Getting away from winter

This article appears on page 47 of the December 2016 issue.

Fred Kissell, of chilly Pennsylvania, wrote (July ’16, pg. 62), “I would like to have ITN readers write in about where to spend a month or two in the winter. I live in Pittsburgh, and it would be really nice to go somewhere else in January and February.

“In my mind, the ideal winter getaway would be a warm, pretty, uncrowded, low-cost town with plenty to do in the vicinity. It also would have a low crime rate so I would be comfortable wandering around by myself. Does it exist?”

As for where to get away from winter, ITN asked subscribers for suggestions on destinations outside of the US. We are printing in this and next month’s issues responses we received.

Since Mr. Kissell is looking for a warm, pretty, uncrowded, low-cost, plenty-to-do-in-the-vicinity, low-crime place where he can get away from the Pittsburgh winter, the choice is obvious to my wife and me. He should consider flying south to Uruguay.  

After seeing it featured on Anthony Bourdain’s “No Reservations” TV show, we spent the month of October there in 2009.

Uruguay is in the Southern Hemisphere, so our winter takes place during their summertime. The time zone of its capital (Montevideo) is only two hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time, so, in our case, there is little jet lag to overcome. 

The beaches are stunning, the food is delicious, prices are low, and the Uruguayan people are very friendly. We both felt safe as we meandered throughout the whole country. 

Uruguay, a gem, is still relatively unknown to tourists. It remains my wife’s favorite destination in all of Latin America.

Marvin Feldman
Jacksonville, FL


Oaxaca, Mexico, is my answer to Fred Kissel’s request for a winter-getaway destination. My husband, Michael, and I have been to Oaxaca city (Oaxaca de Juárez) six or seven times at different times of the year, mostly in the past 15 years. Our last visit was in October-November 2015 for the Day of the Dead holidays. We were there for about 2½ weeks; usually, we stay three to four weeks.

During North America’s winter is a good time to go to southern Mexico, as the weather is comfortable. The rainy season there occurs during summer and fall, so by January or February everything is lush and green. The temperature is pleasant, in the low 70s, during the day. It’s cooler at night but not cold.

During summer and early fall, it can be hot and humid in Mexico, with the rain coming in sheets (typical tropical) in late afternoon.

United Airlines offers an easy flight connection from Houston directly to Oaxaca that avoids the dreaded Mexico City airport. 

There are many reasonably priced hotels. There is inexpensive as well as gourmet food plus markets galore. And lots of side trips can be taken to towns in the Oaxaca Valley. There is good transportation via private cars with drivers and by taxis, colectivos (group taxis) and first- and second-class buses.

The center of Oaxaca de Juárez is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Including some pedestrian-only streets, it consists of two large central plazas that always have activities, planned and spontaneous. The city does a good job of organizing festivals, parades and concerts. 

There are several worthwhile museums, including a stamp museum that you can love without loving stamps. 

The city is full of colorful people. The Oaxaca valley has several indigenous groups, all of whom still wear their traditional clothing.  

The Moon “Oaxaca” guidebook is good, as is the chapter in Lonely Planet’s “Mexico.” 

In Oaxaca, Amate Books (Calle Macedonio Alcalá 307, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca, Mexico; phone +52 951 516 7181) sells several guidebooks written by expats with suggested activities and places to visit. 

And a great hangout place is the Oaxaca Lending Library (Pino Suarez 519, Oaxaca, Mexico; phone +51 951 518 7077,

Language schools abound there.

We have never felt unsafe in the city. I walk alone at night there at ease. Oaxaca has a fair share of expats and tourists, but you are in a real Mexican city. It doesn’t feel like a tourist town but has all the amenities of one. 

Tedi Siminowsky, Berkeley CA


Hands down, my vote goes to Oaxaca, Mexico. It’s safe and full of an active community of American and Canadian snowbirds throughout the North American winter months. 

