Have we ever been more in need of getting away for a family Christmas holiday? Having spent far, far too much time stuck in our own homes of late, it’s not surprising that so many of us are venturing further afield this year, travel restrictions allowing*.

Whether you’re travelling with your own family unit, inviting granny and grandad along or buddying up with friends, here’s to escaping the obligatory relatives’ visits, hunting for batteries Christmas morning and hiding the sherry from Great Aunt Bertha.

Here, we’ve chosen our favourite festive destinations that provide the perfect Christmas holiday alternative, whether you’re after some guaranteed winter sun and beach fun or, conversely, wanting to turn the winter dial up to the max in places like Norway or Canada.

Whatever you prefer, here’s our winter-wishlist for fantastic festive escapes.

Quick links

Where? Norway

Dod sledding in Norway on a family Christmas holiday

Dog-sledding is exhilarating, huge fun and a Stubborn Mule favourite

What will the weather be like?
Quintessential, quite magical, Christmas weather: snowy, dark and refreshingly cold (from just above freezing to just below in the daytime, around minus 7 at night). Perfect!

What you could be doing on Christmas Day
Prepare for possibly the most active, yet festive, day you’ve ever had, whether that’s dog-sledding with a team of huskies, going on a guided snow-shoe excursion keeping your eyes peeled for willow grouse or red fox, cross country skiing, snowmobiling (for children aged 15 +) or learning about reindeer herding from the local Sami people.

What you could be doing on New Year’s Eve:
Could there be a better way to see in the New Year than watching the spectacle that is the Aurora Borealis / Northern Lights? We can’t think of one! Get some tips on how to capture this stunning light show on camera.

How?
Norway in Winter

Where? USA

Family Christmas holidays Golden Gate Bridge

See the sights and enjoy the USA’s classic take on Christmas festivities

What will the weather be like?
T-shirt weather in the daytime, bring a hoodie or light sweater for the evenings in LA, whilst it pays to wrap up warm if you’re seeing in the New Year in Vegas.

What you could be doing on Christmas Day
Like many things here, it’s ‘go big or go home’ and the US does the festive period like no-one else. It might be too chilly to dip your toes in the Pacific, but head for the Los Angeles coastal area to join the crowds as they rollerblade along the prom. A joyful yet relaxed way to live like a local for a Xmas you’ll never forget!

What you could be doing on New Year’s Eve
Where better to see the New Year in than Vegas, baby! There are shows, the blingiest hotels and parties galore, whilst the entire 4-mile Vegas strip is closed to traffic from 6pm to become a giant, pedestrian mall with a party atmosphere. At midnight, 80,000 fireworks make up one of the planet’s biggest and best displays.

How?
Classic California

Where? Canada

Snow shoeing in Canada on family Christmas holiday

Work up an appetite snowshoeing and then tuck into Christmas dinner beside the log fire… bliss

What will the weather be like?
In a word, ‘freezing’. Although temperatures are sub-zero, there can be lots of blue sky in the daytime, unless it’s snowing, obviously.

What you could be doing on Christmas Day
Mother nature takes care of the winter wonderland backdrop in Lake Louise and Banff, so where better than spending the day unwrapping gifts, sitting around a roaring fire and indulging, than a lodge here? If you don’t want to spend the day snowshoeing or taking a horse and cart ride, enjoy the ‘hot chocolate trail’, or people watch as you sit on the heated terraces.

What you could be doing on New Year’s Eve
Vancouver is a little wet and miserable at this time of year. Instead, Whistler’s slopes are at their best with both mountains open for skiing, snowboarding, sledding, fat biking and more. Tubing, ice-skating and snowmobiling also on offer. Powder perfect!

How?
Western Canada for Families

Where? Egypt

Child sitting on edge of boat as it sails along the Nile - family Christmas breaks

Sailing down the Nile on a felucca will be a Christmas day the kids will never forget

What will the weather be like?
Despite December being the first month of winter, the south of the country will be bathed in lovely, sunny weather, highs of 23-24 degrees – ideal for sightseeing. Do bring a sweater for evenings, though.

What you could be doing on Christmas Day
It’s one of the quintessential Egyptian experiences: taking a felucca (a traditional sailboat) down the Nile, stopping at temples en route. Not only do you feel immersed in the culture, it’s slow travel at its best.

