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Where to Go in December: The Best Places to Travel

by Brook Wilkinson | February 26, 2021

The following destinations are ideal to visit in December. At the top of the list you’ll find spots that are currently welcoming U.S. travelers and therefore likely to be open next winter. We are updating this list as information develops on low-risk travel, but the pandemic is causing many and frequent changes, so click to Ask Wendy before planning anything.

Please also see our Covid-19 travel coverage, including which countries are open to U.S. travelers.

(Don’t miss the rest of our “Where to Go When” series on the best destinations for every month of the year. If you’re wondering when’s the best time to book your destination to get the best value for your dollar, see our “Where to Book Now” series.)

Joshua Tree National Park, California

Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park is ideal for hiking, and it’s convenient to Palm Springs. Photo: Visit California/Myles McGuinness

It can get cold at night in December, but the days in Joshua Tree are sunny with temperatures in the 60s (versus 110 or more in summer), making it ideal for hiking, with no crowds in sight. The park has two very distinct ecosystems: the low desert of the Colorado and the high desert of the Mojave, each with its own flora and fauna. The Mojave section also has some impressive granite monoliths and rock piles. Palm Springs is less than an hour away, so you won’t have to rough it while exploring the park—unless you want to.

Ask about a trip to Joshua Tree

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Skiing in the Rockies

A chair lift brings skiers to top of ski slopes of Deer Valley Ski Resort, near Park City and The Canyons

Many families head to the slopes over the holidays. Photo: Shutterstock

Many families head to the slopes over the holidays. With the right travel specialist in your corner, you can have your equipment delivered straight to your rental house or condo, skip the lift lines, ski with a private instructor, and even have an already-decorated Christmas tree and a fridge stocked full of holiday provisions waiting for you when you arrive. Read these reviews of past holiday trips to the slopes in Colorado, Utah, and beyond.

Ask about a ski trip in the Rockies

You’ll be marked as a VIP and get a trip like this. Learn more in our Insider’s Guide to Luxury Skiing in the Rocky Mountains.  

Oahu, Hawaii

Hawaii - Kaneohe Bay, Oahu

Oahu is beautiful, but can get crowded during the holidays; the right planner will know how to avoid them. Photo: Shutterstock

November through March is the best time to see whales off the coast of Oahu, especially on the west side of the island. Lots of families descend on Hawaii for the holidays, so you need a savvy trip planner to steer you away from the crowds: someone who can arrange private hikes with a local guide, charter your own catamaran for a snorkeling trip or sunset sail, or book you an exclusive tour of Pearl Harbor.

Ask about a trip to Oahu

You’ll be marked as a VIP and get a trip like this. Learn more in our Insider’s Guide to Oahu.  

Bermuda

The Reefs, Southampton, Bermuda

During the holidays, Bermuda’s beaches aren’t the only things the island has to offer. Photo: The Reefs, Southampton

Don’t let the warm temperatures fool you: Bermudans go all out for the holidays, with elaborate decorations on homes and businesses, the aroma of gingerbread in the air, and a Christmas Eve candlelight service at St. Peter’s Church, the oldest Anglican church in the western hemisphere. The humidity is low, the temperatures are warm enough to have dinner al fresco, the golfing is excellent, and the 2- or 4-person microcars available for rent make it easy to get around the island.

Ask about a trip to Bermuda

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The Caribbean before the Christmas rush

turquoise ocean at Cap Juluca in Anguilla

The window between Thanksgiving and Christmas is a time for off-peak rates in the Caribbean islands, such as  Anguilla, pictured. Photo: Belmond Cap Juluca

While the Caribbean is hugely popular for holiday trips, few people travel there between Thanksgiving and Christmas—specifically, from the Tuesday after Thanksgiving to the Thursday or Friday before the peak Christmas rush. During that period you can enjoy substantial savings (four nights for the price of three, seven nights for the price of five) and your chances of an upgrade are good—if you book through a Caribbean specialist with clout.

Ask about a trip to the Caribbean

You’ll be marked as a VIP and get a trip like this. Learn more in our Insider’s Guides to the Best and Worst of the Caribbean and Finding Your Perfect Caribbean Island Resort

A private yacht charter off Belize’s Caribbean coast

a yacht is anchored at Sergeant's Caye off the shore in Belize with yellow kayak on sand

Belize is known for its ultra blue ocean waters. Photo: Absolute Belize

Many sailing spots in the Caribbean become so jam-packed with boats in high season that you have to anchor by midday to find a good spot. Not true in Belize—known for its world-class snorkeling and diving and crystal-clear Caribbean waters in 100 shades of blue—where our Trusted Travel Experts can put you in your own private yacht at all-inclusive rates that come to less than $400 per person per night. Your first-rate Belizean captain will take you to toes-in-the-sand beach bars, jaw-dropping snorkeling sites, and fishing spots where you can catch your own dinner. Here’s my firsthand report from a December trip on a private yacht off the Belizean coast.

