Mother Nature is often contrary, so you may need a little cunning to outsmart her if you're looking for Christmas sunshine, writes Ewan McDonald
It's hard to summon enough cheer to combat a chilly Kiwi Christmas Day indoors with the rellies. Unlike taxes and death, there are no assurances regarding the weather when Santa shows up, unless of course you have a Plan B. Tip: you may need sunglasses to read about these Yuletide options, they're so bright.
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B is for Bali, an island dream that's slightly in the Southern Hemisphere, with a staggering coastline dotted with gorgeous beaches, warm waters and sunsets worth an Instagram or three. Although there may be the odd downpour per week, the rain doesn't last long and won't put too much of a damper on your sunshine hours. And with temperatures falling between 26C and 30C you'll need a hotel with a/c.
Be warned, it is super-busy at this time of year, especially along the famous surf beach spots of Kuta, Legian and Seminyak on the west coast. But there are many lower-key beach areas as well as the spots in the central hills like Ubud or well-heeled Nusa Dua in the south.
Like most destinations during December, don't expect a bargain on 3-star and above accommodation, and book as early as you can. You'll save money on food and alcohol however, as it's very cheap by most standards, as is hiring drivers from four hours to a week to see the sights while you're there.
Dream of a Christmas with nothing much more than sunshine and swimming, cocktail in hand and food you don't have to shop for, cook, or clean up afterwards? A Fiji resort is right for you.
Most put on special events for Christmas, which almost always involve a lovo (like a hangi) feast or Christmas buffet. There's also the special entertainment: traditional cultural dancers (meke), serenaders and carol singers. Fijians celebrate Christmas over several days, so you'll be able to experience the festivities over the fortnight leading up to New Year's Eve.
For the real deal, book a homestay in a village; alternatively, your resort may offer a village visit. Tip: don't miss the Christmas service at a local church.
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A warning that resorts can be in high demand over Christmas but focus on the Yasawa or Mamanuca islands. Despite being in the wet season, the climate is drier there in December and there will still be plenty of sun.
With an average seven hours of sunshine per day and more than 200km of coastline, there are plenty of beaches for basking on the Sunshine Coast. The average temperature is a balmy 26C but it's thankfully offset by cool sea breezes.
The region starts around Caloundra and extends north to Noosa - gateway to Fraser Island – and heads inland to the tranquil hinterland, including the Blackall Range, Noosa Hinterland and the Glass House Mountains.
If you're a family, then there's no better place to enjoy Australia's sun, fun, relaxation and nature - from a game of beach cricket or a walk through pristine rainforest, to visiting nature parks like the Irwins' Australia Zoo and Sea Life and tickling the tastebuds along Noosa's restaurant row or Mooloolaba's Esplanade – there's something for everyone.
If you don't have kids, you may want to steer clear of the place as it's chokka during the school holidays, which also means it's more expensive.
Late December is one of the nicer times of year to visit Dubai, as it's pleasantly warm (average high: 26C) rather than unbearably hot. No surprises that it's also peak season, which means it can get crowded during the holidays. Still, if you can afford it, don't let that put you off this huge and booming city, with a number of nice beaches and enough shopping malls, filled to the brim with reasonably priced goods, to have you stocked up for the next three Christmases.
Although accommodation gets expensive, there are plenty of reasonably priced places to eat away from the hotel restaurants that mostly cater to the city's ever-expanding international population. Tip: eat where the locals do, not the tourists.
If you want to celebrate Christmas Day with a few drinks, remember that alcohol is only available from hotels and licensed shops and isn't cheap.
For more deals, the Go Dubai Card will save you money on 35+ top attractions, and if you have the time and energy, get out of the city to experience a dune safari or a late-evening feast with local musicians, dancers and markets.
Of all the Hawaiian Islands, Oahu is undoubtedly the most popular. Fact: there's more to the place than the shopping, bars and beach-life of fabled Waikiki.
Take advantage of the warm water and weather (average December temperature is 19C) by swimming with the marine life at the popular Hamauna Bay Nature Preserve – still in Honolulu, it's located along the southeast coast. Prefer a dolphin excursion? Then do a 180 and head to the west coast. Laidback North Shore offers horseback riding, white-sand beaches and evenings of cultural dancing and food at the Polynesian Cultural Centre. For more culture head for the hills, or the foot of the Ko'olau Mountains in Valley of the Temples Memorial Park to be more precise, for the Byogo-In Temple - a replica of a Japanese 950-year-old Buddhist place of worship in Uji, set on lushly landscaped grounds that are home to wild peacocks and hundreds of Japanese koi.
To save yourself money and planning time, get the Go Oahu Card before heading away, and gain access to 40+ different island attractions.