There are scores of people who never travel in January—those who have just come off a big holiday trip; those who don’t want to pull their children out of school in the beginning of a new year. And let’s face it, you really can’t go that far over Martin Luther King weekend. But for those who can take the time (or plan ahead), January is a fantastic month for a big trip. Crowds generally empty out, airfare is cheap, and a ton of places around the globe are still enjoying beautiful, sunny weather (a big draw for those in parts of the country where January is the coldest and dreariest month).
The weather is near perfect in spots like Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, and Bali, all of which are great for fly-and-flop resort trips. If you’d like nothing more than to arrive at a gorgeous resort and be pampered all day long, head straight to these places. And in cities like Guadalajara and Adelaide, mild temperatures are ideal for days spent idly exploring.
If you prefer to take advantage of the snowy winter while you still can, nothing beats the slopes of Whistler and Park City. But if you’re willing to go a bit further, there’s unparalleled skiing in cities like Hokkaido, Japan; and Dizin, Iran.
And if the three-day holiday weekend is your only chance to travel, there’s plenty to see closer to home, as well. Rub elbows with celebrities at the best new hotels in Palm Springs, spend a day lolling on the beaches of Miami, or explore San Antonio’s bustling food scene. One thing’s for sure—we certainly don’t need any more reasons to drop everything and take another vacation.
The Magic City shows no signs of slowing down—in the past few months, it’s gotten a ton of big openings, including the palatial 1 Hotel South Beach and the glitzy Faena Hotel Miami Beach (which boasts a Damien Hirst sculpture and Top Chef winner Paul Qui’s new restaurant). This month, Swire will open the East Hotel downtown as well. Go in January to see the hotels, and stay for the unbeatable beaches.
Getting a hotel room in Bali over the holiday season is just about impossible, but the crowds clear out in January. The best new place to stay is Mandapa, the new Ritz Carlton Reserve located deep in the lush jungle. The rooms are spacious and modern, the service impeccable, and scenery drop-dead gorgeous.
The recent nuclear agreement has paved the way for Americans to visit this Middle Eastern country. In January, hit the slopes inDizin, just two hours from Tehran. Its high elevation means that ski season lasts until late May—much longer than comparable resorts in Europe. Stay at the ski-in, ski-out Dizin Hotel, which was originally built for the Shah.
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Palm Springs, California
The desert town remains a Hollywood hideaway, but lately has attracted the likes of Nicolas Ghesquiere—who staged a Louis Vuitton fashion show here—and Barack Obama. Whether you stay at the new L’Horizon Palm Springs or the beloved Parker Palm Springs, you’re bound to spot celebrities of all stripes hiding behind their sunglasses by the pool.
Thanks to its proximity, travelers are gradually catching on to the beauty of a quick Nicaragua getaway. The 37-room Mukul remains a standout, and the stunning beaches are a fantastic antidote for winter blues. Plus, the waves are calm through January, making conditions ideal for amateur surfers.
The Japanese yen remains weak against the U.S. dollar, so it’s still a great time to visit the Asian country. Hokkaido—which has some of the best powder in Asia—is ideal for skiing this time of year. A bonus for ski buffs: holders of Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass also have access to the beautiful Niseko resort. Just make sure to do as the Japanese do, by following up a long day on the slopes with a soak in the onsen (hot spring).
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With the opening of Aman’s latest Caribbean offering, there are now two gorgeous properties on the island’s northern coast—the glass-enclosed Amanera, with a world-class golf course; and the preppy-perfect Playa Grande Beach Club, designed by Celerie Kemble. No matter where you choose to sleep, the two hotels are a mere walk down the beach from one another, meaning you can easily stay in one and dine at the other.
The Australian city has always been in Sydney and Melbourne’s shadows, but it’s now gaining notice for its wineries, public gardens, and architecture. The cultural scene is growing too, with programs like Art After Dark and an increase in festivals and events. In January, the city gets an influx of tennis players and fans, as it plays host to the World Tennis Challenge.
San Antonio, Texas
The Pearl district and River Walk area have been buzzing for some time now, but the opening of the Roman & Williams-designed Hotel Emma is bringing new attention to San Antonio. Go for the warm weather, and stay for the great food—even the Culinary Institute of America has put a stamp of approval on the city by opening a campus there.
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The beloved (and free) Jaipur Literary Festival takes place this month, with headliners like Margaret Atwood, Steve McCurry, and Stephen Fry. The festival is held in the historic Diggi Palace Hotel, a great home base for exploring the food and monuments of this historic, colorful city.