Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years. Those are typically times you spend with family, watch football, and stuff your face with enough food to make you sick. Well that’s the norm anyways. But if you’re like me, you might want to spend those days off work traveling. I always take a long vacation during this time because not only do you get the extended days off, the week leading up to and after the holidays are typically slow since people are already traveling, getting ready for, or recovering from their trip. Since the time in the office is slow, I know there really isn’t much to do so I don’t feel guilty for being gone and even if I am gone, the slow trickle of emails is nothing I can’t handle while on the road.
But the bigger question is how do you handle being a solo traveler when everyone else is surrounded by family? Traveling alone during the holidays doesn’t have to be a lonely affair. It can be exciting and rewarding. Think of it as a gift to yourself. Just remember to do things that remind you of the memories you’re making, not the ones you’re missing.
I usually travel during this time period because you get a few days off and that time is typically pretty slow for me at the office. The week leading up to and after Thanksgiving are typically slow as people prepare to travel and are generally already looking forward to the time off themselves.
I prefer to travel during Thanksgiving vs. the other holidays like Christmas and New Years for several reasons:
Remember that Thanksgiving is a US holiday so the date is meaningless everywhere else in the world. That means although flights right around Thanksgiving will typically go up in price, you can snag a pretty good deal if you’re willing to leave a week earlier and come back a week later since demand won’t be nearly as high. Also, remember that flights to the US are going to be busier than flights leaving the US as people overseas come home for Thanksgiving and then leave afterwards. If you can pick an international destination that has multiple flights from multiple carriers, there’s a really good chance you can snag a great deal on a round trip ticket.
Also remember that hotels overseas are generally going to be cheaper because November is the off season for many destinations in the Northern hemisphere. Since there are fewer people traveling, there’s a great chance of snagging a great deal on a hotel or even splurging on a nicer hotel for the same price you were willing to pay. Considering this is the holiday season (for you), it might be nice to splurge on a nicer hotel for a change and enjoy some of the amenities.
Still get the local feel
Because Thanksgiving is only a US holiday, the rest of the world will treat it as any other day. Because of that, the cities and towns are still bustling with locals as they go about their daily lives. You still see the regular street food vendors serving the same food, stores helping locals, and a town square that may be getting ready for Christmas (depending on the time). But you won’t really see too many tourists around (at least from the US) and nothing really out of the ordinary. Maybe I’m weird but I kind of like that. I like it when the town is going through the everyday normal lives or people and just seeing it in action. Seeing massive crowds and stores catering just to tourists on crowded streets around New Years isn’t that appealing to me. I’ll take the normal every lives of locals any day.
Do something special
Regardless of where I am, I try to mark the day with something special or do something special the next chance I get. For me, that usually means a nicer than normal meal that I typically wouldn’t eat. Maybe it’s a sit down restaurant that the hotel recommended or a dish I really like and just stuff myself with that. It’s a little something to mark the occasion and it helps me remember the time. It also gives me something to look forward to which is nice when you’re just staying in your hotel at night.
One Thanksgiving, I was on a flight from Seoul to Dubai where I would spend a few days. My flight happened to be on Thanksgiving and although the flight itself was memorable, I still took the time to eat a nice dinner that night when I arrived. It was just important to me to do something I normally wouldn’t do. Another time, I stayed at a really nice hotel in Cusco. Again, it’s just a little something extra to mark the occasion.
Christmas is a little more difficult because it’s celebrated by basically the world (except in Muslim countries). Many countries have special markets, shows, and town gatherings which are great to see and experience. However, I’ve always found Christmas to be a little more difficult than the other holidays.
It might be a little difficult to sway your mind but here are some reasons to travel around Christmas.
It’s cheaper if you choose the right dates
Since most people will be traveling home a couple days before Christmas and coming back the weekend or a couple days after Christmas (depending on where it falls on the calendar), you can find some really cheap flight a week before and a week after Christmas. If you’re willing to depart somewhere around the 15th and come back around the 28th, you can find some great flight deals. Also, these rates are typically much lower than anything you’ll find around Thanksgiving because it’s a global holiday and not just a US holiday. Airlines are pretty much gearing up for the Christmas rush and no one is realistically going to take the week before, during, and after Christmas off (unless you’re traveling of course).
