Four Unique Christmas Vacation Ideas

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It's the merriest season for travel! Find the perfect places to go for a classic Christmas.. or no holiday at all.

It’s the merriest season of all: a lonely week or two in winter when it seems like everyone in the family can actually take some time off together. Summer vacation is a distant memory, and Spring Break seems like a far-off dream. Every radio station is playing the same five Christmas carols, and you’ve memorized the pattern of the twinkling lights on the office Christmas tree. It’s already past time for some Christmas vacation ideas.

Somewhere between holiday happiness and holiday madness, you realize you need a Christmas vacation. But not the typical US hot-spots for Christmas. Hot-spot is probably the wrong word for typical Christmas vacation ideas, like New York City, anyway. It’s cold there in December, if you didn’t already know!

To help you narrow your wish-list with some unique Christmas vacation ideas, let’s take a look at some destinations you might not have considered yet. Whether you’re looking for someplace warm, someplace unexpected, someplace classically Christmas-y, or someplace most emphatically not Christmas-y, these Christmas vacation ideas might surprise you. And one of them just might be perfect for you. Book for Christmas now, before the holiday season sneaks up on you!

Someplace Warm: Cartagena

Warm locations usually top the Christmas wishlist, and that’s one reason to love Cartagena. This Caribbean city, located on the northern edge of Colombia, has all the palm trees and gentle breezes you’d associate with your typical island getaway.

Narrow streets in Cartagena's old city.

Narrow streets in Cartagena’s old city.

Cartagena has some totally unique characteristics which make it more than your average cruise-ship stop, though. The walled old city surrounds historic districts with jewel-toned colonial architecture. For window boxes overflowing with bouganvillea, richly-hued archways looking over narrow cobbled streets, and an overall feeling of having gone back in time, Cartagena is your connection to the fabled Spanish Main.

Cartagena's year-round sun makes it a warm choice for Christmas vacation ideas.

Cartagena’s year-round sun makes it a warm choice for Christmas vacation ideas.

There’s also a luxurious beach district, with trendy cafes and fine restaurants, where you can relax and soak up some truly tropical relaxation. Take an excursion to the Rosario Islands for a nature break in this beautiful national park, situated on an archipelago in the Caribbean Sea. Back on land, enjoy Cartagena as the city celebrates the holiday with festive lights, music and a general spirit of joy.

Try it: our 7 Day Panama City & Cartagena vacation includes your choice of hotels, optional tours and the chance to enjoy Cartagena during the Christmas festivities.

Someplace Christmas Isn’t: Thailand

When it’s time for something out of the ordinary, Thailand stands ready to deliver. Even as Christmas makes inroads into many countries where it hasn’t traditionally been celebrated before, the holiday remains a non-event in Thailand. Add its strong Buddhist traditions, and you’ve got a relaxing space far from holiday stress.

Temple in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Find your center in Chiang Mai.

Find inner peace in Chiang Mai, the northern Thailand highlands, where the primary color is lush green. Golden-spired temples perch atop forested mountains, and local artisans offer beautifully made trinkets to take home (belated Christmas presents?). Explore ancient history in Sukhothai Historical Park, where the nation’s capital was established in 1238. Feel your pulse quicken in bustling Bangkok, and relax on some of the world’s most beautiful waters in Phuket.

Find stunning beauty along Thailand's coasts.

Find stunning beauty along Thailand’s coasts.

Go: our 16 Day Classic Thailand with Phuket offers guided tours of historic temples, palaces and cities, plus includes all transfers, hotels and the assistance of a full-time tour manager, all at an incredible value.

Someplace Classic: Paris

Paris at Christmas is exactly what you’d expect: full of bright lights, beautiful displays, and fantastic sweets. So if all you need is an escape from reality, not the holiday, Paris is perfect.

Paris Lafayette Department Store at Christmas

Paris decorates in style, like the Galeries Lafayette department store.

And Paris is very much “The City of Lights” at Christmas! Find yourself dazzled by a hundred thousand lights on the Champs Elysees, gaze up at chandelier lights by Baccarat sweeping over the street in Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honore, and chic illuminations light up the fashion houses along avenue Montaigne.

Christmas illuminations light up Paris. Photo: Flickr/hernanpc

Christmas illuminations light up Paris. Photo: Flickr/hernanpc

Take in stirring Christmas music in one of Paris’ beautiful cathedrals. The Notre Dame cathedral offers a free Christmas concert with traditional music and Gregorian chants each year, although tickets must be picked up ahead of time. Christmas Eve sees organ music in the Sacre Couer basilica in Montmartre, with a sung Christmas vigil at 11 PM. With these and many more concerts, it’s a unique opportunity to hear sacred music performed in the very spaces they were written for.

Book your own Paris vacation with our 6 Day Paris Value Vacationand note the holiday illuminations, displays, and general spirit of the season last beyond Christmas Day itself!

Someplace Unexpected: Tokyo

Christmas isn’t necessarily a big holiday in Tokyo, but there’s still an enthusiasm for this holiday, which shows in sales, holiday light displays and an interesting Christmas dinner tradition — a romantic night out or takeout from KFC.

Interesting illuminations in Tokyo. Photo: Flickr/marufish

Interesting illuminations in Tokyo. Photo: Flickr/marufish

While we can’t dispute the attractiveness of a bucket of fried chicken for any holiday dinner, the illuminations around the city might be one of the best draws for Christmas fans thinking of Tokyo. With a nip in the air for thematic accuracy, you’ll be dazzled by elaborate displays like the Starlight Garden. This light show at the Tokyo Midtown mall uses thousands of LED lights for a magnificent audio-visual show. At the Caretta Shiodome, the open plaza in front of the skyscraper is lit with thousands of lights for a luminous frozen forest. The skyscraper behind it becomes a canvas for projection mapping, putting on spectacular shows.

Icy lights transform Tokyo at Christmas. Photo: Flickr/suzumenonamida

Icy lights transform Tokyo at Christmas. Photo: Flickr/suzumenonamida

Otherwise, Christmas isn’t a public holiday, so museums and shops are still open on December 25th. This makes Tokyo a particularly nice addition to your list of Christmas vacation ideas: you don’t have to allow for holiday cancellations, and the city is sparkling with lights. It’s the best of both worlds!

Visit Tokyo: our 7 Day Tokyo Vacation package offers stylish and centrally-located hotels and a half-day tour of the city to get you acclimated for your exploration.

So go enjoy something different this holiday season! With these unique Christmas vacation ideas, you’re ready to enjoy a totally new kind of holiday.