After last year’s holiday travel mishaps — travellers catching COVID, last-minute flight changes and delays due to a shortage of staff, and a general scrambling for PCR or RAT tests — this year’s Christmas and New Year’s jetting should look a little different. We hope.
Around the world, most countries have now mostly lifted their travel restrictions and are welcoming tourists in with open arms. So, whether you’re wanting to go somewhere cold and with a completely different culture, or warm and a lot closer to home, we’re once again spoilt for choice.
To help you out, we’ve rounded up some of our favourite places to travel to over the holidays. While this list is in no way exhaustive, it will most definitely inspire you and get you to start thinking about the possibilities of where you can go. Be sure to always check Australia’s Smart Traveller site for any updates or recommendations before travelling, though.
New York City, USA
Why? If you’ve seen Home Alone 2 or any other holiday-themed movie that took place in New York City, you’d know how special the season is there. There’s ice-skating at Rockefeller Center, elaborate store window displays, and a week later, of course, the New Year’s Eve ball drop in Times Square. If spending the holidays in New York isn’t already on your bucket list, it really should be.
Hot tip: New York can get expensive so be sure to look for free things to do and happy hour specials — both of which you’ll find plenty of.
Why? Well, there’s warm weather, it’s within Australia (ideal if you haven’t had a chance to renew your expired passport) and one of the best firework shows in the world — Sydney is an obvious choice for where to spend Christmas and New Year’s. If you’ve already seen the major sights, spend your holiday here, long lunching by the water, shopping in the city or strolling the many coastal walks.
Hot tip: For a less-crowded experience, visit one of the city’s harbour beaches in the Eastern Suburbs.
With Japan recently relaxing its international visitor restrictions, Tokyo could be a great bet for Christmas and New Year’s. Though Christmas isn’t actually a public holiday in Japan — meaning the stores and restaurants are still open for business — the capital city still gets into the festive spirit with Christmas markets and stunning illuminations in parks and shopping centres.
Hot tip: The Japanese feast with their families on New Year’s Eve. You can sample the special New Year’s cuisine — called o-sechi ryori — by grabbing a ready-assortment at one of Tokyo’s many department stores.
Paris is already known for being a magical city, and it becomes even more so over the holidays when the Champs Elysses’ trees are draped in twinkling lights, its shopping centres are adorned with colourful decorations and massive Christmas trees, and its churches play home to festive concerts. Drink French festive staple vin chaud, eat Buche de Noel and shop from craft and food stalls at its Christmas markets.
Hot tip: If you’re keen for a dinner cruise on the Seine — a great option if you’re keen to see celebrations around the city — be sure to book well in advance.
Cape Town, South Africa
Though Cape Town has loads to see and do any time of the year, one of the best periods to visit is over the holidays. The weather’s warm, the streets twinkle with fairy lights and you can take advantage of any forced leave by extending your trip to include a safari afterward. On Christmas Day, picnic at Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens or on the beach, drive down Adderley Street to see the lights or book a restaurant for a long lunch.
Hot tip: For an authentic Cape Town Christmas experience, spend the day at the beach.