Travel Tips

Christmas Vacation Ideas

10 Alternate Christmas Vacation Ideas

Christmas vacation is upon us, and once again you may be feeling trapped. Your kids want to be home for Santa, but you just want to escape. When you need a few alternate Christmas vacation ideas to tempt the family out of the house, you have to go big. But you don’t have to break your family travel budget.

Not every Christmas family vacation has to put you into debt. Yes, some will be splurges, others are more manageable. So… let’s dive into our favorite Christmas vacation ideas for the season.

Jasper Canada Marmot Basin

Go Skiing in Jasper National Park

While all of your friends are at home stressing over the ham and turkey, you can be on the slopes of Marmot Basin getting in some time on that fresh Canadian powder. Marmot is never jam packed with skiers and snowboarders, but the holidays are definitely one of our favorite times to go. For those not into skiing, you can also snowshoe and ice climb Maligne Canyon.

Winter is also the quieter season in Jasper National Park, which means you can actually get a room at the limited number of hotels in town. If you want to splurge, book a room at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge. Nighttime stargazing is worth bundling up to see through the hotel’s star program. If you are lucky, you may catch the Northern Lights while you are there.

Read our complete guide to Jasper Canada

London Christmas UK

Christmas Markets in London

London is one of the top five Christmas breaks UK and for good reason. Our family has been in Covent Garden, toured the museums and walked across the Thames mere weeks before Christmas. I always wished we had stayed through the holidays.

The city is decked out in lights and decorations, from Hamleys Toy Shop to Portobello Road. Live music is being played on the streets, in churches and random squares. Everyone has a bit of festive cheer in their step, even if the skies are grey, as they stroll down the cobblestoned streets of England’s capital city.

If European Christmas markets are on your UK Christmas list, then head to the Winter Wonderland Hyde Park. You can also find holiday cheer at Christmas on the River by London Bridge.

Want even more? Here’s just a peek at the annual Christmas markets the city has to offer:

  • Christmas Market at Tate Modern
  • Southbank Winter Festival
  • Christmas at Flat Iron Square
  • Kingston Christmas Market
  • Ally Pally Christmas Carnival
  • Christmas at Camden Market
  • Leicester Square Christmas Market
  • Greenwich Christmas Market
  • Maltby Street Night Market
  • Canopy Market

Warm up in Panama

Don’t you just want to be warm in the winter? I know I do. I want to strip off the layers and head south. I just need to get back into my tank top and shorts with a swimsuit underneath (my summer uniform). This year, let’s all meet up in Panama. No, not Florida. The country of Panama.

Here, Christmas is a serious business. Nativity scenes, many larger than life, are set up across the country for everyone to enjoy. Food takes over the table, with a Panamanian twist on turkey, arroz con pollo, tamales, and a little alcoholic egg nog (ron ponche) for the adults.

But don’t feel like you have to partake. If you are just looking for a nice beach escape, you can do that too. Chill out and enjoy with this easy guide to things to do in Panama.

Booking your own trip? Whether you buy airplane tickets through Expedia or another site, make sure you add on travel insurance, especially during the holiday seasons. From flight delays to mishaps along the way, you want to make sure you have the right amount of coverage for your trip (no more, no less). When you purchase an Allianz Travel Insurance plan through travel booking sites and travel agents, the benefits and limits are tailored to be cost-effective and protect you from some of the most common concerns based on your type of travel, so you only buy what you’re most likely to use, not a mega plan that only a high-risk traveler would need. Learn more here.

Iceland Christmas

Look for the Northern Lights in Iceland

What could be better than a Christmas trip to see the Northern Lights in Iceland? While there is a whole lot more to see than just the Aurora Borealis, it sure is a good reason to book your tickets. Well, that, and you are guaranteed a white Christmas in Iceland.

We love traveling with our friends at Hidden Iceland, who can cater tours to any family’s needs. Traveling with babies and toddlers to Iceland? No problem, they can customize any of their tours for you. Want to get out of Reykjavik so you actually see the unspoiled coastline, hike the ice caves and get away from the light pollution of the city? That’s not a problem at all. Their South Coast tour will get you there.

