several years ago, she’s been urging other East Coasters to flee to Newfoundland in late summer, as an antidote to the crowds, heat, and beach traffic that choke the U.S. Eastern Seaboard. You get a foreign island with dramatic sweeping landscapes, lighthouses and fishing villages galore, roads to yourself (well, you plus a few moose), a distinct local culture, and incredibly friendly people, all without having to schlep too far from home. (You can fly there via Toronto or Halifax from many U.S. hubs.) A must on any Newfoundland itinerary is the Fogo Island Inn, a fascinating five-star philanthropic experiment that Wendy says has the most soul of any hotel she’s ever seen—and, by some miracle, the Inn actually has availability in late August this year. Read why Wendy loved it here. (Transparency disclosure: Yes, the Fogo Island Inn is an advertiser. But Wendy visited and fell in love with the Inn and its people, community, and concept long before this website was conceived.)
Thailand’s Festival of Floats
For: November 2019
Many Thai people regard the northern city of Chiang Mai as something of a national Shangri-la, thanks to its distinctive festivals, 14th-century temples, arresting landscape, and invigorating cool-season climate (which sets in come November). During Loy Kratong, which literally translates to “Float a basket,” thousands of people float kratongs—lotus-shaped boats—filled with food, betel nuts, flowers, joss sticks, coins, and a lit candle down rivers and canals in the hope of fulfilling their wishes and atoning for their sins. This atmospheric scene takes place during the full moon (November 11–13 this year), and is especially popular among romantic couples.
Why book in June? Our Trusted Travel Expert can match you with a local host in Chiang Mai, who will take you to the market to buy the materials for your kratong, guide you in its preparation, and bring you to an appropriate spot to enjoy this beautiful festival. But once the TTE’s local hosts have all been reserved, you’ll miss out on this personal experience of the sacred event.
An Italian Villa for Next Summer
For: June through August 2020
Imagine spending a week or more at a villa in Italy—lingering over long meals at a farmhouse table al fresco, enjoying a passeggiata in a nearby village, getting to know the wine makers next door…. You can still find a good variety of villas for groups of two to ten travelers, and for larger groups inland (the small selection of exquisite homes that fit 12 or more along the water typically book 12 to 18 months in advance).
Why book in June? Come September, next year’s villa rates go up—and in August it’s difficult to communicate with the villas’ Italian owners, who are often on vacation. If you start your planning in June, you’ll have your pick of villas to find the one that’s just right for your group.
For a WOW trip, contact Mara Solomon, Trusted Travel Expert for Large Italian Villas (four bedrooms or more) via Wendy’s trip request form. You’ll be marked as a VIP and get a trip like this. Smaller families or groups needing smaller homes and less elaborate arrangements should Ask Wendy instead.
Namibia’s Vast Desert and Dark Sky
For: March through May 2020
Few things boggle the senses like the enormity and utter silence of the Namib Desert. Sossusvlei Desert Lodge reopens this October as the ultimate escape amongst the region’s mountains, sand dunes, canyons, and salt pans. By day, you can spot rare desert wildlife, climb the huge dunes, or visit ancient San rock paintings by quad bike or safari vehicle. Hot-air ballooning gives you an elevated perspective of this magical landscape and its famed “fairy circles,” still a mystery to scientists. By night, the incredible spectacle of the southern sky is unparalleled: This area is far from any village, making it one of the best places on earth for stargazing. An in-house astronomer guides you through the galaxy from the lodge’s private observatory, which features a 12-inch telescope. The ideal time to go is March through May, when temperatures are mild night and day, the occasional rains tease the desert wildflowers into bloom, and the animals are fat and happy.
Why book in June? Once the unveiling of this gorgeous new property becomes public, availability will be harder to find than the elusive brown hyena!
China’s Ice and Snow Festival
For: December 2019 and January 2020
Each year in the frosty northern Chinese city of Harbin, more than 10,000 workers haul ice from the frozen Songhua River to make magnificent sculptures that are more than 100 feet tall at the world’s largest Ice and Snow Festival; last year the record-breaking creations included a full-sized steam train. Apart from the festival, there’s plenty to see in Harbin: Russian and Jewish influences imbue the city’s architecture, food, and culture, from the Byzantine-style St. Sophia Cathedral to the Jewish Culture Museum (which is housed in the largest synagogue in East Asia).
Why book in June? People come from all over the world for the festival, so the high-end hotels and English-speaking guides—including the rare few who are well versed in the region’s Jewish history—book up far in advance.
Bhutan: A Festival Spectacle
For: April 2020
“Go around Gomphu Kora today, or tomorrow may be too late,” warns a local song in Bhutan. This charming temple, located in the less-touristed eastern part of the country, is where the famous Buddhist teacher Guru Rimpoche vanquished a fierce demon; it is said that circumambulating the temple helps to cleanse you of your sins and grants merit for your next life. Tribal people from all over eastern Bhutan, as well as the Dakpa tribe from India, make a pilgrimage to celebrate the yearly Gomphu Kora Festival, which is scheduled to occur April 1–3, 2020.
Why book in June? The festival takes place near the town of Trashigang—which has extremely limited hotel space. If you wait any longer to book, chances are you won’t be able to find a room nearby.
Myanmar for a Fabulous Fall Festival
For: September and October 2019
One of the most popular festivals in Myanmar is the Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival on Inle Lake. Set in a sublime location, it’s a riveting spectacle that includes the ceremonial rowing of Buddha images around the lake, boat races, martial arts, and Shan dancing. This year the festival is set for September 29 to October 16. While many travelers like to stay on the lake, the town of Nyaung Shwe is a smart alternative with a wider variety of restaurants and places to walk around in the evening.
Why book in June? If you haven’t made reservations yet, don’t wait or it may be too late to find rooms at the highest-quality hotels near the festival.
Borneo’s Prime Season for Wildlife
For: June through September 2020
Borneo’s dry season runs from the end of May through September (dry being a relative term, as this is still the rainforest). The combination of good weather, stunning beaches, and excellent animal sightings—orangutans, proboscis monkeys, and more—make July and August particularly popular for family trips.
Why book in June? All of Borneo’s jungle lodges are small, leaving travelers with limited options; the most sought-after properties tend to sell out almost a year in advance for these key months.
Ask Wendy to find the right travel specialist for your needs and to plan 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, Twitter @wendyperrin, and Instagram @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.