By Amy Bradley-Hole Travel columnist
updated 12/12/2006 4:06:22 PM ET 2006-12-12T21:06:22

Ah, the joys of a traditional holiday. Everyone comes home to celebrate. Your family sips homemade eggnog while gathering around the fireplace to open beautifully wrapped gifts, anticipating the elaborate meal you’ll serve later that day. Puh-leeze! The holidays are way too stressful. What you need is a vacation!

I speak from experience. My family can often be found at a new destination each December, with relatives meeting up to celebrate from as far away as Los Angeles or London. Some families escape the winter chill and take Caribbean cruises in December (who doesn’t want to go back to work with a fabulous tan?). You, too, can stay in beautiful rooms, eat fabulous food and take in the spirit of the season — all without lifting a finger. The possibilities are endless, and there are a few major benefits to hitting the road this season.

  1. Traveling can reduce holiday stress
    Yes, you read that right. Traveling for the holidays can actually help relieve some of the stress we encounter this time of year. Think of all the planning and hustling and last-minute shopping and scrambling you do during the month of December. Ever feel like you’re overscheduled and overwhelmed? Well, if you’re not home, you don’t have to do any of it!
  2. No cooking. Enough said
    Look, no one will die if they don’t have Mom’s chestnut-and-sausage stuffing this year. Most hotels and nice restaurants serve amazing holiday dinners. They provide a bigger spread than you can serve at your own home, and they cater to everyone’s tastes — that nephew who always insists on grilled cheese can have it if you’re eating out. And just think of how lovely it will be when no one argues over who burned the crescent rolls.
  3. You’ll see beautiful decorations
    Most hotels really do it right when it comes to holiday decorating. There’s nothing like a three-story Christmas tree or a 20-foot-tall menorah to get you in the holiday mood. The light displays at many properties would shut down power to your entire block, and their florist bill for December alone can easily exceed your yearly household budget. Many hotels also offer themed holiday celebrations. For example, in Las Vegas, you can enjoy everything from Italian carolers to festive pirates. Unless you’re some domestic god or goddess, chances are the hotel decorations will far surpass your tree and garlands at home.
  4. Hotels often provide special holiday surprises
    Hotels love to go all-out for the holidays. At Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort last year, we got a special surprise Christmas Eve turndown service that included fancy chocolates, cookies and little gifts that were just beautiful. And Santa makes an appearance at many hotels right around Christmas Day — somehow he just always knows where to go!
  5. The trip itself is the present
    What better gift to give your loved ones than the chance to see a new city or country or to participate in new or fun activities? While the cost of a trip may be more or less than what you’d spend on presents, the experience is priceless. One year, my family went to Lake Tahoe and I got skiing lessons for Christmas. The lessons were totally unsuccessful, but the experience was one of my most memorable presents ever! Your family can also get into the spirit of the season by taking a “service vacation,” which allows you to see a new place while participating in a volunteer project like rebuilding a school or helping conserve a fragile ecosystem. Talk about a feel-good holiday! Whatever you choose, let everyone be involved in the planning. That way, everyone can feel that the trip is their own special gift.

So, have I convinced you to break tradition and take a vacation yet? If so, here are a few tips to make your holiday trip successful.

  1. Start small
    If the thought of taking a trip or being away from home during the holidays feels like a reach, don’t fly halfway around the world. Instead, just drive a couple of hours for a weekend getaway at a bed-and-breakfast. That way, you can have the best of both worlds.
  2. Plan ahead
    December is, of course, one of the busiest travel times of the year. Hotels fill up quickly. So if you want the best rooms and dinner reservations at decent times, you must plan in advance. My family started making our Disney restaurant reservations in the summer, and we still won’t be eating when and where we wanted. So while it may be a little too late to go anywhere grand this year, it’s not too early to start planning for next year.
  3. Be a smart traveler
    Remember, you’re trying to reduce holiday stress. So follow all that good advice about arriving at the airport early, checking your tires before your road trip, etc. If you’re planning a big trip, use a travel agent. They can help you stay organized, and they’ll be your best ally if something goes wrong. Likewise, purchase travel insurance to cover major problems. You don’t want your holidays ruined because you treated this vacation like any other weekend break or business trip.
  4. Don’t DIY
    We had so much junk in our hotel rooms last year that we could hardly turn around. We had rolls of wrapping paper, our own decorations, extra food, a CD player, stuffed stockings — I could go on and on. It was a messy nightmare, and we didn’t need half of it. My advice is to keep gifts small and simple (you’re in a tight space), and let the hotel help you as much as possible. Many hotels can arrange to have a Christmas tree or other decorations in your room upon arrival. At the Ocean Walk Resort in Daytona Beach, for example, the resort’s florists can provide a fully trimmed tree for as little as $40. And the hotel’s concierge can help with gift-wrapping or any last-minute shopping you need to do. A hotel’s staff is there to help, so don’t be afraid to ask what they can do for you.

While there are times that I miss gathering around the tree in our pajamas on Christmas morning, I wouldn’t trade my family holiday vacations for anything. So, you won’t find me at home this December. I’ll be fighting the Disney World crowds and eating way too much, but I’ll be having the time of my life with my family.

Amy Bradley-Hole has worked in the hotel industry for many years in many different positions and at all types of properties -- from small luxury boutique hotels to large resorts, both in the United States and abroad. E-mail her or read more of her articleson!


Discussion comments


Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments