Top Experts Share Where to Travel in December
We recently shared the best places to travel in November, but just in case you dropped the ball on booking a trip (we know, we know, you're busy), you still have some time to squeeze in a vacation before the year closes out. After all, with the holidays and New Year's just around the bend, there's no better time to make the most of those remaining vacation days. We tapped travel experts once again, including some in-house pros at Oyster.com, for inspiration. From embracing the chilly temps and reveling in the magic of the winter to escaping the cold in warmer locales, here are their picks for closing out 2016 with a bang.
New York City
"Tropical destinations? No thank you. I want to go where the holiday spirit is in full swing and the tinsel is going up by the fistful. To me that means heading to New York City. In December, it’s Christmassy to the max. True, its locals aren’t always the jolliest, but trust me when I say, this city can out-twinkle others at the end of the year. Even those that don’t celebrate Christmas feel drawn to check out Fifth Avenue’s incredible windows, which really stand out as works of art. And then it’s impossible to resist skipping over to Rockefeller Center to see its famous tree and the ice skaters looping around the rink below. I can almost hear Bing Crosby singing 'Silver Bells’ when I walk through Midtown: ‘City sidewalks, busy sidewalks, dressed in holiday style. In the air there’s a feeling of Christmas.'" – Maria Teresa Hart, Editor at Oyster
"When temperatures start dropping at home, it’s the perfect time to head to Hawaii. If you’ve only got a little time, fly to Hawaii and take a week-long round-trip cruise from Honolulu. But if you’ve got vacation time to spare, leave from a West Coast port such as San Diego, San Francisco, or Los Angeles and enjoy some days at sea on itineraries starting at around two weeks. Weather is ideal in Hawaii this time of year, and ships – and the islands – will be decked out for the holidays." – Colleen McDaniel, Senior Executive Editor at Cruise Critic
"If you’re looking to escape the gradually dropping temperatures in December, but don’t necessarily want to go to the Southern Hemisphere, head to Miami, Florida. Flights to Miami are reasonable throughout the United States and the plethora of hotels means you can score an affordable stay along or near those famous white-sand beaches. Whether you’re looking for a party-filled trip, relaxing beach vacation, or to dine at top-notch restaurants, the hip and sexy Miami will deliver. The upscale Thompson Miami Beach is one of my favorite hotels in Miami, providing chic, retro rooms, two pools, multiple bars, and beachfront loungers." – Lara Grant, Associate Editor at Oyster
"In December, the blanket advice will always be to go somewhere warm (Puerto Rico's still on sale) or somewhere cold that revels in wintertime (Montreal leaps to mind). But this year, I'm most excited for a December road trip through Pittsburgh, the only city with an NFL team I haven't yet visited. This year the Thrillist travel section named it America's fourth-best city for college students per its low costs and high culture. Early December is a great time to travel if you dislike crowds; few Americans have the time, funds, or stamina to make big travel plans between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I'm figuring that'll go double for the tourism to Pittsburgh, of all joints, and if I had more time I'd probably run the museum circuit there blissfully alone: the Warhol museum, the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, and The Frick. But with only a night there, I might go dive-side with a sandwich at Primanti Bros. and a domestic draft at the nearest neighborhood lounge. You don't have to overthink it, really, in a Rust Belt city with one of the highest per-capita collections of bars in the country." – Sam Eifling, Travel Editor at Thrillist
Budapest and Prague
"I love visiting smaller European cities during the month of December, when they are decorated for the holidays and less crowded than summer months. Last December, I visited Prague and Budapest and found flights were more than half the price they were in the summer. Hotels and restaurants were also very budget-friendly – a glass of good wine for two euros, for example. Both cities offered traditional Christmas markets for shopping, mulled wine, and traditional foods that made the trip magical. Flights in early December to bigger cities are also discounted, with flights from New York to Copenhagen close to $300, Amsterdam close to $400, and even Paris for under $500." – Lissa Poirot, Editor-in-Chief at Family Vacation Critic
Art Basel – Miami
"I'm always looking for a quick, warm-weather getaway. Miami is on my list this month. Art Basel takes place the first week of December, which brings a lot of energy to the city. There are great new hotels like Faena Hotel Miami Beach and Atton downtown, and buzzy restaurant openings such as Quinto La Huella. Plus, the weather is almost always perfect and it’s just a three-hour flight from NYC. As for finding the cheapest flight, fly out on a Tuesday and return on a Wednesday – midweek departures and arrivals deliver the most cost-efficient fares." – Clara Sedlak, Executive Editor at JetSetter
"After suffering a lifetime of miserable winters, snow is the last thing I want to wake up to on Christmas. How can a person feel truly merry when your face has lost all feeling and you still have to shovel a driveway? So yeah, hard pass on that white Christmas. Instead, toss a swimsuit in a bag, and head to Sydney. This is a trip that requires a little advance planning if you want to snag a decent fare. Both Qantas and Air New Zealand routinely offer sales that cover holiday travel, though you should probably go the early bird route and start looking as early as spring/summer.
