Travelling over Christmas – tips for travelling solo, with friends – and where you should go!
To travel over the holidays, or not to travel over the holidays – that is the frequently posted question to many a travel group. The answer is extremely individual, if you don’t want to do it then don’t – work around it. However, if you are going down that road then this is the post for you! Whether you want to spend Christmas in Europe in one of the best European Christmas destinations
Traveling had become a way of life for me while I lived abroad. However, it wasn’t until I was on the road (well, ok, in the middle of the Indian Ocean) in Mauritius for my first Christmas away from family and friends for the first time in my life that I realized just how hard not being home for the holidays was. It was ROUGH. But luckily, I learned from my mistakes and the following year when we were backpacking in Vietnam over Christmas, I had a few tricks up my sleeve to help not be homesick.
My top tip is to stay off of ALL social media for at least 2 days before and 2 days after the Holiday. Seeing general holiday posts aren’t so bad, but suddenly ON the big day, when EVERYONE is posting about being with their family and friends, it was suddenly gut-wrenching.
Not only did it hurt to see my own family’s messages, but it was a constant reminder when I saw others post as well. I missed my family and all of our traditions so badly that I spiraled into a depressive state! However, the following years, by just simply turning off my phone, I was able to bypass the hardest days. This meant just not reading a lot of What’sApp messages, not being on Facebook for a few days and not doing any Snaps. But that was ok, because when I was able to disconnect, I was able to handle the distance so much better! Which also meant that I could enjoy the destination of where I was supposed to be immersed in any way and truly enjoy my travels!
My tips for travelling with a friend over Christmas
I was lucky enough to travel through France with my bestie over Christmas a few years ago, it was my first time travelling with a friend as well so there was a definite learning curve regardless of the Christmas aspect. Honestly the most important thing I can say is to choose a destination that doesn’t basically close for Christmas Day or you’ll end up eating wherever is open rather than having a choice (but more on that later).
Personal circumstances always have to be taken into consideration when travelling together but even more so when something like Christmas is on. In our particular case it was a bit more pointy than you could normally expect, my friend lost her mum around Christmas – whose birthday was Christmas Day. This meant that, understandably, she wasn’t in the most super awesome happy mood leading up to Christmas day. The lesson here is, read the situation and if one or both of you need a break then go exploring on your own for a day.
Similarly, make sure you’re happy to support the other person. If they are having a big bout of homesickness or missing something in particular, think about a way you can help them to feel better or more at home. Whether that is sourcing a proper tea bag for a proper cup of tea or organizing decent Wi-Fi for a video chat home – the smallest thing can mean the most.
What changes when you’re living alone overseas at Christmas
Having spent a Christmas actively travelling, my first Christmas alone while living overseas for my Master’s degree was completely different. I had no less than six invitations to spend Christmas with various branches of my family, friends who were still at uni, and families of friends who were not still at uni. I was however in the middle of a Master’s degree so the thought of not working and walking through the rain to the train station, spending hours not working on a train, feeling guilty about not working while eating lunch, not working on the train back, and then being too tired to work once I returned home that night was too stressful to think about. So instead, I treated myself to a bit of pork shoulder to slow cook, the expensive ice-cream I rarely had, and a bottle of sweet fortified wine.
I had more phone calls and messages that day than I’d had in weeks. Mum and Da had sent a care package with some little presents in – a transatlantic Christmas stocking. One of these was a tiny fiber optic Christmas tree, which was kind of perfect for a little nod to Christmas
My biggest tip for being overseas and alone on Christmas is – do what suits you best. If taking up and invite will help you feel better do that, if spending the day truly on your own is best for you then *do that*.
Do something for yourself. Buy the fancy ice-cream, binge watch your guilty pleasure show, finish the bottle of wine. After all – it’s Christmas.
Where to Visit at Christmas
Christmas Traditions from around the world make travelling over Christmas an amazing adventure, here I collected some opinions and stories from around the world about some very different places to visit over the holiday season.
Hot Christmas Holidays
Christmas in Australia
What is Christmas like in Australia? Depending on where you are in the country – hot, warm, humid, or insanely hot. Australia is so big you get many different climates, towards the tropics it gets more humid than the centre or southern climes.