Hotels are also fairly cheap during this time because there aren’t many travelers during this time. Again, Christmas travelers are traveling a couple days before and after Christmas so if you’re traveling a full week or so before, there aren’t too many travelers. Hotels are typically gearing up for the Christmas and New Year’s rush so hotels are pretty plentiful. What’s nice though is that the hotels will also be in the Christmas spirit and they’ll have the hotel and lobby decked out with all the usual Christmas decorations.
Walk around the Christmas markets
I think everyone loves seeing the European Christmas markets. There’s something special about drinking warm wine or hot cider in the snow and walking around with all the lights, sounds, and smells. It’s a pretty cool sight to see especially if you don’t see snow very often (like me…not much snow here in San Diego). Just walking around and seeing all the people is great since these markets are usually packed with people and there is always something going on. It’s a lot easier to get into the holiday spirit when you’re surrounded by it and I find it’s pretty easy to forget that you’re away from home for the holidays.
Don’t forget to treat yourself!
It might be more important to give yourself a gift for Christmas Eve or Christmas. Obviously, most will see that your vacation is the gift for yourself and that’s true to some extent. But you’ll also want to do something just for yourself. It could be something like eating a nice dinner, seeing a show, or doing something you normally wouldn’t do like skydive. It’s odd to say but if you don’t do something memorable to mark the occasion, you’ll forget it and it’ll feel like just another day. When that happens, you might feel a little lonesome.
Just like I do for Thanksgiving, I do for Christmas as well. Although I don’t travel on Christmas as often, I definitely have in the past. And it’s the same as I do during Thanksgiving. My first time in Singapore was during Christmas and although it was only for a couple days, I stayed at the Marina Bay Sands Hotel. The hotel was a fun little splurge just to go and visit the rooftop infinity pool but it was certainly memorable.
New Years, on the other hand, is about as big a party as you can find regardless of where you go so it’ll be an absolute blast wherever you go. Regardless if you’re traveling solo or with thirty of your best friends, you’re almost guaranteed to have a great time. I don’t think anyone really needs to be convinced to go out and travel for New Year’s since it’s pretty much a party atmosphere everywhere but here are some pointers to keep in mind before you go.
Be prepared to pay
Unless if you’re going to some remote place that really doesn’t have too much appeal for New Years, you’re going to be paying a lot for hotels. Now that could be a lot for the location or a lot for you but know going in that it’ll be more than you’d normally spend during any other week. Of course, if you’re planning a trip for New Years, it’s probably something you’ve already budgeted for.
Try to go where your money will go further
If you’re already going to be spending a fair amount on the destination, you’ll at least want to try and pick a destination where your dollar will go further. You might think about destinations in South East Asia or South America where your money will go further. Then, if the flight and the hotel are a little on the high side, you can still save a little money by not having to spend as much.
Also, think about staying a little further out of town than you normally would. Obviously, in a perfect world, you’ll stay where you want and close to the action but that just may not be possible. You may want to consider staying fifteen to twenty minutes outside the main area. Hotels will be a little cheaper and although it may not be fun to find a cab to get back after all the fun, it’ll certainly be cheaper than any hotel that offers the perfect location.
One year I decided to go to Las Vegas for New Years. Now Vegas on a regular weekend can get pretty crazy but Vegas for New Years is downright party central. Unfortunately, the hotel prices certainly reflected the demand and the only reasonably priced hotel was all the way at the Stratosphere. It wasn’t the best hotel by any stretch of the imagination but it served its purpose of providing a bed. It was fun and a time I vaguely remember but that was really the only way to experience a New Year’s in Vegas without spending a fortune.
If you’re looking for a trip during the holidays, you should definitely do it. You can find some great deals and it’s just like any other time solo trip if you really think about it. You can save some vacation days by book ending your trip around the holidays and if it isn’t a busy time of year for you, it won’t be a big deal. I think it’s easier to travel around Thanksgiving but Christmas is just as doable. I think the one thing to remember is to try and do something special so that you can remember it as a special holiday trip. Otherwise they’ll start to become unrecognizable as all your other trips.