10 Best Places To Travel In December, If You Need A Break From Holiday Stress
While some people love vacationing in the summer, others prefer going away when it gets colder and seek out somehwere to travel in December for an early winter getaway. After all, not only will it probably be cheaper since you won’t be traveling during peak beach-weather season, but you could also spend time enjoying your favorite winter activities, from ice skating to skiing, in a picturesque winter setting. Hot chocolate while sitting in front of a wood-burning fire, anyone?
Christie Hudson, senior public relations manager, Brand Expedia North America, tells Bustle that although "shoulder seasons" are a great time to get deals — they're the period of time that occurs during late spring (mid-April through May) and early fall (September–early November) — you can also get deals during other months. “For many popular destinations, another time of year to find affordable rates is January and February,” she says. “This is because demand and prices decrease since many people are still recovering from the holidays and are home instead of traveling.” Hudson says this is true for places like London and Paris, among others.
So if you know you want to go somewhere wintery, but are not sure where, below, travel experts chime in with their favorite winter getaway destinations — so you may want to dig out your down coat and start packing.
1. Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada
John E. DiScala, founder of JohnnyJet.com, tells Bustle that “anywhere in Canada” would be ideal for a perfect winter vacation. “Of course, it depends on where you live, but it’s probably not too long a drive or flight, and everything is about 25 percent off thanks to their weak dollar,” he says. “My favorite is Banff, which is just outside of Calgary, as there’s so much to do — from skiing and snowmobiling to ice skating on a pond and ice fishing.” However, he says to make sure to dress warm.
Danielle Pearson, travel planning specialist at Departure Lounge, agrees. “One of my top picks would be Banff and Lake Louise in Canada,” she tells Bustle. “This is such an incredible spot that is easy to get to once you fly into Calgary — and the drive out to Banff is absolutely breathtaking.” She says that once you arrive, it’ll be as though you’ve stepped into a real-life winter wonderland with all of the winter activities available for you.
2. Fraser, Colorado
Melanie Fish, Vrbo travel expert, suggests taking a trip to Fraser, Colorado for a winter getaway. “It’s just two hours away from its better-known neighbor, Breckenridge, but prices tend to be lower,” she tells Bustle. “Fraser is 10 minutes away from the Winter Park slopes, and Vrbo vacation rentals cost about $100 less per night in Fraser than they do in Breckenridge, for example.” She says she found a six-bedroom cabin with a hot tub in Fraser to rent for well under $100 per night per bedroom. “Plus, there’s no shortage of activities around what I’d call an under-the-radar winter destination,” she says.
3. Zermatt, Switzerland
Helene Sula, who runs the blog HeleneInBetween.com with her husband, Michael, tells Bustle she definitely has a favorite winter destination: Zermatt, Switzerland. “This beautiful and romantic city is one of the prettiest in Europe,” she says. “I suggest embracing the cold and frolicking in a true winter wonderland — Zermatt offers plenty of winter activities and is the perfect place to relax.” She says it’s also a car-free city, which means you park in a town nearby and take the train into the city. “There is skiing, shopping, and beautiful scenes — I never felt more like I was in a snow globe.”
Sula adds that, of course, the Matterhorn is there and one of the most iconic and recognizable mountains in Europe. “The nearby museum in town also offers a wealth of information and shows daring adventures of those brave enough to make the climb,” Sula says. “And a great place to stay is CERVO Mountain Boutique Resort, which offers ski-in, ski-out access, as well as has some of the best truffle fries I’ve ever tried.” She says that regardless of what you do, you’ll be mesmerized by the mighty Matterhorn and the picture-perfect town that really seems to come to life in winter.
4. Anywhere In Iceland
Amy Brueckner, CIRE Travel’s chief of staff, suggests exploring Iceland as a winter getaway. “I went to Iceland in March a few years ago and it was stunning,” she tells Bustle. “I saw the Northern Lights, hiked a glacier, did a great road trip to the eastern end of Iceland and back, and had some incredible meals.” She says one of the most memorable things she did was going to Friðheimar. “It’s also known as the tomato restaurant — and we had lunch inside their giant greenhouse,” she says. “There were bumble bees and tomato plants everywhere, and it felt like a summer day inside.” She says the menu includes everything tomato — pizza, pasta, tomato soup, Bloody Marys, and even tomato ice cream.
5. Bryce Canyon, Utah
Alex Howard, lead editor at Lonely Planet, tells Bustle that when it comes to experiencing a true winter wonderland, there are many options. One of his favorites is Bryce Canyon, Utah. “Towering red rock hoodoos melting away into rolling badlands under blue jay skies: Bryce Canyon is stunning at any time of year, but a dusting of snow turns it into a crystalline fairyland,” he says. “The other benefit of a winter visit: Solitude.” He says that the height of summer sees more visitors than the snowy months. “Also, with fresh snow, Bryce Canyon becomes one of the premier snowshoeing destinations in the U.S,” Howard says. “If you don’t have your own, join one of the ranger-guided snowshoe walks, where a pair is provided free of charge.”
