OKLAHOMA CITY – Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s — the winter holidays are closer than you think even if you’re still in shorts.
And the best way to enjoy them? Start making your travel plans now.
In that spirit, we’ve assembled a planner to get you in the winter holidays mood. From inspirational destination ideas to practical tips, we’ve got you covered for the journeys ahead:
When should you book your tickets if you’re going to be flying over the winter holidays? In a word: Pronto.
“Holiday travelers should make their plans now and begin booking flights for Thanksgiving and Christmas … for the best deals and availability,” said Mark Jenkins, spokesman for AAA — The Auto Club Group, in a statement.
AAA targets the dates September 25 to October 27 as the best time to snag a lower price.
Thanksgiving is technically in autumn, but it ushers in the winter holiday season in the USA in the same way Memorial Day (technically in spring) ushers in the summer travel season. For many folks, Thanksgiving travel means a flight or drive to a family gathering spot.
But the long Thanksgiving weekend can be a fantastic time to plan a bona fide vacation. For a truly thematic getaway, head to Plymouth, Massachusetts.
This historic settlement south of Boston is where voyagers on the Mayflower landed in 1620 and is the site of the first Thanksgiving. Visitors to Plymouth can explore the Mayflower II, a full-scale replica of the celebrated sailing ship, and visit Plimoth Plantation to see how the early Pilgrim settlers lived.
Plimoth Plantation: 137 Warren Ave, Plymouth, MA 02360; +1 508 746 1622
Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
Few things say Thanksgiving like the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. In 2019, it will start at 9 a.m. ET, Thursday, November 28.
If you’re not a New Yorker, maybe this is the year you go see those giant floats in person. The parade begins at 77th Street and Central Park West and makes its way to the flagship Macy’s Herald Square on 34th Street.
November places to go
While Thanksgiving family gatherings tend to dominate November travel plans, the month can make a superb time for a regular-type vacation.
In November, we’d like to suggest Rome. The capital of Italy is entering its off-season, so crowds will be down. The weather might be a bit chilly and damp but nothing a good coat can’t handle.
This is a great time to see famous places such as Vatican City and the Colosseum and lesser-known gems such as the Nuovo Mercato Esquilino indoor international market and the Priscilla Catacombs, which date back to early Christendom.
December places to go
December is actually an excellent month to travel. One idea: Head to sun-kissed Orlando, Florida, and enjoy one of the many theme parks, such as SeaWorld Orlando.
Official hurricane season ends in November, and you may get a break on prices and crowds in the first half of the month. Plan for larger crowds closer to Christmas and New Year’s.
SeaWorld Orlando: 7007 Sea World Drive, Orlando, FL 32821; +1 407 545 5550
For those of you seeking a more spiritual journey and an escape from the commercial aspects of Christmas, Advent can be an excellent inspiration for a trip. Observed the four Sundays before Christmas Day, Advent starts December 1 in 2019.
An excellent destination for Advent is Salzburg, Austria. Famed for “The Sound of Music,” Salzburg has long been host to stirring Advent musical performances. You’ll also want to visit the Salzburg Christkindlmarkt and tour the Salzburg Cathedral, a splendid example of Baroque architecture.
Salzburg Cathedral: Domplatz 1a, 5020 Salzburg, Austria; +43 662 8047 7950
The Jewish holiday of Hanukkah is December 22-30 in 2019. It begins on the eve of the 25th day of the Hebrew month of Kislev and lasts eight days. Hanukkah commemorates the victory of the Maccabees over the Syrians and the rededication of the Second Temple of Jerusalem around 165 BC.
This is a time that people may wish to travel to Israel, where they can visit such sites as Masada, the Dead Sea, the Western Wall and the Old City of Jerusalem.
For some of you travelers, you can never get enough Christmas. You shop early. You hum carols in fall. You want the most immersive Christmas travel experience possible.
Here’s a place that fits the bill: Quebec City, Canada.
Old Quebec is turned into a Christmas village a la Charles Dickens. You can catch street carolers (en français bien sûr), ride sleds, see a multitude of Christmas trees and go ice skating.
Germany overflows with Christmas markets — and very good ones we might add — but it by no means has a monopoly on them.
In the neighboring Czech Republic, the capital of Prague is also host to a noteworthy Christmas market scene.
Visitors will find all the action at Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square from November 30, 2019, to January 6, 2020.
You could build a trip around a “Christmas decorations” theme. Choose a place that’s particularly known for its holiday displays, show up and be dazzled.
We’d like to recommend Stockholm, Sweden, where the long, dark nights of a Scandinavian winter are kept at bay by festive decorations.
You can explore the bedecked streets of Gamla Stan (Old Town), where the Stockholm Cathedral and Nobel Museum are located.
New Year’s Eve
Big cities around the world put on incredible New Year’s Eve parties. Be at one of the first gatherings in the world to welcome 2020 by positioning yourself in Sydney, Australia.
The annual fireworks show over the Harbour Bridge and Opera House is nothing less than magical.
Sydney Opera House: Bennelong Point, Sydney NSW 2000, Australia; +61 2 9250 7111
Finally, you could plan a whole trip around New Year’s food traditions. Just pick a food you love and set it up!
In Japan, many families eat buckwheat soba noodles, or toshikoshi soba, at midnight on New Year’s Eve. The tradition goes back to the 17th century, and the long noodles symbolize prosperity and long life.
And in the American South, a heaping serving of black-eyed peas and rice (Hoppin’ John) is the tasty ticket to good times to come.