End 2019 with a bang and book one last getaway.
If you’re like the millions of Americans who end up letting their vacation days go to waste each year, we’re here to implore you to make a change. With just one month left in the year, why not book a last-minute trip to use up whatever PTO you have left? If you have quite a few days to burn, consider taking a long-haul trip out of the country—head south to Peru to take advantage of the small offseason crowds at Machu Picchu, or hop over to Germany to indulge in Christmas markets galore. Or, if you’re in desperate need of sun, sand, and surf, set sail on a week-long Caribbean cruise to chase the seasonal blues away.
There’s also the possibility of taking a long-weekend jaunt if you’re down to your final few vacation days. For those in the Northeast, the quaint town of Saratoga Springs, New York, has the perfect combination of winter and wellness activities. Wherever you choose to go, keep in mind that prices are cheaper in the first half of the month—and remember that any travel around the holidays will likely be nearly twice the price.
Shutterstock/Alberto Seminario10 Days in Peru for $1,500
Craving a little adventure this holiday season? Take a bucket-list trip to Peru. Spend a few days eating your way through Lima’s food scene—it’s one of the best cities in the world for foodies—before heading to Cusco, the Sacred Valley, and Machu Picchu. December is in the rainy season in the mountains, so crowds will be quite thinned as compared to the dry season. Don’t worry, it shouldn’t monsoon the entire time—mornings are usually dry, with showers moving in each afternoon.
Insider Tip: Give yourself a day or two to acclimatize to the altitude on this leg of the journey by taking it easy and keeping extremely well-hydrated.
Flights to Lima are about $600 from multiple cities across the country during the first half of the month and jump up to over $1,000 during the holidays. Tack on an extra $60 for a round-trip flight between Lima and Cusco. Fortunately, accommodations are affordable across Peru—there are numerous quality hotels with rates around $100 per night in Lima, with even lower nightly rates averaging about $60 for hotels in Cusco and the Sacred Valley. So, a $1,500 budget for 10 days in Peru is certainly manageable if you snag one of the $600 flights. If you visit over the holidays, you might need to stay in budget accommodations to make up for the more expensive airfare.
Germany is the Christmas-market capital of the world, so if you’re feeling the holiday spirit, consider hopping across the country to catch some of the best. While essentially every major city in Germany has at least one Christkindlmarkt, as they’re known in German, as well as many of the smaller cities and large towns, some of our favorite markets are in Berlin (which has about 70 in total!), Munich, Nuremberg, Dresden (which has the oldest market in Germany, first mentioned in 1628), Cologne, and Rothenburg ob der Tauber, a fairytale-like town near Nuremberg. The markets aren’t just for selling handicrafts—they’re also filled with delicious local treats, from all sorts of wursts to Knoblauchbrot, a garlic bread, to Schaumkuss, a chocolate-covered marshmallow that comes in numerous flavors. And don’t miss a chance to take home collectible mugs from each market: Order a glühwein (a hot mulled wine) and it’ll come inside of the market’s own limited edition mug. You’re welcome to take it home, or you can return it to the stall and receive a deposit back from the price you paid for the drink.
Round-trip flights to Berlin are as low as $500 from New York and $600 from Chicago and San Francisco. To transport yourself around Germany, purchase a flexible rail pass, which costs anywhere from $200 to $300, depending on how many legs you plan on traveling during your stay—for a 10-day trip, we recommend staying at least two days in each city. Hotels are a bit pricey in Germany in December due to the markets, but you can find Airbnbs in the city center of most major cities for $75 or less.
If you’re sick of the cold, dark days as we head into winter, consider booking a Caribbean cruise to get a healthy dose of vitamin D. A quick scan of several cruise sites shows a variety of sailings that still have cabins available. Sail from Miami to the Bahamas, St. Barts, and St. Lucia, among other ports of call, on a 10-day itinerary on Oceania’s Riviera, a luxury ship known for its culinary offerings—an interior cabin costs $1,600. Or, for the same price, you can book a balcony stateroom on Royal Caribbean’s Rhapsody of the Seas, which is sailing a seven-night Eastern Caribbean itinerary from Port Canaveral. Of course, given the price of these sailings, they’re likely only feasible for Floridians who can drive to the ports, since there’s no room in the budget for airfare.
If you do need to factor in flights (fares to Miami are as low as $70 round-trip from New York and $220 round-trip from Los Angeles), there are still plenty of options for you. For instance, Celebrity Edge, a high-tech ship that launched just a year ago, sails for the Eastern Caribbean from Miami this month—and the seven-night itinerary starts at just $869 per person. You also might be able to nab some great last-minute deals if you call different travel agencies or even the cruise lines themselves, as they might be able to find a better rate that’s not advertised online.
Shutterstock/Theresa LauriaA Long Weekend in Saratoga Springs for $1,400
You don’t need to take a long-haul trip to feel like you’ve gotten away from it all. If you live in the Northeast, head to the charming New York town of Saratoga Springs for a full immersion into winter. Those who love outdoor activities will find them in abundance here: Saratoga Spa State Park has plenty of paths for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, there are snowmobiling trails throughout the region, and some of the state’s best downhill slopes are located nearby in the Adirondacks. Want a more leisurely trip? Pamper yourself in the town’s spas—the town is known to be named after its mineral waters, so be sure to soak in a mineral bath—then stroll the historic downtown and pop into boutiques, art galleries, restaurants, and bars.
Saratoga Springs has its own Amtrak station, making it easily accessible from New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C.—fares range from $120 to $200 round-trip. Travelers coming in from Boston can take Amtrak into Albany, a 40-minute drive south of Saratoga Springs, for about $60 round-trip. There’s also an international airport in Albany, though flights can be expensive. That said, we’re seeing round-trip flights from Orlando for as little as $107 this month. As for a place to stay, splurge on a suite at the luxurious Adelphi Hotel, which opened in 1877 and underwent a $34 million renovation in 2017 and is home to culinary outlets by chef David Burke. Suites range from $289 to $600 per night—pick the one that best suits your budget!