With cold weather comes shorter days and darkness, thanks to the time change, which can make the entire season feel bleak. Seasonal affective disorder is very real. But you don’t have to suffer—seize an opportunity to escape to a sunny destination in order to shake off your cabin fever.
Tropical vacations are always in demand no matter the time of year. Island nations, in particular, have a longer tourist season. Should you plan your trip in the dead of winter, everything below the equator will be at the height of summer, which widens your travel options. Obvious destinations for a seasonal switch include Brazil and Australia, with a variety of choices in between. There are of course many sunny domestic locations that would give you just the right dose of vitamin D in December, too, from Texas to California.
License plates in Aruba display the small country’s motto: “One Happy Island.” And you, too, can be happy basking in its year-round sunshine just off the coast of Venezuela. Most locals speak several languages, including English, and many businesses also accept U.S. dollars, which are both great incentives to travel to this sunny island. If you don't feel like laying on the beach the whole time, you can go horseback riding, get adventurous on an ATV tour, visit an ostrich farm, or tour some of the island's spectacular caves, which feature ancient Arawak Indian drawings.
If you want the best cup of joe in your life, put Melbourne on your itinerary. The city is known as a less flashy Sydney, with beaches and nightlife expected for a big city in Australia.
If you enjoy finding new talent, Melbourne happens to have one of the most impressive up-and-coming music scenes in the world.
La Paz, Mexico
The capital of Baja Sur, just north of Cabo (yet worlds away), La Paz is a quiet, small city that sits on the Sea of Cortez, which Jacques Cousteau named “the world’s aquarium” because of its astounding marine life diversity. Winter is both whale shark and whale watching season. They are docile, slow-moving, and filter-feeding, which means that visitors may swim alongside them in small controlled groups.
Palm Springs, California
Winter is the perfect time to visit Palm Springs. It's a place known for gorgeous year-round weather and a vibrant desert community. Your soul will flourish where the mountains meet fields of Joshua trees.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
If you are going to visit Brazil, you can shake those winter blues by seeing all the sights. Rio has tons of landmarks—Christ the Redeemer, Olympic stadiums, Sugarloaf Mountain, countless extravagant cathedrals, and more—and also happens to be less populated than Sao Paulo, though both are hotspots for tourism. Temperatures can reach the upper 80s, making it the perfect escape from the cold.
Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea has been growing in popularity as a tourist destination, and for good reason. The nation is one of the most diverse in the world, with rich flora and fauna and dozens of indigenous tribes with their own languages and customs, as well.
With Bali just a few islands to its west, Komodo makes for a quieter trip into Indonesia. It is of course home to the Komodo dragon, a large, iguana-like lizard that can only be found in zoos in North America. So when you are not soaking up rays on the beach, adventures into nature await.
Galveston Island, Texas
A short bridge connects this island to mainland Texas, but it feels like a world away thanks to the beautiful beaches and Victorian Architecture. The Lone Star State is known for brutal heat, but in winter, the temperatures cool down enough to enjoy exploring its famous Pleasure Pier (which features amusement park rides, dining, and games), even when the sun is high. Not to mention, it also is host to miles of exquisite beaches.
Auckland, New Zealand
It is no secret that the New Zealand countryside is some of the most beautiful green space on earth. See it for yourself when you visit the small nation’s capital, Auckland. There are other sights worth seeing, too, including historic monuments and landmarks of the native Maori and Polynesian people.
This South American archipelago is most famous for helping Charles Darwin develop his theory of natural selection after he noticed that species of finches differed on each island. Even today, the natural ecosystem is incredibly diverse, and therefore tourism is regulated carefully in order to prevent much disruption.
Though Chile is one of the closest nations to Antarctica, its capital sits comfortably above its southern border, making it a great destination in December during their summer. Santiago is cradled by the Andes mountains, and you would be hard-pressed to find a place to stay that does not have breathtaking views. Not to mention that its quiet vibrancy as a metropolitan city will make you feel at home, even if Spanish is not your native language.
Arizona is home to more spas and resorts than you can imagine. It may be the most tranquil place to visit and unwind, especially when winter gets under your skin. Landscapes converge in this dry mountainous state, where you can explore forests, canyons, and hot springs.