Winter is coming… and it’s time to get packing. Many people assume December is always peak season travel—and the Christmas rush certainly brings higher prices and more crowds. But early December is a travel sweet spot: rates are lower but most destinations are already steeped in the holiday spirit. Here are a few of our favorite spots to send clients in December—paired with impressive deals at top luxury hotels. 

By Sarah Marcantonio

London

Merrie Olde England is at its merriest in the weeks before Christmas. Holiday markets are sprinkled throughout the city, as are Christmas trees and skating rinks (we recommend the ice in front of Somerset House, the grand Neoclassical palace, where Fortnum & Mason’s is in charge of nibbles). Hyde Park transforms into Winter Wonderland, with performances on ice from Cirque Berserk and Zippos Circus for the kids, and karaoke and cocktails for the grown-ups. Just across, at Hyde Park Corner, you’ll find The Lanesborough London, recently restored to its Regency-style grandeur—stay three nights and get the fourth night free. 

Waterloo Place
Photo by Shutterstock
The Faena Dome at Art Basel 2016
Photo by Faena Art

Miami

Why go to Miami in December? Do we even need to explain? If you’re heading down for Art Basel, we hope you’ve already booked your hotel (if not, give us a shout—stat). Visit after December 10, when the craziness is over, and you can enjoy, in relative peace, all the art exhibits, restaurants and bars that scrambled to open in time for the party. (On our list: Mika Rottenberg at the newly renovated Bass Museum and Chris Ofili at the new ICA Miami.) Hotel rates have returned to earth, too: The Miami Beach Edition, Acqualina Resort and The Setai are all offering either 25% off or the fourth night free throughout the month.

The Carlton Hotel and St. Moritz on a winter evening.
Photo by Carlton Hotel St. Moritz

Switzerland

If you’ve ever dreamed of schussing in the Swiss Alps, early December—before the hordes of children arrive for winter break—is the time to do it. St. Moritz, home to the classic downhills of Corviglia, will be buzzing this month with the Women’s Ski World Cup, plus a new skating rink that will wend its way through town past stands selling mulled wine and gifts. The Carlton Hotel has an outdoor butler to guide you through Corviglia and the other slopes and valleys of the Upper Engadine. The hotel’s December promotion gives you an excuse to stay even longer—your fourth night is on the house.  

Cape Town

The temperatures may be dropping back home, but summer is just getting started in South Africa. That's when the wholec country turns its gaze toward the beach, especially gorgeous Camps Bay, Cape Town's answer to South Beach and the home of the 12 Apostles hotel. Stay three nights and the fourth is on the house—use the extra time to explore the Cape Winelands area just outside of town. At the impossibly picturesque wine estate Babylonstoren, you can pick up a picnic basket with fresh-baked bread, cheeses and jams to enjoy in the garden, with a bottle of the house chenin blanc.

A suite facing the Atlantic Ocean at 12 Apostles.
Photo by 12 Apostles
A gondola near Venice’s San Marco Square.
Photo by Shutterstock

Venice

The foggy and damp December weather makes Venice somehow even more romantic than usual—and a visit this month is improved enormously by the overall absence of crowds. Imagine visiting St. Mark’s Basilica without jostling elbows, or enjoying a tiramisù at Caffè Florian without having to wait for a table. Don’t forget to take a boat to Murano to pick up some glass ornaments for the tree back home—you’ll have an additional jingle in your pocket thanks to the fourth-night free promotion at Bauer Il Palazzo, a family-run, 18th-century hotel on the Grand Canal.

The private pool of an ocean-view suite at Grace Bay Club.
Photo by Grace Bay Club

Turks & Caicos

Peak season in the islands doesn’t technically start until the holidays, and the Turks & Caicos are particularly quiet and relaxing before the Christmas rush. (Don’t worry about the hurricanes—damage was minimal and the foliage is lush once again.) We’re still seeing availability and even some good deals for the month—like at Grace Bay Club, where you can reserve three nights and stay the fourth for free. So yeah, go ahead and book that wakeboarding lesson. You’ll have plenty of time to fall down and get back up again, and again.