The Best Places to Travel in January

Dec 29, 2018

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If all that holiday travel was just a warm up for your first trips of the year, you’ll want to take note: these are some of the best places to visit this January.

For people who aren’t burnt out from last month’s festivities, January may be one of the best times to hit the road (and the skies). In destinations all around the world, travelers can find off-season deals and inexpensive flights, as well as noticeably thinner crowds. And, depending on where you go, you can even fly yourself to more favorable weather.

To help you figure out where to go in January, we looked at everything from the weather and annual festivals to new flight routes; exciting restaurant openings and hotel debuts; and general travel trends. Hopefully, this list will inspire you to jet off this January to an exciting destination, whether it’s totally off-the-radar, up-and-coming or otherwise a reliably great place to spend the winter doldrums. Looking to plan ahead? We’ve already got you covered with the 12 best places to visit every month of 2019.

St. Barts

(Photo via Shutterstock)
St. Barts. (Photo via Shutterstock)

Beachcombers should jet off to the French island of St. Barts this January for some glamor and glitz, perfectly timed with some of the hottest hotel openings — and reopenings — of properties that were damaged by Hurricane Irma.

Some of the chicest spots to stay are hotels like Le Sereno, which just reopened in December 2018 after being completely demolished following Irma and rebuilt from the ground up. Foodies should stay at the recently reopened Le Barthélemy Hotel & Spa to sample cuisine prepared by French chef Guy Martin of Michelin fame. We’re also looking forward to the relaunch of Hotel Manapany, a B Signature Hotels & Resorts property on a private beach now billed as the island’s first eco-hotel.

Getting to the island will become slightly less complicated in January, too. American Airlines plans to amp up its service to the gateway island of St. Martin (SXM). American’s nonstop flight from Charlotte (CLT) began in November, and flights from New York-JFK and Philadelphia (PHL) resumed on Dec. 19.

St. Martin’s Princess Juliana Airport, where planes fly dangerously close to Maho Beach, is on every AvGeek’s bucket list. Here, you’ll catch a shuttle flight to the equally cool Gustaf III Airport (SBH) on St. Barts.


(Photo courtesy of St. Regis Aspen)
(Photo courtesy of St. Regis Aspen)

Colorado is home to a number of the best ski towns in the US, including Telluride, Vail, Breckenridge, Durango and, of course, Aspen. But the latter stands out above the rest as the greatest ski town to visit in January.

When you tire of skiing the mountains like Ajax, Buttermilk, Aspen Highland and Snowmass, the recently opened EMP Winter House will warm you up with over 250 different wines and comfort foods including veal schnitzel. The restaurant, which is a pop-up by the team behind Eleven Madison Park, is part of Amex’s Global Dining Collection and its fancy location in the St. Regis Aspen is the perfect respite from wintery weather. It even has cozy yurts in the courtyard you can dine in.

In addition to winter-inspired food and wine, you can check out cool live music and extreme sports from Jan. 24 to 27 at the Winter X Games. Enjoy watching supreme athletes ski, snowboard, snow bike and more, as well as performances by artists such as Lil Wayne, Louis the Child, the Chainsmokers and Kygo.

Another reason to head here in January? From Jan. 13 to 20, Gay Ski Week will take over town. Besides hitting the slopes, attendees can go to nightly parties, dinners, yoga classes, movie nights, après ski events and even join the Downhill Skiing Costume Contest.

Costa Rica

(Photo via Shutterstock)
A toucan in Costa Rica. (Photo via Shutterstock)

While experiencing “La Pura Vida” is always a good idea, January is one of the best times to visit Costa Rica, thanks to its generally dry, warm and sunny weather. Though the trade-off will likely be peak season prices, travelers may not have to worry too much about crowds, which thin considerably after the holidays.

From the wild, jungle landscapes of Uvita to the volcanic pull of Arenal, plus a budding surf culture in Dominical and the luxurious resorts of Guanacaste, the country has something for everyone.

Wildlife sightings are common, so expect to share your vacation with howler monkeys, geckos, toucans and a variety of other tropical flora and fauna. (Fingers crossed for a sloth sighting!)

The just-opened W Costa Rica Reserva Conchal, sandwiched between beautiful beaches and lush mangroves, is the place to be if you have points to burn. It’s just a short hop away from the Liberia Airport (LIR), which you can reach via nonstop flights from cities like Houston (HOU) on Southwest; Newark (EWR) on United; Miami (MIA) on American; or Atlanta (ATL) on Delta.

