Image: Maureen Barlin, Flickr

It’s September, the kids are back at school and there’s a definite chill in the air, which means only one thing: Christmas is coming! #sorrynotsorry

While it’s never too early to start planning for the holidays - even when staying at home - if you’re after the best family Christmas vacation out there, you’re probably gonna want to start thinking about it right about … now. And that’s where we come in!

  1. New York

Ok, so we’re kicking off with the most obvious one - can you really blame us? We dare you to think about Christmas and NOT picture the ice skating, the tree lighting at the Rockefeller Center, the spectacular department store windows and every other ‘Christmas in New York’ cliche you can think about. Marvel at the city’s twinkling lights? Check. Warm your hands on a piping hot coffee, topped with cream? Check. Book the Dyker Heights Christmas Wonderland Tour? Check.

An apple a day might keep the doctor away, but a Big Apple for Christmas will most certainly keep the grinch away - enabling every drop of magical energy to seep into your bones. Still not convinced? We wrote a whole blog dedicated to it that you can check out here!

2. Copenhagen

European cities rank pretty high for the best family Christmas vacations, but Copenhagen - thanks to the epic Tivoli Gardens theme park that goes all out for the holidays - is one of those absolute must-dos in Denmark (it served as the inspiration for Disney, didn’t you know?) Expect festive food and drink, snow-covered trees, real-life reindeer, twinkling lights and, of course, Santa - in all his glory. It is, quite simply, what Christmas dreams (and the perfect Insta-stories) are made of.

But that’s not all! Copenhagen at Christmas also offers busy markets, festive decorations and an authentic wintery climate to match. What more do you really need?

3. Jackson Hole (& other mountain breaks)

If you want a guaranteed white Christmas, you could do a lot worse than Jackson Hole - averaging 400 inches of snow per year! Skiing, sledding, tubing and sleigh rides are just some of the winter sports on offer here - and the slopes are even open on Christmas Day! The town square is filled with festive decorations, sightings of Santa and opportunities to drink hot chocolate, warm your toes by the open fire and toast marshmallows and chestnuts - bliss! There’s also a wide variety of Christmas-themed shows at the Jackson Hole Playhouse - perfect for some evening entertainment.

Other top mountain spots include the Rocky Mountains and Yosemite - its massive pine trees and rocky mountains covered in snow.

4. Santa’s Lapland, Finland

As if we even need to explain why?

With winter sports aplenty such as dog sledding, tobogganing and reindeer sleigh rides, you’ll also marvel at the wildlife, such as arctic foxes! Come nighttime, you’ve got the sensation that is the Northern Lights - a truly unique and unforgettable event. When it comes to the ultimate holiday experience, you won’t get more authentic than this magical winter wonderland.

Discover Santa’s Lapland

5. Disney World, Florida

Combining one kind of magic with another - of course this is going to be the crème de la crème of Christmas getaways for families! Disney doesn’t do anything by halves - especially not at this time of year - so expect to see the park fully decked with ‘snow’, trees, lights and music - led by the main man himself, a Santa-clad Mickey (also the star of Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party Parade!).

Your Frozen fanatics will marvel at the transformation of Cinderella's Castle into an incredible ice palace, while the ‘Epcot Center’s Holidays around the World’ is a festival you will not want to miss. This all before we even mention the regular attractions and epic fireworks displays at the park! If you’re after an enchanting winter wonderland that the kids will remember forever, you’ll have zero regrets doing it with Disney.

Get your tickets here

6. Chicago

What do you get when you take a giant tree and add some pretty lights, a festive parade and a larger-than-life fireworks display? Christmas in Chicago, that’s what!

Your family will just love the open-air Christkindlymarket, free ice skating and Macy’s seasonal window displays - among many other festive delights!

It’s an equally vibrant yet less hectic option than New York, for those of you not quite ready to brave the crowds just yet!

Choose Chicago

7. Sydney, Australia

Don’t be fooled by the warm weather this time of year; Australians know how to deliver when it comes to the holidays.

The streets are constantly lit up, the air is filled with Christmas tunes - thanks to street choirs singing carols - and there’s a free family concert on offer, too. Not forgetting the spectacular fireworks displays, either!