What you could be doing on New Year’s Eve
Taking a camel ride around The Great Pyramid, Giza, the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, coming up close and personal with The Sphinx. (For more ideas on family-friendly activities, see our Egypt with kids blog)

How?
Highlights of Egypt

Where? Oman

Child on Christmas family break in Oman with ocean in background

Oman is a fabulous destination for family Christmas breaks, especially with the help of a knowledgeable guide

What will the weather be like?
Hot, sunny and dry, with average temperatures around the low 20s.

What you could be doing on Christmas Day
Taking a camel ride out into the desert before enjoying a traditional lunch in a Bedouin tent.

What you could be doing on New Year’s Eve
Being a ‘dry’ country, you are free from the obligation of attending raucous parties. Instead (and all the better for it), spend the (hangover-free) day in the mountains at Jebel Shams, Oman’s answer to the Grand Canyon. The views will take your breath away. (Check out our Top 10 activities in Oman with kids).

How?
Highlights of Oman

Where? Tanzania

Child on a Tanzania family safari - Christmas breaks itinerary

Spend Christmas with the animals and then chill on a stunning Zanzibar beach – the best of both worlds

What will the weather be like?
On safari, the weather will be hot (highs of 28 degrees), sunny with occasional night-time showers. In Zanzibar, it’s a similar story, except the showers. Lovely!

What you could be doing on Christmas Day
Arriving at dawn at your lodge, you’ll embark on an early morning safari, witnessing a whole array of wildlife before most people back home have even put on their dressing gown and slippers. Once back, you’ll enjoy a sumptuous breakfast before opening your stockings. Enjoy a leisurely day by the pool before heading out in the late afternoon for a sunset safari. Then return for a delicious dinner back at the lodge. (See our Tanzania with kids top 10 blog for more ideas.)

What you could be doing on New Year’s Eve
Having enjoyed an active few days on safari, what better way to see in the New Year than hanging out in the hammock strapped between two palm trees, snorkelling in bath-warm Zanzibar waters before enjoying a party back at the hotel. You’ll wonder why more NYE’s weren’t like this!

How?
Tanzania Safari and Beach

Where? Thailand

Family Christmas breaks in Thailand - young girls playing in a hammock beside the beach in Thailand

Family Christmas holidays in Thailand can be action-packed but there’s always time to relax

What will the weather be like?
Average temperatures of 27 degrees, peak water visibility and very little to no rain. Temperatures hotter in the south than the north.

What you might be doing on Christmas Day
An action-packed day in Kanchanaburi, home to the Bridge over the River Kwai. The afternoon is spent helping to wash elephants in the river (you’ll be squirted in return), whilst the evening is spent on a floating jungle raft on the banks of the River Kwai.

What you might be doing on New Year’s Eve
Staying in a friendly village homestay on the south coast, spending two nights with a local family. Spend the day kayaking through the beautiful karst formations of the Andaman Sea before a new year celebration with the family. On New Year’s Day you’ll be heading to the beach for a few final days. (Visit our Thailand with kids blog for more ideas)

How? Southern Thailand Adventure 

Where? Mexico

Parents and two children at Tulum, Mexico family holidays - perfect for Christmas breaks abroad

The kids will love Mexico’s beaches, lakes and cenotes (sinkholes) as well as ancient ruins and jungle – the perfect family Christmas holiday

What will the weather be like?
Christmas time is one of the best times to visit, where the weather will be hot, sunny and gorgeous but not too humid. You’re looking at average temperatures of around 25 degrees, perfect for family Christmas breaks.

What you could be doing on Christmas Day
You’re staying in a beautiful hacienda surrounded by lush plantation. The air is warm, the skies blue, and, after a lazy morning opening presents and enjoying a fresh fruit breakfast, you’ll head out to spend the afternoon swimming in an azure-blue cenote. What better way to end the perfect festive day than enjoying dinner on the terrace, sipping cocktails whilst listening to chirruping cicadas. See our Mexico with kids blog for more activity ideas.

What you could be doing on New Year’s Eve
Whilst Mexico is famed for its beaches, why not see in the New Year doing something different? Lake Bacalar is a 42km long, 2km wide lake renowned for its clean, turquoise waters. Make the most of the balmy temperatures, maybe stand-up paddle boarding or swimming before partying in the evening.

