Ring in the New Year at home, then get on a plane: Though prices are high through New Year’s, there are deals to be found starting later that first week in January. Tropical and Southern Hemisphere destinations work especially well for those needing a dose of sunshine.
January and February have the most reliable snowfall, making it ideal for not just skiing, but also ice-fishing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling in Western Canada. You also have a good chance of seeing the Northern Lights. Those looking for an extra dose of adventure can even mush their own dogsled team from lodge to lodge—led by an expert guide, of course.
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January is one of the nicest times of the year weatherwise for a winter escape, right in the middle of the Costa Rican dry season. It is often the only time in the high season that you can plan a last-minute trip and still have your first choice of the top properties.
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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, visit uncrowded 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—or you can charter your own private yacht, enjoying fabulous snorkeling, sunbathing, kayaking, and plenty of distance from everyone except your captain and first mate.
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Mexico is much more than a one-dimensional beach destination. Sure, fabulous oceanfront resorts and sumptuous private villas abound on its long coastlines. But the country is also home to charming colonial towns such as Guanajuato, Morelia, and Oaxaca, captivating pre-Columbian ruins (especially in Yucatan Peninsula and Chiapas), and a vibrant scene in Mexico City—and in January, these destinations have ideal temperatures and little rain.
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U.S. National Parks
From snowshoeing in Yellowstone to hiking in Joshua Tree, adventures abound in our national parks—even in the middle of winter. If you’re lucky, you might even get to see the Grand Canyon with a magical dusting of snow, or have a view of Yosemite Falls all to yourself.
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January is prime season for hiking in Patagonia, which gets just a bit quieter after the holiday rush. Meanwhile, at the foothills of the Andes, the grapevines in Mendoza sit heavy with ripening fruit. Temperatures hit the 90s in Buenos Aires, so the locals hit the beach—leaving the city easy to navigate, with so little traffic.
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There are plenty of reasons to fall in love with Rome, Florence, and Milan in January. Temperatures will typically be in the high 40s and 50s during the day, but plan on bundling up to fit in with the locals. Perhaps a new pair of leather gloves to complete your Italian look? They’ll be on sale. Italy generally has only two times during the year when they extend sconti (discounts) in retail shops: January and July. You can find deals at both boutique shops and international-brand stores after the holiday craziness, and you won’t have to fight the crowds so common at other times of the year. Enjoy Rome’s decadently rich hot chocolate as an afternoon treat, or post up next to a funghi (the mushroom-shaped outdoor heaters) and dine al fresco in one of Florence’s beautifully lit piazzas.
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Southern Thailand is ideal from mid-January through March, when the oceans are still relatively calm, and sunny skies and cooler temperatures prevail before the heat returns in April. Bangkok, meanwhile, is a year-round destination: There’s always great food and off-the-beaten-path adventures to uncover, and short bursts of rain can easily be dodged while in the city.
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Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
January is the best time to visit Rio—assuming you don’t mind temperatures that regularly hit 105 degrees: It’s the height of summer, Cariocas (Rio residents) are at their most relaxed, and the nightlife is at its peak.
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In January, the country is lush and green, there is no rain, and the breezes keep temperatures in the high 80s during the day on the coast—perfect for chilling out by the ocean—and in the 70s in the mountains—ideal for hikes in the cloud forest.
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The weather in mid to late January is delightful—spring-like temperatures and blue skies—and it’s a quieter period sandwiched between two busy times: Christmas/New Year’s and Chinese New Year.
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January is the cooler season—which in this part of the world means temperatures in the high 70s and low 80s. Designers descend upon the city for the Shopping Festival, when shops and boutiques offer discounts all month long. Read how Brook spent a multi-day layover in Dubai’s desert.
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Sydney’s summer months (December to February) bring beach weather, as well as festivals and harborside celebrations: After the world-renowned New Year’s Eve celebrations comes the Sydney Festival, a three-week celebration of the arts culminating with Australia Day on January 26. It’s also the right time to take a surfing lesson at Bondi Beach, go sailing in Sydney Harbour, hike waterside trails, picnic on city parklands, catch an outdoor movie screening or concert, or attend one of the city’s many professional surfing, tennis, cricket, and rugby competitions. (Remember that prices are also at their peak in summer, so book accommodations and tickets early, before they sell out.)
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Other Smart Options This Month
Click on any of the destinations below to find out why January is a good time to go.
North America and Caribbean
Florida: Disney World, Orlando
Central and South America
Africa and Middle East
Australia and Pacific