NOTE: Now, they can’t control the weather or the Northern Lights, but they will stalk all of the weather apps for you to make sure you get the best opportunity possible.

Planning a trip to Italy with Kids

Slow Down in the Italian Countryside

Italy is always a good idea, but not everyone thinks of a Christmas Italy trip. Northern Italy will see cooler temperatures with highs in the 40s, but southern Italy will stay around 55-60 degrees (13-16 degrees Celsius). Tuscany generally sees temperatures around 44-55 degrees, which is chilly, but not unbearable.

With a few layers, you can enjoy all of the holiday décor, Italian Christmas concerts at the cathedral in Siena, or Christmas carols at churches in the smaller hill towns. Chestnuts are literally roasting on an open fire, mushrooms are in season and Panforte Christmas dessert every night is a must.

Best of all, the normal load of tourists won’t be in your way. You will be hanging out with mostly other Italians and Europeans for the holiday season.

Universal Orlando Resort Holidays

Get your wand out at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

We can’t say no to spending the holidays in Harry Potter land at Universal Orlando Resort in Florida. There is nothing quite like stepping into Hogsmeade or Diagon Alley and soaking up the holiday spirit with your fellow Potter heads. It instantly gets us in that festive mood, even if we are in shorts.

Drink and taste six different types of Butterbeer, listen to the Holiday Frog Choir sing songs only sung during the Christmas season, and enjoy The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts, a special light and music show on the castle. A trip to Universal Orlando is a gift in and of itself. No need for presents, although I’m sure you will want to hit up a gift shop or two.

Read our quick guide to celebrating
the holidays at Universal Orlando Resort

Amazon River Cruise

Unplug on a River Cruise through Brazil

Christmas travel is the best time to unplug from life back home. Sometimes, you have to do it by force. A river cruise up the Rio Negro on a trip to Brazil with Our Whole Village will take you out of cell service and there is no Wi-Fi onboard.

You will head deep into the Amazon rainforest, reconnecting as a family, with no screens to stop you. We loved this trip in June during the wet season, but the beaches show up in the dry season, giving you a very different experience. Let’s just say, we are quite jealous if you make this trip. Go! Book it right now.

Booking a family tour? Don’t forget to ask your travel agent about Allianz travel insurance. No matter how you book a trip, you want to make sure you are protected, especially during the holidays when more people are flying than most times during the year. Get your quote now.

Things to do in Tempe

Find the Real Desert in Tempe, AZ

Everyone thinks they know what the desert looks like, but until you are actually in it, you might think palm trees are a natural part of the landscape. When you head to Tempe, AZ, home to Arizona State University, you will see palm trees decorated for Christmas, but they show off their love for the desert in a lot more ways than with twinkly Christmas lights.

Spend time at the Desert Botanical Garden to learn about all the different types of cactus in the desert and why each is so important to the ecosystem. Go on a horse trail ride with KOLI Equestrian Center at the Gila River Indian Community. Your guide will give you the inside scoop on the Arizona desert, what creatures are native to the area, and why palm trees just aren’t part of their everyday existence.

Most importantly, eat when you are in town. Tempe restaurants are filled with local and international flavors, and some of our favorite cocktails. And don’t worry, there is a full schedule of Tempe holiday events to make sure you get into the Christmas spirit, even when you are wearing jeans and a t-shirt in December.

Huntsville Alabama

Get Out of this World in Huntsville, AL

Space, the final frontier. OK, so Huntsville is not an episode of Star Trek, but they do have a whole lot of jet power down in Rocket City. If you didn’t know already, the U.S. Space and Rocket Center is located in Huntsville, AL, so there needs to be a bit of bedazzling when it comes to all of the things to do in Huntsville over the holidays.

The Huntsville Botanical Garden celebrates with a Galaxy of Lights display and a Tinsel Trail through Downtown Huntsville. Don’t miss out on skating in the park at the Huntsville Museum of Art. Who knew you could even get ice in Alabama? I guess with all of those scientists down there, they could figure it out, or maybe Santa Claus lends a hand. (Actually, it does get chilly in Huntsville, so make sure you pack your jacket and mittens).  

