Wanna get away for Christmas with the kids? “Yule” wants to get a head start on planning.
In fact, if a bucket list family vacation with the kids is on your Christmas list, Jen Campbell Boles, the founder of Explore More Family Travel, told TODAY Parents you should plan nine to 12 months in advance.
“It is the busiest travel season of the year to most destinations,” Campbell Boles said. “(Christmas vacation) is concentrated in two weeks unlike spring breaks which occur at various weeks between March and April and summer which is a span of May through September, depending on your school system.”
SmartFlyer travel advisor Laura Epstein said that Christmas travel is also the most expensive.
“Rates are peak rates from the entire year, and many hotels and resorts will be at full capacity,” Epstein said, adding that it is not uncommon to encounter seven to 10-night minimum stays in warm weather destinations.
Patience is key.
“Expect schedule changes between now and departure,” Campbell Boles said. “Also, expect baggage delays so try to pack a carry on or send bags ahead of time (and) definitely send any presents ahead of time.”
More Christmas fun for families!
16 Christmas vacation ideas for families
Ready to plan a Christmas vacation for the whole family? Here are the top picks for destinations in the United States and abroad for the ultimate holiday getaway.
9 Christmas vacations for families in the US
New York City, New York
“Every Christmas movie takes place here, so they have to be doing something right,” Campbell Boles said.
Families can visit the Rockefeller Christmas tree, window displays on 5th Avenue, enjoy ice skating, see the Radio City Rockettes, shop at Christmas markets and more.
Asheville, North Carolina
Come for the Biltmore Estate, Campbell Boles said, where there’s a traditional Christmas celebration that includes elaborate decor and candlelit evenings. Families can also enjoy The National Gingerbread House Competition and Winter Lights at the North Carolina Arboretum.
“Those needing snow to get in the Christmas spirit should head here and celebrate their 12 days of Christmas,” Campbell Boles said, referring to the town’s 12 day celebration (12 Days of Aspen) that runs through the new year. Apart from winter sports like skiing and tubing, families can also enjoy the town’s annual light festival.
Park City, Utah
“Domestic ski destinations like Park City, Utah are quite popular for those looking for a winter wonderland ski and snow vacation over the winter break,” Epstein told TODAY Parents. Families visiting Park City over the holidays can also go for a sleigh ride through town or check out the Midway Ice Castles.
Get ready for a country Christmas! Christmas at Gaylord Opryland is an annual celebration that offers guests ice tubing, gingerbread house decorating, a holiday breakfast with Rudolph and other seasonal fun. Don’t miss “ICE!” — a winter wonderland created from two million pounds of colorful ice.
“Disney makes everything magical,” Campbell Boles said. “Visit for Disney’s Christmas party.”
Families headed to Orlando might also enjoy ice skating in shorts or decompressing at a beach outside the city.
Charleston, South Carolina
Celebrate the holidays in the Holy City, which might feel a bit like stepping into a Charles Dickens’ tale. Families can enjoy a holiday lights festival and the Children’s Village at Magnolia Plantation and Gardens.
If the kids are worried Santa might not stop, book the French Quarter Inn’s Sleigh Bell Suite, which comes fully decked out in holiday decor and features an in-room eggnog bar, cookies and milk.
Arizona and California
Epstein told TODAY Parents that many travelers may be seeking warm weather over winter break.
“Arizona and California would be popular for travelers looking for a warm, resort-like experience but without the minimum stay restrictions and expense of the Caribbean,” she said.
7 family Christmas vacations outside the US
Finland has become a hot Christmas destination, Campbell Boles said. “Not only is it a winter wonderland, it is the home of Santa Claus himself. There are Christmas markets and even reindeer in the streets.” Families who travel at Christmas may also experience a bonus — a possible Northern Lights sighting.
Campbell Boles told TODAY Parents that the Christmas markets in Germany are a top winter getaway destination.
“Nuremburg (is) one of the best,” she said,
Quebec City, Quebec
“The entire old town turns into a Christmas village,” Campbell Boles explained of the Canadian city. Families visiting at Christmas can enjoy outdoor markets, ice skating and no shortage of twinkling lights.
San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
“Visitors to San Miguel de Allende should go to experience the Christmas culture of Mexico in a colonial town that has both colorful celebrations, but also respects the religious aspects of the holiday,” Campbell Boles said, adding there are over 40 places of worship within the old town.
Shopping, ice rinks and holiday performances…oh my!
“Big cities go all out during the holidays,” Campbell Boles said, adding that London is no exception. The filming location for the famous Christmas movie “Love Actually,” London offers Christmas visitors markets, theater performances and a sea of historical landmarks.
The Caribbean and Mexico
Epstein told TODAY that beach destinations — especially in the Caribbean and Mexico — “are at peak demand” over winter holidays.
Her clients’ favorites include the Bahamas, St. Lucia, Turks and Caicos, Mexico and Jamaica.