Christmas in the UK is pretty hard to beat, but with most people getting at least a few days off it’s a good time to travel with fabulous festive experiences awaiting around the world.
From a simple hop to the continent for an authentic market experience, to taking the family to see the Santa in Lapland, or even a long-haul, blinging all-inclusive in the sun there are endless options for using the season to travel.
We’ve rounded up some of our top picks, along with travel advice for a successful Christmas wherever you are in the world…
A trip to see the REAL Santa
Ok so you could take the kids to see Santa at your local garden centre or shopping mall and they’ll have a great time, but could there be anything more memorable than taking them to see the real Santa in Lapland?
Thanks to tour operators such as Tui it’s now very simple. You can go to Finland and back on a day trip, or combine the all-important Santa visit with a package that includes your travel, accommodation and activities such as husky sledding and snowmobiling. With the logistics taken care of, mum and dad will enjoy it as much as the kids.
A spokesperson for Tui said:
“All of our Lapland trips include a trip to see Santa as part of the price of the package we offer. We do offer different duration stay trips – either 3 or 4 nights and we also offer day trips to some resorts.
Lapland is a very popular destination so we advise customers to book as far in advance as possible.”
Anyone booking one of these trips can expect an action-packed itinerary that includes:
Introduction to Lappish Culture – On this session holidaymakers will take a short husky sleigh ride and a snowmobile, Santa’s elves will tell families a story whilst sat around the fire. The rest of the day is completely up to them with the chance to either play in the snow or just relax back at the hotel.
Take your pick – Guests have the choice of cruising around on a snowmobile or relax while huskies or reindeers drive their sleigh. The Snow Village Excursion has lots of outdoor activities which are available to book.
Santa’s activity area – Holidaymakers can head here for the day where a number of festive tasks are available. Guests can decorate Christmas cookies, make Christmas tree decorations and also take a ride on a reindeer pulled sleigh – just like Santa. Families can finish off their day with the opportunity to go and meet Santa himself!
Santa’s Secret Grotto Day Trip:
Santa Park – Rovaniemi’s Santa Park is where Santa and his elves spend their time making presents and getting ready for Christmas. The underground grotto is made up of fairy lit walkways, workshops and festive shopping stalls to get customers in the festive spirit.
Santa Park train ride – This train ride will allow holidaymakers to see what happens behind the scenes in Santa’s factory. The train ride will show guests what Santa elves do during the year.
Elf School – Guests will learn how to become one of Santa’s elves at Elf School, presented with a certificate at the end.
Biscuit decoration – Holidaymakers can get involved with helping the Elves finish decorating a batch of biscuits.
Santa’s post office – The chance to send a post card to any destination from Santa Park’s Post Office (for a small local fee).
Outdoor activities – Holidaymakers can take part in reindeer and husky sleigh rides, snowmobiling, sledging and mini skidoo rides.
Arctic storytelling – Experience Lappish culture as a local shares old stories and legends.
Meet and greet with Santa
The magic of Lapland is all in the scenery. Thick snow covers cosy wooden lodges with billowing chimneys. But all that snow means it is cold. Really cold. The temperature “high” of the month is -3 degrees. Visitors need warm and waterproof outdoor gear, especially if you are taking advantage of the outdoor excursions, so make sure to factor that in to the overall price of your holiday.
The popularity of German-themed markets in the UK has grown hugely in the last decade and ours now rival the original European markets.
But, if you want the authentic experience then nothing beats boarding a plane for a quick trip over to the mainland. German markets are the most famous, and some of the biggest, but each country has their own version where you could spend a weekend buying presents or simply soaking up the atmosphere.
Our top suggestions are:
Three million people visit Hamburg’s markets each year and with 15 markets spread across the city, each offering something a bit different there’s plenty for them to see. However, if walking around the markets gets exhausting then the city’s Museum mile provides a cultural distraction.
