Believe it or not, December isn’t all that far away and there is actually an ideal window of time during which you should plan your travel for the best rates. Airfare should be booked between 62 and 69 days in advance of your trip during fall and winter months and hotel rooms should always be booked at least a month in advance. During the holidays hotel rooms book up earlier, so planning ahead is essential. You won’t score the cheapest rates while traveling during that week but as educators, your vacation weeks aren’t negotiable. Not to worry! There are still great deals – and incredible experiences – to be had if you’re traveling this December.
Beginning at the end of November, Quebec City becomes a real-life version of a Charles Dickens novel. Designed to recreate European Christmas markets, a true winter wonderland filled with lights, decorations and snow emerges in Old Quebec.
The German Christmas Market, open November 22 through December 23, simulates the centuries-long tradition in Germany. Exhibitors in wooden kiosks display one-of-a-kind goods; the smell of German treats, like bratwurst, gingerbread and mulled wine, wafts through the air; Kindermarkt allows the little ones to shop and join the fun; and indoor and outdoor performances provide entertainment for the whole family.
Your trip isn’t complete until you take a stroll through Rue du Petit-Champlain and Place-Royale. This is where you’ll find the Dickensian charm of Quebec City, complete with holiday decorations and a light blanket of snow. The Place D’Youville is a beautiful destination for ice skating and the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac is decorated in a most festive fashion. All visitors are welcome inside to marvel at the beauty of the world’s most photographed hotel.
Christmas in Quebec City is an experience that will create memories to last a lifetime. Hotels in Quebec City are affordable during Christmas vacation week with the Courtyard by Marriott’s rates starting at $89/night and the Hotel Clarendon begins at $115/night.
Las Vegas may not come to mind as a traditional holiday destination, but December is a great time to visit. The city is decked out with holiday decorations, hotels are affordable and tickets to shows tend to be less expensive. With an average temperature of 58° during December, you won’t feel like you’re spending the holidays in the tropics.
The Bellagio Fountains are a well-known attraction no matter the time of year, but during Christmas, the fountains dance to classic holiday music such as Carol of the Bells, Sleigh Ride and Santa Baby. Next, head in to the Bellagio’s Conservatory & Botanical Gardens where you’ll find a holiday display consisting of thousands of twinkling lights, snow-covered trees, more than 28,000 poinsettias and a 42-foot White Fir holiday tree.
For an unforgettable twist on holiday lights, visit the Ethel M. Chocolate Factory Holiday Cactus Garden in nearby Henderson where more than half a million holiday lights adorn cacti across three acres. Chocolate houses and sculptures as well as demonstrations of other Ethel M Chocolate creations are a “must-see”. Admission is free with a toy or food donation.
Each holiday season, the Boulevard Pool at The Cosmopolitan transforms into an ice skating rink high above the Las Vegas Strip. At the Ice Rink you can get your fill of skating and then roast s’mores by the fire.
Hotel rates for the week of Christmas break are currently $49/night at Treasure Island and $85/night at Caesars Palace. Flights and hotels book quickly to Las Vegas at this time of year, so the sooner you plan, the better your chances are of making this an affordable trip.
New York City
With an abundance of colorful lights and a skating rink beneath, visiting the tree at Rockefeller Center is a time-honored tradition and one of the most recognizable signs of Christmas. But, there are many more spectacular sights to see in the Big Apple during the holiday season.
Dyker Heights, a neighborhood in Brooklyn, is known for its extravagant display of Christmas lights, spanning several blocks. The unspoken competition among the homeowners has amplified over the years, resulting in a phenomenal holiday scene, complete with massive lawn ornaments and tens of thousands of lights. Traffic and parking can be miserable, so taking the subway and then walking (or taking a car service) is recommended. The best time to visit is between 5 and 9 p.m., as most displays are turned off after this time. So bundle up, grab a cup of hot chocolate and enjoy!
The Holiday Train Show® at the New York Botanical Garden is a 27-year tradition displayed in the captivating Enid A. Haupt Conservatory. More than 175 New York landmarks are on display throughout the nearly half-mile of track, including the Brooklyn Bridge and Rockefeller Center. A focus on Lower Manhattan this year brings with it two new landmarks – One World Trade Center and Battery Maritime Building. Two new vintage ferry boats fit seamlessly along with a few old favorite sights, such as the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and iconic skyscrapers.
December is an expensive time to visit NYC, though rates can be found at $102/night for the LOOK Hotel in Brooklyn or $165/night at The Redbury New York in Midtown. Lower rates and more hotel options are available if you can wait until the first weekend in January, though the lights at Dyker Heights will have gone dark for the year. The Holiday Inn Financial District has rates from $93/night or MOXY NYC Times Square can be booked for $109/night.
You’ve heard this once or twice before: head to warmer weather! But, maybe you haven’t considered this destination before—Everglades National Park. Less than an hour from Miami and Key Largo, Everglades National Park is a unique and affordable trip to take this year. And, while there may not be holiday celebrations in the park, December is the start of dry season and average temperatures of 53°F to 77°F combined with low humidity make this peak tourist season.
The wildlife in the park is diverse; manatees, white-tailed deer and bobcat call the Everglades home, as well as endangered animals like the American crocodile and the Florida Panther. One animal, however, reigns supreme in the swamps of the Everglades – the Florida alligator. This is an incredible opportunity to view a variety of wildlife, but from a safe distance.
There are a few walking trails that tend not to be crowded, but a great way to view the vegetation and wildlife is to travel by canoe. Canoe and kayak trips can last anywhere from a few hours to several days, so if you’re a beginner, a day trip launching from Flamingo Marina would be a great choice.
Camping sites are available for RVs and tents, but if you’re not interested in “roughing it”, you can stay in nearby Florida City where rates begin at $110/night at Travelodge by Wyndham Florida City/Homestead/Everglades or $125/night at Holiday Inn Express & Suites Florida City.
Hotel rates were current at the time of this publication. To find the rates listed in this post, use the HotelStorm and Wyndham MTA member discounts.