8 of the best destinations to visit in December

Nov 16, 2021

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The season of fall foliage and pumpkin spice is already coming to a close, and now the holidays are right around the corner. That means time off of work and sneaking in a little getaway.

Plus, if you have kids, the COVID-19 vaccine approval for 5- to 11-year-olds will alleviate some family travel jitters this December. And though demand for flights and hotels is high right around Christmas and New Year’s Eve, ongoing remote work flexibility for many can make it a great time to travel.

Even if you plan to stay home for the holidays, the whole month of December is a festive lead-up that transforms both domestic and international locales into magical destinations. Think: Christmas markets in bustling cities and dazzling light displays on the beach. Plus, ticket prices for international flights remain on average 35% lower compared to this time in 2019, according to new Expedia data. So there are deals to be had, especially if you plan to travel abroad.

Of course, it’s always important to keep safety in mind, especially as the number of travelers increases. Although the number of COVID-19 cases continues to drop in the U.S., other areas around the world are seeing a spike. So, be sure to check the latest recommendations from medical experts and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But where should you jet off to? From idyllic islands and snowy mountain escapes to vibrant cities, these are the eight best destinations to visit this December.

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In This Post

New York City

(Photo by Tom Wilde/Getty Images)

It’s no doubt that the Big Apple is pretty much back in full swing, tourists and all. Following Broadway’s reopening in September, winter in New York City will be more magical than ever, with Macy’s lit up, the light show at Rockefeller Center in action, Bryant Park’s Winter Village returning and Wollman Rink ready to welcome visitors again, plus so much more.

New York City is the quintessential holiday destination. And according to new Priceline data, New York is one of the most affordable domestic destinations, with round-trip flights averaging $309 a ticket. Plus, average daily lodging rates are still a great value, much lower when compared with December 2019 and averaging around $305 a night in December, according to Expedia.

TPG tip: There are tons of hotels that accept various rewards points systems. For example, the brand-new Thompson Central Park New York is available at 20,000 World of Hyatt points per night (cash rates can set you back about $500 a night, though there is a 20% off discount to celebrate the opening that includes two complimentary drinks). It’s centrally located to all the major uptown attractions in New York City, including Carnegie Hall.

Anguilla

Long Bay Village, Anguilla. (Photo by Shawn Walters/EyeEm/Getty Images)

Why face white snow when you can enjoy white-sand beaches instead? That’s what you’ll get in Anguilla, which is home to miles of stunning shoreline and perfect 80-degree days.

This winter, the trip is made even easier, thanks to American Airlines launching a new direct route from Miami to Anguilla on Dec. 11. And the island is filled with stunning properties. One great option is Cap Juluca, a Belmond Hotel, where every room is a beachfront room, giving guests their very own slice of the Caribbean Sea.

You can book a deluxe king there for around 60,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points per night (remember, points linked to a Chase Sapphire Reserve account are worth 1.5 cents each, while points linked to a Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or Ink Business Preferred Credit Card are worth 1.25 cents each).

Or, opt for the equally luxurious Zemi Beach House from Hilton’s high-end LXR Hotels & Resorts brand. Rooms this time of year will set you back about 95,000 Hilton Honors points per night, or from about $650 in December.

TPG tip: December is considered the island’s busy month, but that’s only if you come in the final weeks over the holidays. If you can swing it, arriving early in the month is the best off-season time to visit Anguilla because it has perfect weather, and everything is open without the crowds. Just make sure to jump off the rock at Little Bay. Trust us. 

Miami

South Beach, Miami. (Photo by Alexander Spatari/Getty Images)

Miami is always a great getaway destination in the winter, but December is a particularly exciting time to go. Every year during the first week of December, the international art fair Art Basel Miami descends on the city and brings with it the world’s premier artists and celebrities.

The week is filled with cutting-edge creativity, an unmatched social scene and arguably the best weather you’ll ever experience in South Florida. Even if you can’t make it during Art Week, there’s still plenty to experience the rest of the month.

The city has undergone a culinary transformation in the last year with new restaurants that have opened throughout the city, including Orno by James Beard Award nominee Niven Patel. And there are new hotels like The Gabriel South Beach, Curio Collection by Hilton — where you can get a standard room starting at 66,000 Hilton Honors points per night (or under $220 on select dates). 

TPG tip: This year, the Kimpton Surfcomber Hotel will be debuting a pop-up VIP dining concept called Cabana Nights at Kimpton Surfcomber with an unmatched al fresco setting, a menu of over-the-top dishes and fabulous live music (Dec. 28 to 30). Book a room in late December for about 43,000 IHG Rewards points or $220 a night. 

St. Kitts and Nevis

Basseterre, Saint Kitts. (Photo by mbrand85/Getty Images)

St. Kitts and Nevis — a dual-island nation — is regarded as one of the most unspoiled and relaxing destinations in the Caribbean.