As many people, my favourite part of Christmas is all the food but unlike the northern hemisphere we don’t focus on the warm, heavy, comfort foods of winter. We always had a huge spread of cold lunch dishes. Yes there were roasts – roast beef and chicken – but it was served cold, deli style, with cold salads for the sides. Some years we would have a barbecue outside but I lived in the country so having an open flame in the middle of fire danger season was not recommended!
Though I personally have never had Christmas on the beach I certainly wanted to some years! Many of my friends would head to the beach for an afternoon swim to escape the heat and all I could have wished for, living over 90 minutes drive from the beach, was for a pool.
Christmas in Florida
From By Kristin of Sippin Gypsy
Christmastime! Lights twinkling, cheerful music playing, there is a magic feeling all around…and 80 degrees!? Even Florida turns up the holiday charm, and lucky for us residents, the only reason we need a shovel is to make a castle at the beach and salt…for our margaritas of course! Cheers to holidays in the Sunshine State! Here are a two of my favourite ways Floridians celebrate the season.
1. St. Augustine Florida
The Ancient City holds to her Spanish influence and celebrates the holidays, specifically Christmas, in a big way. Every year just after Thanksgiving the historic district lights up with Night of Lights. Thousands of twinkling lights adorn every branch, roofline and everything else one can adorn in lights and ornaments to make for a breath-taking way to experience the holidays. The best way to enjoy this brilliant event to book a stay at one of the charming Bed and Breakfast Inns that partake in the decorating extravaganza. Spend your day shopping for gifts through the historic district, then after sunset, enjoy a trolley ride around the city with festive music and jolly tour guides to make for a truly memorable start to the holidays.
2. Walt Disney World
If there is one time to enjoy Walt Disney World, it is at the holidays. Every inch of the parks and resorts are carefully decorated in a style that compliments the theme of that particular location. Disney Springs offers guests the chance to shop while hearing live holiday music played around the park and a Christmas Tree Lane Trail with playfully decorated trees from childhood favorite stories and movies. EPCOT offers guests the chance to experience holidays around the world, with cuisine special to the festive season from various countries across the globe.
Christmas in Europe
When you talk about dream Christmas destinations Europe tends to lead the pack – with Christmas in Europe automatically conjuring images of snow, and cozy cottages, and gingerbread. Growing up in Australia I always dreamed of a snowy Christmas in Europe. All my sunburned, sweating, and overheating self wanted was one postcard Christmas – I never got it until I got to travel to France over Christmas with my bestie. Boy oh boy did our Christmas in Europe have snow – we had to trek though nearly a mile to catch our train to Paris! I am so enamored with the amazing places my blogger friends have written about I’m kind of treating this as a check list for places I want to spend visit for Christmas in the future!
Christmas in Naples
Read more (amazing stuff) at Travelling Dany! Via San Gregorio Armeno in Naples
In Naples, Christmas is a very important matter. The whole city lights up with LED lights, every district has a different theme, and they all make sure they have the most cheerful, beautiful streets.
But there’s a very narrow, long street in the oldest part of Napoli, where it’s always Christmas, every day of the year.
Via San Gregorio Armeno in Naples is also known as “Christmas Alley”. Here our best artisans craft the world famous nativity sets, still by hand, using the old techniques. Generation after generation of artists reproducing not only the nativity, but also mixing sacred and profane. This is one of the most peculiar things of our Christmas: you might find a Donald Trump or Theresa May statuette in our nativity set. Our artisans always in fact feel the pulse of the world, making sure their “presepi” become a vivid image of our modern society.
Of course, Christmas food in Naples is also something that starts getting discussed months before the festivities. Every mamma and nonna will have a long list of things they have to buy, because Christmas in Napoli means spending as much time as possible sitting by the table, eating great food and sharing beautiful memories with our family and friends!”
Christmas in Vienna
Justin and Tracy at A Couple For The Road
Vienna, Austria is one of the most enchanting places to spend Christmas, and one that is nearest to the source. This sprawling, beautiful metropolis is host to some of the largest Christmas Markets in Europe, and is also one of the cities which helped in the building of the Christmas legend.
If you’re looking for the best Christmas market in Vienna, you’ll want to head to the Rathausplatz. Here, you’ll find the Christkindlmarkt, or the Christ Child Market, where a massive, traditional Christmas market is held each year. Complete with hot wines, sweet treats, ornaments, and beautiful lights all set in the scenic beauty of the Rathausplatz, there’s perhaps no more genuine Christmas feeling in the world.
