Four Unique Christmas Vacation Ideas

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 brief moment when almost everyone in the family can take 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: South Africa

With average highs in the 70s, Christmas-time is the perfect time to get out and explore the incredible vistas of South Africa’s wildlife reserves, to say nothing of its vibrant cities. Cape Town is gorgeous in December: sunny and warm with plenty of traditional holiday activities, from caroling to Christmas Markets!

Cape Town's stunning location at the base of Table Mountain. Photo: Shutterstock

Cape Town’s stunning location at the base of Table Mountain. Photo: Shutterstock

And of course, you’ll want to get out into the bush for plenty of safari time. While December isn’t the peak wildlife viewing time, it is the wet season and that means excellent birding, with plenty of migratory species. The scenery is greener than in the dry winter months, and even though animals are tougher to spot in the verdant bush, you’ll still see Africa’s amazing wildlife.

Start planning a Christmas vacation in South Africa with one of our exciting trips like our 8 Day Essential South Africa, including Cape Town and Limpopo Province.

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 13 Day Classic Thailand itinerary 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 selection of Paris packagesand 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.

Find more Christmas Vacation Specials here.