Christmas Trips and Destinations - picture of young kids sitting on beach with santa hats on

6 Great Christmas Vacation Ideas and Destinations

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Hey gang! Welcome back.

Kids are in school, the weather is cooling, and leaves will start falling in a few weeks. Heck, department stores will deck their halls for the holidays – oh, about – next week; so, is it too early to talk about Christmas?

Not if you plan to travel.

If your Christmas trip isn’t booked, you better get moving. With only 14 weeks ’til Santa comes, the time finalize your travel plans is now!

In the past, we always had to work the Christmas holiday. That meant travel was off the table, but last year we actually booked a trip – and boy was it busy.

The holidays are the most popular time of year to travel, so prices are high and rooms fill up quickly. Despite the hassle, traveling with your family provides (mostly) wonderful holiday memories that you’ll share forever. So, if you’re still searching for the perfect spot, here are six ideas to make your Christmas travels magical!

6 Best Christmas Vacation Destinations

San Juan, Puerto Rico

Want to know where we’ll be this holiday season? Puerto Rico is it! Holly spent several days there last December and found it was absolutely beautiful. I’ve never been, so I can’t wait to go.

Besides the obvious sunny weather and beautiful beaches, Puerto Rico has loads to offer. Old San Juan was settled over 500 years ago, and guess what: It will be all lit up for Christmas! While we’re there, we’ll also be checking out El Yunque, the only tropical rainforest on U.S. soil. And, of course, we’ll be spending time on the beach with the kids. Since Southwest flies to San Juan, getting there is a piece of cake. You can even get there using points you earned from your Southwest Visa! But you better hurry! Christmas will be here before you know it.

Marco Island, Florida

Speaking of beautiful and sunny Christmas vacation ideas, Marco Island, Florida has to be on the list. We’ve considered this spot each of the last two years, but – alas – our plans have fallen through. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider it though.

The beaches in Marco Island are supposed to be spectacular. If you’re there before Christmas, catch the holiday boat parade where you’ll see the local vessels lit up with Christmas lights. After the holiday, check out the New Year’s Eve fireworks in nearby Naples. Staying in Marco Island isn’t cheap, but you can save money with hotel points. We planned to transfer some of our Chase Ultimate Rewards® points to Marriott for our stay.

Chicago, Illinois

When I lived in Chicago, Christmastime was one of the best times of year. With holiday window displays, snow lined streets, and carols heard everywhere, you’ll get swept up in the Windy City’s Christmas spirit.

Always a top tourist destination, Chicago’s Magnificent Mile is one holiday spot you don’t want to miss. This world famous shopping district is lined with more than a million Christmas lights during the festive season. While you’re near downtown, you should also check out the city’s official tree. In 2015, the tree was moved to a new location in Millenium Park. Be sure to visit Navy Pier’s Winter WonderFest for some more holiday themed fun, as well.

Beaver Creek, Colorado

If skiing is more your style, try bringing the family to my favorite spot in Colorado – Beaver Creek Resort. The slopes are some of the best in the world, and – along with nearby Vail – they played host to the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships.

But, skiing isn’t the only thing Beaver Creek has to offer. Families will love Beaver Creek’s WinterFest. Visit with Santa, strap on some figure skates, and enjoy interactions with WinterFest characters throughout the village. There’s also a New Year’s Eve Bash, complete with fireworks. Like all mountain getaways, Christmas is bound to be both busy and pricey. To save money, try booking a place through VRBO.

Las Vegas, Nevada

Best Christmas travel ideas
While in Vegas, you might even run into this guy!

Want a little desert to go with that Yuletide spirit? Consider a trip to Las Vegas!

Seriously, what’s not to like about Christmas in Vegas? The weather is warm but not blazing hot. You can ice skate at the Cosmopolitan, see Santa Claus (and Santa Jaws) at the aquarium in Mandalay Bay, or enjoy the lights and sounds of the city. After opening gifts, throw down some chips at the craps table and try to win back the money you spent. Stay until New Year’s Eve, catch a show, and enjoy the party that is Las Vegas.

Platinum Coast, Barbados

Best Christmas travel spots
The view from our room in Barbados

We just returned from Barbados and had to quickly add this place to the list. I mean, I’ve been to a lot of Caribbean islands; so far, Barbados takes the cake!

This island is absolutely gorgeous. We visited the Platinum Coast, and the beaches were nothing short of stunning. The crystal clear water sat as still as a bathtub, filled with awesome snorkeling and lots to do. (Think Grand Cayman with more of a Caribbean island vibe.) Even better, the people here are kind and extremely laid back. And if you want to hang out with celebrities, book a room at the Sandy Lane resort for around $4,000 a night during the holidays. Hometown hero, Rihanna has a condo next door, so you know the place is ballin’. We stayed at Waves Hotel & Spa by Elegant Hotels,  a lovely and romantic spot for couples. If you’re looking to bring the whole family, the brand boasts several other hotels on the island. I’d highly recommend you check them out.

