Winter vacation ideas

The world is divided into two groups – those who start thinking about their Summer vacations on 1 June and those who start looking at amazing winter vacation ideas around the same date.  The spontaneity of the first group is much to be admired as it opens up the world of last-minute adventures.  But realistically, it’s a bit of a gamble leaving your summer getaway to the very last minute.

When it comes to thinking about a winter vacation, I believe that ‘last minute’ is not really the wisest approach.  This is mainly due to the limited number of destinations that will guarantee you sublime weather conditions within a relatively easy journey time.  It really does make a lot of sense to check out some of the best winter vacations as soon as possible and snap up best locations, luxury vacation rentals, and best deals – both for flights and accommodation.

Here are some of the best places to visit in December around the world!


If you’ve never hopped off the traditional merry-go-round and side-stepped Christmas you don’t know what you are missing.  I am, at heart, at true traditionalist.  Sadly, a lot of my tribe don’t sign up to the carol singing / egg nog swilling perfection of December 25th.  So, every once in a while, I check out of the festive madness and go in search of some of the best places to visit in December that involve sun and sand.

My escapes take two distinct forms:

  1. The full Christmas experience – just somewhere else; or
  2. An amazing destination that isn’t heavy on the tinsel and turkey.

I recommend both heartily.

The best places to visit in December include the Caribbean offering great climates to get you though the winter season

Single Traveller Groups

If you are a singleton who isn’t excited by the prospect of mainlining bad Christmas TV fuelled up on mince pies and mulled wine, why not get a group of like-minded adventurers together and take up residence, for the holiday period, in a luxurious villa on some not-too-distant shore.  Nothing compares to waking up in the delightfully sunny Turks and Caicos – stepping out of your divine beach-side residence, like Water Edge Villa or Sea Edge Villa and ambling along the endless stretch of coastline that is Grace Bay Beach.

With temperatures in Turks and Caicos staying faithfully in the low 80’s for December and January, you can be assured of idyllic holiday conditions.  For more information on travel tips see our Essential Turks and Caicos Travel guide.  The award-winning Grace Bay Beach in the heart of Providenciales – the largest island of the Turks and Caicos – offers access to Smiths Reef – one of the finest diving and snorkelling destinations in the Caribbean.  You can enjoy horse-riding along the miles of beach, any number of thrilling water sports or just chill out by your private pool.  Christmas in T&C is memorable.  There are incredible illuminations with sparkling Christmas trees that compete with the star filled sky.

Enjoy these incredible winter vacation ideas overlooking the Caribbean Sea

Another reason to consider T&C as one of your winter vacation ideas is that on 26th December the colourful festival, Maskanoo, takes place along Grace Bay.  A masquerade parade that follows a route through Providenciales, showcasing African masks and costumes, is complemented by delicious local fare like deep fried conch fritters.  The carnival atmosphere is so much fun for all the family.

Young Family Winter vacation ideas

If you are parents of very young kids a break away from the drudgery of preparing and hosting a Christmas is not to be underestimated either.  The endless drama leading up to Christmas, the debate over which set of grandparents do you visit over the holidays is immediately binned.  Why not invite both sets of grandparents to join you as you escape to paradise.  Your little ones will have one key question though – Will Santa find our stockings if we are on a beach in Barbados?  The answer is a resounding YES.  GPS solves all of that!  Just watch the fabulous movie Arthur Christmas to explain that concept!

For families with little ones, Christmas at Sandy Lane or at any of the Exceptional Villas within walking distance of this world-class resort is a must.  My number one choice is:  Tradewinds, the divine five-bedroom villa in the Sandy Lane Estate.  With access to the beach club at Sandy Lane, tennis courts and other five-star facilities, this property will accommodate an extended family who want to export their Christmas to a sunny destination.

The best winter vacation ideas include destinations along the Caribbean with mild climates and great activities

Don’t forget the brilliant Christmas Day Sandcastle Building Competition for little kids, hosted by Sandy Lane Resort annually.  It may feel a little un-Christmassy to be gazing out over the Caribbean but believe me, everyone will just love it!