The city and region abound with historical and cultural delights. 

Accommodations and food are pleasing and reasonably priced. 

Diana Ball, Austin, TX


If Fred would like a warm, sunny place on the beach, one with two pools and within walking distance of a little town with many restaurants (and meals costing about $5), then I suggest the place I stay with my husband in Thailand: the Regent Cha-am Beach Resort (849/21 Petchkasem Rd., Cha-am Beach, Pechburi, 76120, Thailand; phone +66 21 451 240,

(There is another, less-expensive property, Regent Chalet Resort Beach Cha-am [], owned by the same group.) 

Europeans stay at the resort for the entire winter. However, we are usually the only Americans, which is why the price* is reasonable! Everyone speaks English (the language of tourism worldwide). 

He can also consider renting a vacation apartment. 

As for where Fred should go, I would suggest that he try out two diverse places or maybe three, then he can figure out which one he likes the best for future visits.

Sandra Scott
Contributing Editor


*From mid-December 2016 to mid-March 2017, rates for a double room run $81-$85 per night at the Regent Cha-am Beach Resort and $61-$65 at the Regent Chalet Resort Beach Cha-am.

My husband, Clinton, and I, living in a lousy winter area, have the same problem as Fred Kissel. We have always traveled quite a bit, both in the US and abroad. About 10 years ago, when we were in our mid-70s, we decided to try an around-the-world cruise on the ms Amsterdam of Holland America Line, or HAL (877/932–4259, It turned out to be a good solution for us as a winter home. 

In 2015 we took our ninth around-the-world cruise. Except for the first year, we have had the same cabin, a category-D Ocean-View Stateroom on Deck 3 (Lower Promenade). Our cabin is small, and maybe some people would want a larger one, or a suite, for a long cruise. 

There are interesting programs and things to do on each at-sea day. Some of the choices are playing bridge, exercising in the gym, attending a lecture, seeing one of the nightly shows or movies, walking the deck, reading in the library or just catching the sun at a swimming pool. Watercolor painting, for me, became a new and engrossing interest. 

Internet access is available, although it’s a little pricey. 

In addition, a Catholic priest, a rabbi and a Protestant minister are on board and perform services and sometimes lead study groups. 

Shore excursions — at extra cost — vary in quality, but all are adventures. Or you can always just stay on board, where there will be a limited schedule of activities. 

Regarding dining, there are several options, with varied but always delicious choices, and it can be a good way to meet new people. We don’t mind dressing up a bit for the occasion “gala” night, but it is not necessary if you’re not so inclined. 

The service everywhere, in cabins, dining areas and at the front desk, is attentive. I don’t know how the staff does it, but you will be greeted cheerfully by name as soon as the second day! And everyone speaks English. 

The world cruise is not cheap, but it is good value. Including an overnight in Florida, insurance and airfare, it costs the two of us about $60,000. Our membership in the Mariner Society (HAL repeaters), tour-group perks (we traveled with an American Express group but are changing tour groups for the coming years) and having stock in Carnival Corporation helps cut the onboard expenses, but shore excursions, visas, special dinners, alcohol, tips, beauty shop visits, medical care, souvenirs and Internet (no casino for us!) will add $2,000-$3,000 to expenses on board.

Your safety, as the captain reaffirms often, is their first priority. There may be problems with bad weather or rough seas (not every year), but discomfort on board is minimal, and if you do experience a really bad storm, it is always something to brag about. 

The infirmary handles health emergencies promptly. The emergency dentist who handled my lost filling was so expert that I wished I could have his attention for all my dental work. 

I quickly found that there is a rather large group of people who are “repeaters,” who spend multiple winters on the ship. Some rotate cruises with shorter winter Grand Voyages aboard other HAL ships. The Amsterdam, however, truly has a family who find the world cruise “home sweet home.”

Lois S. Janes, Corning, NY

Read about more get-away-from-winter destinations next month.