Throughout the city there are numerous celebrations that are similar to the Christkindlmarkt, but simply smaller in scale. It keeps Vienna in the spirit of the season, and makes it one of the areas you simply have to visit if you enjoy a great Christmasmarket
Christmas in Spain
from the Family Voyage
If you’re looking for a place where you can find Christmas charm without the frigid temperatures, head to Spain! You’ll find virtually no other tourists filling the country’s many fascinating sites, but Spaniards will be filling the streets in great spirits. The whole country pulls out all the festive stops, with every city, town and village competing for the best holiday-themed lighting displays festooning their streets.
There are plenty of great places to explore in Spain in December where you’ll find mild temperatures. Much of the coastal region is ripe for a winter visit – Barcelona, Sevilla, Valencia, Malaga and many more. On the other hand, cities in Spain’s interior can be downright frigid – if you just need those colder climates to get in the Christmas spirit, head to bustling Madrid.
Stick around for a few more weeks if you can, because Spain really knows how to throw a party. After a quiet, family-oriented Christmas Day, festivities become more boisterous for New Year’s Eve and end with a huge parade for the Feast of the Three Kings.
Christmas in London
from Travel Hacker Girl
With so many places to go for Christmas in England – London is a very popular place to travel to over the Christmas holidays. No surprise there as the whole city is really magical at this time of the year. There are many cute, pop up places and events to get people in the Christmas spirit. You can watch Christmas movies on bean bags surrounded by fake snow, drink mulled wine at one of the many Christmas markets, have fun ice skating, enjoy the lights in central London or be amazed by the giant Christmas tree at Trafalgar Square! If you feel adventurous you can ride one of the many roller coasters at Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park! There is a lot going on in London and everyone can find something that they will enjoy!
Looking for a White Christmas (aka Please Let It Snow!)
A white Christmas is defined as (in Canada at least) 2 cm (0.79 in) of snow-cover or more on Christmas morning at 7 am. If a white Christmas is what you desire then the further north you go the more likely you are to have it (in general). The Met Office says that the UK has had snow on Christmas Day 38 times in the last 54 years, so maybe about a 50% chance of snow on Christmas (not great maths there but hey). London, according to the nifty stats on Wikipedia, only has a 6% chance of a white Christmas. Despite what Dickens would have you believe – if you want snow the best places to go for Christmas in England are actually … in Scotland. The same stats sheet that damn London to a 6% chance tout Lerwick (a place in the Shetland Islands that I had to google and now want to visit) as boasting an impressive 75% chance of snow on Christmas. Scotland has a much higher chance of snow on Christmas day but your chances are much better outside of the United Kingdom.
Most places in Canada will get snow, with some places reporting a 100% chance of snow on Christmas Day – Iqaluit, Kenora, Whitehorse, and Yellowknife. These towns are all very cool looking on the image search but none of them sport much more than 25k in population so I would quadruple check the tourist infrastructure before arriving!
Christmas in Europe is generally unlikely to be snowy, but Romania has many cities with a good chance of snow, as does the Baltic and Scandinavian regions. However, don’t be lulled into a false sense of security with percentages and likelihoods – with climate change all of these things are up in the air (pretty literally actually….). I spent New Years Eve in Sweden going into 2018, everyone said there would be snow – and maybe even a glimpse of the northern lights. Nada. Zip. Zilch. No snow, no natural phenomena, it wasn’t even that cold! So don’t be too disappointed if the percentages don’t work out for you.
Unique Christmas Trips
Christmas in Yakutia
from Lena (born in Yakutia, currently living in Vienna) read more at Trips to Siberia
I would like to share with you how Christmas is celebrated in my hometown. I am from Yakutsk in Siberia. You may have heard about my city as it is known as the coldest city on earth. In December and January, temperatures very often drop to more than 50 degrees below zero! The way we are celebrating Christmas is very different from most other places in the world. First of all, the date differs. Christmas is celebrated on the seventh of January which is the 25th of December in the traditional ‘Julian calendar’. We are also not familiar with Santa Clause. Instead, Grandfather Frost is the main character children in Russia do belief in. And: Children have to wait for gift-giving until New Year’s eve. The majority of the population of Yakutsk belong to the indigenous nation of Yakuts. In addition to the figure of Grandfather Frost, the Yakuts do also belief in the so called King of the Cold, a mystic figure with two horns which are symbolizing the cold of winter. One of the horns is from a bull, the other from a mammoth. Each winter, according to the Yakutish myth, the King of the Cold and Grandfather Frost meet in the village of Oymyakon in Yakutia ‘to hand over the cold’. If you are looking for very special Christmas experience, Oymyakon and Yakutsk are places you should definitely think about to visit!
