Five Festive Travel Ideas for the Holiday Season at Sea or on Land

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Cummins originally sponsored this look at where to travel during the holidays.

Are you thinking about a festive travel idea to make the holidays special? Alan and I often look for a fun place to go.

Sometimes I’m not in the mood for all the decorating and cooking. And then there are those times when it’s just us.

Go to all that effort for two people? Sometimes we do. But there are other Christmas holidays when we’ll choose a trip, instead.

Christmas tree in front of a window
Snow that Alan didn’t shovel and a tree that I didn’t decorate, we’ll take that!

Rather than putting up a tree or baking cookies, we’ll spend our early December preparing for a holiday trip.

If staying home for the holidays isn’t your thing, consider travel ideas that combine wanderlust with festive celebrations for a fun holiday away from home. Here are my favorite ideas to get you started.

Boomer Travel Tip

You probably have a system for packing, but what about your house? If you don’t already have a system in place—and even if you do—read the tips on preparing your home for a vacation that I wrote for Cummins.

Cruising through the holidays on a ship

Decorated gingerbread house flanked by two chocolate Santas.
Cruise ship pastry chefs display their talents at Christmas.

Celebrating Christmas and New Year’s Eve on a cruise is simply the best. You’ll find just enough holiday glitter to make the cruise festive, without being inundated by it, especially if you don’t celebrate Christmas.

For holiday cruises, you have two choices—warm or cold. Alan and I have celebrated on both. Each time, we found that the ship was decorated just enough.

We enjoyed attending a Christmas Eve service to sing carols with guests of all faiths. And on Christmas morning, folks say Merry Christmas to each other as we pass in the halls. Yes, the food was delicious, too.

Our New Year’s Eve celebration included the opportunity to dress up for a gala dinner followed by dancing. After the balloons dropped at midnight, we had a short walk back to our cruise cabin rather than worrying about a safe drive home.

Holiday cruise through the Panama Canal

Couple dressed for a formal New Year's Eve on a ship
Celebrating New Year’s Eve on a ship is our favorite way to ring in the new year.

Cruising through the Panama Canal is a fun—and warm—way to celebrate the holidays. It also comes with the added benefit of arriving and departing from the U.S., which means that you avoid long international flights, especially during a busy travel season.

Potential ports include stops in Mexico, Belize, Costa Rica, or perhaps Colombia. From ziplining in rainforests to exploring colonial history in South America, you’ll find plenty of fun things to do.

The ride through the Panama Canal, however, is the star of this holiday cruise. Who knew that gears and motors made that much noise?

Boomer Travel Tip

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Cruise to Antarctica for the best holiday ever

Outdoor party on a cruise ship in Antarctica
A caviar and champagne party to celebrate a beautiful afternoon in Antarctica.

If I had to name the most impressive holiday cruise experience of my travels, it would be Antarctica. Not only did Alan and I see more penguins than we could ever imagine, but the frozen landscape was stunning.

Celebrating Christmas and New Year’s Eve made our Antarctica cruise truly special. Although the cruise included expeditions, it also featured celebrations normally found on holiday cruises.

Giant gingerbread houses decorated public spaces and a huge crowd gathered to sing carols on Christmas Eve. And of course we enjoyed a dinner with all the trimmings on Christmas Day.

But standing on our balcony in the wee morning hours of a new year had to be our most memorable moment. A whale’s breath echoed through the silence of an Antarctic twilight as Alan and I took in the peaceful beauty of Paradise Bay.

Enjoy a Christmas markets cruise

Cruising Europe’s rivers as you watch European cities decked out for the holidays is another option—plus you’ll find cool gift shopping.

People standing in front of a Christmas market stand
Rudesheim, my favorite Rhine River village, provides holiday fun in a quaint setting.

European cities, large and small, are known for their festive Christmas markets. Taking a Rhine River Christmas markets cruise gives you the opportunity to visit many of the best markets. 

When Alan and I cruised the Rhine on an early December trip, the itinerary took us to Christmas markets in Germany, France and Switzerland.

In Cologne, Germany, the cathedral towered over a market where I bought a beautiful glass snowman. In Strasbourg, France, teddy bears hung from window frames while entire buildings were wrapped up in ribbons proving to me that the city is, indeed, the capital of Christmas.

Boomer Travel Tip

Looking for travel gifts that are easy on the budget? Check out our 20 under $20 gifts for the traveler.

U.S. trips to put you in the holiday mood

If you can’t bear the thought of being away from home over the holidays, take a trip that puts you in the mood before this festive season. There are so many options in the United States for visiting elaborately decorated historic homes and gardens.

Here’s a site that lists holiday events in the U.S. Check it out by choosing a state in the dropdown box.

Experience an extravagant holiday visit to the Biltmore House

Two elaborately decorated Christmas trees on either side of an antique mantle.
Two of the many decorated trees at Biltmore House. Photo courtesy Debi Lander.

Visiting the lavish architecture of the Biltmore House in Asheville, North Carolina is a grand experience, no matter the season. But decorators of America’s largest private home go all out when it comes to Christmas.

On your holiday trip to the Biltmore, admire 100 elaborate hand-decorated trees, 25,000+ ornaments, 1.5 miles of fresh garlands, 500 wreaths and sprays, 2,000 poinsettias,100 kissing balls and other holiday plants. 

An evening visit to the Biltmore is simply magical as twinkling lights blaze from every room. But come back the next day to stroll the gardens that are colorful even in winter. And, of course, stopping by the winery and gift shop provides a fun ending to a festive visit to Asheville.

Visit a Montana dude ranch for festive fun

Christmas lights and trees at a snowy entrance
A seasonal light greeting at Triple Creek Ranch.

If you like your holiday with a touch of yee-haw combined with more than a pinch of luxury, make your holiday travel plans for Triple Creek Ranch near Darby, Montana. If you’re lucky, there will be snow, which means trail rides, snowshoeing or cross-country skiing through the ranch’s winter wonderland.

Alan and I have twice celebrated New Year’s Eve weekends at Triple Creek. To be honest, it was tempting to relax in the hot tub on the back deck of our cozy log cabin, but then we would have missed first-class dining, not to mention all that winter fun.

Which holiday trip would you choose? I’m calling a redo on all of them!

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Six Festive Travel Ideas for the Holiday Season

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