Julie Travel Inspiration 12 Comments

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.

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

San Diego

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.

Torrey Pines

Torrey Pines

Windandsea Beach at La Jolla

La Jolla Beach

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.

Skiing Vacation

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 d’Ampezzo, or Innsbruck with a few days on the nearby ski slopes.

Vegas, Anyone?

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.

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?

Bryce Canyon

Bryce for Holidays

Zion National Park

Zion NP

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.

Bourbon Street

NOLA House


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.

Tyler Kara Krabi

Maya Bay

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.

Chiang Mai Lanterns

Costa Rica

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.

Zip Lining

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.


Prague for Holidays


Barcelona for Holidays

Comments 12

  1. While many of the places in the list match with my winter travel bucket list, Thailand and Bryce and Zion National Parks are the new entries in it. Thanks for sharing the fantastic winter vacation ideas.

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  2. I must say these are the perfect places for me to explore this holiday season. I usually go on holidays to diff places and this article has gave me a wonderful options of places to explore. Great work.

  3. Julie – do y’all recommend Rome at Christmas? We are passing on Paris and London b/c we have been there recently but want to go on a trip over Christmas because our oldest is a senior in high school. We have a group of 9. Can’t decide where to go (of course afford will be the operative factor!!:). 4 adults 5 high school kids. thanks

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      I have heard that Rome (and Italy) are crowded at Christmas although we have not been there during that time. If you are in the US, beware that international (and local) flight prices around Christmas can be outrageous. We looked into several international destinations and were shocked at flight prices, so we will be touring the southwest US over winter break this year.

      If you find out flights aren’t crazy expensive and don’t mind the crowds, then Rome will be chilly but it’s a great city to visit. Lot’s of history, great food, it’s just an all around great place to visit.

      Cheers, Julie

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  4. I am headed to Iceland in November and am really looking forward to it. After following you around the world vicariously, I already enjoy your newsletter. I love seeing your children growing up before my eyes.

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      Yes…Tyler and Kara are growing fast!! I enjoy watching them grow up too, becoming young adults. Another one of life’s journeys, right? Have a great time in Iceland, it looks amazing and we can’t wait to visit it one day as well. Cheers, Julie

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