As for outside of the U.S., Howard recommends Slovakia, which offers high-quality skiing at affordable prices. “Food and accommodation are reasonable, too, with Jasná being one of the best Slovakian resorts, full of long descents flanked by snow-laden spruce trees and set in the ruggedly lovely Tatra Mountains,” he says.
6. London, England
Of course, going to a major city is another option when considering a pretty winter destination. “I love London in the winter — no tourists, so I have museums to myself with the bonus of special lectures and short workshops on offer,” Ellen LeCompte of LeCompte Travel, tells Bustle. “For instance, The Queens Gallery at Buckingham Palace is doing a one-day creative course on portrait painting in February.” LeCompte adds that she can also hit the winter sales at some of her favorite shops, like Liberty, Bond Street, the Burlington Arcade, and Fortnum & Mason. “And what can be better than curling up by the fire for tea at The Stafford or Milestone hotels,” she says.
7. Lapland, Finland
If you’re looking for a magical holiday travel experience, Anna Fawcett, global head of marketing at Topdeck Travel, recommends checking out Finland’s northernmost region, Lapland. “With the chance to witness the elusive Northern Lights, travelers also have the opportunity to visit actual reindeer farms and the famous Santa Claus Village,” she tells Bustle. “This getaway is the perfect mixture of a winter wonderland and outdoor adventure — so it’s ideal for getting into the holiday spirit — and Topdeck even has a Lapland Express tour.”
Tara Cappel, founder of For the Love of Travel, FTLO Travel, also suggests Lapland as a winter destination “Flights there are super cheap, it’s still very off-the-beaten-path, and there are the most amazing activities, like ice floating, snowmobiling, dog sledding, and of course, chasing the Northern Lights.” She adds that FTLO has a Lapland trip and it’s one of their most popular ones.
“Alternatively, the Alps are great for a ski destination,” Cappel says. “Lift tickets can be a third the cost of U.S. resort prices, so for a week-long getaway, it’s not that much more expensive.” She says she loves the Austrian ski resort Sölden, which is known for its variety of ski trails, great restaurants, and super fun après ski.
8. Disney World, Orlando, Florida
According to a new Travel Channel survey conducted between 9/13-9/17 of 2019 among 2,000 nationally representative respondents aged 18-54, during the winter, 27 percent of travelers are heading to a vacation destination with families. “I think a lot of that travel is for an alternative Christmas,” Deanne Revel, writer for TravelChannel.com, tells Bustle. “More and more families are skipping presents on Christmas Day and instead using that cash on a group trip.” She says she’d love to do a Christmas trip to Disney World with her family instead of swapping presents. “Because, honestly, I don’t need more stuff — I’d rather have quality time in a fun place,” Revel says. “And Disney World at Christmas truly is magical, from the holiday décor to traditional Christmas dinners to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party at Magic Kingdom.”
9. Amsterdam, The Netherlands
“Amsterdam, one of my European favorites, is perfect for a winter getaway because of the canals, comfort food, and dreamy winter scenery,” Courtnie Nichols, founder and CEO of boutique travel company TravelBash, tells Bustle. “If you miss the snow, the city still looks like a perfect postcard.” She says that when the canals freeze over, it’s a perfect day for ice skating, and the holiday markets are in full swing, too. “One other perk is that you can score a crazy cheap flight nonstop from any major city in the U.S.,” she says. “Plus, Amsterdam is less crowded in the winter, giving you space to roam and explore without standing in crowded lines for hours.”
Nichols says that the Amsterdam Lights Festival showcases several installations that light up the city, as well. And, for her, another highlight in December are the oliebollen. “They are what beignets are to New Orleans — amazing doughy goodness rolled up into a ball,” she says. “You can also do a street art tour, as they have some really cool spaces that the average traveler never gets a chance to see, and one of my favorite museums there is the Anne Frank House, which takes you through her journey and the actual home she hid in during the war.” As far as where to stay, Nichols recommends the boutique hotel Kimpton De Witt. “It’s perfect and in one of the best locations — you will literally be close to all the action,” she says.
10. *Any* European City
Alex Dalton, an independent contractor for Travel Experts, tells Bustle that a lot of people forget about Europe as a travel destination when it’s wintertime. “But German Christmas markets are not to be missed, and you can get them all over the country,” he says. “Also, Northern lights in Scandinavia put on quite the show, and if you have staying in an ice hotel on your bucket list, then the only time to do it is in the winter.”
Even if you weren’t planning to go away this winter, maybe now you’re inspired after reading the above. And like some of the travel experts point out, you don’t have to necessarily go far to transport yourself to a winter wonderland.