6 Vacation Spots to Travel to This Holiday Season

  • Travel Team
Dec 01, 2015

Holidays are the time for families and friends to join together in celebration; a time for traditions - old and new; and a time to forget about the worries and stresses of the day-to-day. For some, this means stuffing ourselves with rich food and watching holiday movie marathons. For others it means packing your bags, turning off your phone, and taking haven in a faraway place.

Vacations are a wonderful extended escape from the everyday to the extraordinary and a time for making memories, so it makes sense that many families choose this time to create travel traditions. While traveling during the holidays can be chaotic and expensive, it can yield the experience of a lifetime, proving well worth the extra planning and saving. For those who just need to get away from it all, including the headache and crowds, traveling to an off-season destination during the holidays can be a great opportunity to spare the hassle and haggle, while simultaneously experiencing something new and memorable.

So whether you’re looking for a great holiday travel deal or an epic holiday travel story to tell, read on to explore six great options worldwide.

North America | Nassau - The Bahamas

Bahamas during the holidays.

There is no denying the beauty of the Bahamas, and you probably wouldn’t need to twist any arms to acquire a travel-buddy to Nassau, the capital, where Boxing Day traditions still prevail. It is believed that the Junkanoo festival originated in the 16th century when slaves in the Bahamas were allowed a special holiday around Christmas, when they could leave the plantations to celebrate the holiday with their families in African tradition - with dance, costumes and music. Since emancipation, the festival has evolved into a much more formal affair consisting of a colorful parade, elaborate costumes, lively themed music, competitions and prizes. This vibrant parade is now celebrated in Nassau on both Boxing Day and New Year’s Day.

Both holidays fall within the peak travel season, which while more expensive and may require booking 2-3 months in advance, is a blessing in disguise.

During the off season, many of the resorts and hotels offer limited services and undergo heavy construction to prepare for the peak season. You may significantly reduce your travel costs by visiting between June and September, but risk missing out on all the Bahamas have to offer.

Some activities include swimming among an array of flora and fish while snorkeling in the coral reefs, basking in the sun on one of many white, sandy beaches, hopping on a ferry to visit neighboring islands, experiencing history and culture of Nassau by visiting the Queen’s Staircase or the Pirate’s Museum, or taking the family to world-renowned Atlantis Resort water-park for a day of true adventure and fun in the sun.

South America | Rio de Janeiro - Brazil

Brazil in the winter - no brainer.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil’s second largest city, attracts visitors year round with its sounds of samba, sandy shorelines, and colorful city streets. Rio also hosted the 2014 FIFA World Cup of football (American Soccer) and will host the upcoming 2016 Summer Olympic, so it’s no surprise that it is one of the most visited cities in the Southern Hemisphere.

While Carnival is the most popularly recognized celebration in Brazil, Réveillon is one of the most anticipated New Year’s Eve events in the world and Brazil’s second largest celebration. Brazilians and foreign travelers alike, flock to the famous sands of Copacabana beach, dressed in white to honor the passing year and welcome the next. The festivities include lighting candles, watching the night’s impressive fireworks display at the shore, and throwing flowers into the ocean as an offering to Lemanjá, the Afro-Brazilian goddess of the sea, who represents abundance, safety, fertility and good luck in the upcoming year.

The holiday falls within the peak travel season and attracts even more travelers than usual, so expect to pay a premium for hotels or seek alternative accommodations, such as a vacation rental booked well in advance.

While visiting Rio during the hot summer, you may want to visit the Cristo Rendentor (Christ Redeemer) Statue by bus or train, feel the wind in your face as you ride the sky taxi from Sugarloaf Mountain, dance the night away in Lapa (the epicenter of nightlife), bare your buns on one of the many beautiful beaches, or take a deep jungle tour through the tropical Tijuca Forest.

Europe | Edinburgh - Scotland

Visit Scotland during the holidays.

Known for its lush green links, kilted kin, impressive castles and exported spirits, Scotland makes a fine travel destination for golf enthusiasts, history buffs and alcohol connoisseurs alike. Edinburgh, the capital and second most visited city in Scotland, hosts one of the world’s largest New Year’s celebrations, known as Hogmanay. Festivities include singing, dancing, and dining on steak pie or stew; however the most widely adopted custom is the traditional signing of Auld Lang Syne, in which patrons are supposed to link arms at the beginning of the final verse.

While people all over the world now sing this song on New Year’s Eve, Edinburgh is one of the few place where the tradition is still properly performed. Additionally, Hogmanay traditions include first-footing, which begins right after midnight and involves being the first person to cross the threshold of a friend or neighbor's house, bearing gifts of good luck.