Ask about a sailing trip in Belize

You’ll be marked as a VIP and get a trip like this. Learn more in our Insider’s Guide to Belize.

Belize’s jungle and beaches

boy jumping in to ocean from a high dock in Belize

Belize offers a mix of water and land adventures. Photo: Wendy Perrin

Belize makes for an ideal land-based getaway too: Nonstop flights to Belize take off from several U.S. cities that are only about three hours away. Once you’re there you can explore world-class coral reefs, hike to spectacular waterfalls, visit Mayan ruins, learn to scuba dive (as Wendy’s son did), fish for 100-pound tarpon (which kept her husband busy), and laze beside sparkling Caribbean waters.

Ask about a trip in Belize

You’ll be marked as a VIP and get a trip like this. Learn more in our Insider’s Guide to Belize.

Mexico in early December

Museo Soumaya, Mexico City

Mexico City is full of cool architecture and museums (like the Museo Soumaya, pictured), delicious food, and historical sights. Photo: Billie Cohen

Much of Mexico is ideal in December, after the rainy season has ended; if you go early in the month, you’ll avoid the peak holiday-season rates that kick in around December 18. On the Pacific coast, the landscapes are still ultra-tropical green, and the ocean is bathtub-warm (80s), with exceptional clarity for scuba diving and snorkeling.

Ask about a trip to Mexico

You’ll be marked as a VIP and get a trip like thisLearn more in our Insider’s Guides to Mexico City, Riviera Maya, and Puerto Vallarta.

Cabo for the holidays

chaise lounges overlooking infinity pool and blue ocean in Cabo San Lucas Mexico

This luxe,10-bedroom, staffed villa in Cabo is safe and private, with sweeping ocean views from almost every room.

The party never stops in Cabo–but it certainly reaches its peak in late December, when holiday revelers fill the streets in Cabo San Lucas and artsy types head to San Jose del Cabo. (Of course, if you prefer a more serene getaway, our Trusted Travel Expert can book you into a private villa, and even stock the fridge so you never have to leave the property.) With the large selection of hotels and villa rentals in Los Cabos, you can often find reasonably priced options for the holidays as late as November, or even into December.

Ask about a trip to Los Cabos

You’ll be marked as a VIP and get a trip like this. Learn more in our Insider’s Guide to Los Cabos Villa Vacations.

Costa Rica in early December

Rio Celeste Waterfall photographed in Costa Rica

The crowds disappear from Costa Rica during the first two weeks of December. Photo: Shutterstock

Costa Rica is a perennial favorite over the holidays, with good reason. But if you can get away during the first two weeks of December, you’ll avoid the crowds, enjoy the transition from rainy to dry season when everything is still lush and green, and pay low-season rates.

Ask about a trip to Costa Rica

You’ll be marked as a VIP and get a trip like thisLearn more in our Insider’s Guide to Costa Rica Luxury Eco-Travel.

The Galapagos, Ecuador before the holidays

View of two beaches on Bartolome Island in the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador

December through March is the ideal time for snorkeling in the Galapagos. Photo: Shutterstock

The water is warmest in the Galapagos archipelago from December through March, so that’s the best time for swimming and snorkeling (even though it can be a bit rainy). While Christmas and New Year’s weeks are some of the most sought-after travel dates of the year, cruises during the first week in December are often a bargain since demand is low.

Ask about a trip to the Galapagos

You’ll be marked as a VIP and get a trip like thisLearn more in our Insider’s Guide to the Galapagos.

The Amazon and Bahia, Brazil

Beautiful Trancoso beach near Porto Seguro in state of Bahia, Brazil

Trancoso and the state of Bahia, Brazil. Photo: Shutterstock

December is the best month of the year to combine Brazil’s coastline and rainforest, as the weather is ideal in the states of Bahia—home to Trancoso, a gorgeous beach town with an internationally acclaimed party scene that starts to heat up over New Year’s—and Amazonas. Bahia is sunny and pleasant, and the Amazon is at the end of its dry season, so there are beautiful beaches along some rivers.

Ask about a trip to Brazil

You’ll be marked as a VIP and get a trip like thisLearn more in our Insider’s Guides to Five-Star Brazil and the Brazilian Amazon.

