Selling the idea of going away at Christmas to the kids can be tricky, as we found out a few years ago when we decided to spend Christmas by the sea, in a self-catering cottage in Northumberland. The kids’ panic at the news took us by surprise – they were worried primarily about whether Santa would know where to bring their gifts. We reassured them all would be well, only to suffer our own stress as we struggled to hide their bulky presents in the car, as well as fit in the rest of our luggage. And now that they are older, they often feel they'll missing out by going away, especially at party-filled times of year such as Christmas…
Inevitably, spending Christmas abroad makes you think of home, family and tradition, as I found out when I spent one festive season in Goa. But while most years I want to be home or with relatives, every few years I get the urge to have a break from all the politics and the weight of expectation and to celebrate Christmas elsewhere and best of all let someone else do all the hard work. Here are some great ideas for those tempted to do the same. As far taking all those presents, think small!
No young kid will protest at being uprooted for Christmas when it's to be taken to Lapland to meet the big red guy himself and to take part in all kinds of magical activities such as reindeer-sleigh rides. See our hand-picked recommendations for Santa holidays.
Taking a family ski holiday at this time of year ups your chances of a white Christmas. Go with a family-friendly specialist such as Mark Warner and your kids can also enjoy a visit from Santa, while the big day includes a Christmas dinner with champagne and canapés then mulled wine and mince pies – and plenty of fun and games. Takethefamily readers get a 5% discount on Mark Warner holidays. The French Alps as a whole have a fantastic atmosphere at this time of year, with Christmas markets, fireworks and special events.
This might be the hardest one to sell to the kids – being in the glorious sunshine on the beach doesn't chime with most of our ideas of a 'real' Christmas. But there are solutions. Head for the family-friendly Beaches Turks & Caicos resort, for instance, and the kids can enjoy a poolside Christmas-themed spectacular show, a Christmas Eve Sesame Street parade and carolling. And perhaps best of all, those staying at Beaches resorts across the Caribbean can take part in the annual holiday toy-drive delivering toys and spreading holiday cheer to kids at local schools that are sponsored by the Sandals Foundation. Meanwhile, the Grand New Year’s Eve Spectacular will feature a champagne fountain, a fabulous fireworks display and fantastic giveaways.
New York is a festive family favourite, but there are plenty of European cities that make for sparkling Christmas city break destinations – among them Salzburg, Copenhagen, Brussels and Paris. Or you don't even need go anywhere further than London – see our feature on Christmas shopping in London with and without the kids. Many upmarket hotels lay on Christmas lunch, or book a restaurant or even a Thames cruise including a festive meal, with City Cruises.
The great British seaside may not seem the obvious place to head for the festive season – but you'll change your mind if you book your family a luxury break such as that offered by the Polurrian Bay Hotel in Cornwall. Choose from a three-night Christmas package including festive family entertainment, a Recharger break after the big day, or a New Year house party.
See also our feature on 15 Amazing Places to Take the Kids at Christmas.