Categories
Fashion & Beauty Packing

The Best Warm Tights for Winter Travel

[st_content_ad]You don’t need pants to keep you warm in the cold. Check out these nine winter tights that will keep your legs feeling toasty while still looking stylish.

Hue Heat Temp Tights

hue heat temp tights.

Hue’s Heat Temp Tights look like regular opaque nylons but are made from a special temperature-regulating material that traps more heat than regular tights. To add to the coziness, these winter tights have a no-bind comfort waistband.

Oiselle Moto Lesley Tights

Oiselle Moto Lesley Tights

Designed by runners for runners, Oiselle’s Moto Lesley Tights won’t fall down or restrict you while you’re out jogging. These are made to be worn in all conditions, with an ankle-length fit and a spandex/polyester fabric blend that keeps you warm.

[st_related]10 of the Warmest Winter Hats[/st_related]

Warner’s Ultra-Soft Fleece Tights

Warner’s Ultra-Soft Fleece Tights.

Fleece-lined tights are the ultimate winter style hack—they feel as cozy as pajama pants but look professional. This pair from Warner’s has plenty of fleece on the inside but is still thin enough to wear under a dress.

Berkshire Cozy Tight

Berkshire Cozy Tight.

Berkshire’s Cozy Tights are lined with fleece all the way through the foot. Available in a variety of colors, this line of winter tights accommodates everyone with sizes from petite to 4x.

[st_related]7 Must-Have Travel Toiletries for Dry Winter Weather[/st_related]

Manzi Run-Resistant Tights

Manzi Run-Resistant Tights.

Tired of throwing away a pair of tights with a run in them after just one wear? Manzi’s Run-Resistant Tights are extra durable and extra warm. They come in a variety of colors, all of which are opaque enough to keep you covered.

Heat Holders Thermal Tights

Heat Holders Thermal Tights.

Heat Holders’ Thermal Tights use an insulating yarn to keep your legs warm. The inside of these tights is lined with a soft, brushed-fleece fabric that will help keep warm air next to your skin.

[st_related]The Worst Winter Travel Gear (and What to Pack Instead)[/st_related]

Yogipace Fleece-Lined Thermal Tights

Yogipace Fleece-Lined Thermal Tights.

Yogipace’s Fleece-Lined Thermal Tights were designed with tough outdoor conditions in mind. Not only are these winter tights fleece-lined for warmth, but they are also water- and wind-resistant on the exterior. There’s a back zippered pocket and a hidden waistband pocket to keep all your valuables secure.

Hot Chillys Micro-Elite Chamois 8K Solid Tight

Hot Chillys Micro-Elite Chamois 8K Solid Tight.

Thin enough for layering, the Hot Chillys Micro-Elite Chamois 8K Solid Tights are moisture-wicking to get rid of any sweat before it makes you cold. These winter tights are great for travel, thanks to a bio-silver yarn that has antimicrobial and anti-odor properties.

[st_related]The 33 Best Winter Boots and Shoes for Travel[/st_related]

L.L. Bean Craft Lumen SubZ Wind Tights

L.L. Bean Craft Lumen SubZ Wind Tights.

The Craft Lumen SubZ Wind Tights have two layers of wind-blocking fabric on the front to keep any cold air from getting to your legs. The tights’ reflective print helps keep you visible at night, making these leggings perfect for any evening adventures.

More from SmarterTravel:

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Caroline Morse Teel is a Senior Editor at SmarterTravel. Follow her on Instagram @travelwithcaroline.

Some review products are sent to us free of charge and with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions, positive and negative, and will never accept compensation to review a product.

Categories
Active Travel Outdoors

A Snowcat Taco Truck and 8 Other Amazing Ski Resort Amenities

A roving taco truck that brings food to you, a gondola that serves up fondue, and a stair-replacing slide—is this a ski fever dream? These amazing ski resort amenities (and more) are reality at mountains around the world.

Taco Beast, Steamboat, Colorado

Steamboat ski resort tacos

You’re skiing at Steamboat when you start to get hungry, but the powder’s good and you don’t want to stop to eat. Then, like magic, through a flurry of snow, a tricked-out snowcat appears in front of you and it’s bearing tacos. No, it’s not some kind of mountain mirage; it’s the Taco Beast, and it’s real. This snowcat turned food truck roams Steamboat’s slopes from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Thursday through Monday, serving up four different kinds of tacos, a salsa bar, esquites, and drinks. To track down the truck, follow @TacoBeastSBT on Twitter.

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A Slide to the Bathroom, Meribel, France

A Slide to the Bathroom, Meribel, France

Why are bathrooms at ski resorts always downstairs? Having to clomp down flights of stairs in your ski boots is the worst, especially on tired legs. The famous apres-ski bar Rond Point Meribel at Meribel ski resort has a genius solution to this problem: a slide that goes down to the bathroom, eliminating the need for stairs. The only flaw in this beautiful plan—there’s no gravity-reversing slide to take you back up, so you’ll have to tackle the climb.

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[st_related]10 of the Warmest Winter Hats[/st_related]

Ski-in, Ski-Out Distillery, Park City Mountain, Utah

High West Distillery

Need to warm up from the inside? Ski right into High West Distillery, the world’s first ski-in, ski-out gastropub distillery. Here, you can grab a glass of house-made whiskey (with plenty of varieties including a double rye) that will leave you feeling nice and toasty before you head back out onto the slopes. Just don’t have too many, lest you fall off the chairlift.

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Heli-Fondue, Panorama, Canada

heliskiing followed bu heli-fondue

You may have had fondue before, and you may have even had it atop a snow-covered mountain (where it tastes at least 50 percent better). But have you taken a helicopter to have fondue on top of an empty mountain after hours? Sign up for Panorama’s Heli-Fondue to experience it. If you have nine friends that are up for the adventure, the price is shockingly cheap—just around $45 per person. The total cost is $1,200 CAD (approximately $906 USD at the time of writing) and includes a helicopter ride for up to 10 people, cheese fondue, and chocolate fondue for dessert.

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[st_related]The Worst Winter Travel Gear (and What to Pack Instead)[/st_related]

Ice Bar, Crested Butte, Colorado

Uley’s Cabin Lunch and Outdoor Bar at Crested Butte

You came here for the snow, so why leave it to go inside for a cocktail? Uley’s Cabin Lunch and Outdoor Bar at Crested Butte is located at the bottom of a run, so you can ski right up, down your drink, and keep on going. The outdoor bar is made of ice, so you won’t run the risk of having your drink get cold.

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Gondola Fondue, Vaujany, France

Gondola Fondue, Vaujany, France

How amazing would it be if, at the end of a long lift line, you stepped into a gondola and were offered hot, gooey fondue? At Vaujany in France, this dream almost comes true—sadly, the gondola fondue isn’t available during ski hours, but you can reserve this after-hours experience throughout the winter season. The gondolas get kitted out with tables and stocked with fondue, Champagne, and green Chartreuse for riders to enjoy while the gondola traverses the mountain.

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[st_related]America’s 10 Best Small Ski Resorts[/st_related]

Heated Gondola Seats, Vail, Colorado

gondola in vail colorado

Vail’s luxury gondola might be nicer than your hotel room, but unfortunately, you’re not allowed to sleep there. Inside, heated seats warm you up in between runs, and free Wi-Fi means you can look up a trail map or post a smug Instagram about your 7.5-minute ride.

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J.E. Henry Railroad, Loon, New Hampshire

J.E. Henry Railroad, Loon, New Hampshire

Sure, you could ski or walk between the Octagon Lodge and the Governor Adams Lodge at Loon Mountain, or you could take a train. This wood-fired, steam-powered engine runs 600 feet back and forth each winter, shuttling skiers in a unique fashion.

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Caroline Morse Teel is a Senior Editor at SmarterTravel. Follow her on Instagram @travelwithcaroline.

Categories
Fashion & Beauty

The 8 Warmest Winter Gloves and Mittens

Hands are one of the first body parts to feel the cold. Prevent frozen fingers this winter with these ultra-warm gloves and mittens. Using unique technology and space-age materials, all of these picks will keep you dry and toasty even during a raging blizzard.[st_content_ad]

Seirus Xtreme All Weather Gloves

Serius Xtreme All Weather Gloves.

Looking for winter gloves that are easy to pack? Seirus’ Xtreme All-Weather gloves are incredibly thin and lightweight, yet still 100 percent waterproof and warm. Perfect for winter hiking or running, these gloves are fleece-lined and breathable, with a patented DryHand insert to keep your hands dry even during intense physical activity.

Savior Heat

Savior Heated Gloves.

If handwarmers just aren’t cutting it for you, try the Savior Heated Gloves. These waterproof and wind-resistant gloves use rechargeable batteries to keep a constant heat inside. The heating element runs along the back of the hand and up the fingers, so every part of your hand will stay toasty.

Carhartt Waterproof Insulated Glove

Carhartt Waterproof Insulated Glove.

Carhartt’s heavy-duty waterproof insulated gloves use FastDry technology to dry these gloves out quickly, so you never have to put cold, soggy gloves on again. A reinforced digital grip palm helps you keep ahold of your phone or whatever else you need, even when it’s too cold to feel your fingers.

[st_related]11 Warm, Lightweight Jackets and Coats for Travelers[/st_related]

Global Vasion Heated Gloves

The Global Vasion Heated Gloves are another great option if you’re looking for a pair with its own heat source. These touchscreen accessible gloves have a large-capacity battery that will keep your hands toasty warm between 3 different heat settings for hours on end. Even with the battery off, these rechargeable fleece-lined gloves are still plenty warm.

Columbia Bugaboo Interchange Glove

Columbia Bugaboo Interchange Glove.

Columbia’s Bugaboo Interchange Gloves can be worn three different ways: as just a lightweight liner, as a waterproof rain glove, or as an ultra-warm glove that combines the liner and outer layer with Omni-Heat insulation.

[st_related]The Worst Winter Travel Gear (and What to Pack Instead)[/st_related]

Backcountry Gore-Tex Snow Mittens

Backcountry Gore-Tex Snow Mittens.

Designed for skiers, Backcountry’s Gore-Tex Snow Mittens will keep your hands warm in even the fiercest storms. The Gore-Tex outer keeps moisture out, and the synthetic insulation works wonders even while wet. These mittens are even padded at the back to help protect your hands in tough conditions.

Oros Endeavour Mittens

Oros Endeavour Mittens.

Science meets comfort in Oros’ Endeavour Mittens, which use Solarcore (the same material NASA uses to insulate space shuttles). The mittens are fully insulated and even add extra insulation over the fingertips to keep your hands completely warm. They’re wind-resistant yet still breathable, so your hands won’t get too sweaty.

[st_related]10 of the Warmest Winter Hats[/st_related]

Marmot Warmest Gloves

Marmot Warmest Gloves

Marmot’s Warmest Gloves live up to their name. A patented MemBrain insert keeps water out while still being breathable, and a PrimaLoft lining keeps your fingers from freezing no matter what the temperatures are outside. There’s even an internal heater pocket in case you want to stash in a handwarmer.

Don’t Forget the Rest of Your Body

For info on these editor-selected items, click to visit the seller’s site. Things you buy may earn us a commission.

Frigid temps call for more than just a pair of gloves. From scarves and hats to a piping hot cup of joe, these winter essentials will keep you  warm and cozy all season long.

More from SmarterTravel:

Caroline Morse Teel is a Senior Editor at SmarterTravel. Follow her on Instagram @travelwithcaroline.

Some review products are sent to us free of charge and with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions, positive and negative, and will never accept compensation to review a product.

Categories
Booking Strategy

The Best Travel Destinations for Every Month

“When is the best time to go?” It’s usually the first question—and probably the most important question—we ask when planning a trip to a place we’ve been dreaming about. We want to know what the weather will be like, the cost of transportation and accommodations during our anticipated travel dates, which local events will take place, and more. Let this guide be an easy answer to all of those questions and a piece of vacation inspiration, too. Read on to discover the best places to travel by month.

Where to Go in January: Thailand

January is high season in Thailand—and with good reason. The weather is warm and consistently sunny in all regions of the country. In January, Chiang Mai hosts the Bo Sang Umbrella Festival, a three-day celebration of colorful parasols (with fantastic photo ops galore). You might also consider going south to Ko Lipe, a small island with beaches and picturesque bungalows.

Additional Suggestions: Costa Rica, for green foliage and clear skies; Oman, for temperate weather and the Muscat Festival, a month-long celebration of culture and history that starts in mid-January.

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Where to Go in February: Colombia

As a tropical country, Colombia only has two seasons—dry and rainy—and February is part of the warm, sunny dry season in most of the country. Colombia’s average temperature is 80 degrees Fahrenheit, with even cooler temperatures in high-altitude cities such as Medellin and Bogata. In February (sometimes early March) you can celebrate Carnaval de Barranquilla in Atlantico.

Additional Suggestions: Trinidad and Tobago, for Carnival celebrations; Belize, for balmy weather and little chance of rain.

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[st_related]10 Best Things to Do in Colombia[/st_related]

Where to Go in March: Galapagos Islands

The Galapagos Islands beckon outdoor enthusiasts no matter the time of year, but the month of March offers a few special reasons to visit. During this time, visitors have the chance to see several species nesting, including sea turtles, iguanas (both marine and land), tortoises, and even penguins. Sure, the sun is intense, but nothing beats an average temperature of 75 degrees Fahrenheit and prime underwater visibility for snorkeling and scuba diving.

Additional Suggestions: New Zealand, for pleasant autumn weather; Washington, D.C., for the National Cherry Blossom Festival (late March into April).

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Where to Go in April: Morocco

Summers in Morocco can be unbearably hot, and winters quite cold. That’s why April is a prime time to plan a trip. You’ll enjoy comfortable temperatures coupled with magnificent scenery—particularly the fruit trees that blossom in Morocco’s Atlas Mountains.

Additional Suggestions: Spain, to avoid the summer heat and crowds; Paris, for the flowers at Luxembourg Gardens; Amsterdam, to see Keukenhof in full bloom.

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[st_related]10 Best Things to Do in Morocco[/st_related]

Where to Go in May: Peru

Winter in Peru starts in May, but it’s likely not the kind of winter you’re used to. During this time the climate is dry, and temperatures—which can climb into the 80s—are especially enjoyable in the highlands. This is the best time to visit famed Machu Picchu, where you won’t find as many crowds.

Additional Suggestions: South Africa, for warm, dry weather and good game viewing; Western Australia, for whale shark season.

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Where to Go in June: Iceland

Iceland is a no-brainer during the month of June (specifically late June) when travelers can take advantage of long days—commonly known as the midnight sun. Plan to be there on June 21, when the sun sets just after midnight and then rises again around 3:00 a.m. in Reykjavik. The highland roads in the mountains are also open during this time (they are closed over the colder months).

Additional Suggestions: Norway, for mild weather and long hours of sunlight; Malaysia, for prime snorkeling conditions; Hungary, for summer festivals galore.

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[st_related]Iceland with a Twist: What It’s Like to Explore the Land of Fire and Ice[/st_related]

Where to Go in July: French Polynesia

There are just two seasons in French Polynesia: winter and summer. The best time to visit is actually winter, which takes place between May and October. July, smack dab in the middle of the season, is an ideal time to visit, with low humidity and temperatures topping out in the 80s. Divers also enjoy excellent visibility. It’s expensive to visit in July (or any time, really), but many resorts—overwater bungalows included—offer package deals.

Additional Suggestions: Botswana, for dry weather and prime wildlife sightings; Barbados, for sugar cane harvest celebrations.

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Where to Go in August: Indonesia

If you’re looking for perfect weather just about anywhere in Indonesia, consider a visit in August. Head to the coast of Bali for temperatures in the 70s, or climb up to the volcanoes (just wear a jacket—the highlands and mountains are chilly in August).

Additional Suggestions: Edinburgh, for summer festivals; Slovenia, for hiking in the Julian Alps and swimming in turquoise lakes.

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Where to Go in September: Alaska

A bucket-list destination for many, Alaska sees the majority of its visitors—many of them families—in June, July, and August. Wait until school is back in session and plan a visit in September. The weather is pleasant, and the still-long days are perfect for exploring the fall foliage in Denali National Park, fishing for salmon, and even trying to spot the aurora borealis.

Additional Suggestions: Argentina, for hiking in the spring sunshine; Nova Scotia, for off-peak crowds and fresh lobster.

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Where to Go in October: Italy

Italy is mobbed with tourists throughout the year, but October is considered shoulder season, and a visit then means you’ll see slightly smaller crowds than you would in the busy summer months. You’ll also enjoy beautiful fall foliage in places like Tuscany, and cool weather on the beaches along the Amalfi Coast. Alba’s International White Truffle Fair starts in October—visit to sample the aromatic tuber and other delicacies, including wine.

Additional Suggestions: South Korea, for pleasant temperatures and colorful fall foliage; Greece, for moderate weather and smaller crowds.

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[st_related]7 Great Things to Do in Tuscany with Kids[/st_related]

Where to Go in November: Vietnam

November is an ideal time to visit both the northern and southern parts of Vietnam. You’ll find history and culture in the north, and plenty of opportunities to relax on the beach in the south.

Additional Suggestions: Japan, for colorful fall foliage; Mexico, for Day of the Dead celebrations.

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Where to Go in December: Germany

Yes, it’s cliche, but you have to visit Germany in December at least once in your lifetime. There’s a reason so many countries mimic its famed Christmas markets (weihnachtsmarkts). The pop-up events feature beautiful light displays, music, handmade gifts, and mulled wine to sip as you shop. Most German cities offer markets, but the mother of them all is Nuremberg’s—one of the country’s oldest.

Additional Suggestions: Austria, for its own impressive holiday markets; the U.S. Virgin Islands, for prime weather and water sports; New York City, for holiday displays and ice skating at Rockefeller Center.

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What to Pack

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Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2017. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

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Categories
Active Travel Fashion & Beauty Outdoors Packing

The 8 Best Ski Gear Items for This Winter

Got a mountain getaway planned this winter? These ski gear items will keep you warm and dry while you tear it up on the slopes.

Patagonia 3-in-1 Snowbelle  Jacket

Patagonia 3-in-1 Snowbelle Ski Jacket

Be prepared for any kind of day on the mountain with Patagonia’s 3-in-1 Snowbelle Jacket (see the men’s version here). This jacket can be worn as a lightweight and waterproof shell, an insulated lighter jacket, or with both zipped together to form an outer layer that will keep you warm and dry in any kind of weather. (And the inner jacket can even be reversed when worn on its own, making this more of a 4-in-1-jacket.) I tested out the Snowbelle Jacket on a ski weekend that went from warm, rainy weather to a cold powder day, and it worked wonderfully in all conditions. I also liked being able to unzip the liner and just wear that out to apres-ski instead of a heavier coat.

Julbo HAL Helmet and Cyrius Goggles

Julbo HAL Helmet

Julbo’s HAL helmet won’t weigh you down or make you look ridiculous on the slopes, thanks to its lightweight and non-bulky design. Made from an ultra-light EPS injection-molded shell covered in polycarbonate, the helmet has a sleek profile. The ear pads are removable for warmer days, and the visor has three ventilation channels to prevent your goggles from getting foggy.

Pair the helmet with Julbo’s new Cyrius Goggles, which perfectly integrate with the helmet for a no-gap fit. The goggles use REACTIV technology to automatically lighten or darken the lenses to match whatever the light conditions are—so you don’t have to agonize over which pair of lenses to bring with you for the day. Built-in vents on the frame prevent fogging, as does a special coating on the lenses.

Patagonia Capilene Midweight Zip Neck

Patagonia Capilene Air Baselayer

Stay warm (but not sweaty) by wearing Patagonia’s Capilene Midweight Zip Neck (find the men’s version here) under your ski jacket. This magical layer uses hollow-core yarns and a diamond-grid back to trap warm air and keep your body temperature up, while also wicking away moisture so you stay dry. There’s even a built-in odor control in the fabric that will let you get away with wearing this on a week-long ski vacation without washing (or offending anyone).

Icebreaker Baselayers

Icebreaker WOMEN'S MERINO 200 OASIS LONG SLEEVE CREWE SKIS IN SNOW

Layer correctly, and you can ski until last chair. Icebreaker’s Merino Wool Long Sleeve Crewe is thin and warm, and features an adorable ski print across the chest that will be on-theme at apres-ski. Pair it with the coordinating leggings to stay both warm and stylish. (Click here for the men’s version.)

[st_related]The Worst Winter Travel Gear (and What to Pack Instead)[/st_related]

Outdoor Research Blackpowder II Pants

Who says ski pants have to be bright and garish? Outdoor Research’s slim and stylish black Blackpowder II Pants (men’s version here) look good and perform even better. These pants have a Pertex Shield that makes them water- and windproof, plus a cozy fabric lining to keep your legs warm on the coldest days. Zippered outer thigh vents let in much-needed air if you work up too much of a sweat, and there are plenty of pockets to hold all your stuff. Gaiters are built in to help your pants stay in place over your boots and to keep out snow.

FITS Ski Socks

red and white sock, purple gray black sock

Socks are that piece of ski gear that you never really put any thought into—until the first time you try a pair that’s specifically designed for skiing and feel the difference. With FITS’ ski line, you can choose a sock that’s customized for the type of skiing you’ll be doing—there are different socks for black diamond experts wearing custom boots, and weekend skiers simply looking for warmth, and everything in between. All the socks are made from an insulating and moisture-wicking merino wool/nylon/spandex blend, and feature various levels of cushioning.

[st_related]7 Travel Socks Your Feet Will Love[/st_related]

Outdoor Research Lodgeside Beanie

gray and black beanies with pom on top

For apres-ski, there’s no better look (or way to cover up your helmet hair) than a cute hat. Enter Outdoor Research’s Lodgeside Beanie. This adorable cable knit beanie has a warm secret—a fleece lining and patented GORE Windstopper ear protectant that will keep your head and ears cozy (plus laser-cut ear openings that mean your hearing won’t be muffled).

[st_related]The Ultimate Ski Trip Packing List[/st_related]

 

Hot Sockees

red toe warmers

Nothing can cut your day short faster than cold feet. Hot Sockees solve this problem. Made from a thin neoprene fabric, these toe warmers slide over your socks and can be worn with ski boots without hindering performance. The Hot Sockees keep your toes warm all day long by trapping in heat.

More from SmarterTravel:

Caroline Morse Teel is always on the lookout for the best new ski gear. Follow her on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline for photos from the slopes and around the world. 

Some review products are sent to us free of charge and with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions, positive and negative, and will never accept compensation to review a product.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2018. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

Categories
Arts & Culture Holiday Travel Oddities

12 New Year’s Traditions from Around the World

New Year’s Eve is a big deal all around the world. Families and friends come together to party, count down to the new year, and maybe even get that lucky kiss at midnight. But some cultures have their own unique traditions ranging from the spiritual to the fun to the bizarre (looking at you, Denmark, Germany, and the Netherlands!). Some are straight-up dangerous and others you might love enough to adopt as part of your own celebrations.

Eating 12 Grapes

Madrid, Spain-December 8, 2014: New-Year's tree and "House of the Post Office" on square "Puerta del Sol" in Madrid

Make a Wish on Your Suitcase

Man pulls yellow suitcase on the road

For info on these editor-selected items, click to visit the seller’s site. Things you buy may earn us a commission.

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Categories
Beach Cities Island

9 Places to Go for a Warm Winter Vacation

Want more expert tips and vacation inspiration? Subscribe to SmarterTravel on YouTube!

These warm winter vacations will help you make it through the rest of this cold, dark, and dreary season.[st_content_ad]

Warm Places to Visit in December

The first day of winter has hit and you’re already over it. Time to head somewhere warm and sunny, such as:

Dubai

dubai at sunrise.

In the summer, Dubai can be unbearably hot. In December, the temperature averages a pretty much perfect 79 degrees. If you’re still in the holiday consumerist spirit, the Dubai Shopping Festival is held every December, so you can get excellent deals on designer goods, electronics, and more. Time your visit for New Year’s Eve if you want to experience one of the country’s over-the-top celebrations.

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St. Thomas

St. thomas sunset mountain view.

If you don’t want to miss the holiday festivities but prefer to experience them in warm weather, head to St. Thomas in December for its annual St. Thomas Lighted Boat Parade. Hang out on the waterfront with an icy drink in hand (because it will be 84 degrees) and watch the celebrations. Although the island has been hit hard by hurricanes in the recent past, it’s rebounding and definitely open for tourists. Plus, you won’t even need a passport to visit this U.S. territory.

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[st_related]9 Insanely Affordable Winter Vacations[/st_related]

Brazil

aerial view of rio de janeiro brazil.

Wait all day in freezing Times Square just to watch a ball drop, or party on the beach with the beautiful people all day and night until midnight in warm Rio de Janeiro? No contest. December temperatures hover around 86 degrees in Brazil, so spend some time exploring before winding up your trip at Reveillon, one of the world’s biggest New Year’s Eve parties, held on Copacabana Beach.

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Warm Places to Visit in January

The excitement of the holidays has passed, and now you’re staring down another two months of winter. Time to get out of town to:

Turks and Caicos

grace bay beach turks and caicos.

Averaging just 43 days of rain all year long, Turks and Caicos is the driest country in the Caribbean, so if you must have sunny skies, come here in January. Temperatures average around 81 degrees, and there are seven solid hours of sunshine during a typical January day. Thanks to an average water temperature of 79 degrees, you’ll even be able to comfortably swim in the ocean here.

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[st_related]The 10 Best Turks and Caicos Resorts[/st_related]

Phuket, Thailand

phuket island boats and scenery.

January is one of the best months to visit Thailand—temperatures average a delightful 81 degrees, and it’s solidly after monsoon season, so it’s one of the country’s driest times. Head to Phuket where you can expect long, sunny beach days and calm water that’s great for diving.

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Key West, Florida

Key west florida street.

If you can’t spare much vacation time but still want to get warm, look no further than Florida in January. This is one of the Sunshine State’s driest and least humid months, with temperatures averaging around 75 degrees. Key West throws quite a party in January—with tons of festivals happening this month, including the Mile 0 Music Fest, the Food and Wine Festival, and the Seafood Festival.

[st_related]The Essential Beach Packing List[/st_related]

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Warm Places to Visit in February

The first day of spring still isn’t for another month, and you’re not sure if you’re going to make it. Get out of town to:

Kauai, Hawaii

na pali coast in the fog kauai hawaii.

Nicknamed the Garden Island for a good reason, this lush island is one of the wildest and least developed of the Hawaiian Islands. This is the spot to seek out if you’re looking for hiking, adventure sports, or simply lying on the beach—all of which you can do while enjoying average temperatures of 72 degrees.

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[st_related]What’s the Best Island in Hawaii for You?[/st_related]

Barbados

sunset barbados beach.

February is right in the middle of Barbados’ dry season, so you can expect eight or nine hours a day of sunshine and temperatures around 84 degrees. Plus, February is when Barbados holds its annual Holetown Festival, which celebrates the first English settlement in the country. Nightly concerts, daily parades, and a carnival liven up the island for an entire week.

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Tanzania

cheetahs on the serengeti national park tanzania.

While many other countries in Africa are in their rainy season, Tanzania is not. Which is pretty fortunate, since February is also the calving month for the Great Migration. This is the best month of the year to visit if you want to see baby wildebeest, and it’s also when you’ll have the best chance of spotting a cheetah.

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More from SmarterTravel:

 Caroline Morse Teel is a Senior Editor at SmarterTravel. Follow her on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline for photos from around the world. 

Categories
Arts & Culture Cities Entertainment Experiential Travel Family Travel Holiday Travel Miscellany Theme Park

North America’s Top Christmas Markets

The cozy smell of chestnuts roasting on open fire pits. A warm cup of mulled cider cradled in your mittened hands. Soft flecks of snow falling as you walk among shop stalls filled with glittering merchandise that just begs to be gifted.

Europe, and Germany especially, are famous for their traditional holiday markets, but the scene above can be relived right in your own backyard. Take a seasonal spin through this showcase of 10 amazing Christmas markets around North America to find one near you.

[st_related]Europe’s Best Christmas Markets[/st_related]

 

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2014. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

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Categories
Fashion & Beauty Outdoors Packing

How to Avoid the Worst Cold-Weather Packing Mistakes

Yes, you can definitely blame the bulk of winter layers for your overstuffed suitcase. After all, warm clothing takes up a lot more room than summer T-shirts and shorts. To complicate things further, you’ve got to pack for overheated restaurants and frigid outdoor conditions. But we’re here to help—here are nine winter packing mistakes we learned the hard way, and the tips you need to pack like a sub-zero pro.

Packing the Wrong Materials

woman holding pumpkin at farm

[st_content_ad]I love cotton for travel most times of the year because it’s lightweight and breathable, but it’s a terrible choice for the winter. Instead of wicking away moisture and sweat, it absorbs it, which will make you cold. Opt for warmer materials like fleece, Thinsulate, or wool. Merino wool is one of the best choices for travel, as it’s naturally odor-resistant and breathable, plus it’s less itchy than regular wool. The Icebreaker Merino Quantum Long Sleeve Zip Hoodie is an example of a good layering piece made out of merino wool, and it has secure pockets to stash your cash or keys.

[st_related]5 Unique Travel Fabrics That Are Soft, Breathable, and Ethically Sourced[/st_related]

Forgoing a Hat

woman wearing hat holding pet dog

Yes, we’ve all experienced the dreaded hat hair, but if you leave your hat behind, you’re not only exposing your ears to frostbite, you’re also losing significant body heat through your uncovered head. A thermal beanie that’s made from moisture-wicking thermal wool will prevent sweaty hair and keep you toasty. Throw in a pocket-sized folding hairbrush with a mirror if you’re concerned about hat head ruining your look.

Not Bringing Medicine

holding medicine blister pack

Cold and flu cases spike during the winter, and while you definitely don’t plan on getting sick while traveling, you should be prepared in case it does happen. Make sure you’ve packed medication for upset stomach, fever relief, body aches, and congestion. You don’t have to travel with the whole medicine cabinet though—just get travel-sized versions of your go-to drugs.

Packing the Wrong Type of Gloves

woman on phone wearing gloves holding coffee

Gloves aren’t going to keep your hands warm if you keep taking them off to use your phone. Get a pair that’s touchscreen compatible, like Cevapro Winter Gloves. I like these because they’re extra warm but still have good mobility for when you need to snap a photo or send a text.

[st_related]The Worst Winter Travel Gear (and What to Pack Instead)[/st_related]

Leaving Behind Sunglasses

Young man sunglasses is having great time on a bridge with mountains in background

Since you’re not headed to the beach, you might forget to pack your sunglasses. The sun can shine brightly on freezing days too though, so be sure to pack yours. (Throw some sunscreen in there while you’re at it, as you can get sunburned in winter, especially where there’s snow on the ground.) These sunglasses fold down small, so they’re easy to pack and hard to break.

Not Bringing Multi-Use Items

man wearing denim

Warm clothing tends to be bulkier than summertime items, so maximize your space by bringing pieces that will pull double duty. Bring items that you can wear more than once without washing (like jeans and sweatshirts), as well as clothes that can be worn in different ways. These leggings can be worn alone as pants or under a dress for warmth. Plus, they let you leave the money belt behind, as they have two side pockets plus a hidden waistband pocket to hold your passport, money, or other essentials.

Not Bringing Layers

couple wearing sweaters grassy field

When the temperatures are really low and the winds are really high, one layer of clothing just isn’t going to cut it. Ideally, your outfit will include a base layer (to wick away moisture and keep you dry), an insulating layer (to trap warmth), and an outer layer (to stay wind- and water-proof).

My tip: Wear fleece-lined leggings or thermal long johns under pants, with a heat-trapping shirt and a merino wool sweater plus a synthetic down jacket, and you’ll be good to go on even the coldest days. (You’ll want to choose synthetic insulation over down, because real down is basically useless if it gets wet.)

Wearing the Wrong Shoes

pile of shoes on grass

Your shoes face a big challenge in the winter. They need to be insulated, waterproof, and warm; provide great traction in case of ice; be able to withstand salt; and be comfortable to walk in. So your sneakers aren’t going to cut it. Men, these boots from London Fog fit the bill and offer a basic black design that won’t stand out as snow shoes. For women, I like the Sorel Waterfalls, which are toasty-warm and supportive.

Just remember to wear your heavier snow boots on the plane; otherwise, they’ll take up half your suitcase space.

[st_related]5 Worst Shoes for Travel[/st_related]

Choosing the Wrong Coat for Your Destination

woman wearing wool coat

Before you pack, think about what exactly you’ll be doing on your trip. If you’re taking advantage of great off-season rates in Europe, how cold will it really get? If it’s not going to be freezing, you may get overheated, especially if you’ll be doing a lot of walking, which will warm you up. (There’s nothing worse than sweating through your coat when you go from cold temperatures outside to an overheated subway train.)

Consider a lighter weight, packable winter coat instead, like this one for women, or this one for men.

Stay Warm and Cozy This Winter

Don’t head into the season underdressed in the outdoors. Stay cozy and stylish with some of our favorites from Mango, Nordstrom, and more.

For info on these editor-selected items, click to visit the seller’s site. Things you buy may earn us a commission.

More from SmarterTravel:

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Caroline Morse loves fashion but still manages to travel carry-on only. Follow her journeys around the world on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline and on Twitter @CarolineMorse1.

Some review products are sent to us free of charge and with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions, positive and negative, and will never accept compensation to review a product.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2016. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

Categories
Airport Booking Strategy Road Trip Security

18 Winter Travel Tips for Flights and Road Trips

Successful winter travel is all about successfully navigating the weather. In winter, most travelers hope to get to and from their destinations with minimum trouble and maximum enjoyment—and, most importantly, to always arrive safe and sound, no matter what sort of snow, ice, sleet, or freezing rain you may encounter. To that end, here are some winter travel tips and tactics to help you avoid spending the season stuck in airports or on roadsides.

Winter Travel Tips for Flying

[st_content_ad]1. The worst winter travel problems for travelers frequently occur at connecting airports. If your first outbound flight is canceled and you end up returning to your own home from your local airport, that’s not too bad; if you are stuck in your vacation hotel hoping to get a flight home, that’s a bit worse. But when you’re stuck in a connecting airport in Texas calling hotels and praying for a place to stay, you’re in what I would call your worst-case scenario.

For this reason, you should fly nonstop whenever possible. To find nonstop flights, do all your initial flight searches with the “Nonstop Flights Only” button checked on your favorite booking engine. If you also use search options like “Show Nearby Airports” and “My Dates Are Flexible,” you’ll have a very good sense of how best to get from Point A to B without any Point C for connection.

2. If you absolutely must fly with a connection, watch your layover times carefully. If a weather delay causes you to miss your connection, you might be out of luck; the airline is not necessarily obligated to find you a seat on the next flight, and often cannot logistically do so if flights are full or unavailable. If you have a really tight connection time and your flight is running late, tell a flight attendant who may be able to make arrangements to hold your next flight, or at least get you off your first flight quickly.

[st_related]Tight Airport Connections: What You Need to Know[/st_related]

3. Check the weather at your connecting cities as well as at your departure and destination airports. You’ll want to know what the weather is like for the departure and arrival airports (particularly if we’re traveling on vacation), but for the same reasons stated above you’ll want to know what is going on at your connecting airport as well. If the weather looks threatening, contact your airline to see if it can reroute you; it may be in its best interest to do so, and save you a lot of grief. Your chances of getting on a different flight will be greatly enhanced if you’ve already done the research yourself to determine which alternate flights might work best. Don’t count on a gate agent to know about or search the schedules of other airlines.

4. Try to book your connection through a southern city where weather shouldn’t be an issue. There are no guarantees here, as northern airports tend to be better equipped to deal with winter conditions, and a snowstorm can almost wholly shut down an airport that more often suffers from too much sun. However, your odds are better in places that rarely see ice or snow.

5. Choose a morning flight. For two reasons: First, you are far less likely to have your flight affected by problems at other airports. Second, if your flight is canceled or badly delayed, your options for alternate flights are greatly increased, improving your odds for getting on a different flight by the end of the day.

[st_related]What Are My Rights in a Winter Storm Flight Cancellation?[/st_related]

6. Consider alternative airports. Very often the problem is not solely weather, but also the overall volume of passengers and flights. In places like Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, and Houston, second-tier airports aren’t too far out of town and are tied into the transportation grid.

7. Get ahead of the game at security. Before you even get in line, put all your gear and spare coins into a pocket of your carry-on bag. With so much valuable stuff getting dumped into plastic bins all day, every day, it’s inevitable that stuff gets left behind, dropped, damaged, broken, or even stolen. If you take 15 seconds to stow everything, you’ll make the time up twice over on either side of the security gate, and won’t risk losing cell phones, wallets, keys, and other essentials. Find more airport security tips here and here.

8. The annual holiday travel rule: Don’t wrap gifts—security will have to rip them open. With the TSA searching checked bags as well as carry-ons, this applies to all of your luggage; not just what you bring onto the plane with you. Consider shipping your gifts ahead of time or wrapping them once you get to your destination. Find more holiday-specific winter travel tips here.

9. Finally, avoid peak travel dates as best you can, particularly holiday weekends. Find out the best and worst days to travel around the holidays here.

[st_related]How to Pack for a Winter Vacation[/st_related]

Winter Travel Tips for Driving

1. Put some extra clothing and emergency items into your vehicle; these will come in handy if you break down in cold weather. Assemble a basic kit including a pair of gloves, weather-resistant pants and/or coat, maybe an old pair of boots, a blanket, jumper cables, a flashlight with some extra batteries, and a windshield scraper (and maybe a de-icer), and you should be in good shape. You might also toss a few nutrition bars in as well; things that won’t spoil, are packed with calories, and can bail you out in a pinch.

2. Make sure your car is checked over for winter weather readiness. In particular, you or a mechanic should inspect your tires before the first big winter storm.

[st_related]Top 20 Safe Driving Tips[/st_related]

3. Once your vehicle is inspected and equipped, follow this advice I heard a while back from a Montana snowplow driver: “See and be seen. Keep your headlights and taillights clean, especially in stormy weather. Keep windows clean and make sure defrosters work well. If snow has built up on your vehicle overnight or after a break from driving, clear it away so it doesn’t blow off and obscure your windows.”

4. Slow down. The U.S. Department of Transportation recommends slowing down by about 50 percent in bad weather. Also leave extra space between you and the car in front of you in case of slippery roads.

5. Remember that not all stretches of road are created alike. For example, many recently built small bridges and overpasses have been designed to blend into the surroundings, with a gradual or nonexistent change in elevation. These bridges nonetheless remain susceptible to icing over much more rapidly than regular blacktop. Look out and look ahead for these short stretches of road when temperatures approach or drop below freezing. If you don’t know the ropes of driving on icy surfaces, here’s how to drive on black ice.

6. Some features of modern automobiles may actually serve you poorly in bad conditions. In some SUVs and four-wheel-drive vehicles, for example, you may have better traction when the vehicle is under way, but the four-wheel drive won’t help you stop any faster. Also, skip the cruise control; your cruise control feature may accelerate when you least want it to, such as when you are climbing an icy bridge.

[st_related]9 Winter Travel Essentials for Your Next Trip[/st_related]

7. Some safety experts recommend putting a bag of kitty litter in the trunk, both for added ballast to offer better traction, and to put under the wheels if you need to get yourself out of a slippery spot.

8. If you’re stranded and have to stay in your car, you can run the engine for heat, but make sure the exhaust pipe is not obstructed by snow or mud. If you prefer not to have the engine running the whole time, close the windows to keep heat in, and run the car for 10 minutes every hour, cracking open a front window when you do so.

9. If you are parking at your hotel or near attractions in bad weather, opt for a spot in an indoor parking garage when available.

Readers: What winter travel tips would you add? Post them in the comments.

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Editor’s Note: This story was written in 2017. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

Categories
Fashion & Beauty

The 33 Best Winter Boots and Shoes for Travel

Shoes can make or break your vacation, especially in winter when you have to contend with frozen toes and slippery sidewalks. That’s why a pair of warm winter boots can be a traveler’s best friend on cold-weather trips. The following boots are packable, lightweight, and comfortable enough to walk in for miles. I’ve also thrown in a few pairs of winter shoes that aren’t boots but are still worth adding to your cold-weather packing list.[st_content_ad]

Don’t want to buy new winter boots? Instantly warm up any pair of shoes with heated insoles. This pair from Warmfits will keep your feet toasty for up to six hours. You can cut them to fit your shoe size.

The Warmest Winter Boots

Don’t let freezing temperature, snow, or sleet keep you confined indoors. These warm winter boots will keep your feet toasty and comfortable, no matter how far you’re walking or how low the temperatures drop.

Columbia Women’s Minx Mid II Omni-Heat Winter Boot

Columbia women's minx mid ii omni-heat winter boot.

Columbia’s Minx Mid II Omni-Heat boots are so warm they’re rated for temperatures as low as 25 degrees—and yet they only weigh 14 ounces. The faux-fur lining feels extra cozy without adding any weight, and the boots are guaranteed waterproof.

UGG Men’s Butte Snow Boots

UGG men's butte snow boots.

The UGG Men’s Butte Snow Boots have a solid 4.5-star rating on Amazon, thanks to their stylish yet practical design. These waterproof, leather-lined boots with warm wool protect your feet from damp and cold (they’re rated for use in weather as cold as -4 degrees Fahrenheit). The Vibram outsole has a special pattern on the bottom to help with traction on icy surfaces.

Sperry Women’s Saltwater Rain Boots

Sperry women's saltwater rain boots.

Perfect for freezing, wet days, the Sperry Saltwater Duck Boots are 100 percent waterproof, so your feet will stay dry no matter what. The rubber sole will give you firm footing on even the most slippery surface. Although they have a tough exterior, the insides are all soft comfort, thanks to the microfleece lining.

Columbia Men’s Bugaboot Plus III

Columbia men's bugaboot plus iii.

For ultra-cold weather, you need the Columbia Bugaboot Plus III, which has a special Omni-Heat thermal reflective lining—guaranteed to keep you comfortable even in frigid temperatures. They’re still comfortable to walk in, with a cushioning midsole and advanced traction outsole.

Columbia Women’s Ice Maiden II Insulated Snow Boot

Columbia women's ice maiden ii insulated snow boot.

The well-made, durable Columbia Ice Maiden II boot is surprisingly affordable, considering its high quality. These warm, waterproof boots look equally at home on a trail or a sidewalk, and the non-slip rubber sole will help you keep your footing on slippery surfaces.

Kamik Men’s Fargo Pack Snow Boot

Kamik men's fargo pack snow boot.

Cozy and comfortable, Kamik’s Fargo Pack Snow Boot is rated for temperatures as low as -40 degrees Fahrenheit. The antimicrobial footbed helps fight odors, and the waterproofing will keep your feet dry even in snow and slush.

Sorel Women’s Slimpack Riding Boot

Sorel women's slimpack riding boot.

For maximum leg coverage, you can’t go wrong with the Sorel Slimpacks, which will keep you warm and dry from your feet to your knees. They’re lined with microfleece and 100g insulation throughout, so at least part of your body will be toasty this winter.

[st_related]10 of the Warmest Winter Hats[/st_related]

Lightweight Winter Boots

Want shoes that won’t weigh down your feet … or your suitcase? Pack these lightweight winter boots.

The North Face Nuptse Purna Women’s Winter Boots

The north face nuptse purna women's winter boots.

Full coverage boots don’t have to weigh you down—The North Face’s Nuptse Purna boots have a 10-inch shaft that will keep your calves warm and dry, and they only weigh 13 ounces each. The light weight is due in part to the waterproof outershell that’s made from velvet suede, as well as the ultra-thin PrimaLoft interior.

Columbia Men’s Terrebonne II Sport Mid Waterproof Boot

columbia_mens_terrebonne_II_sport_mid_waterproof_boot

You won’t find many men’s hiking boots that weigh less than a pound, but the Columbia Terrebonne II does. These mid-boots give you protection and stability all the way over your ankle. The Omni-Tech waterproofing and Omni-Grip traction mean that you can wear these with confidence in the snow, ice, or rain.

Hi-Tec Women’s Kono Espresso I Waterproof

Hi-Tec women's kono espresso i waterproof.

Get two shoes in one with the Hi-Tec Kono Espresso I. These lightweight boots can be worn with the faux fur-lined top folded down for more of a shoe look, or up for the performance and warmth of a boot. I-shield technology repels water, dirt, and stains, so no matter which way you wear them, you’ll be dry and warm.

Whitin Men’s Insulated All-Weather Boots

Whitin men's insulated all-weather boots.

Whitin’s All-Weather Boots are lightweight, affordable, water-resistant, and available in a variety of colors. If you need comfortable boots for city walking and sightseeing, these are a good bet.

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Winter Boots That Are Great for Walking

Strolling through a snow-covered city can be a magical travel experience—unless your feet are freezing or soaking wet. Weather will never be a problem if you’ve packed a pair of these winter walking boots that are perfect for sightseeing or hiking in freezing temperatures.

Rockport Cobb Hill Women’s Caroline Waterproof Boot

Rockport cobb hill women's caroline waterproof boot.

I don’t just love these boots because they’re named after me (fine, they probably weren’t, but I still like the name). I love them because I took them out of the box and wore them all over Boston on a rainy day, and when I came home, I had dry feet, no blisters, and no foot fatigue. These ankle booties look great with jeans or dresses, and have just the perfect heel height (1.25 inches) with a stability shank embedded into the midsole to provide excellent arch support and just enough lift. The buckle adjusts so you can customize the booties for a perfect fit. Rockport’s Cobb Hill Carolines are waterproof, thanks to a seam-sealed construction and interior zipper design, so you can wear them in the rain or snow.

Northside Men’s Back Country Waterproof Pack Boot

Northside men’s back country waterproof pack boot,

Men headed to cold and snowy environments will appreciate these boots by Northside. Built for outdoor activities, they’re lined with Thermolite insulation for warmth without bulk. A removable felt liner with faux shearling collar can be called in on extra cold days. And with its D-ring lacing system, the Pack Boots are easy to take on and off at airport security.

Totes Women’s Cynthia Winter Waterproof Snow Boots

Totes women's cynthia winter waterproof snow boots.

Looking for packable snow boots? Not only are these faux fur-lined boots super cozy, but they’re also surprisingly affordable, depending on which size you snag on Amazon. The Totes Cynthia boots are built for snow, but they’re also very comfortable and easy to walk in.

Salomon Men’s X Ultra Mid Winter Waterproof Hiking Boot

Salomon men's x ultra mid winter waterproof hiking boot.

You’ll comfortably walk for miles in these waterproof hiking boots from Salomon, which are well insulated and have sturdy rubber soles that will keep you stable on slippery or snowy surfaces.

DailyShoes Women’s Knee-High Eskimo Snow Boots

DailyShoes women's knee-high eskimo snow boots.

These DailyShoes boots stretch all the way up to knee height to keep your legs warm and dry. There are more than half a dozen colors to choose from. Bonus: The zippered side storage pocket can hold your keys and cards while you’re out in the snow.

Merrell Men’s Moab Adventure Chelsea Polar Waterproof Boots

Merrell men's moab adventure chelsea polar waterproof boots.

The Moab Adventure Boots feel comfy right from the get-go, thanks to a soft fleece lining and removable contoured insole. The boots are waterproof and well insulated, and provide plenty of cushioning for all-day walking.

Skechers Performance Women’s On The Go Snugly Winter Boot

Skechers Performance Women's On The Go Snugly Winter Boot.

Skechers’ Performance On The Go Boots are ultra-lightweight, so they won’t weigh you down or make your legs tired. A unique, squishy yoga mat insole makes these comfortable to walk in, and the faux fur lining will keep you from feeling the cold.

[st_related]The Worst Winter Travel Gear (and What to Pack Instead)[/st_related]

Packable Winter Boots

These super packable winter boots for men and women, including foldable boots, serve a specific cold-weather purpose yet still manage to be lightweight and easy to fit in a suitcase.

Aetrex Women’s Tessa Short Sweater Boot

Aetrex Women’s Tessa Short Sweater Boot.

The Aetrex Women’s Tessa Short Sweater Boot weighs almost nothing compared to most boots, and offers serious warmth and cool style. Its synthetic sole keeps it light, and a slight platform heel keeps it comfortable, especially for people who don’t like flats. Note that these boots aren’t waterproof, so they won’t be good in wet conditions. But for anyone looking to combat cold temperatures with warm feet, these might be just the ticket.

Sorel Men’s Ankeny Moc Toe Snow Boot

Sorel Men’s Ankeny Moc Toe Snow Boot.

The men’s Ankeny Moc Toe Snow Boot from Sorel has a waterproof leather and suede upper, plus seam-sealed waterproof construction, yet it still manages to be lighter than most men’s boots. It’s as at home on city streets as on the trail, and has a deep herringbone tread to prevent slips in snow, ice, and rain.

Pakems Cortina Boot for Women

Pakems Cortina Boot for Women.

The Pakems Cortina is the ultimate foldable boot for women, made of lightweight ripstop that scrunches up small to fit easily into your suitcase. The boots, lined with faux fur, feel as comfortable as slippers, and they have a handy zipper pocket to stash small valuables.

Pakems Vail Boot for Men

Pakems Vail Boot for Men.

A similar option for men is Pakems’ Vail boot, which is just as comfy and packable as the women’s version above. It also has a storage pocket for credit cards, keys, or even a cell phone, and it folds up small for easy packing.

[st_related]The Best New Travel Shoes for Men[/st_related]

Comfortable Winter Boots That Look and Feel Like Sneakers

When you travel, you want dry, warm feet, but you also need to be able to walk for miles—comfortably. That’s why boots that feel or even look like sneakers can be a great fit.

Keen Women’s Elsa Waterproof Winter Boots

Keen Women’s Elsa Waterproof Winter Boots.

Keen has a reputation for being an outdoorsy, adventure-focused company, but you may be surprised to see that it has some ultra-fashionable (but still functional) warm winter boots as well. The Elsa boot stands up to even the coldest temperatures with a fleece collar, underfoot insulation, and a heat-reflecting fabric that helps retain your body heat. And the Elsas have stellar traction to keep you sure-footed on ice and slick surfaces.

Keen Men’s Brixen Low Waterproof Insulated Shoe

Keen Men's Brixen Low Waterproof Insulated Shoe.

Don’t want to pack a big, heavy boot? Take footwear that’s the same size as a shoe but performs like a winter boot: the Keen Brixen is an insulated, waterproof sneaker. It slips on and off (perfect for wearing on the plane) and has a wool felt lining that will keep you warm, plus antimicrobial insulation to keep out odors.

Ecco Women’s Shape 35 Ankle Bootie

Ecco Women's Shape 35 Ankle Bootie.

Booties are great for travel, since they offer warmth and support without being as hard to pack as a full boot. Ecco’s Shape 35 Ankle Bootie is a classic choice, featuring a side zipper for easy on/off at airport security. This pair is also very lightweight, making them easy to pack and unlikely to tire out your feet and legs.

Timberland Men’s White Ledge Mid Waterproof Ankle Boot

Timberland Men's White Ledge Mid Waterproof Ankle Boot.

These hiking boots from Timberland are as comfortable as sneakers while offering the support and waterproofing of a boot. They are lighter weight than many men’s boots and come in a variety of colors and sizes, including wide sizes.

Keen Women’s Elena Waterproof Insulated Sneaker Boot

Keen Women's Elena Waterproof Insulated Sneaker Boot.

Keen’s Elena shoes are the perfect hybrid between sneaker and boot, insulated for warmth but with a lightweight, supportive fit. The fabric is water repellent and designed to control odors, keeping you fresh no matter how far you walk.

UGG Men’s Freamon Waterproof Chukka Boot

UGG Men's Freamon Waterproof Chukka Boot,

These comfy, lightweight UGG boots are designed to look like stylish chukka boots but feel like a sneaker. They slip on and off for easy access at airport security, and the waterproofing will keep you dry on rainy or snowy days.

[st_related]The Best New Travel Shoes for Women[/st_related]

Winter Shoes that Aren’t Boots

Want winter shoes that aren’t full-size boots? Try these packable winter shoes with sturdy soles, good treads, and cozy liners.

Rockport Men’s Northfield Oxford

Rockport Men's Northfield Oxford.

Not every winter day calls for a full boot. When you don’t want to have to change your footwear, consider Rockport’s Northfield, which can fit into any environment without sacrificing dryness. These stylish oxfords are fully waterproof (and even have a unique seam-sealant to prevent any rogue leaks), and have a removable interior cushioning system that adds to your comfort.

FitKicks Original Women’s Foldable Shoes

FitKicks Original Women's Foldable Shoes.

Planning footwear for cold-weather travel isn’t all about protection from the elements. You’ve also got to plan for chilly indoor floors. FitKicks‘ foldable shoes have a rubber sole, so they can be worn outdoors as well—but for winter travel, your best bet is to pack a pair of these fold-and-go shoes as a comfortable slipper alternative.

Lowa Men’s San Francisco GTX Lo Surround

Lowa Men's Aerox GTX Lo Surround.

The Lowa San Francisco GTX Lo Surrounds look like Euro-style walking shoes but perform like a waterproof hiking boot. The lower-profile style is lighter weight and easier to pack than a hiking boot, but still protects feet on uneven walking surfaces like trails and cobblestone streets. It’s a packable and warm sneaker-style shoe that can take the place of heavy boots for some trips.

Lowa Women’s Walker GTX

Lowa Women's Walker GTX.

If you’re planning a winter hike but don’t need a full boot, consider the Lowa Walkers. These waterproof, low-rise shoes are easier to pack than hiking boots but offer the comfort and traction you need for the trail.

Dansko Women’s Paisley Sneaker

Dansko Women's Paisley Sneaker.

Dansko lovers, rejoice! The company has the Paisley, a winter shoe that offers its signature comfort in a sporty style that’s winter ready. Waterproof uppers meet rubber outsoles for dependable traction on slippery surfaces. The shoe also has built-in moisture and odor control, plus a triple-density footbed for good arch support.

What to Wear this Season

For info on these editor-selected items, click to visit the seller’s site. Things you buy may earn us a commission.

More from SmarterTravel:

Caroline Morse Teel never takes a cold-weather trip without warm winter boots. Follow her on Instagram TravelWithCaroline for photos from around the world.

Some review products are sent to us free of charge and with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions, positive and negative, and will never accept compensation to review a product.

Editor’s note: Christine Sarkis and Sarah Schlichter contributed to this story.

Categories
Fashion & Beauty

10 of the Warmest Winter Hats

A good winter hat can make a huge impact on your comfort level on a cold day. When you’re traveling, that can mean the difference between making the most or missing out on the best a destination has to offer. Here are the warmest hats that will help you stay outside longer when it’s freezing.

Orvis Barbour Saltburn Beanie

Barbour’s Saltburn Beanie is constructed with an ultra-thick rib cable-knit that traps heat and blocks out frigid breezes. The hat’s slouchy styling and cheeky faux-fur pompom is right on trend for this season.

Outdoor Research Bennie Insulated Beanie

For seriously cold weather, you need an insulated beanie, like the Bennie by Outdoor Research. This hat looks like a regular knit beanie on the outside, but is lined with a thin but effective AdrenaLoft insulation to maximize warmth.

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Spyder Twisty Hat

Sypder’s Twisty Hat protects against cold ears with a built-in fleece earband lining on the inside of the cable-knit fabric for extra warmth. A fun oversized pompom on the top adds a touch of whimsy to this cap.

Cotopaxi Pom Beanie

Calling all llama-lovers—you need this hat. Cotopaxi’s Pom Beanie features an eye-catching animal design in a variety of colors. Your head and heart will feel warm while wearing this two-layered beanie, as Cotopaxi donates a portion of this purchase to an anti-poverty nonprofit.

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Seirus Heatwave Docks Hat

Seirus’ trademarked Heatwave technology uses a silver material to both reflect and amplify heat in order to maximize warmth. The Docks Beanie is lined around the base with the Heatwave material, which keeps your ears extra-toasty.

Mammut Sally Beanie

Wool is nature’s ultimate insulator, and Mammut’s Sally Beanie expertly combines it with an acrylic yarn for a hat that’s warm but soft, not itchy. The beanie has a 100 percent recycled polyester full fleece inner layer, which helps block wind and cold.

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Outdoor Research Rory Insulated Beanie

Outdoor Research’s adorable Rory Insulated Beanie not only has a fleece lining for extra comfort, but is also lined with 40 grams of AdrenaLoft insulation to really lock in heat. The hat’s fold-over cuff can be flipped down for extra coverage, or worn up for a more stylish look.

Spyder Brr Berry Hat

With knit on the outside and a plush fleece lining on the inside, you’re doubly protected from the cold with Spyder’s Brrr Berry Hat. A stripe design adds a fun touch to any dull winter day.

Fjallraven Nordic Heater Hat

Fjallraven’s Nordic Heater might just be the warmest hat out there, thanks to its synthetic fur lining. Button up the ear flaps when temperatures rise above freezing, or fold them down and secure the hat with the included chin strap on blustery days.

Smartwool Cozy Cabin Hat

Smartwool’s Cozy Cabin Hat features a non-slip interior headband so you don’t have to deal with your hat falling down over your eyes. This unisex beanie has a warm lining and simple design that will last you through many long winters.

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Caroline Morse Teel is a Senior Editor at SmarterTravel. Follow her on Instagram @travelwithcaroline.

Some review products are sent to us free of charge and with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions, positive and negative, and will never accept compensation to review a product.

Categories
Airport Booking Strategy Holiday Travel

10 Holiday Travel Tips You Need to Know

Planning to visit Grandma’s for Thanksgiving or spend Christmas in Rome? Holiday travel can be notoriously busy, expensive, and stressful, but the news isn’t all bad. There are still deals to be found, provided you shop carefully and plan ahead. Check out these 10 holiday travel tips and find some joy this holiday season.

Avoid Peak Travel Dates

crowd of passengers in the departure hall airport

At Thanksgiving, Wednesday is the critical outbound “avoid” day as a rule. Traveling on Thanksgiving Day is often a breeze and more affordable, and if you can fly home any day other than Sunday, you’ll likely pay less.

