December is a great time to travel, especially ahead of the holidays. The first few weeks are a sweet spot for people looking to snag an affordable flight deal ahead of the holiday rush while avoiding the large crowds of Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanza, and the New Year.
It’s also a great way to end the year like you probably began, with the resolution to travel more. There’s no better way to reflect on your yearly goals than by taking one last trip.
Most cities come alive in December with Christmas markets, festive lights, concerts, and more. Here are the best places to travel this December for less than $650 for a roundtrip.
San Juan, Puerto Rico For Less Than $250 Roundtrip
San Juan is great year-round, but in December, the town lights up even more as people celebrate the holidays. What’s excellent about Puerto Rico is, first and foremost, that a passport is not needed to experience the beautiful Caribbean. Another great benefit is there’s no shortage of fun from the moment you land.
Spend some time in Old San Juan, where travelers can people-watch at a rooftop bar while taking in the energy of one of San Juan’s most vibrant neighborhoods. While in Old San Juan, visit Castillo San Felipe del Morro.
Other fun activities include a day trip to El Yunque National Forest, the only rainforest in the U.S. National Park Service, a rum distillery tour, and laying out on the sand at Condado Beach.
If you’re visiting on the weekend, a favorite local hangout spot is La Placita. It’s a market that turns into exciting nightlife where travelers can eat and drink on the weekend.
According to Skyscanner, there are some excellent options for less than $250 round trip. Departure cities include Miami, Tampa, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, Detroit, Charlotte, New Orleans, Houston, Denver, Las Vegas, and more.
One of the cheapest options is from Chicago. Expedia has a roundtrip nonstop option priced less than $200 from December 13 through December 19.
Barcelona, Spain For Less Than $450 Roundtrip
Like San Juan, visiting Barcelona during the Christmas and New Year seasons is fun and festive. Barcelona, already known for its vibrant culture, incredible architecture, and even better cuisine, lights up even more.
Barcelona is filled with Christmas markets and festivities that highlight its Catalan culture. Fira de Santa Llúcia in the Avinguda de la Catedral de Barcelona runs from the end of November through December 23. It will be filled with hand-crafted ornaments, nativity scenes, and holiday treats you can only find during this festive time.
The Fira de Nadal de la Sagrada Família is another fun Christmas market held in Plaça de la Sagrada Família. It begins at the end of November and runs until the beginning of December when visitors can find Christmas trees, plants, nativity scenes, traditional figures, Christmas sweets, custom crafts, and more.
December is also a great time to visit popular attractions because the crowds are smaller, including the beaches, the Gothic Quarter, Barcelona’s iconic La Rambla, Park Güell, and the Picasso Museum.
New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Orlando, Philadelphia, and Chicago have roundtrip flights for less than $450, according to Skyscanner. The cheapest option comes from Boston. Use December 5 through December 12 as your travel dates in Expedia for a roundtrip ticket for less than $300.
Medellin, Colombia For Less Than $450 Roundtrip
People looking to escape the cold weather will love visiting Medellin in December. Winter is one of the best times to see the “City of External Spring” because the least amount of rain is between December and February.
Medellin is filled with some of the world’s most beautiful varieties of plants and flowers due to its climate. The city transforms into a more magical place with lights, fireworks, and music. Lights are displayed in different neighborhoods throughout Medellin, each with its own theme.
Other events in December include the Medellin River Illumination, a beautiful display of synchronized lights and music, and Día de las Velitas, or The Day of the Little Candles. It’s a unique tradition in Colombia that unofficially kickstarts the Christmas celebrations.
Roundtrip flights from Dallas, Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, New York City, Boston, Charleston, South Carolina, Chicago, Tampa, Memphis, and Detroit are less than $450 on Skyscanner.
According to Expedia, one of the best flight options leaves from Miami on December 8 and returns on December 15 for less than $380 roundtrip.
Lisbon, Portugal For Less Than $500 Roundtrip
Lisbon is another city that lights up in December – quite literally. Christmas lights take over the streets, so it’s a great time to add exploring the colorful streets in Baixa to your itinerary. A favorite ending point for locals and tourists is the Christmas tree at Praça do Comércio.
While Christmas markets aren’t a big deal compared to other European cities, there are some hidden gems. The markets at Praça Dom Pedro IV, Praça do Município, and the Mercado de Natal de Alvalade are great places to support local small businesses during the second and third weeks of December. In December, visitors will find Bolo Rei or King Cake, as it’s the official Christmas cake in Portugal.
Outside of the Christmas festivities, Lisbon has no shortage of fun. Skyscanner has roundtrip flights for less than $500 from New York City, Boston, Miami, Orlando, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Chicago.
One of the cheapest options is to leave the Washington, D.C., area. Use December 3 through December 11 as your travel dates in Expedia. A roundtrip flight with a layover is less than $350. A roundtrip ticket without a layover can be purchased for about $495.
Milan, Italy Less For Than $600 Roundtrip
December is one of the best times to visit Milan. Soak in the Italian way of celebrating Christmas while shopping for gifts in Italy’s retail capital.
O Bej O Bej is Milan’s traditional Christmas market. It translates to “Oh beautiful, oh beautiful” in English, where vendors sell beautiful arts and crafts and winter street food. Festa delgi Artigiani is the largest international fair dedicated to crafts and arts, and it’s held until the second week in December.
Most people who travel to Milan will make a pit stop to see its majestic Duomo, and in December, it’s decorated with lights and a Christmas tree to compliment its beauty further.
Milan is filled with beautiful canals. The weather will be more relaxed, but the Navigli District is where people should go for canal views. It’s also a great time to dip in a warm bath or jacuzzi waterfall at QC Terme Milano.
According to Skyscanner, roundtrip flights from Washington, D.C., Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, Atlanta, Miami, Houston, Philadelphia, Portland, and Charlotte are less than $600.
The cheapest option comes from New York City. Use December 7 through the 14 as your travel dates in Expedia for a roundtrip ticket for less than $450.
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