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End-of-year destinations are already booking up — 5 spots a travel expert recommends

Plan the perfect trip — on a budget.

We hate to admit it, but summer is starting to wind down — and we have a feeling the rest of the year is going to fly by as well. So, if you've been saving up for an end-of-year getaway, now is the time to get booking, according to a travel expert.

While December may seem far away, Condé Nast Traveler contributing editor and host of the podcast "Travel Genius" Mark Ellwood says popular destinations are already booking up. He joined TODAY to share a few of his recommendations for holiday vacations for anyone looking to travel ahead of 2023.

Before booking your plane ticket, be sure to check the safety guidelines for your destination and for your return home. If you're traveling internationally, you may also want to consider signing up for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. which is a free service for U.S. citizens and nationals to enroll their trip with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.

Read on for travel recommendations, near and far, that will have you wanting to pack your bags tonight.

Beach destinations

The Gabriel Miami South Beach

This boutique property is steps away from the beach in Miami, so you can soak up some Florida sun and easily head back to the hotel to wash up before heading out for the night. The rooftop pool and oceanfront views might be enough to draw you in at any time of year, but for the holidays, Ellwood says The Gabriel is offering guests "Miami-sourced" gingerbread houses to build and decorating plants for the holiday season. Other holiday treats guests can look forward to: exclusive screenings of "The Polar Express" and classic holiday stories told by Santa at the pools. Rooms start at $199 per night in December.

Hacienda del Mar Los Cabos Resort, Villas & Golf

Down in Mexico, you can find this resort with 542 guest rooms and suites — and they all have their own private terrace. The design is inspired by haciendas, and you can find a spa and fitness center, kids club, sunrise yoga classes, cooking classes and more on the property. When you book between Dec. 20, 2022 and Jan. 2, 2023, your rate will include hot breakfast at the resort for all guests in your party — so long as you book a minimum three-night stay. The lowest rate you'll find is for the Hacienda Garden View rooms, which start at $225.

Winter sports getaways

Hotel Ketchum

For those who enjoy an outdoor adventure, Ellwood suggests this spot for the perfect mountain retreat. It's a dog-friendly hotel that is situated in a "laid-back" mountain town and, because of its location, almost promises short lift lines, Ellwood says. The hotel offers complimentary transit to two nearby mountains, and on-site you'll find a restaurant and outdoor hot tub. If you stop in during the holiday season, you can take part in a slew of events in Ketchum, like the town tree lighting, a Christmas concert, a Christmas Eve ice show with fireworks and more. Rooms start at just $159 per night when you book Dec. 1-15 and $231 when you book Dec. 16-25.

Talta Lodge Bluebird

This destination was once an original 1960s mountain lodge, but it has been renovated and redesigned to welcome guests to its 51 guest rooms. The property itself is inspired by a mountain base camp and features a fireplace, year-round indoor pool, sauna and more. It is located in Stowe, one of the top spots for cross-country skiing, Ellwood says, and you can also enjoy alpine skiing in the area. If you're booking for December 2022, rates start at $201 per night.

Holiday cruise

Holland America 7-Day Eastern Caribbean Cruise

If you want to get a little more bang for your buck without the stress of having to settle on a final destination, Holland America's 7-Day Eastern Caribbean Cruise will take you to a total of four Caribbean islands this holiday season: Half Moon Cay, Bahamas; Puerto Rico; Grand Turk, Turks And Caicos and St. Thomas, U.S.V.I. Most cruises depart from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and start at $749, per person.

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