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There’s no place like home for the holidays. But if you can’t make it there this year, these are the four best countries to spend Christmas instead!
Sometimes, going home for Christmas and New Years just isn’t possible because of distance, cost, or lack of vacation time. When I taught in the UAE for two years, I couldn’t afford to fly back to Ohio for my three-week break so I chose to spend Christmas traveling elsewhere.
Trying to decide on the best country to spend Christmas two years in a row was tough, so I was inspired to create this list for travelers following in my footsteps. It takes into account a few different factors like cost of living, Christmas spirit, weather, and just the overall vibe of the destination to rank the top Christmas getaways.
If you can’t (or don’t want to) make it home for the holidays, consider visiting some of the best countries to spend Christmas in instead!
Weather: December average of low 30s in Berlin
Cost of Living: Consumer prices are 2% lower and restaurant prices are 2% lower than in the United States
Why it’s one of the best countries to spend Christmas: Christmas Markets
Germany is well known as the country where a lot of our beloved Christmas traditions originated. I’m listing it as one of the best countries to spend Christmas because I spent one here in 2015, and it was magical.
For me, the absolute best part of Christmas in Germany is the Christmas markets!
These large markets set up in parks and squares across the cities and sell Christmas crafts, mulled wine, pretzels, sausages, meat, candy and snacks, roasted nuts, chocolate… everything festive and delicious is here in one place. They usually have large Christmas trees and sometimes even skating rinks inside.
I visited five or six markets in Berlin alone and never got tired of them. They are also throughout the country, with the city of Cologne being widely recognized as hosting the best.
I spent Christmas in Berlin during my eight-day stay and had an amazing time. Berlin is one of the cheaper cities to visit in Europe and is full of history. Just make sure you get an apartment with a kitchen and cross off your to-do list before Christmas because almost the entire city of Berlin shut down for Christmas Eve and Christmas day.
If you want a snowy and cozy traditional Christmas that won’t break the bank, this is the country for you.
Click here to browse and book the best hotels in the artsy Kreuzberg neighborhood in Berlin.
Weather: December average of 78 degrees Bangkok
Cost of living: Consumer prices 52% lower and restaurant prices 199% lower than in the United States
Why it’s one of the best countries to spend Christmas: Festive atmosphere, beautiful beaches, new experiences.
I spent the holidays in Thailand in 2014 and it was immediately clear why this is one of the best countries to spend Christmas.
First of all, the weather absolutely can’t be beat. It was warm and sunny (but not too hot) every day of my three-week vacation except for one. Just make sure you are traveling on the inner islands and not the outer coast, though, which experiences the rainy season at this time.
While in Thailand, we experienced something totally new. The country is one of the best Christmas vacation ideas for couples because there is so much diversity – you can spend a tropical Christmas on the island beaches, enjoy the crazy nightlife in fast-paced Bangkok, and then trek through jungles nad visit ancient temples in Northern Chaing Mai!
We started in the north and found ornate temples, lush rain forests, exotic animals, amazing foods, and long, bustling, crazy markets.
Here, Daniel and I got drunk and wandered the winding streets and stalls to buy Christmas gifts for each other. The souvenir game is next level and you definitely won’t be leaving Thailand without some Chang beer shirts, patterned elephant pants, or at least a knock-off watch.
After Christmas, Daniel and I went south and spent New Year’s Eve on the island of Koh Tao.
This is the most popular time of year to visit Thailand, so the atmosphere is fun and lively (but not too overcrowded which I was afraid of). The beach was full of partiers, restaurants and cafes were spilling onto the sand, and fire performers, Thai lanterns, and fireworks lit up the skies. The hundreds of paper lanterns set off over the ocean was truly a magical sight I’ll never forget.
Then, the next day we woke up to start the new year with a four-day scuba lesson at Big Blue Diving (which I definitely recommend because our open water certification came with free accommodation on the beach!). It really doesn’t get better than that.
Spend your Christmas in Thailand if you want perfect beach weather, super cheap travels, and a totally unique experience.
Weather: Depends! Snow and cold in the North and West, warm and sunny in Florida and parts of the South.
Cost of Living: The most expensive on this list
Why it’s one of the best countries to spend Christmas: One of the most festive & decorated countries in the world.
Maybe I’m biased (I am) but no other countries do Christmas like the US.
It’s just a fact.
When the songs and cards say it’s the most wonderful time of the year, they’re not exaggerating. Christmas spirit and decor infuses pretty much every aspect of life in America during December.
School, work, home… all of it is filled with lights, gifts, holiday foods and parties. This is by far one of the most festive countries to spend Christmas.
Start the festivities the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City, and then explore the city with a TopView NYC Double Decker All City Pass for 3 days (and don’t miss the Central Park bike tours as well).
In New York, nothing is more magical than watching the Christmas scene unfurl before your eyes. Christmas specials on TV, Santa in every mall, and an overwhelming feeling of magic in the air define this time of year.
Everyone is nicer, everything is more beautiful, and the world is just a better place during Christmas in the United States. If you want to experience a Christmas that you only ever see in the movies, America is the place to be.
Weather: December average of 77 degrees in Rio
Cost of Living: Consumer prices 48% lower and restaurant prices 77% lower than in the United States
Why it’s one of the best countries to spend Christmas: They boast the biggest New Year’s Eve party in the world.
South America is a great place to spend Christmas because almost the entire continent is Roman Catholic so they take the birth of Jesus pretty seriously. The cities are decorated with lights and trees, and families go to mass, exchange gifts, and cook delicious dinners to celebrate.
However, there’s another reason why I added Brazil to the list (despite being the only country of the four where I haven’t personally spent a Christmas…) Rio de Janeiro boasts the biggest New Year’s Eve party in the world!
Spend a tropical Christmas soaking up the sun on the gorgeous beaches of Brazil and then head to Rio for New Year’s Eve.
Travel Channel reports that over 2 million people celebrate the stroke of midnight on the Copacabana beaches for a New Year’s Eve fiesta. If you’re a party animal or beach lover then Brazil with their sunny weather, low cost of living, and party atmosphere is definitely the place for you.
Add These 4 Christmas Getaways To Your Holiday Bucket List
This list of the best countries to spend Christmas contains some of my favorite places that I’ve celebrated the holiday.
Whether you’re looking for last-minute Christmas vacations (which, based on the spike in readers this article gets every November and December I know some of you are doing) or planning a year in advance, this list has you covered. If you want fun and sun, Thailand or Brazil are the best Christmas getaways for you. If you prefer traditions and a cozy, festive atmosphere, head to the US or Germany for Christmas.
Ready to start planning? Compare flight prices on flights on Skyscanner to find the best deals and then have a blast celebrating Christmas abroad this year! No matter which destination you decide on, I hope you have a very merry Christmas and magical New Year 🙂
PS I’m not personally a tour type of person but I know some of my readers are. If you’re interested in visiting Chiang Mai but don’t want to go alone, check out the Contiki Northern Thai Highlights Tour to book your trip. Or, browse these last minute deals around the world to save up to 25% when you book with Contiki for your next vacation abroad.