How?
Best of Mexico Yucatan Peninsula

Where? Nepal

Two children sitting in garden at Himalaya lodge - Nepal with kids itinerary

Enjoy some festive family bonding in the Himalayas, with both gentle and challenging treks available

What will the weather be doing?
Crisp, clear with beautiful skies – the perfect time of year to see the Himalayas at their best, when they’re not covered by the clouds and mists of the rainy season. It’s cold of an evening, so pack your cardi!

What you might be doing on Christmas Day
Spend the day doing what Nepal is best known for: it’s superior trekking. After being brought tea and breakfast in your trekking lodge – a step up from the more ubiquitous tea-houses, you can spend the day walking along the well-worn valleys being awed by the world’s most iconic mountain scenery.

What you might be doing on New Year’s Eve
It may be hard to tear yourself away from the luxury safari lodge in Chitwan National Park, but rise early, and you’ll be rewarded by wildlife galore as you go on safari on the look out for rhino and tigers. Being on the banks of the river Rapti, you can also head out by boat looking for crocodiles and other water-based wildlife in the afternoon, before being treated to a candlelit banquet back at the lodge. Check out our Nepal with kids blog for more ideas on child-friendly activities.

How?
Active Nepal

Where? Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka with kids - playing in a pool

Sri Lanka has so much to keep everyone happy on family Christmas holidays, with safari, pool and beach

What will the weather be doing?
Plenty of sunshine, dry days and peak beach conditions. Average temperature: 30 degrees.

What you might be doing on Christmas Day
Exploring the largest National Park in Sri Lanka, Wilpattu, on a search for leopard, crocodile and sloth bear. The day starts with a relaxing breakfast and time to open a present or two. In the afternoon you will take a safari in search of wildlife before returning back to an African style safari camp for a slap up supper. (See our Sri Lanka with kids top 10 for an inspiring overview of what you can do on family Christmas breaks.)

What you might be doing on New Year’s Eve
Enjoying the picturesque tea plantations of Ella, either relaxing by the pool or taking a hike through the plantations with superb views. The evening entertainment will be relatively low key but you can join other guests for a celebratory dinner.

How?
 Sri Lanka Christmas Tour

Where? Belize

Christmas holiday in Belize - sisters share a hammock in the sunset

Mix incredible beaches and water sports with rainforest walks and ancient Mayan ruins on a family Christmas holiday in Belize

What will the weather be like?
Warm, dry, and sunny

What you could be doing on Christmas Day
As family Christmas breaks go, this is fairly hard to beat: waking up to the sound of howler monkeys (we admit, it’s a very loud, guttural roar) in a gorgeous Eco Lodge in Lamanai, Belize’s answer to the Amazon Rain Forest. Go crocodile spotting, listen to and watch the colourful wildlife or walk to a local Mayan ruin.

What you could be doing on New Year’s Eve
Snorkelling in Shark Alley – see our Belize blog, a channel where rays, sharks and turtles gather in crystal clear waters, undoubtedly one of the best places to snorkel in the world.

How?
Belize Adventure Highlights

Where? Cuba

Family Christmas breaks - photo of Plaza de la Catedral, Havana

Cathedral Square on New Year’s Eve is the place to go if your kids are older and love a party

What will the weather be like?
Dry, sunny and hot

What you could be doing on Christmas Day
If sending your relatives back home wild with envy sounds appealing, this is it: you’ll be relaxing on an idyllic, picture postcard beach (warm water, white sands, you get the idea) on the ‘desert island’ of Cayo Levisa, just off the Cuban coast. Did we mention there’s rum? (For more ideas on family activities, read our Cuba with kids blog and Helene’s Postcards from Cuba.)

What you could be doing on New Year’s Eve
When in Cuba, do as the Cubans do. PARTY! We can’t think of many places that buzz as much as Havana and you’ll be in the thick of it, sipping cocktails and enjoying a carnival-like atmosphere. There’s a large party in Cathedral Square, but it’s expensive and not necessarily kid-friendly. One thing to watch out for: when the clock strikes 12, it’s ‘customary’ for people to throw water (occasionally furniture) over their balcony. Best stick to non-residential areas!

