Summer is in full swing which means one thing…it’s time to start thinking about winter vacation. You heard me. Winter is coming…and where are you going to go?
It’s nice to spend the holiday season at home, visiting with family and enjoying the low-key end to the year. But what if you want to get away? With two weekends and two days off of work for Christmas and New Year’s, it’s possible to swing a 10-day getaway without taking too many vacation days. Sounds nice, right? So, where do you go?
If you read enough of our posts, you know that we prefer experiences that are economical and low on crowds. Tim and I (and even Tyler and Kara) have been brainstorming ideas for where to go this holiday season. Our plans are still up in the air, but here are some of the ideas that we have. Most of these options are economical, but a few are a splurge if you want to go all out.
Some of these we’ve done, some of these we are considering for 2017, and some just sound like darn good ideas.
Here are 10 vacation ideas for your winter holiday season.
Note: Most of these options are ideal for US and Canadian residents, but this post may also be useful to people from other countries.
10 Winter Vacation Ideas
We just finished up a one-week trip to San Diego. So why would we recommend it in December? Because the weather is just glorious in San Diego all year round. High temperatures are in the 60’s in the winter, which is relatively warm for a US destination at the end of December.
Windandsea Beach at La Jolla
It takes at least four to five days to see the big sites in and around San Diego. With more time you can take day trips to nearby locales. Joshua Tree National Park is only a few hours away, as is Los Angeles and Palm Springs.
Key West and the Everglades
Here is another “warmish” US destination. Spend a few days touring the Everglades, then road trip your way down the Florida Keys, ending in Key West.
Average daytime temperatures in Key West are in the low 70’s, pleasant, but maybe not quite warm enough to go swimming. But for most of us living in the US and Canada, this is still a nice break from cold temperatures and snow.
If you don’t mind the high prices and high crowds, a week at a ski resort sure sounds nice. In the US and Canada, there are a lot of places to choose from, such as Vail, Aspen Snowmass, Whistler, Park City, Revelstoke, Beaver Creek, and Stowe.
If you are willing to pay more and travel farther, how about a European ski trip? Combine a trip to a European city like Salzburg, Zurich, Cortina dAmpezzo, or Innsbruck with a few days on the nearby ski slopes.
This is a trip that is high on our list. Vegas + Death Valley.
Death Valley is a place that we would never visit in the summer months, since it’s the hottest spot on the planet during this time, but temperatures are much more pleasant during the winter months. Spend a few days here and end with time in Las Vegas.
Tim and I were just in Las Vegas a few months ago. I asked our hotel staff what Vegas is like during winter break, and we were told that it is a quieter, less crowded time of year (which also typically means cheaper prices for accommodations!). I would imagine that Vegas would also be a wild spot to welcome in the New Year.
Bryce and Zion National Parks
This is another one we strongly considered in the past. If you don’t mind cold temperatures and the chance for snow, hiking in Zion and Bryce can be awesome this time of year. Doesn’t it sound nice…hiking on Zion’s most popular trails, staying cool, with very few other hikers in the park? How about the chance to see the hoodoos in Bryce covered with a dusting of snow?
Zion National Park
California Wine Country
Sipping on red wine by the fire in a hotel decked out for the holidays? Sure sounds nice to me!! Napa and Sonoma Valleys go all out for the holiday season, with decorations, festivities, and parties. This sounds like a great adults-only vacation, but there are ways to make it fun for kids, too.
If seven to ten days sounds like too much time in wine country for you, consider splitting your time with San Francisco, Monterey, or even Yosemite.
New Orleans and the Florida Coast
Start the week off in the scenic, quiet Florida panhandle. Rent a house on the beach or stay at a bed and breakfast, relaxing by the sea.
Then, get your party on, visiting New Orleans. Stroll down Bourbon Street, dine on Gumbo and turtle soup, and celebrate New Year’s Eve in the French Quarter.
If you really want to travel far, consider Thailand. We spent Christmas and New Year’s Eve here in 2014 and loved every minute of it.
Start at the beaches in Krabi or Phuket, basking in the sun, island hopping, kayaking, and rock climbing. For Christmas dinner, we ate seafood and Pad Thai, drank tropical drinks, and celebrated with a Thai man dressed up as Santa Claus.
From the tropical beaches of Thailand, hop your way north through Bangkok to Chiang Mai. Chiang Mai is an awesome spot to spend New Year’s Eve…this is where thousands of people launch paper lanterns to celebrate the coming New Year. And the following day (midday in Thailand on January 1), watch on television as New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles all welcome the New Year with fireworks and confetti.
If you imagine your winter break being spent by zip-lining, white water rafting, and exploring the rain forest, Costa Rica makes a great destination. During the winter months, high temperatures are in the 80’s and Costa Rica is relatively dry. This is one of the best times of the year to visit this country. This near perfect weather, combined with the winter holiday season, does make this one of the busiest times to visit Costa Rica. If you plan on visiting Costa Rica at the end of December, you will need to make your travel arrangements far in advance.
Explore One (or Two) European Cities
In general, it is chilly at the end of December in Europe. But you will have far fewer crowds, and therefore lower travel costs, than visiting during the peak summer months. We are eyeing up Paris, simply because it is my favorite spot in the world and I am itching to return again. A London – Paris combination makes an awesome 10-day trip. If you don’t like the idea of chilly temperatures, cities like Rome, Barcelona, and Lisbon will be warmer than the more northern European cities.
Are you planning your holiday travels? What ideas do you have? Comment below!
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