Why are more families taking Christmas and New Year holidays abroad?
Every year millions of us go abroad for the Christmas and New Year break. The Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) estimated last year that almost four million Britons would be doing this with the peak travel days falling on and around 21 December. London’s Heathrow Airport alone was expecting 1.7 million people to pass through its gates and a further quarter of a million people were expected to avoid the airports and travel to the continent on ferries or the Eurostar instead.
What is it that encourages so many of us to brave the mid-winter weather short days and long queues to get away for Christmas and New Year holidays abroad? For some it is the promise of winter sun – leaving the dreary greyness and cold weather behind them to soak up the rays. For others it is the perfect time to take to the piste for a great skiing holiday – rather than sit on the couch watching the usual recycled Christmas and New Year programming on the television. Another group want simply to experience the food and traditions surrounding the holiday season in other countries.
Winter sun for families
If you are the sort of family that loves the idea of a white Christmas roasting chestnuts warm winter punch and ‘first footing’ then winter sun holidays are almost certainly not your thing. Many people however long to leave all that behind and head to a place where they can top-up their faded summer tan and swap roast turkey for a beachside barbeque.
It’s not just parents and kids who enjoy the warmth of a winter sun holiday. Older members of the family often dread the cold weather and suffer more from age related ailments at this time of year. Renting a family holiday apartment in a warmer country for Christmas and New Year can be the perfect way to enjoy the holidays together with granny and granddad too.
To catch the sun you have to head further afield but for many this is all part of the excitement. Taking the long flight from London to Rio de Janeiro will see you arrive in glorious hot sunshine but you certainly wouldn’t lose the spirit of the season here. The city is aglow with lights and decorations the Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon has a wonderfully illuminated floating Christmas tree and there is seasonal entertainment that all the family will enjoy. The main day for celebrating is Christmas Eve so get there a few days earlier to make sure that you have all recovered from the jet-lag. There is nowhere in the world better than Rio to see in the New Year so if you travel all that way don’t leave too soon.
Miami is less of a trek but has a lot to offer for Christmas family holidays. It is of course America’s ‘Sunshine State’ although sun and scorching heat cannot be guaranteed for your whole stay. There is usually little rainfall during the festive season however and daytime temperatures tend to be “beachy” at around the mid-20s Celsius. There is plenty to see and do in Miami and for the kids Santa’s Enchanted Forest has more than 100 rides and Christmas themed entertainment.
Winter sport for families
Most of us have an image of Christmas and New Year glistening with snow but few of us actually live in places where a white Christmas is common. The winter sport holiday by its very nature requires snow aplenty and that means that it will always feel somewhat magical. Families with really young children might want to wait a few years before heading off for a winter sport holiday but many skiing resorts offer lessons for children sometimes as young as four years old.
Winter sport holidays need a little more preparation than a typical family holiday abroad. Parents and the kids will need appropriate clothing and probably rather more changes of clothing than would be taken on other types of holiday. Active families usually don’t need any encouragement to get ready physically for a winter sport holiday but families planning their first winter sport holiday should look to build-up their fitness levels beforehand by going swimming together taking the kids trampolining or trying out on a dry ski slope (if there is one nearby).
There are many superb family ski resorts across Europe particularly in countries like Italy and France. They can be expensive during the Christmas and New Year period as that is when many people head to the slopes and chalets but a good way to save some money is to stay at an apartment in a nearby town rather than in the heart of the resort.
Winter traditions for families
New Year and Christmas holidays abroad allow us to enjoy different cultures and traditions. For children this can make the season even more exciting and magical but although they won’t realise it at the time it will be educational as well.
The Christmas markets of Berlin or Prague will enchant the kids and give you the opportunity to seek out some unique gifts to take back to family at home. The opportunity to try freshly made Christollen in Germany or a real Panetone in Italy is a great way for the kids to experience new flavours of Christmas at their best. Or introduce them to the quirkier side of Christmas abroad like Catalonia’s ‘Caga Tio’ – guaranteed to make them laugh as he is a small log with a smiley face that they have to look after until Christmas Eve when he poops out lots of sweets for them.
For many countries New Year celebrations are as if not more important occasions for the family. For those who want to avoid all the chintzy Christmas festivities but have a great New Year a family holiday to Turkey can be the answer. New Year here is celebrated with homes and streets glittering in lights and parents can introduce the kids to the flavours of the Mediterranean through an exotic Turkish New Year’s Eve feast. For a more familiar New Year’s Eve toast it in with a glass of Sekt (a German sparkling wine) whilst watching the spectacular fireworks display at Berlin’s Brandenberg Gate; or start a new family tradition after seeing in the New Year in Madrid where by tradition you should eat twelve grapes as the clock on the Plaza del Sol strikes midnight – one on each strike of the bell.
Whether looking for sun sport or tradition New Year and Christmas holidays abroad look set to become more and more popular with families – opening a whole new world of experiences for family fun abroad.