How?
Cuba in 2 weeks

Where? Costa Rica

Family at Arenal Sky Tram and Zipline - Costa Rica family holidays

The zip-lines and canopy walks in Arenal and Monteverde are superb fun for all the family

What will the weather be like?
Costa Rica is tropical and is covered in rainforest. So it rains. But Christmas is one of the best times to visit and there should be plenty of sunshine. Bring a mac or a brolly just in case, but also don’t forget your sun cream and sun hat. Expect a mixed bag!

What you might be doing on Christmas Day:
Exploring the quiet waters of the Pena Blanca river by boat, keeping watch for caiman, bats, monkeys and snakes. (See our Costa Rica with kids blog.)

What you might be doing on New Year’s Eve:
Walking across giant hanging suspension bridges in Arenal or the cloud forest of Monteverde, zip-lining from one tree to another.

How? Costa Rica Easter & Christmas

Where? Jordan

Teenager at Petra - October Half Term holidays

Family Christmas holidays in Jordan are a winner with teenagers and with younger family members too

What will the weather be like?
It will usually be warm and sunny during the day, but there may be occasional cloudy days and temperatures vary considerably. Some days will be T-shirt weather, on others you might need a good jacket.

What you could be doing on Christmas Day
Wake up in the desert watching the sunrise over the dramatic rocky outcrops of Wadi Rum. Enjoy a camel ride before breakfast, then head to the Dead Sea for some relaxation in a beautiful hotel. Jordan is a family favourite with lots to do and see, so check out our Jordan with Kids Top Ten blog for more ideas.

What you could be doing on New Year’s Eve
Lots of options! Spend the day exploring the incredible Nabatean ruins of Petra, explore nooks and crannies of Kerak crusader fortress or lie back and float on the buoyant waters of the Dead Sea. Bliss! You’ll feel fully rejuvenated for the year ahead.

How?
Highlights of Jordan or Active Jordan for Teens

family Christmas holiday in South Africa - teenagers on safari

Tracking the Big 5 in South Africa – safaris can be adapted to suit all ages

What will the weather be like?
More sunshine than you could poke a candy cane at.

What you could be doing on Christmas Day
Tracking the Big 5, but also black wildebeest, cheetah, giraffe, zebra and more in Amakhala Nature Reserve, accompanied by an experienced guide adept at finding the best places to spot wildlife. It’s an early start, yes, but you’ll be able to open your stockings later in the day, perhaps when back at camp enjoying a slap-up lunch. (See our South Africa with kids blog and our South Africa for families photoblog for lots more ideas).

What you could be doing on New Year’s Eve
Cape Town does New Year’s Eve well, it’s much more of a celebration than other destinations we travel to. Saunter down to the waterfront after enjoying an evening supper washed down with wine from local vineyards to watch a spectacular fireworks display.

How?
Classic Cape & Garden Route

Where? Brazil

Family group in Brazil - family travel trends 2020

Cheers! Enjoy the vibrant city buzz or soak up the sun, sand and surf. Whether you want the buzz of Rio or the charm of colonial Paraty, Brazil is a top choice for family Christmas holidays

What will the weather be doing?
Think of Brazil and images of beach volleyball, sipping on cooling caipirinha’s and swinging in hammocks rocked by gentle breezes come to mind. There’s a reason for that! Come Christmas time, the weather is hot, sunny and humid. In Rio, average temperatures are 24 degrees, 29 degrees maximum. Heaven!

What you might be doing on Christmas Day
Hit the beaches along the glorious Emerald Coast, samba your way through a few Xmas carols on the cobbled streets of colonial Paraty or experience the mighty Iguazu Falls (at this time of year, at their most powerful as rising water levels create a huge volume of water). 

What you might be doing on New Year’s Eve
Rest assured, no self-respecting Brazilian would miss an opportunity for a party and New Year’s Eve is no exception! Join the fun-loving ‘cariocas’ for Reveillon on Copacabana beach with live music, fireworks and probably more than a few mojitos.

How?
Highlights of Southern Brazil

Family Christmas holidays

*Note that travel to any destination may be subject to changing travel advice. So please do get in touch to find out exactly what you’ll need in terms of testing or additional documentation by calling us on 01728 751752 or e-mailing us at [email protected]. We’ll be there to help every step of the way!

To discuss a family Christmas holiday for 2021 or any trip for 2022 and beyond, ring us on 01728 752751 during office hours, or send your enquiry via our website contact form. We’ll do everything we can to find a great option for you and your family.

Liddy Pleasants, MD Stubborn Mule Travel