Certainly, when December rolls around, costs tend to soar. If you’ve ever yearned for an escape, a retreat from the hustle of gatherings and gift-wrapping, we have good news for you. December presents a splendid opportunity to uncover enticing travel deals, particularly if your vacation falls before the Christmas and New Year’s festivities.
Airlines and hotel chains are keen to fill their seats and rooms before the holiday rush, and this eagerness translates into a bountiful array of fantastic bargains. In December, budget-friendly travel destinations indeed exist, catering to a range of preferences. Whether you dream of a luxurious beach getaway or seek the vibrant chaos of Las Vegas, our list offers a diverse selection of destinations that won’t weigh heavily on your wallet.
Remember, the earlier you secure your bookings, the better the rates you can expect. So, don’t delay—start planning your seasonal festive adventure with our handpicked list of the best places to travel in December on a budget.
Best Places to Travel in December International
Amidst the festive spirit, discovering affordable yet enchanting destinations for a memorable holiday becomes a delightful pursuit. This guide unveils an assortment of destinations that promise extraordinary experiences without straining your wallet. From serene escapes to vibrant cultural hubs, these places offer an array of experiences suitable for diverse preferences and budget constraints.
St Barth’s, Caribbean
Weather: Highs of 30°C and lows of 24°C
Season: Enjoy the cool ambiance
Flight duration from the US: Approximately 16 hours and 13 minutes
Time difference: GMT+1 hour
St. Barth’s in December beckons everyone. It’s not just because the island has long been the discreet haven of choice for A-listers, boasting the world’s most flawless beaches, top-notch restaurants, luxurious hotels, and villas, but also because it’s the place to see and be seen. It’s where the super-rich, super-famous, the beautiful, and the fortunate all congregate. Missing out on a December holiday here would only lead to severe FOMO as you peer out at the rain, scrolling through envy-inducing snapshots of everyone else reveling in laughter on the world’s most perfect beaches.
For sustainable travelers: Hotel Manapany leads the way, powered by solar panels and championing eco-friendliness with an on-site vegetable garden, orchard, and sourcing seafood from local fishermen. They even offer electric car rentals.
When it comes to accommodations, Hôtel Barrière Le Carl Gustaf offers a chic and effortless French beach house experience, while Cheval Blanc St-Barth Isle de France stands out as an elegant grande dame along Flamands beach. Dive deeper into the best hotels in St. Barth’s with our comprehensive guide for further inspiration.
New York City, USA
Weather: Expect highs of 8°C and lows of -3°C
Season: Embrace the winter wonderland
Spending Christmas in New York City is a no-brainer. The atmosphere is nothing short of cinematic, from ice-skating beneath the Rockefeller Center’s majestic tree to the captivating theatrical window displays adorning Fifth Avenue’s iconic department stores. And if you thought your neighbors competed fiercely with their Christmas lights, consider the residents of Brooklyn’s Dyker Heights. Their houses are so extravagantly adorned that there’s an official bus tour of the most extravagantly lit blocks.
To make the experience even cozier, New York’s finest hotels offer comforting libations with a crackling lobby fire. A top pick is The Ludlow’s Pigalle cocktail, featuring bourbon and ancho chile for a delightful winter warmer.
For eco-conscious travelers: While New York traffic is legendary, you can navigate the Big Apple sustainably by using the Manhattan Waterfront Greenway, a 31-mile bicycle route encircling the island, accessible through bike-sharing schemes (Citi Bike stations are conveniently scattered throughout the city).
Where to stay: Experience a slice of tranquility in the heart of midtown at the newly opened Aman New York. It’s not only an excellent location for a quick trip but also ideal for winter getaways, as all suites feature working fireplaces. For a classic Christmas escape, secure a coveted room at The Plaza, boasting magnificent views over Central Park.
Quick Link: The 17 Best Places to Travel in November 2023
Belize, Central America
Looking for a sun-soaked adventure without breaking the bank? Consider booking a journey to Belize. And if you opt for a December escape, you’ll uncover some incredible deals (pardon the pun)! Belize offers a plethora of experiences, from delving into Mayan ruins to exploring the mesmerizing Great Blue Hole, a colossal marine sinkhole, and snorkeling amid the stunning Belize Barrier Reef, a coral island that is second only to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef in size. The options in this paradise are endless.
Even if you’re not a swimming enthusiast, Belize has more to offer. A visit to the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve promises captivating hikes through lush pine forests, past enchanting waterfalls, and even into mysterious caves.
Choosing December ensures not only a perfectly warm climate, with temperatures around 82 degrees but also relatively dry weather. Your wallet will thank you for the significant savings, and the pristine beaches, dense jungles, and inviting turquoise waters will sweep away any financial or other concerns.
Salt Lake City, Utah
Whether you’re an avid skier or a culture enthusiast, there are abundant reasons to consider a visit to Utah’s vibrant capital, Salt Lake City. One particularly enticing aspect is that Salt Lake City is a budget-friendly destination during the December season. Travelers staying within the city can further stretch their dollars by efficiently utilizing public transportation, generously provided by the Utah Transit Authority. However, if you plan to embark on day trips to the nearby ski resorts scattered across Utah, renting a car is the more economical choice, especially before the holiday rush.