Families with Teenage Kids

If you are parents (single or otherwise) to teenage kids or part of a blended family, the long-ish break from school and / or work over the Christmas period allows everyone to have a valuable bonding session as you snorkel like a pod of gorgeous dophins around the coastline of Costa Rica.  There’s something rather soul destroying about investing hours labouring over a ‘perfect’ traditional Christmas dinner back home, only to find that the majority of the diners are slumped in front of tablets or phones for the duration of the day.

The perfect solution to this annual low point is to get onto a beach, feel that badly-needed sunshine on those tired bones, and re-energise the family unit.  Who says you can’t have freshly barbecued fish served with delicious sides on your own private terrace overlooking the Pacific coastline of Costa Rica on 25th December?   Frankly, it just sounds divine to me!

Costa Rica is a great destination for groups of Families, offering a huge amount of activities and destinations to explore

Feliz Año Nuevo!

Happy New Year, as they say in Costa Rica.  One of the best places to travel in December is undoubtedly this incredible destination, with a plethora of great places to visit in Costa Rica.  The weather conditions are fabulous.  Warm and dry.  Yoga, surfing, hiking, engaging with nature all come into their own during this period.  To add another dimension, you could book your trip to coincide with the fun-filled New Year’s Eve celebrations.

Like any country steeped in its Latin traditions, there are some quirky and fun things to do.  Why not join in with the locals and eat 12 grapes on New Year’s Eve – each grape to be accompanied by a wish for each of the 12 months ahead.  Another fun tradition is choosing your underwear colour to bring auspicious good fortune.  Yellow underwear signifies general good luck for the year ahead.  Green will attract money and red will ensure your soul-mate finds you.  Before you dash off to Victoria Secrets and invest a small fortune in the perfect pieces to bring forth the desired outcome, you can simply get ribbons of each colour to hang outside your stunning villa.

Explore the lush landscape of Costa Rica on you next winter vacation

Casa Karma is a four bedroom villa overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Costa Rica. The Villa is based in a secure gated property, and provides you with the ultimate tropical getaway with exquisite mountain, ocean and jungle views. Costa Rica is becoming one of the best places to travel in December  for the discerning family who want a divine ‘Pure Vida’ vacation delivered in unparalled style.

The Gift that keeps on Giving –

If you have taken the initiative to book your family group on a Christmas vacation like no other, then the next question is “what do we do about gifts”.  You certainly don’t want to be hauling bags of brightly packed gifts to your fabulous holiday getaway.  My recommendation is this:  your gifts should take the form of ‘experiences’.  What do I mean by this?  Why not buy a series of diving lessons for your intrepid teenage daughter.  How about some kite-surfing for an adrenalin junkie Dad or Son?  Perhaps Mom gets a day at the luscious five-star Spa where she is pampered and treated like a queen.  Lessons with the resident golf or tennis pro might also be an exciting gift.

If you are keen on having something tangible to bring home from your holiday – other than a point or two chipped off your golf handicap – then the world-class Duty Free shopping in St Barts might also appeal.  In between glamorous dining and fun beach activities you can net some delightful pieces for the label conscious shopper.  Why not base yourself at one of Exceptional Villas stunning properties like Castle Roc – a five bedroomed villa overlooking the Caribbean coastline of magnificent St Barts.  Considered one of the best places to visit in December, you will love the chic beach vibe of this Caribbean jewel.

The best winter vacations are sun kissed island fringed by tall palms and warm tropical waters

January Destinations

Of course, for some folks Christmas isn’t Christmas unless you get to dine on Grandma’s china and recline in front of a crackling fire.  But once the hand-embroidered heirloom linen napkins are laundered and put away for another year and the insanity of holiday season is behind you, what better way to usher in the New Year than a lazy and luxurious vacation.

If you are lucky enough to be free of the cares of parenthood, there are so many gorgeous resorts where you will be lovingly pampered in an idyllic setting.  Sometimes, a private villa is the answer to your holiday needs as you can set your vacation timetable exactly to your own personal needs.  It’s no surprise that we, at Exceptional Villas, are inundated with bookings from July onwards from the smart travellers who want to ensure they get the best views, from the most beautiful properties in the most perfect destinations.

