Planning Your Winter Holidays? 7 Ideas to Inspire Your Travel
Temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere may still be sweltering, but never fear: winter is almost here! And while it’s difficult now to picture snowy landscapes and holiday cheer, those cold months will be upon us before we know it. If you’re considering a winter escape, now is a great time to start planning. Need some inspiration? Here are a few of my top ideas for winter getaways that will warm your heart.
Enjoy a Christmas Market or Two
Europe is absolutely bursting with Christmas markets every winter season, and how better to get into the holiday spirit than shopping for gifts while sipping on mulled wine? These markets date back to the late 13th century and offer everything from handmade souvenirs to sweets, lights, and music, all housed in perfectly quaint stalls that feel like a fairytale come to life.
Many of the most popular Christmas markets can be found in Germany, in cities like Dresden, Frankfurt, and Munich, although just about every town in Europe has some sort of market set up around the holidays. You can read about a few of the best here or learn about Manchester, England’s market. Sizes and local traditions may vary, but these markets all have one thing in common: they’re guaranteed to spread holiday cheer.
Not sure what to bring with you? Check out this winter vacation packing list.
Hit the Slopes
Embrace the winter chill by heading straight into the snow for a skiing or snowboarding vacation. Depending on how far from home you’re willing to roam, you can find fantastic resorts all over the world. Cozy up in an old-fashioned chalet in the Swiss Alps, enjoy breathtaking mountain scenery in Whistler, Canada, or experience some of the best powder in the world in Japan.
If you consider yourself a snow bunny, there’s no better way to start your year off right than with a special trip to the slopes. New Year ski holidays are a fantastic option for celebrating another year gone by and include chalet rentals, special holiday meals, champagne, fireworks, and, of course, plenty of time to ski.
Witness the Northern Lights
Winter’s longer nights make it the best season for observing the aurora borealis, so why not plan a trip around this natural wonder? These lights can be experienced from some amazing places around the world that make for unforgettable winter vacations. Observe the phenomenon from bed in a Finnish igloo, embark on a road trip around Iceland, or venture to icy Fairbanks, Alaska.
The Northern Lights can be difficult to predict, so be sure to check out your destination’s aurora forecasts several days in advance, avoid full moons, and get as far away from light pollution as you can. If you’re looking to capture the spectacle on camera, arm yourself with a good tripod and get familiar with your camera settings beforehand.
Head Down Under
Chilly weather not your thing? Southern Hemisphere summer is calling your name! Australia’s nearly 40,000 miles or 60,000 kilometers of coastline make it the perfect destination for leaving your winter woes behind.
Spend Christmas on the beach throwing a few “shrimp on the barbie” (okay, no one actually says that, but they do enjoy their holiday prawns) or watching the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race. Plus, you’ll find Christmas lights strewn about major cities like Sydney and Melbourne. If you’re celebrating New Year’s down under, Sydney offers a spectacular fireworks display over the harbor that can’t be missed. Tennis fans can head down to Melbourne later in January to witness the Australian Open, and all can stick around until January 26th to celebrate Australia Day.
…Or Down Under-er
(Thanks, Flight of the Conchords.) While we’re on the idea of enjoying summer in your winter, you truly can’t go wrong with a journey to New Zealand. The country is unbelievable year round, but summer is the perfect time to experience many of its innumerable hikes and outdoor activities. Mountains, lakes, and beaches abound, and average daytime temperatures between 64 and 77 Fahrenheit or 18 and 25 Celsius are ideal for exploring.
If you’re an adrenaline junkie, don’t miss the South Island’s Queenstown, where you’ll find a multitude of skydiving, jet boating, and bungee jumping options. For some refreshing Kiwi wine tasting, head to Marlborough or Auckland’s Waiheke Island. Or if you’re looking for an urban adventure, Wellington is an art and culture hub that really comes alive in summer.
Visit the Happiest Place on Earth
Disneyland is truly magical every day of the year, but there’s no time more magical than Christmas season. The parks go all out for the holidays with lights, parades, fireworks shows, ride overlays, costumed characters, and special treats. Although you’ll find Disney parks in California, Florida, Tokyo, Paris, Hong Kong, and Shanghai, Disneyland California will always be number one in my heart. Located in Anaheim, about an hour south of Los Angeles, Christmastime at Disneyland also means fantastically mild temperatures (although locals may disagree and start bundling up once it drops below 65).
The holidays, naturally, also bring crowds, so check out my friend’s guest post about how to maximize your time at the parks or visit the Disneyland Crowd Forecast Calendar to pick the best days for your trip. Christmas at Disneyland kicks off this year November 9th and runs through January 6th, so you’ll have plenty of time to squeeze in a holiday trip. Or if you want to avoid the crowds and aim for a later winter visit, there’s tons going on, like Lunar New Year celebrations and all the regular shows, rides, and attractions.
Thinking of a French getaway? Read through these useful tips for visiting Paris in winter.
As winter comes to a close, things start to really heat up, with cities across the world celebrating their versions of Carnival. Marking the beginning of Christian Lent, Carnival is a joyful period filled with music, dancing, costumes, drinking, dining, and parades. If you’re looking for an all-out party this winter, how about traveling to one of the world’s biggest Carnival celebrations?
Rio de Janeiro’s Carnaval is the largest celebration in the world—no doubt you’ve seen photos of colorful parades and dancers with striking feathered headdresses. Or join the 1.4 million attendees that flock to New Orleans for Mardi Gras. The city’s unique blend of cultures makes the weeks leading up to Mardi Gras some of the most fun and festive in the world. Venice, Italy also celebrates its own magnificent version of Carnevale known for its elaborate masks.
Whether you prefer to cozy up in the cold or seek warmer pastures, there’s loads to look forward to this winter. As summer comes to a close, now is the perfect time to start planning this winter’s vacations. The rest of your year is whatever you make of it, so make it a good one by going out and seeing the world!