Once you’ve got your festive fill, you can while away the days on the gorgeous beaches, enjoy the sparkling waters on a cruise and get up-close-and-personal with the native wildlife. It is summer here, after all!

See Sydney

8. Canada

Oh, Canada. Where to start?

Spending the holidays on the breathtakingly beautiful Lake Louise in Banff National Park is the epitome of a family Christmas done right - especially if you’re a keen photographer. Ice skate on the lake, stop at the Ice Bar for some hot chocolate, piping coffee (or wine!) and get the kids to create a sugary treat out of maple syrup and snow. Skiing, sleigh rides, board game tournaments and toasting marshmallows around the evening campfire are just some of the things you can expect to enjoy during a picture-perfect Christmas getaway here.

Quebec is another top spot for families at this time of year, thanks to things like the German Christmas Market - an authentic European experience - as well as a selection of Christmas-themed tours and a variety of snow-based activities.

9. Prague

You need only look at the Gothic and Baroque architecture that fills this atmospheric city to understand the part it also played in inspiring Walt Disney - specifically the castle iconic to both the logo and the parks. Add some seriously cold temperatures, dark nights, illuminating lights, theatrical shows and holiday markets, and a Christmas in Prague will definitely be one to remember.

The magical Don Giovanni Hotel is a top choice to stay with the family - particularly at this time of year.

Pick Prague

10. Venice, Italy

Venice is beautiful year-round, it’s true, but planning a Christmas vacation here with the family is something else altogether - not least because there will be far fewer tourists crowding the city.

The Island of Murano, in particular, is a great place to be at this time of year, thanks to its exquisite glassworks which are lit up for the holidays - coming to life in a splash of color and set to keep the little ones enchanted.  

If you’re able to stay for New Year’s, you’ll even get to enjoy a magical fireworks display, too!

11. Paris, France

Boasting the accolade of having one of the biggest light displays in Europe, Christmas in Paris is a seriously enviable place to vacation with the family during the holidays. With ice-skating rinks, Christmas markets and festive displays galore, you also cannot miss the Christmas Eve service at Notre Dame. C’est Magnifique!

12. Branson, Missouri

You won’t find a more charming place to spend the holidays than this old-timely offering - a magical Christmas wonderland perfect for the whole family. Known for a world-class lineup of live shows (many of them singalong - yay!), you’ll also be amazed by the light displays on display, er, everywhere. You can choose to either soak up the atmosphere as you explore the city or book one of the many drive-through tours.

Book Branson

13. London, England

Similar to New York in that it’s always a buzzing place to be yet comes alive in a way that can only be described as extraordinary come Christmas. No matter where you are in central London, the streets are lined with decorations, the storefronts are filled with epic displays and there’s an outdoor ice rink almost everywhere you go.

Visit London

14. Frankfurt, Germany

There’s nothing quite like celebrating the holidays amid countless Christmas markets for a truly authentic experience.

Find out more

15. And if you’re dreaming of a more tropical Christmas …

Because who says a white Christmas can’t refer to the white, sandy beaches of the Caribbean?

If you’re likely to Google ‘best warm Christmas vacations for families’, there are, obviously, streams of islands to choose from, yet we’d still like our tropical getaway to retain a touch of festivity. The following have gained the Tripening seal of approval for an exotic-yet-still-Christmassy getaway:

  • Aruba. There may not be white snow to play with, but we’re sure the kids (and you!) will be equally as happy making snow angels on the white sand and frolicking in the white waves. Despite the weather trying to prove otherwise, the beautifully decorated, lit-up streets work hard to maintain that festive feel. Visit Aruba
  • Hawaii. Not technically a Caribbean island, we know, but close enough! Oahu - filled with elaborate sand sculptures instead of snowmen, man-made snow and ice, caroling and hot cocoa (and/or a piña colada) - is the perfect choice. Visit Oahu
  • St. Lucia. The Sugar Beach resort offers a full holiday itinerary, from making gingerbread houses to visits from Santa; enjoying a traditional Christmas dinner to rum and chocolate tastings. Yummy! Plan your trip

So: Ho, ho, HOW will you spend your Christmas this year?