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For many people, the idea of traveling during the holidays makes them cringe and cower like walking barefoot over broken Christmas ornaments a la Marv in Home Alone.
But holiday travel doesn’t HAVE to be a nightmare.
In fact, traveling during the holidays can actually be great! A vacation during this time of year can offer a much-needed change of pace (I’m ready to flee each November after all the Black Friday hullaballoo), and can give you the chance to make completely new holiday memories.
Because, let’s face it: even the most fun holiday family traditions can get old and tired after years and years of going through the same motions.
Not long ago, I gave you a little behind-the-scenes look at how I use KAYAK to do a lot of my travel planning. That wasn’t a lie – I really do use KAYAK all the time, and so when they asked me to talk a little bit about holiday travel, I jumped at the chance.
Let’s talk about some of the coolest places you can travel to in order to celebrate the holidays!
Where to travel for Christmas magic
Christmas is a time to be with family for a lot of people. But there’s no rule saying that you can’t shake things up and exchange gifts in another country.
Here are six places that I would love to be around Christmastime:
1. Nuremberg, Germany
Germany is known for its charming Christmas markets, and Nuremberg is home to Christkindlesmarkt, the largest and oldest holiday market in the country. The market dates back to the 1600s, and today draws upwards of 2 million visitors per year.
The market consists of hundreds of stalls selling everything from handmade Christmas gifts to fresh-baked gingerbread. I would love to stroll through the market bundled in my favorite cozy winter gear with some mulled wine in hand.
2. London, England
Ever since seeing the move “Love, Actually” more than a decade ago, I’ve wanted to spend the holidays in London. There’s just something about the holiday decorations and Christmas-y atmosphere that seems romantic to me, and London has both in plentiful supply.
I have some friends in London, too – all the better to pull Christmas crackers with!
3. New York City, USA
NYC is more famously known for its New Year’s Eve celebration in Times Square, but I would argue that being in the Big Apple around Christmastime might actually be better. You can see the giant Christmas tree, go ice skating at Rockefeller Center, and take a carriage ride through snowy Central Park without dealing with the New Year’s Eve crowds.
Plus, all the major department stores go all-out with Christmas decorations and window displays before the holidays.
Read more: Best Things to Do in NYC at Christmas
4. New Zealand
I was born and raised in Ohio, so to me Christmas means cold weather and (usually) snow. BUT, if I had to celebrate the holiday in a non-winter destination, I think my choice would be to head Down Under, when Christmas actually lands in the summer.
More specifically, I’d love to celebrate somewhere in New Zealand with a beachy barbecue and blooming Pohutukawa trees.
5. Rovaniemi, Lapland, Finland
If you REALLY want to get into the Christmas spirit, the must-visit destination would be Lapland, which lays claim to being “the official hometown of Santa Claus.”
Here above the Arctic Circle you can visit with Santa, send a letter from Santa’s post office, stay in a snow hotel, and maybe even see the Northern Lights.
6. Cleveland, Ohio, USA
Lastly, according to KAYAK’s list of the Top 10 Holiday Escapes, my home state should make your travel list! This is partially because airfare to Cleveland around the holidays is usually fairly low, but also because Cleveland is home to the house used in the cult classic holiday film “A Christmas Story.”
Plus, Cleveland goes ALL OUT for the holidays, and there are a ton of things to do in Cleveland at Christmas.
Where to travel for New Year’s
Family not cool with traveling (or with you being gone) for Christmas? Then turn your gaze to New Year’s Eve instead. There are tons of cool places all around the world that have amazing New Year celebrations.
1. Edinburgh, Scotland
New Year’s celebrations in Scotland’s capital city don’t just last for one night. In fact, Edinburgh’s Hogmanay lasts for up to three whole days.
It begins on December 30 with the Torchlight Procession, when thousands of people carry flaming torches through the streets of Edinburgh in an old Viking tradition. This is followed by the main event on December 31, which includes a massive street party, ceilidh dancing, concerts, and of course fireworks over Edinburgh Castle. The celebrations continue on January 1 with the Loony Dook, when people in costumes jump into the freezing River Forth.
2. Sydney, Australia
Have you ever seen photos of Sydney’s New Year’s Eve celebration, with fireworks bursting above iconic landmarks like the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge? It looks incredible, and it’s high up on my list of must-visit places for NYE one of these years.
The fireworks show is continually voted as one of the best in the world, and since Australia is in the southern hemisphere, no winter layers are necessary to enjoy it.
3. Reykjavik, Iceland
I have a bit of a thing for Iceland, and actually LOVE the country in the winter time. Yes, the nights are long and the temperatures usually hover around freezing, but the small city of Reykjavik knows how to dress up for the holidays.
It also knows how to ring in the new year, with bonfires all over the city and tons of fireworks.
4. Barcelona, Spain
Speaking of Trending NYE Destinations, KAYAK also suggests Barcelona. I personally think Barcelona would be an awesome place for New Year’s Eve – the city is exciting and filled with things to do, and there’s a free NYE party at the Montjuic’s Magic Fountain each year, too.