While most shops and restaurants tend to shut down in Sydney on Christmas Day, there's plenty to keep you busy outdoors, like hiking the cliffs from Bondi Beach to Coogee Beach (and stopping for swims when the mood strikes) or picnicking at the Royal Botanic Garden. Be sure to hit the markets in the days before the holiday and stock up on your Christmas cherries and mincemeat pies. And always save room for a cone of Christmas pudding gelato at Gelato Messina.
The New Year's Eve fireworks show around the Sydney Harbour Bridge is worth sticking around for, though probably best enjoyed from afar, away from the crowds. And if you really want to ditch the crowds, beautiful Byron Bay is so worth the eight-plus hours drive north. Fans of campy roadside attractions will have oh so much to see on a drive through New South Wales, including the Big Kookaburra, the Big Prawn, the Big Merino, the Big Oyster, the Big Poo, the Big Ugg Boots, the Big Tennis Racquet, and – most convenient to those driving between Sydney and Byron – the Big Banana in Coffs Harbour.
Whatever you choose to do during your December holidays in Australia, you'll be patting yourself on the back for having cheated winter, if only for a week or two." – Tracy Stewart, Content Editor at Airfarewatchdog
"Amsterdam in the winter is all about snow-lined canal banks, warm museums, and uber-affordability. An abundance of budget transatlantic airlines means that flights from the U.S. will be particularly inexpensive this winter, and many of the city’s best hotels are also offering deep discounts and savings packages." – Christine Sarkis, Senior Editor at Smarter Travel
"Not only is the exchange rate much better than usual for U.S. travelers right now, but London is a particularly cozy destination in December. Sure it’s cold, but that only makes having a pint by the fireplace in an adorable pub all the more enjoyable. Plus, some of London’s best attractions -- including its amazing museums and West End plays – can be enjoyed indoors. And a lot of the reasons people think of New York as an iconic winter pick hold true in London as well – there are fabulous Christmas decorations all over the city, from Oxford Street to the Strand to the giant tree in Trafalgar Square." – Kelsey Blodget, Senior Executive Editor at Oyster
"If you’re traveling as a family, you’ve got to head to Hawaii and stay at Aulani, a Disney resort situated in the gorgeous Ko Olina. The resort takes its place in Hawaii seriously, using a cultural advisor for everything from the construction of the property to the art displayed in the lobby to the music played throughout the resort. I experienced the launch of their incredible luau, Ka Wa’a, in mid November, and was dazzled by the storytelling, dancing, and food. They even invite kids up to the stage to play traditional Hawaiian instruments and learn hula! Pro tip: If you’re there over Christmas, Santa visits the resort – something you don’t want your kids to miss." –Danielle Walsh, Associate Editor at AFAR
More from Oyster.com:
- Our Favorite Destinations Where Your U.S. Dollar Will Stretch the Furthest This Winter
- The 11 Cheapest Caribbean Destinations to Visit in Winter 2017, Ranked
- 5 Destinations in the U.S. That Are Perfect for a Babymoon This Winter