Using award miles to get down to Huntsville? Yes, you can still get trip insurance on that flight. Allianz Global Assistance partners with most major airlines to offer flat rate plans that cost only $16-28 per award flight. Check it out now.

Christmas Vacation Ideas

Find Broadway in New York City

Never was there a better time to visit the Big Apple than during Christmas. Just the weeks leading up to Christmas in New York City is worth the train ride or flight into town. Cozy up with afternoon tea at the Plaza, ice skate in Central Park and do some shopping with the masses in Time Square.

Ok, maybe skip that last one. Time Square makes me break out into hives if I am there for too long. There are so many other places you could shop and avoid the endless crowds on Christmas Eve.

Most important of all, there are all of the Broadway Shows. Take your pick—Hamilton, Come from Way, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Waitress, and what could be more seasonal than Frozen. Take the kids to see the big Christmas tree at Rockefeller Plaza, go ice skating in Bryant Park, and then go see the show you have been dying to see. If you need to stay festive, you can always see the Rockettes in the Christmas Spectacular Show NYC at Radio City Music Hall.

And yes, there are Broadway show performances on Christmas Day. You may get lucky and actually get some decent seats. Just remember, not everyone in New York celebrates Christmas, so they will be there with you too. It’s not like you will be in an empty theater.

Photo by J. Fusco for VISIT PHILADELPHIA®

Don’t forget to protect your trip

Remember, when you are booking your flights, hotels, rental cars, tours, etc., don’t forget to grab that travel insurance when it is offered. More often than not, when you go back to add travel insurance later, the quote will be higher.

Don’t stress about buyer’s remorse either. According to Allianz Travel Insurance, if you’re not completely satisfied with the plan you purchased from them (whether direct or through one of their partners), you have a 10-day review period (or more days, depending on your state of residence) to request a refund, provided you haven’t started your trip or initiated a claim.

Travel more than twice per year? Check out the Allianz multi-trip plans. We have had an annual plan for more than five years and don’t regret it one bit!

This post is part of a paid partnership with Allianz Travel. As always, my opinions are my own. When they aren’t, you will be the first to know. This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking one of those links I will receive a small commission.

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Bad Hair Day

Fix a Bad Hair Day with the Best Travel Hair Products

As a woman with annoyingly curly hair, I’ve had my fair share of bad hair days. You know, the type of curls that aren’t those perfect ringlets everyone loves unless you wash, blow dry and throw a curling iron threw it curls.

Yes, my hair can do that perfect blow out once I put in all the work, but let it air dry and you will see why my hair is in a top knot most of the time. Bad hair days used to be my norm. But how do you fix a bad hair day when you are traveling?

If you are me, you ask your stylist first and then you do a lot of test runs on the road and at home.

Bad Hair Day

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking one of those links I will receive a small commission.

Fixing a Bad Hair Day

I’ve used a lot of hair products throughout my life. I’ve worn my hair long and straight, short and curly, long and wavy, and these days, I like the long luscious blow out.

Friends still make fun of me that I got a blow out before hiking the Narrows in Zion National Park. In my defense, the airline had lost my luggage after a long day. I felt gross and just needed to feel pretty for a moment.

Is it my fault that a good blow out can last me up to five days? I mean, by the end of the hike my hair way definitely up in a top knot people! I’m not that crazy.

Best Travel Hair Products

One day, while getting my low-lights redone I grilled my stylist, Christina Robles at Bang Salon DC about her favorite products. She is a beauty samples hoarder, so I knew she’d gone through several different hair products in her years doing hair, just like me.

We came up with a list of what works on straight, curly and frizzy hair, no matter how long you are on the road.

Hair products for right after you wash your hair

Yes, you need to shampoo your hair, and sometimes condition it. Even more important though are the sprays, creams and serums you use once you get out of the shower. Our favorite products include leave-in conditioner, creams that help your hair air dry faster, and making frizz a thing of the past.

