I received an email from a reader asking me for ideas on traveling solo over the Christmas holidays.
While I tend to stay at home over the holidays – I love being with my family and I actually like the cold – I'm sure planning for solo travel over the Christmas holidays is on the to-do list of many readers.
So I've given it some thought, done a bit of research and I have a few ideas. And, as a bonus, I've crowdsourced more ideas from the travel blogging community.
First, my thoughts on…
Tips for traveling solo over the Christmas holidays
Where to go?
This is totally a matter of taste. My inclination would be to go somewhere that feels like Christmas. The Christmas markets of Germany and Austria are wonderful. You could go to a rural area like the Lake District of England or many places in Scotland. You could go to a ski resort in North America or a city that's dazzling with Christmas like London or New York.
Or you could go as far away from Christmas as possible. It's really up to you. But to plan, you first need to set your sights on the kind of travel you want to do and where you want to do it.
Do you want to be alone or with new friends?
Traveling solo doesn't necessarily mean being alone. We all know that we meet lots of people as we travel solo but meeting people to share a Christmas with is a little different. In this situation you need to plan accordingly. You might want to volunteer – whether abroad or along side locals in a city not far away. Serving Christmas dinner to people with less means can be very satisfying. Or consider accommodation that is more social such as AirBnB where you can rent a room in a person's home or a hostel where there will be other people away from home for Christmas.
When to go?
As the travel bloggers pointed out in their comments below, flying on Christmas day could get you the best deal. In an enclosed environment like a plane, a festive mood often prevails among passengers, sometimes even involving the crew. Flying home late on New Year's Eve could also score you a deal. But flying other days around the holidays will take a bit more work to get a decent fare.
Flying? How to get the best deal:
- Use a service like Skyscanner's everywhere button. With the Skyscanner booking engine, you put in your dates and your home airport and leave the destination blank. The results will be flights to all sorts of places sorted from the cheapest to the most expensive. You have to be flexible in your destination but this could be your big Christmas surprise.
- Book as soon as you can. Flights usually get more expensive the closer to the departure date.
- Book on a Tuesday or Wednesday in the late evening. It still seems to be the case that these are the times when the airlines release their sales.
- You can use a booking engine like Skyscanner's or Expedia's or Canoe's (there are so many) to research your options but always check the prices on the actual airline's site before you book. They are sometimes lower.
- You can still fly stand-by. Here's an post on how to do so successfully.
Buy yourself a present. Really!
Who doesn't like presents at Christmas and while your trip may be your present there's no reason you can't have something small and special from your travels. I like to buy earrings – they're inexpensive and pack easily. But it could be something as simple as a tube of toothpaste of a brand that is new to you. For as long as that tube lasts, you'll remember your trip every time you brush your teeth.
And now, the suggestions from other travel bloggers…
More tips on traveling solo for the Christmas holidays.
Tips for booking flights on the holidays
Annemarie Dooling of The Huffington Post: Flying on the holiday itself is amazing. It's insane how cheap tickets can be.
Dave Dean of What's Dave Doing replied to Annemarie – absolutely! I flew from NZ to Australia on Xmas Day a few years ago – it was less than half the price of pretty much anything three weeks either side, and the plane was so empty that I had an entire row to myself. Plus, I basically got to have two Christmases. Success!
Matt Long of Landlopers: Look for special festivals going on and be prepared for unusual opening/closing times.
Kerwin McKenzie of Travel Advice: Book as far ahead as possible, although it may not make too much difference since Holidays is when airlines make their money. Use an alternate airport if possible. Check public transportation schedules as they are usually different around Holidays. Avoid checking a bag and do a connecting flight as it's usually cheaper. As with all travel, use a credit card that will earn you miles. Use http://matrix.itasoftware.com to find good deals and then book on the airline's site.
Matt Long then replied to Kerwin saying: This is VERY dependent on location. Maybe that's true for US travel, we've traveled overseas the last two Christmas seasons and except for trains (get reservations) it's been easy peasy and not at all too expensive.
And the conversation continued with Kerwin replying: It is Matt; however, for the most part fares around Holiday travel are higher. The airlines does revenue management, so if the higher fares are not selling, they may make lower fares available. And yes there are some Holidays when international travel is not as popular as domestic U.S. travel. You just have to do your research and like you've found, you may find a diamond in the rough
Noel Morata of Travel Photo Discover: If you are flexible with where you want to go, sign up for various alerts from the consolidators or just as easily google last minute deals and make your holiday a reality with a travel bargain to boot.
Eating out solo on the holidays
Billie Frank of Santa Fe Travelers: Book restaurants for Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and New Year's Ever and Day in advance. As places close, the choices in smaller places may be limited. And popular places anywhere book up way in advance. By the way, Santa Fe is great for Christmas!
Nicole Blaess-Smith of Bitten by the Travel Bug: If you don't want to be by yourself during the holidays seek out the expat community. You'll find people who may be missing home or looking to have a nice meal and a few drinks.
Tips for Booking Accommodation on the Holidays
Suzanne Wolko of Philatravelgirl: I’ve spent time in Europe over Thanksgiving. It’s an extra day of vacation as it’s not a holiday there. Look at hotels in the biz district for deals as their US guests are home and occupancy low. It’s a bit easier to find award space during/on Thanksgiving (still need some advance booking time). In Paris there are a few restaurants that serve US turkey dinner (you’ll need a reservation) as there is large ex-pat community.
And encouraging story about solo travel on the holidays
Carol Perehudoff of Wandering Carol: The holidays are the best time to travel solo! It’s making a statement, you don’t just happen to be alone, you are choosing to be alone. My advice is to talk to everyone around you. People are more open and friendly on festive occasions. It’s the atmosphere. One Christmas Eve, I was travelling to Baden-Baden, Germany, on the train, planning to spend the holidays at a spa. I started chatting to the German woman beside me, who called up a friend in Baden-Baden, and I ended up spending Christmas with a Duke and his friends. Best holiday ever.