 

What are your favorite Christmas destinations? Have you booked your stay yet? Let us know in the comments below!

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32 Comments

  1. Hey Greg, nice list! You\’ve definitely missed a trick by missing Australia off this list! Have a proper Summer Xmas, having an Xmas dinner by the pool in 25C-35C – in shorts and a t-shirt. Try it one day, you won\’t be disappointed 🙂

    Tristan

    1. Yes! Absolutely agree! I’m an Aussie currently living in Tennessee. Although I do love a white Christmas, there is nothing better than spending Christmas day out in the sun, then going down to the beach and having a friendly game of cricket!

    2. Ha! Love it. I’ve always wanted to go to Australia, but man is that a long way. Maybe we will have to try it at Christmas one year.

  2. What an awesome list! We have been to 4 locations listed during the holidays but have missed out on Las Vegas and Beaver Creek. Maybe next year though when we are more mobile! We fell totally in love with Barbados too and driving was a total hoot there!

    1. Honestly, Barbados may be it for me! I’m done. It’s the perfect island paradise 🙂

  3. Several of our friends have gone to Puerto Rico. They say it’s beautiful! It’s nice that you don’t need a passport and the plane ride isn’t too long!

    1. Yeah, I love the fact that we won’t have to go through customs and immigration. Plus, my cell phone will work without a sim card. Woohoo!!!

  4. I don’t really like Las Vegas! I’m probably the only one that doesn’t. All the other places look beautiful. =)

    Who is that guy that Holly posed with in Las Vegas?

  5. I think we’re headed to Vegas right after the holidays this year. We snuck away last year between Christmas and New Year’s since we found a crazy good deal on airfaire and hotels. I’d love to try to convince my extended family to go somewhere in lieu of gifts one year.

    1. We’ve actually done that with my parents a couple of times. We met in the middle and hit Wisconsin Dells. It’s a ton of fun, and the resorts are fairly empty. Of course, going some place warm would be awesome too!

  6. Love these ideas Gregg. Having grown up in the Caribbean I can fully agree that Barbados is literally paradise. I grew up on the small island of Trinidad and every other Christmas my family and a bunch of friends go to our sister island called Tobago but sadly can’t go this year because of visa and work issues.

    1. Thanks Stefan! Trinidad and Tobago are on our list to visit someday too. We’d love to make it to all of the major islands/island chains in the Caribbean.

  7. Great list Greg! We’ve been to San Juan twice and can only imagine how nice it’d be for the holidays. But, having lived in Chicago it’s always near the top of the list for me for Christmas. We’re headed back out to San Diego for Christmas this year so we’re looking forward to that.

    1. Oh man, are you guys considering another move? You’ve been spending a lot of time out there lately 😉

  8. Those look like some fabulous getaways, Greg! My husband and I spend the holidays in the Florida Keys one year. The boats were all lit up with Christmas lights and had a parade in the canal! So beautiful (and warm)!

    1. The Keys would be another great place to visit. Really, just pick a spot in Florida and you’re good to go 🙂

  9. All of these places sound great for Christmas! We’re not sure what we’re doing yet for the holidays.

    1. Lucky for you, you’re mobile 🙂 Although, I’m sure some of those RV places fill up over the holidays, especially in warmer climates.

  10. I would love to spend Christmas in Chicago one of these days. Beaver Creek sounds amazing for a long ski vacation.

    1. Beaver Creek is one of my favorite places on Earth. Seriously, I could go back there a million times and still be happy.

  11. Great list. I’ve been to both Marco Island and Chicago just not during Christmas, but depending on someone’s weather preference, both are great places to be! I’m going skiing in Colorado after Christmas this year and I can’t wait.

  12. Love the list. I’d add Costa Rica to the list. Specifically the the Pacific side of Costa Rica.

    Having recently been there three years ago, when it was 90 degrees in late December and more importantly during an extreme cold front in the U.S. when it was in the teens in Virginia, I can’t wait to go back.

    Whether it was sitting on the beach during the day or riding ATVs and jumping off waterfalls, we had a blast. Plus the costs down there were incredible.

    1. You had me at “the costs are incredible.” 🙂 We haven’t hit Costa Rica yet, but we’ll definitely get there!

  13. I love going to Vegas! I went once in January in my entire life and I can honestly say that I want to go back (I don’t say that lightly when it comes to vacations). Definitely once in a lifetime opportunity that someone needs to experience!

    1. Vegas is a blast! I always say that it’s like Disney World… for adults!

  14. Enjoy Puerto Rico this year! It sounds wonderful. We’ll be abroad for Christmas this year, too: we’ll be in Tokyo for Christmas Day, then on to Hong Kong, and in Bangkok just in time for NYE.

    1. Thank you! Enjoy your trip as well!!! Sounds like a blast. All of those spots are on our list too 🙂

  15. Awesome rundown. I’ve been to both Marco Island and Chicago just not amid Christmas, but rather relying upon somebody’s climate inclination, both are incredible spots to be! I’m going skiing in Colorado after Christmas this year and I can hardly wait.

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