Advice for taking a destination holiday
Yes, I know, Thanksgiving and Christmas are when the whole family gathers at grandma’s house, or some similar Norman Rockwell scenario.
But not everybody plays by that script. Moving your holiday festivities, whatever they might be, to some vacation destination is becoming increasingly popular.
And if you’re thinking about a destination holiday this year, and you haven’t already locked it in, get busy. You can figure something out for just about any scenario.
Lots of personal experience
I’ve personally experienced a wide spectrum of destination holidays. Soon after my wife and I married, she became the de facto matriarch of her side of the family, and my side wasn’t around. That meant full-family Thanksgiving and Christmas at our house, wherever we might live at the time.
After we retired to Southern Oregon, we did a few destination Christmases and Thanksgivings. Typically, we rented a house on the Oregon Coast, prepared most of the big dinner before we went over, and had the family join us there. For most, it was an easy day trip, but a few stayed overnight.
My wife and I traveled extensively both before and after retirement, and enjoyed several memorable destination Christmases.
On one such trip, in Dublin, I overheard one of the greatest lines ever. We were wandering downtown at lunchtime on Boxing Day (the day after Christmas) when almost everything was shut down, including most restaurants.
We spotted a Chinese place open, so we went in. A few minutes later, two young Americans walked in, obviously having searched for a lunch spot, sat down, and one of them heaved a sigh and muttered, “Thank God for pagans.” I leave the full implication of that to the theologians.
Another memorable Christmas was in Canterbury, when a coal strike left the country with drastic power cuts and the big stores ran holiday sales by candlelight.
As a widower, I typically get invited as the old geezer to younger-family events, but I did spend one Christmas in Vienna — no company, but great food and music.
A few recommendations
All this has let me to develop a few generalized suggestions about destination holidays:
- Typically, Thanksgiving can be a four-day holiday, and you don’t want to spend half of them traveling. That means a destination less than a full-day driving trip for whoever can come.
- Many of you can stretch Christmas and New Year’s into 15 or 16 days. That means the world’s your destination range.
- Christmas holidays are big business at many popular vacation destinations. For example, the Christmas period is Hawaii’s busiest time of the entire year. Beach destinations on the Gulf of Mexico, the South Atlantic and the Caribbean are also popular during the holidays. If you want a beach, book now.
- Transportation costs are about what you’d expect. You find peak fares and most limited availability at the obvious start and end dates of the holiday period. Fares are lowest on holiday days and other dates between the obvious start and endpoints. We once flew from Paris to San Francisco on New Year’s Day on a 747 with maybe 80 people on board.
- For either holiday period, you’re probably better off arranging your air trip sooner rather than later. If you have trouble finding seats and accommodations, take a look at air-hotel packages from either an airline or a tour operator — they sometimes have space remaining when airlines and hotels say they’re full.
- Consider all of the family attendees when you pick a destination. If kids are involved, make sure there are kid activities. A beach destination is generally fine for everyone.
But don’t take opera-lovers to a Wisconsin lake or fishermen to Salzburg. And don’t let one contrarian control your choice — be ready to tell them, “So stay at home, already.”
- No matter what the holiday or the venue, a family destination holiday means you need a great vacation rental, hotel or resort. If you’re a couple or a single, a good hotel or B&B is fine.
But don’t cheap out, and be careful to arrange a spot that makes everyone happy. After all, that’s the whole objective.
Email Ed Perkins at email@example.com or visit his rail travel website at rail-guru.com.
© 2023 Ed Perkins. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency LLC.