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Best Vacation Places, Pictures and Information

Hat Saikaew beach mermaid, Koh Samet, Thailand

Sae Kaew beach, on Koh Samet’s east coast, Thailand

The best time to hit Thailand’s good value beaches is December – March, with average high temperatures of about 28C in December rising to 30C in March, tho’ this year – 2017 – daily highs in January have been up to a sticky 32C with quite a bit of cloud (meanwhile the competition – Ko Samui – had massive rainstorms and flooding!).
One of our favourite Thai island destinations, Koh Samet is  a 3.5 hour bus ride from Bangkok to Ban Phe pier and then a 40 minute ferry ride. Much of the island is still covered by greenery  because it’s a National Park while the east coast is blessed with the softest white sand beaches seen anywhere, gently shelving and washed by crystal waters, but the speedboats are a pain!

Vacation Places Guides January – February 2018

Americas      Europe      Africa      Asia      Australasia

January – February in the Northern Hemisphere is mostly about winter sports under blue skies or moving briskly between indoor cultural activities under damp and dreary skies.

Of course in the Southern Hemisphere it’s summertime so sun seekers need to head south, well at least a bit.  The most interesting North African countries – Egypt and Morocco – are very good value with chilly nights but (hopefully) perfect sunny days. Ultra  ‘safe’ choices for Europeans lie in The Canary Islands for volcanic excitement (average highs about 22C in this season).

South Africa offers wildlife, scenic drives, wines, hikes, beaches and great value. Pricey Dubai (average highs about 26C) does guaranteed winter sun, beaches, serious bling and odd attractions (skiing?!).
Oman is a more traditional Arab destination (average highs about 27C) for beaches and culture.
North Americans just have to nip down to Latin America for incredible, colorful cultures (especiallyMexico and Peru.

Sadly much of the Caribbean was seriously damaged by recent hurricanes and we don’t know how fast and complete recovery will be by the New Year. We suspect more than a few months will be needed. However, some popular  islands appear to have escaped the wrath of Thor so Caribbean lovers should be fairly comfortable choosing Jamaica, Cayman Islands, Trinidad & Tobago, Barbados, Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao. More below.

Low cost vacation places in 2018

Currently the cheapest long-haul tourist destinations worldwide, based on typical holiday spending are:

1: Tokyo, Japan

2: Cape Town, South Africa

3: Mombasa, Kenya

4: Colombo, Sri Lanka

5: Hoi An, Vietnam

6: Bali, Indonesia

7: Tamarindo, Costa Rica

8: Orlando, Florida, USA (minor hurricane damage)

9: Penang, Malaysia

10: Punta Cana, Dominican Republic (some hurricane damage but major tourist destinations, including Punta Cana, Santo Domingo, Puerto Plata, and Samana are operating normally)

The Americas

US Vacation Places January – February 2018

One of many events happening in Ottawa's Ontario during the Winterlude Festival. Photo by Saffron Blaze.

One of many events happening in Ottawa’s Ontario during the Winterlude Festival. Photo by Saffron Blaze.

Canada is an easy trip for Americans and you could get a feel for la vie Française while you’re there if you head for Quebec or great English-speaking life in Vancouver and nearby Whistler ski resort.

Beaches on most of mainland USA are pretty much out of the picture in wintertime, though south Florida temperatures rarely fall below 50F (10C) and usually hover around 72F (22C) with lots of sunshine, so a dip off Miami beach is definitely doable on New Year’s Day while the Florida Art Deco Weekend in Miami, with 1920’s-30’s style music and parades is quite special (12-14 January), a colourful blast from the past.
Alternatively New Orleans‘ spectacular Mardi Gras goes over-the-top on Tuesday 13 February but locals start celebrating up to two weeks before.

