Can’t face another Christmas trying to please the in-laws? Then make good your escape and book a festive trip far from home. Whether you’re looking for an authentic Scandinavian experience or just some respite from the cold, the ideal winter holiday is waiting for you. Here are some of our favourites:
You can’t get much more festive than a private meeting with Santa in the hours leading up to his global delivery. As well as discussing what’s on your wish list with the big man, you can expect reindeer, elves and sleighs drawn by huskies, all in the picture-postcard setting of snowy Finnish woodland. This trip also offers a Christmas eve feast featuring Finnish cuisine, a slap-up Christmas dinner and guided tours explaining about local folklore. Adults will find this seasonal escape almost as fun as the kids – book soon as it tends to fill up.
Departing 22 December, the six-night trip costs from £1,855 per adult and £1,325 per child aged 4-12 (based on a family of four sharing) including flights (Heathrow), airport transfers, full-board accommodation, activities, cold-weather clothing and guides. Call Activities Abroad on 01670 789 991, activitiesabroad.com.
GERMAN CHRISTMAS MARKETS
Dresden, home to Germany’s oldest Christmas market, and the birthplace of traditional German Stollen, is a perfect place to get you in the festive mood. The world-famous Striezelmarkt, which opens on 27 November, features stalls, attractions and foodie delights stretching for miles from the main railway station to the banks of the Elbe. And when you’re not getting tipsy on Glühwein or stocking up on presents for Christmas day, you can relax in five-star comfort at the Swissôtel Dresden. Set in the middle of the historic town, this hotel is famed for its spa, located in ancient vaults under the building.
Germanwings flies from London Stansted to Dresden from £86 one way; swissotel.com/hotels/dresden.
THE SUNSHINE GETAWAY
If the thought of blankets of snow just makes you shiver, then get on a flight to Australia, where you can enjoy Christmas in the middle of the summer. Don’t worry about missing out on the authentic Christmas experience: Santa still wears his traditional red and white costume and bushy beard. You’ll also find some of the world’s best restaurants, a thriving nightlife scene and a plethora of five-star hotels to suit any family. And did we mention it will be sunny? It will definitely be sunny.
BA flies to Sydney from £869 return.
THE FESTIVE STAYCATION
If you’re dreaming of a white Christmas but don’t want to leave the UK, you could do much worse than a festive season spent in a Natural Retreats cottage in Tulloch in the Western Highlands. With mountains and lochs on every side, the village of Tulloch is the perfect base from which to explore this stunning part of the country. The train-line provides easy access to Fort William and the Cairngorms National Park, but if you want to remain toasty by the fire, the Natural Retreats lodges have everything you need to keep you entertained. Flat screen TVs and iPod connectivity come in handy in the unlikely event that you get bored of the beautiful scenery. And if you’re planning on staying over Christmas itself, the concierge team will arrange for a Christmas tree complete with decorations to be waiting for you. You can also pre-order a Christmas hamper and even a turkey if you plan on cooking.
Easyjet flies daily to the Inverness and Glasgow. Both Residences are 200m from Tulloch Station, which is on the West Highland Line to Fort William. An overnight sleeper train leaves London Euston at 9pm every night (except Saturdays) and arrives in Tulloch at 9am the next morning. Visit naturalretreats.com.
New York is a special place all year round but at Christmas it’s extra special. Americans don’t do public holidays by half, and their enthusiasm is infectious; walking through the glittering shopping districts and skating around Central Park’s famous ice rink, even the most hardened scrooge will be overcome with Yuletide joy. If you’re after the ultimate New York City Christmas experience you should look no further than the reassuringly expensive Ritz Carlton Central Park. If the splendiferous Christmas tree dominating lobby doesn’t fill you with festive spirit, the old-style silver service will.
The Ritz Carlton starts at $525 per night. British Airways flights from London to New York start at £400. Visit britishairways.com.
Was Santa green?
This classic Christmas “fact” – that Santa was green until Coke rebranded him – is actually false. The red dates back as far as the 4th century.