From astonishing vistas to lush tropical rainforests and pristine beaches, St. Kitts boasts the quintessential Caribbean experience. It’s home to one-of-a-kind attractions such as the UNESCO-recognized Brimstone Hill Fortress Park, Hamilton’s birthplace in Charlestown, the Caribbean’s only scenic passenger railway and the Caribelle Batik factory. Not to mention there are bucket list-worthy hikes around a dormant volcanic crater or to Nevis Peak. 

TPG tip: Now is the best time to book a December vacation as the country hosts a Winter Escape promotion. Vaccinated visitors have beautiful hotel resorts to choose from, with each offering a variety of deals like a fourth night free at the Four Seasons Resort Nevis.

You can also use World of Hyatt points at Park Hyatt St. Kitts Christophe Harbour (starting at 30,000 points per night) or 35,000 Marriott Bonvoy points a night at St. Kitts Marriott Resort & The Royal Beach Casino.

Zurich

Zurich, Switzerland. (Photo by Chen Xi Landscape and Architecture Photographer/Getty Images)

Zurich transforms into the ultimate winter wonderland during December. In addition to its classic decorations and light installations, the city boasts several Christmas markets, cozy fondue chalets, traditional events such as candle dipping at Burkliplatz and the “Marlitram” fairy tale tram.

Christkindlimarkt at Zurich Main Station is a highlight thanks to the 140 stalls and a 32-foot-tall Christmas tree decorated with thousands of Swarovski crystals.

Another Christmas market favorite is in Old Town: Christmas Market Dorfli in the Niederdorf. This open-air winter village offers fondue and raclette, artisanal crafts and a magical, old-world ambiance. Additional attractions include a variety of ice skating rinks (including at the Dolder Grand hotel), fondue pop-ups (served under the stars or in an eTukTuk) and toboggan runs.

TPG tip: This year, travelers can stay at the unique Hotel Noel, a new pop-up experience running from Nov. 26 to Dec. 26, with 10 rooms in 10 hotels individually designed by different artists, reflecting creative contemporary interpretations of the Christmas season. Or, stay at the brand-new Neues Schloss Privat Hotel Zurich (opening at the end of November) from 50,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night.

Phoenix

Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Matt Mawson/Getty Images)

December is the perfect time to explore the southwestern landscapes in and around Phoenix, as temperatures hover at a delightful 68 degrees.

To kick off the month, journey to the beautiful Santa Catalina Mountains for an outdoor concert and dance to the tunes of folk ensemble Dan Levinson and The Cat Mountain Rounders.

Then, sure to be a true highlight of your visit, take a stroll through the Desert Botanical Garden or Downtown Glendale and see the city light up with events such as Las Noches de las Luminarias and Glendale Glitters. Next, enjoy one of Phoenix’s finest culinary dining experiences at Christopher’s, located at the iconic Wrigley Mansion.

Finally, to round out the itinerary, get some steps in by hiking Camelback Mountain and taking in a bird’s-eye view of downtown Phoenix. 

TPG tip: Flight prices to Phoenix are low throughout the month no matter where you’re coming from. Spirit Airlines has several deals with one-way tickets starting at $31. 

Rome

Rome, Italy. (Photo by Sylvain Sonnet/Getty Images)

December visitors will enjoy a much less touristy version of Rome (and great average daily hotel rates at $150 a night, according to Expedia data), making it the perfect time to explore the myriad museums, exhibits and events the city has to offer during the holiday season.

Because the weather is cooler and often rainy, bundle up and make plans to enjoy indoor activities like touring the Vatican and visiting St. Peter’s Basilica or the opera.

Of course, Rome is also a great place to pick up some holiday gifts. In December, the stores are beautifully decorated. While roaming around the department store Rinascente Via del Tritone, check out the ancient aqueduct on the bottom floor that brought water to the Trevi Fountain. 

TPG tip: Expected to open in December is the W Rome, which is housed in two adjacent 19th-century buildings near Via Veneto and will cost about 70,000 Marriott Bonvoy points (or upward of $450) per night. And close by is the Maalot Roma hotel, which opened just steps from the Trevi Fountain in the most central part of Rome.

Washington, DC

Washington, D.C. (Photo by John Baggaley/Getty Images)

Another U.S. city makes the list as there is no shortage of fun activities in D.C. during December. Visiting the monuments on the National Mall is extra magical thanks to the surrounding twinkling lights, while the Capitol Christmas tree is always a sight to behold.

Plus, it’s the only time of year you can ice skate with a view of the Washington Monument. There’s also the Downtown Holiday Market and specialty shows like “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” at the National Theatre, “The Nutcracker” at The Washington Ballet and “A Christmas Carol” at the infamous Ford’s Theatre.

Oh, and it’s also one of the cheapest destinations to visit with hotel rooms averaging just $170 per night, according to Expedia. 

TPG tip: Book a room at the recently renovated Dupont Circle Hotel for around 16,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points a night (or about $300) and be in the heart of the city. Or, get a room near the National Mall at the Hilton Washington DC National Mall The Wharf from 44,000 Hilton Honors points, or $138 per night.

Featured photo of the Arch of Constantine and The Colosseum in Rome, Italy by Harald Nachtmann/Getty Images.

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