Prague is associated with one of the heroes of Christmas, Good King Wenceslas, who helped the poor on the Feast of Stephen, also known as Boxing Day. The market is held in Wenceslas Square which is decorated for the occasion with huge Christmas trees and stalls selling plenty of booze and gifts to take home.
The Croatian city of Dubrovnik has been a hot summer destination recently but it’s worth returning for winter to see the beautiful architecture illuminated with festive lights. The markets offer a slightly different take too with traditional Croatian food taking centre stage.
Germany’s capital doesn’t disappoint at Christmas with up to 60 markets sprawling across the city. It’s everything you’d expect from a Christmas market and more with flowing beer by the stein and authentic gluhwein. There’s plenty of activities alongside the markets including Europe’s longest toboggan run.
This is the oldest market in France and it’s now one of Europe’s biggest with around 300 stalls. Around two million people visit each year to take in the experience which, as you’d expect from France, includes delicious food and chic gifts to take home.
When it comes to planning your markets trip we highly recommend booking a few months in advance to get the best deal on hotels which book up quickly and get expensive. Use sites such as Air B&B to find a great place to stay and consider booking outside of the city centre and using public transport to travel in to save cash.
We highly recommend packing light. Dress warm but comfortably and expect to be outside all day. Skip the hold luggage so you can be out and on your way to the market in no time, and take minimal changes of clothes so that you can bring gifts back in your carry on instead.
Christmas in the sun
The notion of a picture-perfect white Christmas sounds wonderful, but the reality is that it’s been nearly a decade since the last widespread snowfall on Christmas morning – 2010 for weather watchers!
For that reason, it’s no surprise that so many people choose to spend the holiday overseas instead. According to Holiday Extras, 3.5million Brits could be boarding a plane for a festive break this year.
With kids off school and a series of Bank Holidays it’s a great opportunity to escape the drizzle. The experts at Tui suggest that long haul destinations offer the best chance of seeing the sun coupled with great value. They recommend looking to Mexico or the Dominican Republic where temperatures remain at a comfortable 26 degrees on average.
The added bonus is that hotels in these destinations tend to be all-inclusive with all of your drinks, meals and entertainment ready paid for so that you can get on with the job of relaxing.
Top choices for 2018 include:
Mexico – Under £1,450
TUI offers seven night holidays to Mexico staying at the 4T RIU Jalisco on an all-inclusive basis. Prices from £1,420 per person when booked online. Price is based on two adults and two children and includes flights departing from London Gatwickairport on 21st December 2018 and transfers. To find out more about this holiday or to book go to tui.co.uk, visit your local TUI holiday store or download our app.
Dominican Republic – Under £1,350
TUI offers seven night holidays to Dominican Republic staying at the 4T RIU Bambu on an all-inclusive basis. Prices from £1,307per person when booked online. Price is based on two adults sharing and includes flights departing from London Gatwickairport on 19th December 2018 and transfers. To find out more about this holiday or to book go to tui.co.uk, visit your local TUI holiday store or download our app.
All prices quoted are correct to the particular product package at the time of TUI issuing the price package/packages to the publication. Price was quoted on 12/10/2018. Prices provided are subject to change and have limited availability. Terms and conditions apply.
But what should you pack to make sure Christmas in your holiday destination is special?
- Pack only a couple of small, light presents for each person – If necessary tell the kids that Santa has left the rest of their presents at home. Set up a picture of presents under the tree and get a relative to text it to you on Christmas morning to prove it!
- Don’t be tempted to wrap anything you have to take in hand luggage, or place it in a gift box that can be opened
- Take a few decorations for the room – Paper garlands in folded packages are a good option for brightening up a room and they can be recycled when you leave
- Remember the home comforts – Everyone has that one tradition that just makes Christmas. Whether it’s a tin of roses or a pack of mince pies take them with you to make it feel special
- Make sure wifi is included – If you’re used to big family Christmases then you might miss everyone back home – and they’ll miss you too. But if you have good wifi you can face time the family to be part of the fun – even when you’re on the beach with cocktail in hand!