Founded in 1847 by Mormons, also known as Latter Day Saints, this city is home to an impressive Mormon Temple. While only Mormons are permitted inside, the architectural marvel can be admired by all from its exterior.
Visitors are warmly welcomed to explore the nearby Mormon Tabernacle, a grand, domed auditorium accommodating over 6,500 people and housing a magnificent pipe organ boasting an astounding 11,623 pipes. The renowned Mormon Tabernacle Choir frequently graces the stage, and the best part is, admission is free. For nature enthusiasts and avid hikers, a trip to Big Cottonwood Canyon is a must, where the wonders of the outdoors await your exploration.
St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands
Counted among the Caribbean’s most sought-after tourist destinations, the U.S. Virgin Islands promise a vacation filled with unforgettable moments and ultimate relaxation. St. Thomas, a prime gem within this tropical paradise, offers an array of activities to delight in, from swimming alongside graceful turtles and exploring the vibrant underwater world through snorkeling or diving to teeing off on stunning golf courses, indulging in shopping sprees, and savoring delectable culinary experiences. Remarkably, all of this is accessible on an island that spans just 32 square miles.
Accommodations on this splendid island range from luxurious resorts to more modest hotels and charming bed and breakfast lodgings, ensuring there’s something to cater to every traveler’s budget and preferences. Your ideal St. Thomas getaway awaits, ready to provide an unforgettable and well-rounded Caribbean experience.
Québec City, Québec, Canada
July may be the prime time to explore Québec City, but it comes with a hefty price tag, crowded hotels, and bustling restaurants filled with eager patrons seeking the city’s finest poutine. On the other hand, a December visit to this charming Canadian gem is a magical and cost-effective alternative.
Given the Quebecois climate, you can expect a delicate dusting of snow or perhaps a substantial snowfall, lending an enchanting aura to the historic buildings and parks. Wander through the city’s streets, adorned with festive decorations reminiscent of a European wonderland, temporarily making you forget you’re in Canada. Notably, Rue de Petit Champlain is a picturesque spot begging for your camera’s attention.
While in town, experience the thrill of sledding down Au 1884, a colossal sledding run believed to be the oldest attraction in Québec City. It conveniently neighbors North America’s most photographed hotel, the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac. Booking this iconic hotel during the Christmas season can be quite expensive. However, selecting a room in the first two weeks of December can significantly reduce the cost, often by half. This lavish establishment, constructed by the Canadian Pacific Railroad company in 1892, offers breathtaking views of the Saint Lawrence River, ensuring a memorable and more affordable winter escape.
Weather: Anticipate highs of 27ºC and lows of 18ºC
Season: It’s summertime!
Flight duration from the U.S.: Approximately 4 hours and 42 minutes
Time difference: GMT-6
Costa Rica, often lauded as the most tranquil and laid-back nation in Central America, still radiates with an abundance of excitement and exotic allure. Its Pacific coastline beckons surfers and free spirits practicing yoga on its wave-kissed shores in charming beach communities like Nosara. Meanwhile, its serene Caribbean shores and islands are a magnet for backpackers and adventurers seeking castaway experiences on idyllic isles. Inland, you’ll find lush jungles, teeming with wildlife and crowned by towering volcanoes. Thrill-seekers can satisfy their adrenaline cravings by ziplining through the cloud-forest canopy, navigating white-water rapids, embarking on volcano hikes, and embarking on big cat safaris in Corcovado National Park.
December graces Costa Rica with prime beach weather, and it’s also the time when humpback whales make their appearance, heading south in pursuit of warmer waters. This region ranks among the world’s finest for whale-watching.
For eco-conscious travelers: Costa Rica excels in eco-lodges, spanning from beachfront getaways to jungle retreats. Staying in these lodges not only guarantees a memorable experience but also contributes to local communities and conservation initiatives.
Where to stay: The Harmony Hotel stands as an institution in Nosara, boasting its Healing Centre, which offers a range of wellness amenities, from beachside yoga classes to post-surf massages. Additionally, the property features a delightful palm-fringed pool for ultimate relaxation.
Arlington, one of the less explored cities in Texas, offers an incredibly budget-friendly travel destination in December. While it may not be the most famous Texan city, Arlington boasts massive sports venues that are a major attraction in this small city situated between Dallas and Fort Worth. Notably, AT&T Stadium serves as the home of the Dallas Cowboys, and even if baseball season isn’t in full swing, a tour of Globe Life Park is a worthwhile experience.
Arlington stands as the unique host of the International Bowling Museum & Hall of Fame, offering an unusual yet fascinating excursion. For enthusiasts of amusement parks, the sprawling Six Flags Over Texas remains open on weekends year-round and during holidays.
The city’s Christkindl Market is renowned as one of the finest Christmas markets in the United States. In addition to the delectable treats and handcrafted goods that you’d expect, it radiates a family-friendly atmosphere that’s particularly appealing to visitors with children.
Arlington’s entertainment epicenter, Texas Live!, is a hub for multiple restaurants and shops and is home to the Live! by Loews – Arlington Texas resort. This chic and contemporary hotel boasts 300 luxurious guest rooms and suites, with floor-to-ceiling windows offering breathtaking views. The property offers numerous options for enjoying food and refreshments right on-site.
Puerto Rico, Caribbean
Securing a deal on a beach vacation is a truly exhilarating experience, especially when you’re escaping the clutches of a cold, snowy winter. While winter typically stands out as the most popular season for a Puerto Rico getaway, travelers can still relish affordable rates and budget-friendly airfare to this economical Caribbean gem.
Puerto Rico is a haven for sun, sand, and surf enthusiasts. With multiple exquisite beaches, visitors will find no shortage of magnificent shores to lay out their beach towels. Strolling through the vibrant streets of Old San Juan is one of the most cherished activities in Puerto Rico, and the best part is, it won’t cost you a dime unless you give in to the temptations of its charming shops.
At the tip of a peninsula in Old San Juan, you’ll encounter El Morro Fort, a historical treasure that deserves a visit. Equally impressive is the Castillo de San Cristóbal, the largest Spanish fort constructed in the New World, offering an intriguing glimpse into Puerto Rico’s rich history.
Las Vegas, Nevada
Dive headfirst into the vibrant energy of Las Vegas, a city renowned for its unique atmosphere and non-stop excitement, offering a diverse blend of experiences from New York to Paris, all along one dazzling strip. The best part? It’s surprisingly budget-friendly. In fact, it’s the most economical December vacation destination on this list, with Las Vegas hotels extending incredible deals to entice visitors.
Whether your dreams of lodging take you to the Bellagio Las Vegas, the Excalibur Hotel, or the MGM Grand Hotel, you’re bound to encounter affordable rates in the lead-up to Christmas. Opt for a travel package that includes your stay, and the savings become even more appealing.
During your visit, be sure to set aside time for a leisurely stroll along The Strip, an exploration of the intriguing Mob Museum, and a captivating tour of the nearby Grand Canyon, ensuring your Las Vegas adventure is both unforgettable and budget-friendly.
“But it’s coooold in Decembeeeeer!” Well, setting aside the cold for a moment in favor of enriching cultural experiences is certainly worth it. If you’ve ever found yourself torn between visiting the United Kingdom or France, or simply desire a taste of both without the homesickness, look no further than the Canadian city of Ottawa. It stands as one of the top budget-friendly travel destinations in December, especially if you’re seeking a snowy escape.
Aside from being a preferred destination for budget-conscious travelers due to affordable flights and appealing winter getaways, Ottawa is the ultimate place to immerse yourself in the culture and history of our friendly northern neighbors, offering an excellent opportunity to brush up on Canadian history.
Among the city’s iconic landmarks is the expansive Château Laurier, a building that exudes both romance and grandeur. You can even tour the Canadian Parliament Building, which bears a striking resemblance to Britain’s Houses of Parliament, and witness its sessions in progress. Ottawa also offers orchestral performances and unique Native theater shows at the National Arts Centre.
Canouan, The Grenadines
With temperatures reaching 28ºC highs and 21ºC lows, and dry conditions prevailing, it’s prime time in the Caribbean. While many gravitate towards the bustling scene of St Barth’s, Canouan offers an ideal retreat for those seeking a more secluded getaway. Referred to as ‘The place where billionaires go to get away from millionaires,’ Canouan provides an exclusive haven without necessarily requiring a billion-dollar bank account. The island boasts the first Mandarin Oriental in the region, offering Oceanview Suites at a prestigious four-figure rate.
For sustainable travel, Canouan stands out as one of the limited islands granting access to Tobago Cays. These protected isles form an archipelago featuring untouched landscapes and unspoiled coral reefs. They represent a significant government-owned attraction in St Vincent and the Grenadines, providing a livelihood for numerous local vendors and guides.
In the quest for the perfect budget-friendly December getaway, the world showcases an array of captivating destinations. Each place brings its unique charm, beckoning travelers with its allure and affordability. From the sun-kissed beaches of Thailand to the cultural richness of Eastern Europe, these destinations stand as testaments to the abundance of budget-friendly travel experiences awaiting exploration. Regardless of your choice, these destinations promise unforgettable memories and discoveries while keeping your wallet intact.
Consider booking in advance, exploring offbeat neighborhoods, and utilizing travel websites or apps that offer discounts or special deals during the holiday season.
Yes, many destinations offer free walking tours, public museums with free admission days, local markets, and scenic parks perfect for budget-friendly explorations.
Look for local eateries, street food stalls, or markets to savor authentic cuisine without breaking the bank. Opt for daily specials or explore areas known for affordable dining options.
Consider utilizing public transportation, walking, or renting bicycles to explore the destination. Look for city passes or travel cards offering discounts on multiple rides or attractions.