A destination guide for the best Christmas vacations

If you’re wondering where to go for Christmas this year, look no further. These destinations know what they’re doing when it comes to tree lightings, Santa sightings, and holiday shopping sprees. The best Christmas vacations can take you to private hideaways on quiet beach coves far from the yuletide rush or to roomy villas near the slopes with crackling fireplaces and large living spaces primed for carol sing-a-longs.

The best Christmas vacations around the US

Are you looking for the best places to travel for Christmas in the US? Start taking notes. These hubs of holiday cheer are in their prime come December, when holiday tunes start playing in shopping centers and giant tinseled trees fill town centers. And if you want to trade evergreens for swaying palms, that can be arranged, too.

Warm Christmas destinations are on Hawaiian beaches

If you’re looking to ditch the mittens and wooly socks in favor of swimwear and sandals, a sun-soaked escape to the golden sands and cerulean sea of Hawaiian Islands should top the list. The best Christmas beach vacations here may take you to of Oahu, where touristy hubs like Waikiki ring with festive activities for families and the wave-lashed North Shore offers quiet escapes in beachy bungalows, or to romantic Maui, a favorite amongst honeymooners and loved-up duos who flock to the waterside villas and condos for views of rainbows and lazing sea turtles.

Something for everyone in California

You can always count on California for a dreamy travel experience, and the holiday season is no different, whether you’re after a tepid shoreside getaway in So Cal with access to the sand from a breezy beach house or a hideaway in the redwoods up north where the crisp air invites evenings by the fireside roasting marshmallows. The best Christmas vacation spots in California might just be the little towns that put on Whoville impressions, like Danish-style Solvang with its carolers in full period costume and Julian, which lights up a towering tree each year.

Where to go for Christmas vacation in Europe

The storied fairy-tale towns and holiday traditions of European Christmas vacation destinations add a little touch of magic to the season. Maybe it’s the outdoor markets, where craft venders present their hand-sewn stockings and carefully painted nutcracker dolls. Or perhaps it’s the half-timbered facades adorned with pine-scented wreaths and flickering candles in the frosty window panes.

Germany for the Christmas markets

With the gentle aroma of gingerbread wafting all around and echoes of carols ringing through the chilly air, it’s pretty easy to settle into a festive mood at the Christkindlmarkts that start popping up in German towns come late fall. Whether its Munich, where you can mix big-city sightseeing with shopping for wooden trinkets and sipping on mulled wine, or small-town Fussen, for craft stalls are surrounded by medieval facades, there’s endless choices in storied German towns.

A white Christmas in the Swiss Alps

If waking up to a white-painted landscape and twirling flakes outside the window of your cozy chalet rental is on your holiday bucket list, than Christmas destinations in Switzerland are just what Santa ordered. The yuletide vibes are strong in mountain resorts like St. Moritz and Zermatt, where afternoons on the slopes are topped off with sleigh rides and après-ski drinks under twinkling lights.

How to book affordable Christmas travel

It’s no secret that the holidays are an expensive time of year, what with all the parties to attend, stockings to stuff, and tempting sales popping up left and right. If you need to allocate more change for filling those “dear Santa” lists, these booking tips will help you cut costs on Christmas travel.

Book early to save big

Typically, booking outside of prime travel seasons like summer and December is the easiest way to keep the vacay budget in check, so if you’re looking to hit the slopes or the sands amid the holiday rush, searching for that cabin in the woods or beachfront villa early will yield the most affordable options. And since the best Christmas destinations can fill up fast, reserving early will guarantee that your vacation rental has all the necessary features for a homey yuletide getaway, whether that’s a chimney for Santa to scoot down or a fully-equipped kitchen for whipping up grandma’s famous gingersnaps.

Sometimes all it takes is a few blocks or a digit change on the zip code to slash the price of a holiday rental dramatically. Christmas vacation spots in happening cities like NYC can be a budget buster, but if you skip Manhattan in favor of Brooklyn or Queens, or hop over state lines into New Jersey, you’ll find apartment and loft rentals that are much cheaper and still be just a few subway stops away from the ice rinks and department stores you came for.