If you’ve ever booked a flight home for the holidays and felt a pang of dread, perhaps 2018 is the year you change up your seasonal scenery. Whether you want to forego conventional gifts in favor of a getaway, need a break from family drama, or generally don’t celebrate religious holidays, here are our top picks for heading anywhere but home for the holidays this year.
If you’re looking for December’s best bargain destination, Amsterdam is it. Hipmunk data show a 34 percent drop in the year’s average round-trip booking price to the capital city—down from $925 to $613. If you’ve never been to Amsterdam, there’s plenty to explore; check out our guide to the city here. Or, if you’ve recently visited the Netherlands, let AMS be your access point to the continent. From Amsterdam Centraal rail station, you can continue on your merry way via train to destinations like Austria, Belgium, Czechia, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Switzerland, or the UK.
Costa Rica in December may seem like an obvious (and not-so-budget) choice at first glance. However, if you were considering a warm-weather destination, your dollar will stretch further in Costa Rica than in many other nearby spots. The key is to head to the country’s Caribbean coast, like the beach town of Puerto Viejo or the coastal rainforest of Gandoca Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge. Not only is it less developed and less expensive than the Pacific side, you’ll get to experience the same beautiful sea and sunrises that you’d find at more expensive Caribbean island resorts. Speaking of tourist dollars, a trip to Costa Rica also provides ample opportunity to do good with your holiday funds. Couple your inclination for saving money with saving the environment and book accommodations at one of the country’s many sustainable hotels and resorts. Investing in eco-friendly tourism is a gift that keeps on giving.
Despite a square mileage smaller than the state of Massachusetts, Slovenia offers a natural beauty rivaling even its more popular neighbors. The Julian Alps pour in from the northwest corner of the country—leaving many of us questioning why we hadn’t thought to plan our winter ski vacation there. Actually, that’s precisely why this under-the-radar destination has made my list. That, and the lure of its capital city of Ljubljana—named the winner of the 2019 Sustainable Tourism Award and the title of European Green Capital 2016; its World’s 50 Best Restaurant Hiša Franko; and most of all, its wine country. And all of the above comes at a fraction of the price compared to said neighbors, too. We have a feeling Slovenia won’t be under-the-radar for long.
By providing you with options to skip Christmas at home, we’re not necessarily encouraging you to forego the holiday altogether. And what better place to celebrate abroad than a German Christmas market? While there are many quintessential markets across Germany, Munich offers an alluring combination of Christmas and culture. Once you’ve perused the stalls of Marienplatz and had your fill of glühwein—a dangerously delicious concoction of wine, cinnamon, clove, orange and sugar—head to your pre-booked (hint, hint) Hitler and the Third Reich Munich walking tour. This tour gives you an in-depth look at the city in which Hitler first rose to prominence. Munich’s part in Germany’s dark past is illuminated by the guide’s exceptional grasp of history and storytelling. If you’re a history buff, this three hour tour is well worth your time.
Tip: While flights to Munich aren’t as low as those to Amsterdam, this is an opportunity to play with Hipmunk’s Flex Dates feature. With Flex Dates, you can search multiple departure and arrival days to maximize your savings. Using the calendar in the search form, click on a date and drag your cursor over a three-day range. You can also manually add + or – up to two days to a specific date.
Looking for an unconventional beach vacation this holiday season? Have you considered the Red Sea? With an average air temperature of 73 degrees and sea temperature of 75 degrees in December, Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula might inspire you to pack your swimsuit. And, with flights to Cairo averaging $717—a 34 percent savings on the yearly average according to our data—December is the cheapest month of the year to travel to Egypt.
As you start planning your international holiday travel, here are a few travel hacks to keep in mind. For starters, traveling on Christmas Day can save you 20 percent off peak flight prices. Our data also shows that flying out of alternate airports can save you money—an average of 17 percent during the week of Christmas. When you’re searching for flights to Costa Rica, for example, include multiple nearby airport codes (separated by commas) in the departure field, i.e. LGA, JFK, EWR. A final tip: start searching for flights now and set fare alerts if you don’t find a price that works within your budget. If and when a price drops, Hipmunk will send a push notification right to your phone—letting you know that Santa’s bringing you a beach vacation for Christmas after all.