Pureology Colour Fanatic Hair Leave in Treatment Spray with 21 Benefits

Buy it here

This is one of the best hair preps to add to wet hair just after you get out of the shower. It acts as a detangler, heat protectant and shine spray, as well as an antifade complex for colored hair. You can also put this on dry hair to refresh you locks for restyling.

Plus, it smells great, which is probably why my son always asks me to use it in his hair when I have to brush it out after his shower. Now that he is in his “surfer dude” hair phase, he needs all the help he can get to control that rats nest that grows in the back of his hair each night.

Redkin No Blow Dry

Grab it for:

No Blow Dry is your perfect antidote to that tropical frizz that takes over when you head to the beach. Three different strengths help your hair look sleek all day long, whether you have fine, medium or coarse hair, wild curls or straight locks. Your hair won’t wilt, but have texture, separation and a matte finish.

No need to revert to the “Monica” braids from that Barbados Friends episode. While some may be able to pull the look off, let’s just admit it right now ladies, not all of us can, or at least should.

Great for getting straight hair

I have naturally curly hair, but like most gals, I want hair I wasn’t born with from time to time. When I want to go straight, I use these products. Friends who also have straight hair want to control the frizz and maintain shine. As you will see, a little product can go a long way.

Bumble & Bumble Bb Straight Blow Dry Balm

Buy it here

Get smooth and straight hair for up to three days with this B&B straight blow dry balm. I’ve used it for years to get my curly hair to blow out straight and stay straight with a flat iron. It’s light weight, not sticky at all, and even controls frizz if you just apply to wet hair and walk out the door.

Good Behavior by IGK

Buy it here (grab the travel size)

IGK’s keratin-like spray is perfect when you are blowdrying your hair for a straight look. Not only will it help you blow dry faster, but it will also fix those fly aways that need to be smoothed away. Even if you have luscious curls you want to show off, IGK Good Behavior can help lay down those fly aways at the top that just won’t behave, even on your best hair day.

Best Anti-Frizz Hair products

I hate frizz. Despise it, which is why I will try anything that claims to tame the crazy. Shampoos are the best bet, according to my stylist, but a few post-shower products will do wonders too.

Living Proof No-Frizz Shampoo

Buy it here (travel size)

I have frizzy, curly hair, so anti-frizz shampoo that actually works is the key. Living Proof’s key ingredient, PolyfluoroEster, creates an invisible shield on the hair to lock in moisture-proof smoothness and repel dirt and oil, so you can go longer between washes to break the frizz and damage cycle. I love that it is sulfate-and silicone-free too. Naturally, the longer you use it, the better it works, especially with the conditioner.

Living Proof Anti-Frizz Conditioner

Buy it here (travel size)

Anyone with curly, frizzy hair knows that a weighty conditioner is NOT your friend. It seems like the opposite would be true, but when it comes to frizz, you want weightless conditioners to block humidity, so your hair still has some bounce and texture.

The less you have to wash and condition your hair, the less frizz you have to deal with. Living Proof weightlessly blocks humidity 70% better than silicones and oils, keeping your hair cleaner, longer, which means less washing. Best of all, it’s safe for color and chemically treated hair.

ReDkEn Frizz Dismiss Rebel Leave-In Smoothing Control Cream

But it here

You don’t need a lot of this Redken Frizz Dismiss Rebel leave-in smoothing control cream to pack a powerful punch against humidity and weather that wants to wreck your hairstyle. The cream can get a bit heavy, so use it sparingly.

What will you get? Soft and silky hair that won’t spring out of control on you, especially if you are a fan of super straight hair that can only be gained with a flat iron.

Packing up your flat iron? Read
how to use your hot hair tools abroad!

Bad Hair Day

Curly hair

Diva Curl Coconut Super Cream

Buy it here

Curly hair girls unite- Diva Curl is here for you. Hydrate your curls with this lightweight cream that fights frizz, leaves your hair smelling fresh (lemon and lime zest!) plus it is paraben and silicone free (vegan, wheat and cruelty-free too).

