Taking a Christmas Vacation

The Welcoming Wreath on my Door
at Home

Bing Crosby’s 1943 hit, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” has become a Christmas classic. The song, written from the perspective of a WWII soldier,  reinforces the idea of coming home for Christmas. What is more important, though is spending Christmas with family – at home, at someone else’s home, or on a “Christmas vacation” at a different location altogether.

Vacationing at Christmas

Have you ever vacationed with your family at Christmas? I haven’t – although recently, my family and I have been talking about the possibilities. Currently we don’t have any school-aged family members, but if we did, we might find that the school’s Christmas vacation is the only available holiday getaway time.

Many families vacation over the holidays, with the most popular destinations being a Disney park, or a ski resort. These are not the only options, though, and some ideas might work better for your family.

Two of my Daughters on our First Trip to Walt Disney World

When my girls were young, we took a family vacation to Florida. We considered traveling during the Christmas break, but decided to travel over their spring break instead. We have a large extended family and didn’t really want to miss all the parties. We did, however, visit Walt Disney World for the first time on that trip and it was a vacation we will never forget.

In addition to Orlando, there are other desirable places to visit in Florida – Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Tampa, and Fort Meyers are popular. The Florida Keys and islands in the Gulf of Mexico offer a pleasant, tropical experience.

Other Tropical Destinations

There is no need to limit your travel to Florida – or even other warm destinations in the states like Texas or California. All-inclusive resorts in Mexico or the Caribbean provide a complete vacation package for one price.

Although a little further away from where I live in the Midwest, vacationing in Hawaii is a true getaway. To make the distance more palatable, stop in Los Angeles or San Francisco for a day or two on your trip to the islands. A stop will help minimize problems with jetlag, plus it will feel like getting two vacations in one.

Cruising – A Good Option

Cruises are also popular – be sure to book well in advance.  Cruising can be an especially affordable way for a family to travel. Often the third and fourth passengers in a cabin will stay free with the purchase of two cruises at regular price. All on-board meals and entertainment are included in the price.

Cold Destinations

Right now, a cold destination doesn’t sound great to me, but for a winter sports enthusiast, it couldn’t be better. Michigan and Wisconsin have some nice resorts; the northeastern states also draw patrons to their hills.  The best skiing and snowboarding hills in the states, though, are in the west – and most of those are in Colorado. Breckenridge, Telluride, Snowmass, and Vail are only a few of the many resorts available.

Each resort has their highlights – expert terrain, beginner slopes, lower cost, or fewer crowds. Some have better ski lifts or accommodations. If this is your first time vacationing at a winter resort, be sure to do your research well ahead of time. Resorts are usually busy over the Christmas holidays, so booking in advance is also recommended.

Friends and Family Skiing in Michigan
Photo Credit:  Daniel J. Cooke

Throughout my high school and college years, our family, along with my aunts, uncles, cousins, and sometimes friends, vacationed at a ski resort in Michigan the week after Christmas, including New Year’s Eve and Day. We had a blast skiing all day, and then in the evening, we warmed up with hot chocolate by the fire in the lodge. We enjoyed the large pool and hot tub. For dinner, the adults would eat at the fancy lodge restaurant, while the cousins were free to run around. There may have been a few cousin adventures that were never shared with the parents.

European Destinations

One of my dream holiday destinations is Europe – well, it’s my dream destination any time of the year. The tourist crowds in Europe are much lower in the winter, so there will probably be few, if any, lines at major attractions.

Christkindlmarket, Chicago

The main reason I’d like to visit Europe during the Christmas season, though, is so that I can go to the Christmas markets.  I’ve visited the Christkindlmarket in Chicago several times, but I’d love to shop at the original ones in Germany, France, and other European countries.

The Christmas market in Strasbourg, France, dates back to 1570; Dresden, Germany’s started in 1871; and Vienna, Austria’s market is so old there is no record of when it began.

In addition to the markets, I’d love to visit Paris – the City of Light – in the winter. It would also be exciting to be in the Netherlands during the Elfstedentocht – a speed skating race that travels through eleven cities. The last time the race was held was 1997, although in 2012, it was called off just three days ahead of time, because the ice on one of the canals was not thick enough. There are a number of European cities that would be beautiful in the winter.

Day Trips
North Michigan Avenue at Christmas, Chicago, Illinois

Don’t think you can afford to take your family to Europe for Christmas? There are several options for day or weekend trips closer to home. I’ve written about Christmas in Chicago.  An hour and a half from my home, the city is close enough to visit for the day.

How fun would it be to go ice skating at the rink in Rockefeller Center? One of my friends was in New York City recently – the Christmas decorations and lights in her pictures make me want to plan a trip there for next year.

Do you live near Washington, DC? The lighting of the National Christmas Tree happens in late November, with tickets available by lottery. Ornaments from each of the 50 states adorn the tree and can be seen by all city visitors.

Each large – or small – city has their own holiday traditions along with festive lights and decorations. If you haven’t seen the “show” in the city closest to where you live, maybe this would be a good year to visit.

Things to Think About

If you are thinking about taking a special Christmas vacation, timely planning is a must. Since most schools have close to the same few days off during the holidays, there may be several other families that have the same idea as you. My parents and relatives booked rooms at the ski lodge a year in advance.

Disney parks and ski resorts – places popular with families – will be crowded, since these families have a limited window in which to travel. If you have a more flexible schedule, you might consider taking your vacation between Thanksgiving and Christmas, when less people travel. Early January will also be less crowded.

If your family usually exchanges gifts with each other, you may want to skip this tradition, give less gifts, or reschedule the gift exchange.  It can be very cumbersome to bring multiple presents to the vacation spot and then haul them all back home. You may consider giving the trip to your children as their gift.

A Christmas Vacation

A large trip may not be something to do every year, but it could become an extra special Christmas loaded with memories. My sisters and I still talk about all the fun we had with our cousins at the resort in Michigan.

My daughters and I will continue to think about how our family can take a real “Christmas vacation” sometime.

How about you?  Have you taken a trip somewhere over the Christmas holiday?  Were there any problems that you encountered? What did you like most about it? What special memories do you still talk about? Leave a comment below.


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