The Maldives before the holidays

overwater bungalow at Joali resort in the maldives

Brook’s water villa at JOALI Maldives had more than 1,000 square feet of interior space, plus a sizable deck with a private infinity pool and steps down to the water. Photo: Brook Wilkinson

European vacationers drive up prices from Christmas through Easter, but in early December you’ll find a sweet spot of lower hotel rates and ideal weather: Temperatures are consistently in the high 80s year-round, but during this period there is almost no rain or wind, so the water is calm for snorkeling and diving. Here’s my dispatch from a successful trip to the Maldives during Covid.

Ask about a trip to the Maldives

You’ll be marked as a VIP and get a trip like thisLearn more in our Insider’s Guide to the Maldives.

Kenya

zebras in Kenya savanna

Early December is Kenya’s shoulder season. Photo: Julian Harrison

Early December is the shoulder season in Kenya—after the Great Migration and at the tail end of the rainy season—so lodge and camp rates are a bit lower. Prices are at their peak over the holidays, but the days are more dependably dry. Read reviews of our travelers’ trips to Kenya last December and January, during the pandemic.

Ask about a trip to Kenya

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Morocco

camel trek through the Sahara Desert, Morocco.

Wendy and family took a camel trek through the Sahara Desert on their trip to Morocco.

Late December is one of the busiest times of year in Morocco. If you’re planning a trip over the holidays, we can connect you with a travel specialist who knows how to circumvent the crowds a deliver the best possible experience during peak season. Keep in mind that temperatures plunge after dark at this time of year, making it tough to get a good night’s sleep on a foray into the Sahara.

Ask about a trip to Morocco

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Nicaragua

Nicaragua mountains

Nicaragua. Photo: TPS Dave/Pixabay

From December until mid-February, the country is lush and green, there is no rain, and the breezes keep the temperatures in the high 80s during the day.

Ask about a trip to Nicaragua

You’ll be marked as a VIP and get a trip like thisLearn more in our Insider’s Guide to Nicaragua.

Germany

heart shaped cookie from famous Striezelmarkt in Dresden Germany. It says Merry Christmas in icing

A cookie from Dresden’s Striezelmarkt says “Merry Christmas.” Photo: Truffle Pig

Christmas markets sprout up all over the country this month, and from the smallest towns to the biggest cities they’re a great place to mingle with locals, learn about regional handicrafts, and sample seasonal delicacies. Depending on the venue, you can find anything from medieval reenactments to outdoor concerts. But they’re usually at their prime once darkness has set in and the fairy lights are out in full force (which means there’s also time in the day for museum visits and city touring before indulging in the market flurry). Some travelers skip dinner altogether for a smorgasbord of yuletide samplings at the wooden market huts!

Ask about a trip to Germany

You’ll be marked as a VIP and get a trip like thisLearn more in our Insider’s Guide to Bavaria.

Paris

Christmas in Paris. Photo: David C. Phillips

Christmas in Paris. Photo: David C. Phillips

Christmas/New Year’s is one of the prettiest times in the city, which is already beautifully lit even before the seasonal lights go up. Just be aware of holiday closing times, expensive set menus in restaurants on Dec 31, and the sheer difficulty of getting around the city that evening.

Ask about a trip to Paris

You’ll be marked as a VIP and get a trip like this

Moscow

Red Square at night, Moscow, Russia

Red Square at night, Moscow. Photo: Dan Weisberg Photography

People don’t think of Moscow for winter, but it’s such a wonderful time to be there. The weather is no worse than what you’d find in New York City, and the huge advantage is the people—or, really, the lack of people! No masses of tourist buses descending on the Kremlin, no huge lines for museums (of course, our Trusted Travel Expert will help you skip all museum lines anyway), and no crazy crowds in Red Square. Something magical happens in Moscow in the off-season: It actually becomes more approachable and less intimidating. (Plus, December falls in the heart of the theater season, so for culture vultures this is the best time to visit.)

Ask about a trip to Moscow

You’ll be marked as a VIP and get a trip like thisLearn more in our Insider’s Guide to Moscow.

Thessaloniki, Greece

white tower of Thessaloniki, Greece

Thessaloniki, Greece. Photo: Pixabay/EmiliaMaghiar

Thessaloniki is Greece’s second-largest city, and a fascinating palimpsest of Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman, and Jewish heritage. In December, Thessaloniki’s streets come to life with festive decorations and colorful lights. Divide your time between historical sightseeing, holiday shopping, and sipping a hot beverage in a cozy café.

Ask about a trip to Greece

You’ll be marked as a VIP and get a trip like this.

Mendoza, Argentina

Vineyards in Mendoza, Argentina

Mendoza, Argentina, is famed for its vineyards. Photo: Cavas Wine Lodge

December is an ideal time to visit Mendoza: The grapevines are alive, and the backdrop of the majestic Andes after the winter snows makes for dramatic scenery. Wine season is in full swing, and there’s a beer festival in Godoy Cruz during the first week in December—a four-day street party with live music and heavy partying. (Christmas and New Year’s, though, are high season for hotels, and the wineries close on December 24, 25, 31, and January 1.)

