Beat the back-to-work blues and start planning your next holiday, writes Stephanie Holmes
Feeling gloomy the holidays are over already? The best cure is to get planning for your next trip. We've picked some of the world's best destinations to add to your wish list this year, conveniently broken down month by month so you know where to go, when.
Keep it simple: New Zealand is the easiest getaway for January and it seems silly to leave when the weather is just getting good. Although we're in the midst of high season when it comes to inbound tourists, there are still many good spots available for short breaks and long weekends. Check out DoC's website to find a campground with availability for January — you might be surprised what you can find. If you're based in Auckland and can't face another lengthy car journey after your Christmas holidays, try one of the region's stunning campsites — Muriwai, Wenderholm, Orewa, Martin's Bay, Tawharanui, Awhitu, Puhoi, Mahurangi ... we're blessed with perfect sites not far from the city centre.
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Less than two-hours drive from LA, Palm Springs has long been a popular getaway from the madness of Hollywood, and although the sunshine-filled photos you see make it seem like a summer destination, the best time to visit is between January and April. In February, technically a winter month, daytime temperatures average around 22C — perfectly pleasant. And this is the month the annual Modernism Week festival takes place, celebrating the mid-century design and architecture Palm Springs is famous for. More than 350 events are planned this year for the 11-day festival, which takes place from February 13-23. Find out more at modernismweek.com.
The tail-end of the wet season means fewer crowds and lower prices for South African safari holidays ... you'll just need to be prepared for a bit of rain each day. But if the odd shower doesn't bother you, this is a great way to search out the Big Five in one of the country's 19 national parks. As the rainfall eases, the lush summer vegetation will start to clear, making it easier to spot those majestic animals you're longing to see. Combine the safari with a beach break — low season brings affordable accommodation and fewer tourists, and what could be better than that?
Don't wait until the middle of our winter to visit the northern hemisphere. At the height of the European summer, the crowds and chaos of the must-see cities can be almost unbearable. For a better experience — although with less-certain weather — head to Paris, Barcelona, Dubrovnik, Venice et al in April. There will still be crowds, sure, but they'll be far more manageable than if you were to visit in July or August. The shoulder season means accommodation should be cheaper, too.
Hawaii is a top destination for Kiwis year round, thanks to steady temperatures and easy, direct flights from New Zealand. But, depending on the time of year, once you get there you could be faced with high accommodation costs and big crowds. To get the best of your tropical break, aim for May — it falls outside of both US and NZ school holidays, rainfall is lower, evening temperatures begin to rise and there are some great festivals to tie a trip into. Arrive on May 1 for Lei Day — a May Day celebration which has been marked across Hawaii's islands since 1928.
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Western Australia is vast, diverse and unfailingly impressive, with many worthy sights to add to your wish list. For anyone with an interest in marine life, make a June trip to Ningaloo Reef a priority. It's the last month of whale shark season so you'll get the chance to dive or snorkel with these gentle giants, plus there are manta rays, dugongs, dolphins, turtles, and more. Ningaloo Marine Park is a World Heritage-listed site, home to the world's largest fringing reef which runs for 260km. Be sure to book any wildlife tourism with an eco-certified operator — go to visitningaloo.com.au for more information.
Sri Lanka had mixed fortunes in 2019 — it started the year as the hottest tourism destination on the planet, then just a few months later was suffering from the after-effects of the Easter bombings. Things have started to pick up again and 2020 is a great time to visit — you'll be helping the tourism industry get back on its feet, but you won't be faced with the effects of overtourism. The small island nation has two distinct monsoon seasons, so while you'd want to visit the west, south and central provinces — where you'll find Colombo, Mirissa, and Kandy — from December to March, April to September is perfect for visiting the east coast and the lesser-known northern region. The east's attractions include Kumana and Pigeon Island national parks, the beaches of Arugam Bay and Trincomalee, while those looking to head even further off the beaten track should go north to Jaffna.
Like Hawaii, Fiji has something for everyone year round, but the beginning of August is a great time to visit for those not burdened by the constraints of school holiday travel. The Yasawas are especially good at this time of year — underwater visibility is at its best, perfect for snorkelling and diving the incredible coral reefs found in this island chain. It's also manta ray season — head to Manta Ray Island or Barefoot Manta for the chance to see these gentle giants up close. The cooler, drier temperatures of this time of year make it ideal for those looking to do some island hiking.
If you want 2020 to be more about unusual, off-the-beaten-track adventures, Uzbekistan could be just the ticket. This far flung, landlocked Central Asian destination is surprisingly straightforward to get to — the capital Tashkent is just a four-hour flight from Dubai making it an easy connection with Emirates' direct Auckland to Dubai route. Better still, New Zealand passport holders don't need a visa for travel up to 30 days. The country has a rich history thanks to its place on the ancient Silk Road trading route, and cities Bukhara, Samarkand, Khiva and Shakhrisabz are all Unesco World Heritage sites. While it's still relatively free of other tourists, Uzbekistan's popularity is certainly growing — Central Asia was named the top region in Lonely Planet's Best in Travel 2020 list, and the country often pops up on Instagram as intrepid bloggers make the most of the stunning architecture to backdrop their shots. September to November is the best time to visit for comfortable temperatures and low rainfall.
New York has always been a popular destination for Kiwi travellers but, if you're yet to get there, October is the ideal month for a visit. This is the month Air New Zealand launches its new direct flight from Auckland, making the diverse delights of the Big Apple just one hop away. Ok, it's a long hop — the flight will take just under 16 hours outbound from NZ, and more than 17 hours on the way back — but as one of the world's best cities, it's truly worth the journey.
Once seen as far too dangerous to visit, Colombia is now topping many best destination travel lists, thanks to its ancient history, Caribbean beaches, lush jungles and vibrant cities. Of course, personal safety should still be a top priority, and there are certain areas to be avoided — check the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade's Safe Travel website (safetravel.govt.nz/colombia) for more information before booking. Bogota, Medellin, Cartagena, Ciudad Perdida and Mompox all have a lot to offer and November is a great time to go — it's the end of the rainy season but just before the peak December to March period when prices soar.
If you weren't organised enough to get to Vancouver for the first season of Air Canada's direct flights from Auckland (last December to April), put a date in your diary for December this year. The seasonal non-stop service will begin again, giving easy access to Canada and its winter delights. Spend some time in this world-class city — from whale-watching to foodie hotspots to sprawling parks, Vancouver has it all — before heading out into a winter wonderland — a white Christmas in the resorts at Lake Louise will be an experience you'll never forget.