You can scrunch your hair up for definition or glide your fingers through your hair for curl lengthening and that beach wave look.

Making your hair style last

Bad hair day

IGK Direct Flight Invisible Dry Shampoo

Buy it here (grab a travel size of Jet lag now)

Dry shampoo is all the rage these days, but there really isn’t a one size fits all when it comes to your dry shampoo. Just like your regular shampoo and conditioner, you need to find the right one for you.

IGK has come out with a line of regular and travel size dry shampoos for every type of hair. While I love the Jet Lag and Direct Flight Invisible Dry Shampoo (no more of that white coating that I have to rub into my scalp), others may need IGK First Class Dry Shampoo (travel size) to fight more oil that likes to hit their locks and scalp.

Hair Spray

Anyone who wants their style to stay knows a little hairspray can go a long way if you use a good one. Which is right for you though? We have three that we trust to keep our curls intact, but also those flyaways in straight hair staying put.

Redken Triple Dry 15

Buy it here

Redken likes to do a little bit of everything, which is why we like the Triple Dry 15. It adds a bit of texture to your hair and then sets your style too. If you don’t know what texture is good for, it can help hold that curl from your curling iron and keep your up do up when you have freshly washed hair. When your stylist asks you for “dirty” hair, this will get you there more quickly.

Redken 23 Forceful Hairspray

Buy it here

Redken 23 Forceful has ultimate strength without the sticky feeling or weight that other hairsprays can leave behind. It also adds shine back into your hair, leaving you with just the right look for an evening out or day around a new city.

I hate crunchy hairspray hair. Yes, I want my hair to keep its perfect curl and stay where I want it to stay, but I don’t want to feel like I used a can of Aquanet from 1985 either.

Best of all, it comes in a travel size. No more checked back just to bring your favorite hairspray!

Alternate: grab DryBar Money Maker Flexible Hairspray, which also does a great job of keeping your hair soft and bouncy, without all the mess.

Ouai Hairspray

Buy it here (travel size)

Hairspray shouldn’t stink. If you can’t stand the smell of your own hair then no one else will want to be around you either.

Ouai Hairspray is my stylist Christina’s favorite hairspray to use on her own hair and she continually pushes it on me too. It adds a little perfume to your hair, is perfect for all hair types and is lightweight.

Interesting to note- it combines the power of dry shampoo and hairspray into one, leaving you with volume and texture without having to use extra products. And it will absorb oil and refresh your hair, so that’s one less wash you will have to do this week.

We love the Ouai treatment masks too!

Achieving the best blow out

Believe it or not, I now wash my hair every three to five days, especially if I get or give myself a blowout. Yes, I still shower every day. I just don’t wash my hair. A lot of women cringe at this idea, but it’s actually the best thing for your locks. You will get a better blow out that will last longer every time.

Stop washing your hair every day!

It took a year and a half to train my hair to accept this blow dry schedule. It was not overnight. It started with washing my hair every other day for six months. Then every three days. Once I got to that point it was easy to make the jump to four and five days.

I don’t like to go longer than four days. If I have to, I can stretch it to five days, which does come in handy when I travel.

Think about it- you are in a water poor country like Jordan, where hot water can be limited in Bedouin tents. You don’t want to sit under a freezing shower at night.

A bad hair day may happen, but you now have the knowledge to prevent them.

If I air dry my hair, the style won’t look as good, but if I blow dry my hair, I can either flat iron it and it will stay straight for a few days (pending humidity levels), or I put a curling iron through it and it lasts for days. Because I have naturally curly hair I can also just blow dry my hair and twist it up to add that defined curl back in. It just isn’t as pronounced without a curling iron to make ringlets.

It’s not magic, it just takes good products that I know work for my hair. Thankfully, almost any hair product that can fix a bad hair day when you are traveling comes in travel size. This is the best way to see if a hair product is right for you. Like make up, not every product works on everyone, so find the one that is right for you.

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking one of those links I will receive a small commission.

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