It’s hard enough to find the perfect vacation destination alone, much less for when travelling with your whole family. Family travel can be exciting, and some families even like to include the kids in discussions about where to go. Some of the things to keep in mind when planning a family vacation are how affordable the destination is, and whether it is kid friendly. Planning makes perfect, especially when it comes to the ideal family holiday. Once you’ve gotten past the planning, you’re well on your way to a truly memorable and magical holiday.
Christmas is a great time to travel, as you’re sure to experience the best of whichever destination you choose to visit. As the year ends, there tends to be more than enough joy to go around, which can only be something positive for your vacation. You’ll have to decide which elements are a must during the holidays, and which ones you can live without when planning your travels, as Christmas traditions around the world are very different, and can influence the experience for your family overall.
Do you enjoy ice skating or skiing, sleigh rides and tubing down icy slopes? Or do you prefer building sandcastles in the sand, watching light shows and parades, and shopping around at Christmas markets? Options are unlimited in terms of what you can do during your holiday, so be sure to make the vision plain. If you and your family want something that deviates from the norm, you might be tempted to book a vacation in the Caribbean, or even Europe!
Underneath, we listed some of the best Christmas vacation ideas for families. Which one is your favorite?
Northern Europe may not be everyone’s first choice for a Christmas family vacation, but it is at the top of the list of those who know just how much of a hidden gem it is. If you visit with family, one of the best cities to explore during the holidays is Cologne. Christmas markets and parties abound in this German territory, and you can even visit the Chocolate museum while you’re there. Other interesting cities include Bern in Switzerland, Hallstatt in Austria, Tallinn in Estonia and Prague in the Czech Republic. All of these destinations stand out for their authentic Christmas holiday experiences, but Prague is also a top choice; from the Gothic and Baroque architecture which is in the holiday season fitted with Christmas lights, to the theatrical shows and seasonal holiday markets, not forgetting the historic Old Town Square, the “heart” of Prague, you and your kids will have plenty of holiday memories to take home with you.
Christmas vacation ideas for families extend well beyond theme parks and tours. They’re also about creating experiences. Seeing the joy on your children’s faces at a new experience is second to none, whether the reason for their joy revolves around a freshly unwrapped toy, Christmas desserts, or the discovery of a new place. This is what makes exploring big cities in the US so exciting. During the holidays most US cities are decked out, covered with lights, decorations, impressive Christmas trees and ice-skating rinks. This is a great time to explore with the kids as you’ll get the best of what each city has to offer, including the happiness that comes with being surrounded by vibrant, happy people all with a common goal: to make this Christmas better than the last!
Some cities like NYC are great for shopping, while others like Chicago offer lots of activities and various holiday traditions (like the parade down the Magnificent Mile). From mid to late November, most big cities have already gotten their décor up, and some of the most interesting ones to visit during the holiday season include Washington DC, Philadelphia, Denver and Boston in the United States.
Every child deserves to ride the Polar Express at least once; why not during your family vacation? Christmas magic runs as the central theme for all things Polar Express, including the holiday movie and book by the same name. Years after the movie was released, fans can still enjoy Polar Express at its most exhilarating, with the Polar Express trains located at more than 40 locations in the United States. Readings, music from the soundtrack, hot chocolate, and Santa interactions are all part of the experience. This one works great in combination with the number 9 on this list!
If you’ve always wanted to go on a family cruise but just haven’t gotten around to it, the holiday season may just be that ‘perfect’ time you’ve been waiting for. Many cruise companies offer themed cruises and events around the holiday season, including the Very Merrytime Cruises on Disney Cruise Lines. Decide whether you want to go for three or seven nights, on cruises that often include stops in the Caribbean. The Bahamas, specifically Disney’s famous private island Castaway Cay, is one of the stops as part of this cruise, and it is a truly breathtaking destination. One thing’s for sure, you won’t get bored if you go the route of a holiday cruise inclusive of special festivities, and neither will your kids.
Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia is great for a history packed vacation. Families interested in exploring an 18th century American community that has been restored for the purposes of preserving history will enjoy this experience which offers opportunities to see how Christmas was celebrated back in the day, and how it is celebrated today. History stays fresh at Colonial Williamsburg where you’ll get to explore three different museums, visit the African American Interpretation center, and take in some of the other events and activities. This trip is best for kids with an appreciation for history who love discovering new things. The whole city is considered the world’s largest living history museum, so come prepared to learn! While in Williamsburg, don’t forget to check out Busch Gardens Christmas Town which features holiday shows, one of the largest lights displays in North America, a Christmas train, and more.