For winter sports the homegrown Rockies have attractions other than just mind-blowing skiing these days, just get a sniff of what’s smoking in Denver, Colorado. Otherwise Canada is an easy trip and you could get a feel for la vie Française but there are also some superb snow-oriented festivals such as Montreal’s La Fete des Neiges (Snow Festival, weekends 20 January – 11 February 2018); Carnaval de Québec in Quebec City, a vigorous winter celebration with parades, themed parties, ice sculptures and, bien sûr, winter sports (26 January – 11 February 2018); if you prefer to speak English then Winterlude Festival in Ottawa (Ontario) is three weekends of parades, dances, snow races, ice sculptures, sleigh rides and more, but especially skating on the 7. 8 km Rideau Canal (February 2 – 19  2018).

Caribbean Vacation Places January – February 2018

2017 Caribbean Hurricane Irma route map, Caribbean Vacation Places

2017  Hurricane Irma Caribbean route map, approximately. And then came Maria….

This Festival/New Year season is prime time for Caribbean vacations but Hurricane Irma has put a stop to that in some locations, especially when compounded with the Hurricane Maria follow-up. Any destinations near to the hurricane routes would best be avoided unless you have information to the contrary. And don’t necessarily believe island tourist information!

These destinations have sustained severe damage:

Barbuda (sister to Antigua)

St Maarten/Saint Martin

British Virgin Islands

USVI, especially hotels on St Thomas & St John

Anguilla

Florida Keys, particularly Middle Keys.

Cuba’s north coast (Havana, Varadero)

Turks and Caicos

Puerto Rico

The Bahamas southern islands

Anguilla

Guadaloupe

Dominica

Montserrat

These islands – and more –  are still beautiful and untouched by Irma:

Jamaica

Cayman Islands

Barbados

Trinidad & Tobago

Aruba

Bonaire

Curacao

Latin America Vacation Places, January – February 2018

The Temple of the Cross seen from the side. Photo by Jim.

The Maya Temple of the Cross in Palenque, Mexico, a pyramid group still surrounded by thick jungle vegetation that gives visitors an Indiana Jones esteem. Photo by Jim.

In Central and South America the weather and colourful cultures of Guatemala, Mexico, Costa Rica should be brilliant in January and February, along with Ecuador’s spectacular Galapagos Islands, but not much else.

Europe vacation places, January – February 2018

Playa Teresitas on Tenerife island, Canary islands, Spain

Playa Teresitas on Tenerife island, Canary islands, Spain

Europe in winter frequently features dull grey skies with chilly drizzle so tourism focuses on winter sports in France, Italy, Austria and Germany or cultural visits to the classic cities of London, Paris, Rome, FlorenceBarcelona and Seville where the climate is not quite as traumatising as further north.

Favourite Europe photos

Africa Vacation Places, January – February 2018

Luxor Temple seen from the Nile, Egypt Vacation Places

A view of the Luxor Temple (east bank) from the River Nile, usually a disturbingly crowded place. Photo by Olaf Tausch.

Egypt’s Luxor will offer the unusual experience of strolling incredible temples and tombs under blue skies with very few sheeple grazing around you as previous hordes are usefully discouraged by the troubles in distant Cairo and north Sinai, though there have been a couple incidents. Security levels are high so for a small risk the adventurous will see one of the world’s best group of ancient sites at low cost and low crowd levels.

Sharm el Sheikh on the other side of the Red Sea (extremely well guarded these days) will be incredible value and offer lovely weather as the local authorities try to tempt visitors back to enjoy south Sinai delights; lower down the financial totem Dahab is a fun place to hang out. The lovely Red Sea, however, will not be very warm so wet suits necessary!

Morocco will be pleasant though a bit chilly at this time and definitely not the place for swimming or serious beach use. In winter slightly more upmarket hotels/riads are a better bet for decent insulation and warmer rooms. Agadir is the most southerly tourist venue, culturally very limited (boo!) but offering massive beaches (hooray!) washed by freezing Atlantic seas (boo!).
As usual Marrakesh makes a terrific base for exploring the Sahara desert and the Atlas mountains but if you’re temperature-sensitive go a little upmarket to ensure your hotel has heating, many hostels don’t and it can get decidedly chilly!