December and January are actually low travel seasons for Scotland because of the shorter winter days, but despite less daylight, there is actually a lower chance of rain during this time, making it an excellent and inexpensive time to travel. Keep in mind that due to the popularity of the celebration, travel near the end of the year can surge in price, so plan in advance or look for cheaper flights to London and take the railway over.

While staying in Scotland, you may want to take a picture with Sherlock Holmes (the statue that is), watch the march of penguins at Edinburgh zoo, visit a Scotch whiskey distillery, shop along Victoria Street, or take the hour-long drive up to the home of golf, the links at The Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews.

Asia | Hong Kong - China

Hong Kong during the holidays.

Located on the southern coast of China, and known for its expansive skyline, exquisite cuisine and densely populated city streets, Hong Kong attracts travelers from all over. One of its most noted celebrations, Chinese New Year, now referred to as Spring Festival, marks the end of the lunar calendar year. Preparations for the holiday begin with a tradition called Sweeping the Dust, in which the Chinese clean their houses to bid farewell to the old and make way for the new.

Other traditions include a reunion dinner where families enjoy a feast of dumplings and exchange red envelopes of money while awaiting the ring of the new year bell, decorating with paper cut-outs, red lanterns, spring couplets, and paintings associated with the upcoming year’s mascot.

The first day of the year is marked with firecrackers and dragon dances, as well as sacrifices offered to the ancestors. The fifteen-day celebration concludes with the Lantern Festival, in which people release their red lanterns to the sky. Red is the traditional festive color because it was believed to scare away the mythical beast, Nian, who was said to come on the new year to eat the crops, livestock and even villagers.

While January tends to be in the lower travel season, the end of the month and February are more expensive due to the holiday festivities. Precipitation and humidity are lower during the holiday than the warmer, more popular summer months, making it an excellent time to enjoy a hike up Dragon’s Back Trail, a stroll through Nan Lian Garden, chartering a junk (fisherman’s boat) to see the city by sea, or enjoying a skyscraper’s view of China at the edge of the Intercontinental lavish infinity pools.

North America | New York City - USA

Nothing better than NYC during Christmas/New Years.

Although it's tucked up in the North Eastern corner of the country, New York City seems to be the center and heart of America. Millions of Americans and global spectators tune in just to take part in the quintessential holiday tradition that takes place in New York’s Times Square - the New Year’s Eve Ball drop. The tradition originated in 1907 when Adolph Ochs, owner of the New York Times Newspaper, organized a giant ball to drop 141 feet in just 60 seconds, to welcome the new year. The original ball was made of wood and iron, and lit with 100 incandescent lights.

Over the decades, the ball has evolved with technology, and the tradition has only been skipped twice since its origins (in 1942 and 1943 due to wartime blackouts). While it has only snowed 7 times in Times Square in Ball Drop history, temperatures can hover just above freezing, so bundle up.

Air travel to New York city can be more chaotic during the holidays - travelers should expect flight delays due to weather and travel volume. Flight prices surge, especially if not booked in advance, but many airlines will offer deals during the holidays. Hotels, on the other hand, are often much cheaper this time of year because of the colder weather (though those right in Times Square will be more expensive right around the holiday).

Aside from its infamous landmarks such as Lady Liberty and the Empire State Building, NYC is full of holiday cheer, with ice skating in Rockefeller center, 5th Avenue shopping with holiday window displays, The Radio City Rockettes Holiday Spectacular, and much more music and decor to make the season feel merry and bright, in the city that never sleeps.

Asia | Jerusalem - Israel

The Holy Lands during the holidays.

Israel is an important historical site for followers of Islamic, Christian and Jewish faith alike, but can provide a moving experience for anyone. Though Jerusalem is known as the Holy City, it attracts many history and art enthusiasts as well. With over 60 museums to visit, covering topics from science and archaeology to religion and art, Jerusalem never lacks for sights to see.

Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights, is an 8-day Jewish celebration commemorating the re-dedication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt. Hanukkah traditions in Israel vary from those in the United States and other parts of the world; however, common shared activities include, lighting the menorah, gifting gelt (chocolate coins or money), children’s games like dreidel, and eating food - the most popular of which is sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts).

In Israel, the annual Hanukkah Torch Relay marks the beginning of the holiday, where people line the road from the city of Modi’in to the Western Wall (Kotel, in the Old City), and pass a burning torch that will light the giant hanukkiyah (menorah). This is the best time of year to enjoy festivals and concerts for both children and adults.

Many hotels will lower prices during this holiday because of cooler temperatures and fickle weather. Jerusalem receives most of its precipitation between October and April, so be sure to pack layers. The old city is the best place to stay for those that really want to soak up the culture and history of the city. Zion Square is where you want to be if you enjoy dining in the city’s most lively restaurants and bars, and eastern Jerusalem is where the budget conscious will find the best deals.

Click here to download the Seven Corners Travel Guide for selecting the best vacation spot during the holiday season!

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