Ask about a trip to Mendoza

You’ll be marked as a VIP and get a trip like thisLearn more in our Insider’s Guide to Mendoza.

Thailand

Wat Arun Ratchawaram The Royal Thai Consulate Rattanakosin Town Hall skyline of Bangkok at night

Bangkok has some of its best weather in December: lower temperatures and less humidity. Photo: Shutterstock

Late October (when the rains end) through February is an exceptional time to visit the northern part of Thailand, from Sukhothai through Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai. The King’s Birthday, on December 5, ushers in the festive season (Christmas and New Year’s certainly aren’t traditional holidays here, but many Thais celebrate them anyway) and cooler, less humid weather. In general, the beaches are blissful from the end of December through March. Mid-November through January see the lowest temperatures and least humidity in Bangkok.

Ask about a trip to Thailand

You’ll be marked as a VIP and get a trip like this.

Siem Reap, Cambodia in early December

West gate of Angkor Thom, Siem Reap, Cambodia

West gate of Angkor Thom, Siem Reap, Cambodia. Photo: Ethan Crowley, ABOUTAsia Travel

If you must travel with the busloads of Chinese and Korean tourists in the cooler dry season (which runs from November to March), try to do so during the first two weeks of December for far fewer crowds and great hotel deals.

Ask about a trip to Siem Reap

You’ll be marked as a VIP and get a trip like thisLearn more in our Insider’s Guide to Angkor Wat and Siem Reap Without the Crowds.

Rajasthan, India

The market in Jodhpur, Rajasthan, India

The market in Jodhpur, Rajasthan, India. Photo: Billie Cohen

December is a fun time to be in Rajasthan (though a busy one—this is peak season). The weather is cooler—something to relish, as it means long explorations into the bazaars, wonderful walks around the forts, and a chance to explore the villages on foot without overheating. Evenings are spent wrapped in beautifully decorated Rajasthani shawls and blankets as you dine outside by a fire. The winter light is beautiful, particularly in the villages, making this an ideal time for travelers with a passion for photography.

Ask about a trip to Rajasthan

You’ll be marked as a VIP and get a trip like thisLearn more in our Insider’s Guide to Rajasthan.

New Zealand

Stingray Cove, Bay of Islands, New Zealand

Stingray Cove, Bay of Islands, New Zealand—just one place where you might find flowers blooming in December. Photo: Stephen Western.

In the first two weeks of December (before the madness of the holiday season begins and rates go up), you can see newborn lambs dotting the hillsides all over the country. New Zealanders love their gardens, so flowers are blooming everywhere too.

Ask about a trip to New Zealand

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Other Good Options This Month

Click on any of the destinations below to find out why December is a good time to go.

 

North America

Disney World, Orlando

 

Central and South America

Chile

Panama

 

Europe

Austria: Christmas Markets

England: London apartment rentals

France: Paris apartment rentals

Italy: Sicily feast days and food festivals

Norway: winter activities

Portugal: Lisbon

Russia: St. Petersburg

Turkey: Cappadocia and Istanbul

 

Asia

India: south and central regions

Indonesia: Bali’s rainy season deals

Myanmar’s tropical areas

Nepal’s lower elevations

Vietnam: Ho Chi Minh City and the south

 

Africa and Middle East

United Arab Emirates: Abu Dhabi

 

Australia and Pacific

Fiji: Deals

Sydney

 

Cruises

Africa Cruises

Antarctica Cruises

 

We’re here to help

If your goal is an extraordinary trip when the time is right, go to Ask Wendy. We know which trip-planning specialists have up-to-the-minute intel for your destination and can minimize your risk and maximize your experience. Check out Real Trips Right Now to see the difference that this makes.

 

Be a safer, smarter traveler: Sign up for Wendy’s weekly newsletter to stay in the know. And read real travelers’ reviews of Wendy’s WOW List and use it to plan your next trip.

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3 Comments

  1. balkrishna

    Germany is one of the best places to go to. You’ll find countless offerings, and December also happens to be one of the cheapest months to travel here. Dresden hosts the greatest number of Christmas markets in the eastern region of the country and offers the oldest seasonal event, the Striezel Christmas Market which dates all the way back to 1434. Want to know more about seasonal traveling check here https://travleisure.com/peak-season-and-off-season/

  2. Kathy @goseeittravel

    We’ve visited St Martin several Decembers, including the one upcoming, and it is a nice quiet and more affordable time to go! Now we’ve got to try some of your other suggestions!

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