Etosha National Parkin Namibia offers self drive, secure rest camps beside waterholes and vast numbers of animals, making this one of the world’s top three wildlife experiences. Add in vast dunes at Sossusvleiseals on the Skeleton Coast and Namib Desert activities and Namibia is another bucket-list def-do.

Otherwise you could head for Tanzania’s wildlife and its beach island of Zanzibar or South Africa’s varied attractions, from lively cities, particularly Cape Town, beaches to wildlife and wine districts.

Asia Vacation Places, January – February

Bagan in Burma/Myanmar, with 2,500 ancient pagodas and stupas in 40sq kms. Myanmar Vacation Places

Bagan in Burma/Myanmar –  2,500 ancient pagodas, temples and stupas over 40 sq kms, and not much else. Photo by Christopher Michel from a hot-air balloon.

40 sq km (16 sq miles) of Bagan in Burma/Myanmar, embrace 2,500 ancient pagodas and stupas. Few ancient sites have such incredible 360 degree views in one of the world’s most peaceful, Buddhist sites in the world. There’s much, much more and this is the time to visit this extraordinary country. For much of the year Myanmar is way too hot for comfort!

India is also awaiting your visit but it’s massive so focus, don’t try to see everything at once! Kerala, down south is perfect at this time though the country’s primary sights are in the Golden Triangle around Rajasthan.

Nepal is chilly in winter (so book rooms with heating!) but the key thing is the Himalayan skies (i.e. mountains) are clear, the ancient artefacts bizarre and the walks stunning. It appears to have recovered from the recent ‘quakes and be mostly intact.

Developing Laos is also perfect in winter, as is Cambodia,  Vietnam (with OK beaches) and Thailand (with many great beaches).

Australasia Vacation Places, January – February

Sydney's Bondi beach, Australia Vacation Places

Sydney’s Bondi beach, Australia. Photo by Adam J.

Southern Australia is in great shape in summertime, with Sydney and Melbourne buzzing with energy and things to do. Further north on the Gold Coast early summer temperatures are heading into the 30Cs with occasional rain, albeit short and exciting tropical storms rather than north European drizzle. Note that Surfer’s Paradise becomes very loud, pricey and overcrowded during the Christmas holidays. Far north Australia is best avoided at this time due to extreme heat.

This is also positively prime time in New Zealand for incredible walks, beaches, wine tasting, and insane adrenalin activities, but try to avoid school holidays from December 20th to the end of January.

Dangerous Countries as Vacation Places?

We don’t want to discourage adventurous travelling but should clarify for novice travelers which parts of the world are problematical – troubled by disease, terrorist attacks, high levels of crime or aggressive disrespect for single women.

Egypt is looking better now for robust travelers who can find reliable flights (with proper safety checks) going to Luxor and the opportunity of seeing incredible sights a) at low cost b) more importantly without the massed crowds that are normally there stuffing up the ambience.

Turkey still seems a little volatile these days but almost certainly OK for beach or Cappadocia holidays. But in winter it’s a Must-Not-Do anyway, wet and miserable, so that’s a pass.

Here are some broad generalisations on where NOT to go on vacation if you have a nervous disposition.

Avoid

Africa except for Morocco, Egypt (at the moment seems OK!), Namibia, South Africa, Botswana, Madagascar, Mauritius.

Middle-East except for Israel, Jordan (if you’re nervous about flights but really want to visit wonderful Petra, fly to Israel on the world’s safest airline – El Al – and drive into Jordan), Oman, Dubai, Abu Dhabi.

Venezuela, Honduras, Haiti. Some drug-cartel regions of north Mexico are also off the tourist trail.

Solo women travelers should think twice before going to Pakistan, Philippines, North Korea, Indonesia, India, east China and even Thailand.

Whatever, wherever, safe travels!

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