November and early December are ideal times to travel. It is considered shoulder season in many places, meaning lower prices, but the weather can still be beautiful if you know where to go.

However, relatively few people travel at that time, busy as they are preparing for the holidays and preferring to travel when they get time off around Christmas and New Year… along with everybody else.

The problem is, the price of flights (and everything else) rises considerably as Christmas draws near. From North America, you will get much cheaper flights if you leave before the second week of December.

So where should you travel in November? Below is my list of 10 great places that you should consider visiting in November and early December for lower crowds, lower prices and great weather!

Mexico

The colonial towns of central Mexico and the Pacific beaches have beautiful sunny weather at this time of year. Go to the coast for hot tropical weather or the mountains for a more temperate climate.

The colonial town of Patzcuaro, Mexico

The colonial town of Patzcuaro

The “Day of the Dead” festival falls on November 1st and 2nd and is a joyous occasion when family bring flowers and other offerings to the cemetery to honour and remember their deceased relatives. During the first half of December, nativity scenes start popping up everywhere in this very Catholic country.

The Caribbean

The weather may not be as settled in early winter as it is later on, but if you want to score some deals before late March or April, this is the time to go.

Resorts and cruise ships offer discounts to fill up their otherwise empty rooms. Some of the driest islands include Cuba, the Bahamas Out Islands, Aruba, Curaçao, Bonaire, Grand Cayman, and the Turks and Caicos. Even when it rains, the rainfalls are likely to be short or to occur during the night.

Europe’s far south

November still offers beautiful weather in the extreme south of Europe. Think Andalusia (Spain), the Algarve (Portugal), Malta, and Sicily (Italy). I was in Málaga during the third week of November last year and the skies were blue, the sun shone brightly, and the temperatures stood around 20C; beautiful weather for exploring on foot without the crowds.

Waterfront, Málaga

Waterfront, Málaga (Spain)

The Middle East and North Africa

Countries in the Middle East and North Africa offer enough challenges without having to deal with the broiling summer temperatures or the cold winter nights in the desert. November offers just about perfect weather in countries like Morocco, Egypt, Jordan, Israel, and the southern coast of Turkey (mid 20s C).

This time of year also offers some of the best prices from some tour companies like G Adventures.

Thailand

If you’re able to take more than a couple of weeks off, venturing to Southeast Asia is definitely worth it. November is the beginning of the cool season in Thailand, which means dry weather and warm (but not stiflingly hot) temperatures. In the south of the country, it’s always hot enough to swim, even during the “cooler” months (see feature photo on home page).

Early mornings in Bangkok will be fresh at around 20C (imagine that!) and temperatures will steadily climb to around 30C. I think this is the best time to be in Thailand personally, especially as it will be less touristy than later on in the winter. Other countries with similar weather patterns are Cambodia and Vietnam.

Wat Pho, Bangkok, Thailand

Wat Pho, Bangkok

China

November is actually a great time for most of Asia. Even China still has good touring weather, especially if you go to Shanghai and the South (although Beijing is pretty cold then). You’ll be missing both the Golden Week (October) and Chinese New Year (January or February) so you won’t have to fight with the locals for accommodation and transportation bookings.

Japan

Being an island, Japan is humid all year round, which makes November a very good time to visit the central part of the country (including Tokyo and Kyoto) with temperatures in the mid teens, low rain and lower humidity.

Granted, you won’t see the cherry blossoms at this time (or the crowds that go with them) but the fall colours can be pretty spectacular in many parts of the country.

Argentina

Of course while it’s fall in the northern hemisphere it’s spring in southern hemisphere countries like Argentina. Trade autumn leaves for buds, flowers, and long daylight hours.

Buenos Aires, which can be crazy hot in summer and unpleasantly damp in winter, is perfect in November with days in the mid 20s C. On the first Saturday of November, the capital hosts its Gay Pride Festival.

While there you can also visit Uruguay, a short ferry ride across the Rio de la Plata.

Mendoza, in the centre of a major wine region near the Andes, is even warmer and sunnier. It also hosts several festivals during November (music, theatre, etc.)

South Africa

I visited South Africa (Cape Town and vicinity) in late November and December in 2006, and the weather was perfect. At about the same latitude as central California (but on the opposite hemisphere), South Africa is great for wineries, hiking, handicrafts, culture, and of course wildlife. I do want to see more of South Africa. Pity that it’s so far for us North Americans.

Camps Bay Beach, Cape Town, South Africa

Camps Bay Beach, Cape Town

New Zealand, Australia, South Pacific

If you can make it this far, November is actually the perfect time to visit all of Oceania. New Zealand and most of Australia will have warm (but not too hot) weather as they are experiencing spring, while the South Pacific islands will just be moving into their rainy season, but will still have decent weather. For example Auckland will be around 20C and Sydney around 24C while you can expect 28-30C in places like Tonga, Vanuatu, Fiji, New Caledonia, and French Polynesia.

It will also be much easier to find available and affordable accommodation before the Aussies and Kiwis start their summer vacation.

With the exception of the Middle East and North Africa, these destinations are also safe and easy for solo women to travel through.

So there you go: my 10 best ideas for November travel. Dare to be contrarian, and you can boast of your wonderful experiences after New Year’s Day, when all your relatives and friends are complaining about the crowded airports and flight delays they had to endure on their overpriced holiday vacation.

(Note: All the photos above were taken during the period described.)


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