Escape the Cold: The Best Places to Warm You Up

Belize

If you’re not interested in a super-touristy experience, and want to head somewhere much less crowded but with the same gorgeous weather as the rest of Central America, you should consider Belize for your next vacation. There are tons of beaches along the Caribbean coast with the massive Belize Barrier Reef lying just offshore. This reef is a major draw for many scuba divers, and for snorkeling.

Another famous site that’s a major tourism draw is the Great Blue Hole, a massive marine sinkhole near Lighthouse Reef. Jacques Cousteau declared it one of the greatest scuba diving sites in the world when it was shown to him in 1970.

On shore, Belize has many beautiful beach locations like Ambergris Caye, Caye Caulker, and Placencia. If you get tired of relaxing on the beach, you can venture inland to some of Belize’s magnificent Mayan ruins like Altun Ha and Caracol, which are popular sites for day-trips.

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New Orleans

New Orleans is a great place to go over the holidays — it has mild temperatures, and a laid-back pace despite being a major American hub. Typically, New Orleans gets busier during Mardi Gras and the Carnival season, which happens in the spring. Christmas holidays are slower in New Orleans, and it’s more likely that you’ll find good deals on accommodations.

Check out the bonfires on the levees of the Mississippi River that happen at sunset, which are traditionally lit to guide Papa Noël through the river. In Louisiana, children have traditionally been taught about Papa Noël and his boat pulled by eight alligators instead of Santa Claus. The oaks of City Park are dressed up in lights, and you can wander through the brilliant display before heading out for a decadent Réveillon dinner.

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Traditionally, Réveillon is the meal served after midnight mass, and is always a delicious feast full of Creole favorites. Many of the best Christmas events in New Orleans are free, which makes it easy to splash out on a hotel room and save cash on activities.

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Phuket, Thailand

If you’re interested in busy nightlife along with a healthy serving of beaches and outdoor activities, Phuket is the place for you. Phuket is Thailand’s largest island, and is covered in long beaches that look out over jutting rock formations dripping in greenery. Although Phuket has a reputation for being full of intoxicated young people on their gap year vacations, it’s easier than ever to find resorts and hotels that cater to a more upscale crowd.

Between days on the beach, you can visit Phuket Old Town, which is full of colorful historic buildings built in the Sino-Portuguese style, or take a long-boat out to one of the nearby islands like Surin or Similan for a day of snorkeling. If you’re in Phuket over Christmas, the larger resorts will have some sort of Christmas dinner celebration, which you may want to book in advance. It’s best to book accommodations several months in advance to ensure the best price, but you don’t need to worry about locking in excursions until you’ve arrived — December is their slow season.

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