Jamaica in January really does have a nice ring to it.  The ever-glamorous resorts like Round Hill, the Tryall Club and Half Moon Hotel know how to offer the very best welcome to guests and are some of the best places to travel in December or January.  Temperatures staying in the steady low 80’s ensures balmy days beneath a shading palm tree.  These fully-loaded resorts combine all the fun activities like golf, tennis and water sports as well as divine restaurants and bars where you can round out the perfect day in style.  There are so many wonderful villas and rooms from which to choose to make any stay in Jamaica memorable.

The best places to travel in December include islands all over the Caribbean, with sandy beaches and turquoise waters

At Exceptional Villas, we have standing orders with a lot of our clients who return year-on-year to their favourite corner of the Caribbean.  A lot of the resorts and villas have staff who have been meeting and greeting guests each year.  It can be really reassuring to see the same staff each year who understand exactly how you like to live and relax during your vacation.

Some of our regular clients like to mix it up a bit.  They reach out to us around July and ask us to recommend somewhere new for their annual January holiday.  Our concierge and sales teams work really closely with one another ensuring we understand the key requirements of our clients.  In this way, we can recommend wonderful properties and destinations that we know will suit our clients’ specific needs and desires.  We look at the overall vacation experience that the client will enjoy – pairing perfect accommodations with key activities like fishing, golf, tennis, spa, hiking, sailing etc …. and on top of all of this, it’s the undefinable qualities that we know will ensure our valued clients have a holiday that ebbs and flows at the right tempo.  It certainly helps that everyone of our sales and concierge staff are personally familiar with each property and destination.  How better to describe the sensation of walking along a white sandy beach with a soft breeze blowing through the palm trees when you’ve been there and done that!


You might very well be reading this in June or July, lounging by a sparking pool in one of Exceptional Villas fabulous properties around the globe.  The chilly damp weather of the winter months may seem eons away … but as sure as night follows day, those pretty freckles you’ve acquired during your Summer sojourn will surely fade and look pretty lack-lustre against that pale, goose-bumped flesh of December!  Why not get ahead of the curve and check out some of the best winter vacations and destinations that will guarantee you not just sublime weather but fun activities during the grim winter season.

St Barts is one of the best places to visit in December, with endless views and a great tropical climate

I sometimes feel our lives are filled with more ‘stuff’ than we ever need.  So perhaps instead of asking for a long list of gifts to clutter up our already pretty full lives, why not agree with your loved ones to pool the Christmas budget and convert it into the perfect gift for everyone – a holiday of a lifetime.  And a special note out there to the romantic man who may be whisking his lucky partner away for the holidays …. Don’t forget that a small Tiffany box can be easily packed in your luggage.  You can surprise the one you love with something sparkling on Christmas morning along with that glass of champagne.  Just saying ….Christmas in the Caribbean – it certainly does have a wonderful ‘ring’ to it!

About Mairead Moriarty

Born and raised in Co Kerry, lived in London, New York, San Francisco, Dublin. Owner of one very battered suitcase, a well-worn passport and a million memories.

It seems very fitting for a travel writer that my surname translates as ‘Skilled Navigator’. Apart from an occasion when, aged 3, I got lost in a Supermarket in Tralee, I have managed to live up to my name!

Curiosity is probably the driver that has sent me on magical mystery tours around the world. I want to ‘feel’ a place. I want all my senses to be engaged: from the history and geography that has influenced a country or city, the arts and achievements of its natives, anything and everything really.

Regardless of whether I am on a local train travelling through Morocco, or poking around in Marconi’s study in Bologna or on a canal boat weaving through the heart of the English countryside, the same rules apply - ask questions, talk to locals, eat what they eat, sit quietly with nature and simply be.

Assimilate as much as is possible so as to understand the soul of a place. That is my passion. That is the compass by which I navigate.

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