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Tips For Travelling At Christmas

Father Christmas knows where to find you.

Never beaten on price

Whether you’re travelling to see family at Christmas or heading abroad for a magical winter break, these eight travel tips will help you make the most of your festive holiday.

1. Plan in Advance

You’ll have a more relaxed – and considerably cheaper – Christmas holiday if you plan and book your transport well in advance. Watch out for reduced rail services over the festive period and book as early as you can to ensure you get the train you want. Book air travel as early as possible too to avoid price hikes – Google Flights can help you find the best fares. Allow extra time for driving, especially in the weekend before Christmas which is a peak time for road travel.

2. Embrace Local Traditions

If you’re travelling abroad for Christmas, join in with local celebrations whenever you can. Christmas in Italy means candlelight and delicious panettone; in France, nativity puppets and yule log; and in Spain, sweets and street parties. If you’re travelling to the southern hemisphere, December is a summer month  – so Christmas Day is often marked in Australia with a barbie on the beach! Research Christmas in your destination before you leave so you know what to expect, and what to bring with you.

3. ...But Bring Some From Home

If you’re travelling with children, it can be a good idea to bring a few festive items from home so Christmas Day doesn’t feel too alien. Pack a mini Christmas tree that you can decorate and leave gifts by, and bring a traditional Christmas pudding in your hand luggage. If you’re bringing crackers on a flight, make sure they go in your main luggage or they won’t get through security!

4. Shop Like Santa

Christmas markets are a wonderfully festive feature of many European cities in December – whether you’re in Hamburg, Venice, Vienna or Copenhagen there’s bound to be a cluster of stalls selling handcrafted goodies and edible gifts. Christmas shopping feels like a delight rather than a chore in a beautiful open-air market – especially when there’s plenty of mulled wine to take off the chill! If you’re heading to a shopping mecca such as New York, look out for bargains at pre-Christmas sales events.

5. Pack Gifts With Care

If you’re bringing gifts with you when you travel, be mindful of customs and import regulations in the country you’re travelling to and be careful not to exceed your allowance if travelling outside the EU. Customs officers may wish to inspect your baggage, so don’t wrap gifts before you pack them. Wrap bottles and other breakable items in a jumper or two to prevent your gift from being broken before it lands under the tree.

6. Winter-Proof Your Home

If you’re going away for any length of time during the winter, avoid burst pipes by keeping the heating on at around 10C for a few hours a day (or use the “holiday” setting on a modern programmable thermostat). If you’re going away for more than a couple of days it might be a good idea to leave a key with a trusted neighbour so they can check on your home from time to time – make sure they know where your stop valve is in case of emergency!

7. Go Where the Snow Is

Christmas Day on the slopes is a real treat for snow lovers, so if you’re planning a ski break in December take a look at Snow Forecast to find out where all the best piste action is to be found this Christmas season. Val d’Isere and Zermatt currently look like good picks – don’t forget to pack your Santa-themed ski hat!

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Written by Lise Smith, a former contributor to Lonely Planet's India guidebook - she's seen her fair share of hotel rooms (both grotty and glamorous!). She learned to walk in a hotel corridor in Tunisia, and at the age of three had been on more aeroplanes than buses. Lise writes for a number of local news, technology and arts publications.

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