Who doesn’t want to see the Northern Lights at least once in a lifetime? Places like Alaska, Sweden, and Norway are among the best places in the world to catch a good view, even though a sighting isn’t always guaranteed. In any of these locations you will have an opportunity to have that white Christmas you’ve always wanted, tweaked to perfection (glass igloos included!). Korvatunturi in Finland in particular, also known as Lapland (Santa Claus Village) has long been associated as being the home of Father Christmas, or Santa Claus. For that reason, a Lapland Christmas vacation is considered “the ultimate holiday experience”. From husky sledding, to reindeer sleigh rides, all the way to toboggan racing, children will surely love this icy, winter wonderland. If you choose this location above the other incredible locations to view the Northern Lights, you can sell it to the kids as a great opportunity to hand deliver a Christmas letter to Santa!
Small towns are a bit out of the norm as far as Christmas vacations go, but that’s part of what makes them so appealing. You’ll be able to have a quieter and more family centric holiday which will definitely help to remind you of what the Christmas season is all about. As far as small towns go, Santa Claus Town (Indiana) described in the travel blogs as one of the 10 best places to spend Christmas, is one of the best bets. From holiday themed accommodation, restaurants and theme parks, you’ll find it all in Santa Claus Town. If you’re looking for something along those lines you can also try places like Skaneateles in New York which plays host to an old-fashioned ‘Dickens Christmas’ event annually, or Lancaster in Pennsylvania where you can go to Dutch Winter Wonderland with the kids, Longwood Gardens, or any of the other local Christmas events that are bound to bring that much more meaning to your holiday celebration.
The kids will surely have a hard time containing themselves if a theme park experience is brought into the Christmas equation, and why should they? A Christmas vacation after all, only comes around once a year! Among the best theme parks in the world for the holidays are Chocolate Town (Hersheypark) which opens in 2020 and is expected to include about 45 rides for both adults and children, Santa’s Enchanted Forest (the OG of holiday theme parks) with over 100 rides, and of course, Walt Disney World, and even SeaWorld, Orlando. If you’re looking for something fun to do for Christmas, you should also consider visiting Santa’s Workshop in New York which offers a whimsical, old fashioned “Christmas in the North Pole”. This experience which has been ongoing since 1949 includes one-on-one encounters with Santa and his reindeer, tours of the facility, and more.
All in all, there’s simply no going wrong with choosing a theme park for your family Christmas vacation where you’ll get to experience things like parades, light and fireworks shows, and lots of entertainment.
Some people want to get away from the cold for Christmas, while others want to bask in it. Chilly outdoors mean you can engage in activities long associated with the holiday season, including skiing, warming your toes by the fireplace, and enjoying a good ol’ frosty Christmas. That’s exactly the kind of experience you’ll find if you opt for a Christmas experience in the mountains, which is among the most top-rated things to do around Christmas. The mountains in this sense include places like Breckenridge or Aspen in the Rocky Mountains, Park City (East of Salt Lake City), Jackson Hole in Wyoming or even Vail Mountain. One of the most fun things about spending Christmas in the mountains is that at the end of an activity filled day, you can gather around the fireplace with some hot chocolate and the people you love most and spend some time bonding and reminiscing on Christmases past.
Picture: Beaches Turks & Caicos, all-inclusive resort for families with water park.
Not dreaming of a white Christmas? A Caribbean vacation may be the ultimate Christmas vacation for you! The Caribbean is a great place to go if white sandy beaches, swaying coconut trees, sunny shores and a worry-free atmosphere are what you have in mind for your vacation with family. Many of the islands have resorts complete with waterparks catering specifically to children, so if that sounds like the kind of trip you’ve always wanted, the next step would be packing and booking flights!
If you’re looking for the perfect family escape for Christmas, consider islands with short flight times like Jamaica, and Turks and Caicos. Jamaica offers opportunities to take a swim in some of the most amazing places like the Dunn’s River Falls and the Blue Hole, both located near all-inclusive family resort Beaches Ocho Rios. Relax on the famous Seven Mile Beach at Beaches Negril, which features a water park located right on the beach.
If your kids love the beach, they’ll love Grace Bay Beach in Turks & Caicos, which was voted the most beautiful beach in the world. Beaches Turks & Caicos is located right on this beach and features 21 restaurants on-property, plus one of the largest water parks in the Caribbean! All of which your family has unlimited access.
In addition to bright lights and stunning fireworks displays during the holidays, all Beaches resorts include Kids Camps with certified nannies, Sesame Street characters, snorkel trips, a nightclub for teenagers and plenty of activities on the beach to make this Christmas an unforgettable Christmas for the whole family!
There is no short supply of Christmas vacation ideas for families. It might be a little difficult to select just one of these options for your next vacation, but you can certainly save the rest for later. Whether you decide to go to a big city or take it easy at a Caribbean all-inclusive family resort, your vacation memories are something you’ll always treasure.
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