Christmas in Lapland
This is something I have only recently become kind of slightly obsessed with, but honestly if you just try and imagine what you think Santa’s home would look like – what you’ll inevitably conjure is comparable to Lapland. This is fitting as Rovaniemi is the *Official Home of Santa*. As a bonus – if you can’t make it up at Christmas Time – Santa Claus Village is YEAR ROUND! So you can visit any time – maybe this is the perfect answer to the question of travelling at Christmas, spend Christmas at home but then travel to Christmas in Lapland! The landscape is absolutely amazing and there is a really good chance of seeing the Northern Lights.
Iconic Christmas Trips
Christmas in New York
Check out My Travel Collecting!
Almost every American Christmas ever has been set in New York City and there is a reason. There is no better place to be at Christmas. Relive a Miracle on 34th Street by shopping at Macy’s; go ice skating at the iconic Rockefeller Center; admire the department store holiday windows; enjoy the nightly light show on the façade of Saks Fifth Avenue; be in awe of the Rockette’s precision at the annual Radio City Music Hall Christmas show; listen to the jingle of the street corner Salvation Army Santas; take a personal Christmas tree tour (almost every park and many famous buildings have enormous Christmas trees, each with its own character); be dazzled by lights in Dkyer Heights as neighbors try to outdo each other with tacky decorations; take the kids to the model train show at the Botanical Gardens… It doesn’t get more Christmassy than this!
Christmas in Cologne (Koln)
While I haven’t yet spent the actual day of Christmas in Germany, I have sent several days in various towns at Christmas time. The Christmas markets of Germany have been incredible – but my absolute favorite was in Cologne. We were chased by a giant steampunk style snail man, befriended puppies at mulled wine stalls, and perused the most beautiful glass decorations. The style and atmosphere of Cologne speaks to something in my soul – with their famous Carnivale, festivals out the wazoo, and incredible reputation for art.
Christmas Holiday Destinations For Couples
It is no surprise that the best European Christmas destinations are also often the ones that spring to mind for the best Christmas holiday destinations for couples – warm, romantic, snuggling up in bed or by the fire … duh. The Christmas food in Europe is some of my absolute favourite, roasted meat and alcohol steeped cakes washed down with cider. I will never forget wandering through the Christmas Markets in Venice sipping my insanely cheap and sweet mulled wine. These types of cozy situations set the perfect scene for a romantic Christmas.
For European Christmas holiday destinations for couples I recommend a small town in France. Do your research and book somewhere either large enough to have restaurants open, or with self catering facilities.
Pro Tip: make sure places are open!
We found ourselves almost starving when we stayed in Metz over Christmas – almost everything closed!! No supermarket, no fast food (even the 24 hour McDonalds was closed!!), and no nice restaurants. We had been planning on a semi-formal Christmas dinner but all we could find was a slightly odd looking Indian place, which turned out to be tasty but not what we were aiming for. Our Christmas Day lunch was, pretty depressingly average, sushi. We lucked out with finding a restaurant open on Christmas Eve but… well to say we were under dressed is an understatement. She wore leggings and I was in an old sparkly beanie, we were the youngest people in the place by about 30 years, and we spent two days food budget on our meals because we were too awkward to leave once we saw the prices. But also because we legitimately wanted a nice meal, so we were happy to pay, but sad to be broke.
If a small town isn’t your thing then head to Paris! It was amazing to walk around the gorgeous city in the winter time, just be aware that some transport times change but generally things are just as accessible. The Champs Elysee has the most amazing Christmas market – walk hand in hand with mulled wine and hope it snows like it did in February 2018 when I was there last <3
Warm Christmas holiday destinations for couples
But if you don’t want to spend Christmas in Europe with your boo, then heading to warmer climes doesn’t mean it isn’t romantic as heck! Heading to the Southern Hemisphere you can kick back on the beaches of Australia, or marvel at the Misty Mountains, I mean, New Zealand. I think you’ll know by now that my attitude is very much – do what suits you!