How to Spend Your Remaining PTO in 2019

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Discoveries Featured 2019 Winter USA Puerto Rico

With the end of 2019 drawing closer, the time has come to put your last remaining vacation days to good use. If you’re thinking you can’t accomplish much in a few days, you’re wrong! Combined with a weekend, your leftover PTO can create a sneaky little getaway.

In fact, December is one of the best months for traveling to off-season destinations. Shoulder season almost always equals fewer people, lower rates, and overall better deals. Don’t let your hard-earned PTO go to waste. From the tropics to the mountains, we’ve put together a diverse list for your last vacation of 2019.

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

View of the Grand Canyon
Credit: Eloi_Omella/ iStock

Enjoy one of the United States’ most stunning natural wonders with a spontaneous trip to Grand Canyon National Park after all the summer tourists head home. There’s something magical about the golden autumn sunlight settling over the red rocks of the most spectacular canyon in the country. Even more unique is witnessing a blanket of snow frost the landscape. The best part? During the next few weeks, scenic drives are a lot less congested and viewpoint treks are blissfully quiet.

During the shoulder months of November and December, you can snag an empty bunk at Phantom Ranch. Try to book ahead for Summer 2020, however, and you’ll find it’s already sold out. For this reason, visiting the park during off-season is actually your best bet. That’s PTO well spent.

San Juan, Puerto Rico

Lounge chairs on a long beach in San Juan
Credit: Maridav/ Shutterstock

Does the cold weather already have you wistfully reminiscing about summer days? Treat yourself to an affordable four-day jaunt to the Caribbean. With winter temperatures consistently in the 80s Fahrenheit in Puerto Rico, you’ll be the envy of all your friends when you come back with a tan mid-December. Book a last-minute flight from New York to San Juan and you’ll have your toes in the sand in less than four hours.

Explore the capital before holing up in a beachside Airbnb on the west coast. Get your surf on in Rincon or chill out in the tucked-away beach towns along the northern coast, which are only two hours or less from the capital.

New Orleans, Louisiana

Bourbon Street in New Orleans in the early morning
Credit: SeanPavonePhoto/ iStock

If witnessing the madness of Mardi Gras isn’t important to you, a trip to New Orleans before the end of the year is definitely worth it. While the party-hardy events surrounding Fat Tuesday are world-renowned, discovering New Orleans’ charm without the crowds has its appeal.

Enjoy strolling the culture-rich French Quarter and absorb the somber history at the city’s infamous cemeteries sans-crowds. Don’t forget to indulge your foodie-side with the Creole-Cajun cuisine that’s made NOLA famous. With $200 flights from both the East and West Coasts, saving up for a ticket isn’t an issue and these direct routes help you hit the ground running in under four hours. Temperatures in November and December also hover in the 60s and 70s, offering the perfect backdrop to your exploration.

Denver, Colorado

View of Denver, Colorado surrounded by trees with mountains in background
Credit: milehightraveler/ iStock

Mountains and cityscape fuse together to make Denver one of the coolest cities in the country. Despite its Rocky Mountain backdrop, you’d be surprised how mild temperatures are this month and next. If you can handle high 40s to low 50s, Denver welcomes you with open arms.

Come snow or sun, top-notch hiking trails surround Denver. Some favorite cool-weather hikes beckon from within Red Rocks Park, which is also the location of the most picturesque music venue in town. After a morning on the trails, refuel at Union Station before checking out the city’s best museums and galleries. After a busy day, kick back and reward yourself with a cold one at one of the city’s celebrated breweries.

San Francisco, California

The Painted Ladies in San Francisco, California
Credit: prochasson frederic/ Shutterstock

If you’re wondering if now is a good time to visit San Francisco, the answer is yes. There’s actually never a bad time. Unfazed by the seasons, San Francisco keeps its cool all year-round. Bay cruises and city tours run through winter thanks to relatively mild temperatures. The city’s diverse neighborhoods and stylish architecture can be experienced 365 days a year and, of course, its famous restaurants and bars are always open for business.

Don’t forget all the things you can discover just outside of San Francisco too. Wine enthusiasts shouldn’t miss Napa Valley just 60 miles north of the city. Or, if you’re looking to get back to nature, check out Muir Woods National Monument for some of the biggest and oldest redwood trees in the U.S.

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