Hilton is also upping its presence in Costa Rica, with several new properties opening through 2020, starting with the reopening of the Gran Hotel Costa Rica, Curio Collection, located in a historic building that overlooks the National Theatre in San Jose.

And if you consider yourself an AvGeek, a nature geek or both, consider a stay at the Hotel Costa Verde, which features a number of airline-themed suites and restaurants surrounded by jungle foliage, perched on the edge of the Manuel Antonio National Park. The 727 fuselage suite is the ultimate aviation accommodation: a vintage aircraft-turned-hotel-room, with two decks, two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen and living room, situated high in the treetops.


(Photo via Shutterstock)
The Northern Lights. (Photo via Shutterstock)

The upside to freezing temperatures and minimal daylight hours is that you may be able to see the northern lights when visiting Finland in January. The lights are visible over 200 nights per year in this Nordic country.

You can even view this natural phenomenon straight from your hotel if you stay in a private suite at the Arctic Treehouse Hotel, where the lights are often visible from its expansive panoramic windows. There’s also the Northern Lights Wilderness Camp, which opened in 2018. All of the cabins are mounted on skis and towed across the Arctic Circle to whatever spot currently has the best view of the Northern Lights. The mobile rooms come with amenities such as snowshoes and plenty of snacks. You’ll even get a lesson on how to build a campfire before being towed into the wilderness.

Similarly, aurora hunters can book mobile cabins on a frozen lake in the Sami heartland, Inari, which — according to Airbnb — is one of the most popular destinations for Northern Lights rentals so far this winter.

For those who’ve always dreamed of flying to HEL and back, the Helsinki Airport is undergoing a massive expansion and renovation, which includes new gates, bigger passport and customs control facilities and a larger terminal, all which should be completed in early 2019. The goal is to service 30 million passengers annually.

Route selection is also expanding by leaps and bounds. Although Finnair’s Los Angeles route on the A350-900 won’t begin until March 31, 2019, new flights routes are connecting HEL with Delhi, Osaka, various cities in China and a number of European hubs including Lyon, Stuttgart and Edinburgh. FlyDubai, for example, recently launched new service from DXB to HEL on its new Boeing 737 MAX 8.


(Photo via Shutterstock)
Skiing in Tahoe. (Photo via Shutterstock)

Dreaming of surfing in SoCal, skiing in Tahoe or sipping wine in Napa this January? Do so on United’s highly anticipated, brand-new 787-10 aircraft, which will begin regular operations on Jan. 7, 2019. The 10 new planes will fly between Newark (EWR) and Los Angeles (LAX), and later between Newark and San Francisco (SFO).

The new aircraft launch seems perfectly timed for East Coast foodies to head west and enjoy California Restaurant Month. Each participating city has their own dedicated week (from 7 to 10 days), during which diners can take advantage of affordable prix fixe menus, discounts and deals at some of the state’s hottest tables.

Also of note? A number of new food-related laws will go into effect in the new year. Street food vendors will have access to more relaxed licenses, restaurants can be fined for offering single-use plastic straws unless a customers specifically requests one and craft breweries and distilleries will be able to operate as wineries do, selling whiskey, vodka and other spirits directly to customers.


The Raja Ampat Islands (Photo via Shutterstock)
The Raja Ampat Islands (Photo via Shutterstock)

This Southeast Asian paradise, which features over 6,000 inhabited islands, is home to a number of fabulous points hotels, including the InterContinental Bali, the Ritz-Carlton Bali and the recently opened Hyatt Regency Bali (its Balinese Shankha Spa will open in early 2019).

January may technically be wet season, but you’ll see plenty of sun, and Indonesia’s famous beaches will be much less crowded as a result. (Another perk? Noticeably more affordable prices.)

Getting off the beaten path a little to dive or surf on islands in Raja Ampat will give you those gorgeous white sands and clear blue waters you’re daydreaming about while it snows outside your office.

Of course, travelers should be aware that Indonesia was recently rocked by volcanic activity and a resulting tsunami.

However, Indonesia is a vast nation, and travelers should not be discouraged from visiting areas that are deemed safe. After all, visiting a destination struck by a natural disaster — when done thoughtfully and carefully — can help support an economy harmed by the event. Our contacts on the ground said that the Gili Islands and Bali, specifically, have not been severely impacted by Anak Krakatau. (And AirNav Indonesia said the impact on Indonesia’s main airport in Jakarta has been “minimal”.)

Where are you heading this January? Share in the comments section below.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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