At Christmas and New Year’s, the peak holiday travel dates change each year depending on which days the holidays fall. You can generally guess which dates will be the most expensive for travel (consider which travel days would allow you to maximize long weekends without taking too many days off work — and that’s probably when everyone will want to go). For more information, see The 12 Best and Worst Days for Holiday Travel This Year.

Shop Around

Whether you’re using booking sites like Expedia or metasearch sites such as Skyscanner, comparison shopping has never been easier than it is right now. During holiday travel season, casting a wide net will help you understand all your options. Be as flexible as possible with dates and airports in order to get the best fares and schedule. Keep in mind that flying into or out of a smaller airport can make a big difference in your holiday travel experience, since smaller airports tend to have smaller crowds and shorter lines.

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Plot Connections Carefully

When booking flights, check your search results carefully for sufficient time during layovers, and build in some time for flight delays and weather woes. Particularly during the winter months, peak travel times often bring travel delays, and your connections are more likely to be jeopardized. Avoiding tight connections might save you a sprint through the terminal or, worse yet, a missed flight.

Also, it’s best if you can muscle your flight path into position so that connections are in places less likely to experience delays—specifically, airports in warmer climates. For more advice, see 18 Winter Travel Tips for Flights and Road Trips.

Better yet, book a nonstop flight and avoid the issue altogether.

Leave Early

During peak travel times, much of the trouble you’ll face lies on this side of the security check-in, from traffic jams and full parking lots to absent shuttles and long lines. Rather than striving to “arrive at the airport early,” you may want to try to “leave for the airport early” to anticipate all the peripheral delays you may encounter.

Many flights are completely full around the holidays, so if you miss your scheduled flight due to a flat tire or unexpected traffic, it may not be easy to get on another flight in a reasonable amount of time.

Most airlines recommend checking in 90 minutes early for domestic flights and two hours early for international flights. For holiday travel, however, it’s wise to arrive even earlier. Expect to encounter long lines at check-in and security, and plan accordingly. To save yourself time, put gas in your car the night before.

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Pack Wisely

Has it been a while since you last flew? If so, you’ll want to make sure you’re familiar with the latest TSA rules regarding what’s allowed in carry-on bags. See Airport Security Frequently Asked Questions for a primer. Remember that the TSA’s liquid and gel restrictions apply to items like holiday leftovers (think mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce) and to gifts such as wine or body lotion; prepare to put these in your checked bag.

When packing, keep in mind that most airlines charge travelers a fee for checking any bags on domestic flights (and even some international ones), and that some bargain-basement fares don’t include a carry-on bag either. Check your airline’s baggage rules in advance so you know what to expect, and read How to Pack Light Every Time to help you trim your luggage load.

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Plan Ahead for Parking

Don’t assume that you’ll be able to pull right into your airport’s economy lot and find a space the day before Thanksgiving or Christmas. Airport parking lots may be vast, but they do fill up during peak travel times. Consider alternatives to driving yourself such as taking public transportation, booking a shuttle, calling a cab or rideshare, or having someone drop you off.

If those options don’t work, reserve a parking spot in advance through websites such as AirportParkingReservations.com or ParkRideFly.

Take Advantage of Shortcuts

Person going through tsa precheck line

The latest self-service developments in online travel can be tremendous time-savers during peak travel times. Whenever possible, print your boarding passes at home or pull them up on your smartphone. Consider applying for trusted traveler programs such as Global Entry or TSA PreCheck, which allow you to skip the normal security lines.

If you buy most of your gifts online, have them shipped directly to your destination. This will cut down on luggage and the risk of them getting lost. (If you do decide to pack your gifts, don’t wrap them; TSA agents will rip them open if they need to screen them for any reason.)

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Travel Early in the Day

As a rule, airports are least congested at times when normal human beings would rather be at home or even asleep. Delays are far less likely for morning flights, and if you do encounter an issue with your originally scheduled itinerary, you’ll have options later in the day.

Caveat: Staffing can be spotty for really early flights, so although your flight is highly likely to be ready to leave on time, check-in may take a while, as may other personnel-dependent steps like riding shuttle buses.

Bring Some Creature Comforts

woman using traveling pillow and sleeping mask in plane

As if cramped legroom, narrow seats, and crying babies weren’t enough to guarantee an uncomfortable journey, some airlines are now taking away the free blankets that were the only thing standing between passengers and hypothermia. Stay warm on a chilly holiday flight by packing your own cozy pashmina, fleece, or travel blanket.

For longer flights, consider bringing items such as earplugs, noise-canceling headphones, and an eye mask to help you sleep. And don’t miss SmarterTravel’s list of engrossing airplane books to keep you entertained.

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Keep Your Cool

Don’t lose your temper, even if things go wrong. Airline employees have considerable power over your well-being. Unfortunately, some enjoy wielding it against you, and few respond well to anger.

Remember that everyone is harried, and have a little extra patience. The crowds, the weather, and the stress of the holiday season guarantee that a good 90 percent of the people you interact with on your journey are just as frazzled as you are.

A Few Bonus Holiday Travel Tips

Check ahead for delays before you leave for the airport. The Federal Aviation Administration has a map showing general delay status at major airports across the U.S. so you can see if trouble might be lurking, even if your scheduled flight is still on time.

Have phone numbers for everything: your hotel, your car rental agency, your airline, friends at your destination.

Give your cell phone a full charge, and download your airline’s app so you’ll get alerts if your flight is delayed or your gate changes.

If you’re leaving pets at home and you haven’t made kennel reservations, do so right away. If Fluffy is coming along, check out Traveling with Pets.

Put It All Together

Holiday travel is the time to lay all your travel savvy on the line. For example, if you:

  • have your boarding pass sent to your phone
  • leave early enough not to sweat the small stuff
  • travel light enough not to have to check any bags
  • proceed directly to and through security
  • arrive at the gate on time and at ease
  • and nail your connections …

… you might actually enjoy traveling this season!

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Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2017. It has been updated to reflect the most current information. Christine Sarkis and Jessica Labrencis contributed to this story.

Categories
Beach Cities Family Travel Holiday Travel Island Theme Park

The 10 Best Christmas Vacations for Travelers

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December is a magical time for people around the world, and traveling during this most festive of seasons lets you experience a truly global spin on the holidays. Indeed, Christmas travel not only allows you to take full advantage of school and office closures, but also gives you and your family the opportunity to take in rich traditions from all over the world. The best Christmas vacations are meaningful, multicultural, inclusive, and filled with warmth and cheer.

Going beyond the obvious Christmas destinations like New York City and Paris, here are 10 of the world’s best places to go for Christmas, including those that are holy to Christians—as well as those that are decidedly not.

Rome, Italy

christmas tree in front of st peters basilica rome.

Vatican City, which is ensconced within Rome, is the home of Catholicism, making it one of the world’s best places to go for Christmas. Many practicing Catholics yearn to see the Pope give Christmas mass at the breathtaking St. Peter’s Basilica. Tickets to this epic yet solemn annual event are free, but you’ll need to reserve yours at least two months in advance. Instructions about how to do so are here—note that you’ll need access to a fax machine.

If you can’t get tickets to the papal mass, you can watch Pope Francis deliver his urbi et orbi homily live on a big screen from St. Peter’s Square, shop the lively Piazza Navona Christmas Market (or the Christmas market at the Spanish Steps), inspect one of the city’s many detailed nativity scenes, go ice skating near Castel Sant’Angelo, visit the Hanukkah menorah at Piazza Barberini, or simply stroll around to enjoy this sparkling city all dolled up for Natale.

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Quebec City, Canada

holiday decorations in quebec city.

Quebec City is magical any time of year, but winter makes it all the more so. Old Quebec, with its European-style streets and Old World charm, thoroughly transforms into a veritable Christmas village, exuding a very specific type of cozy, snow-covered magic.

The whole city is strung with beautiful lights, the German-style Grand Marche Christmas Market sells one-of-a-kind gifts, and family-friendly offerings abound, including the Quebec Aquarium Light Festival, La Parade des Jouets (“The Toy Parade”), and the chance to meet Santa at the Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac and other spots around the city. You can also attend Christmas concerts, taste distinctive sweets, and stay through New Year’s Eve to experience the midnight fireworks over Quebec City’s Grande Allee, alongside the party-loving locals.

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Israel

fireworks and holiday decorations in jerusalem.

How better to spend Christmas than by making a pilgrimage to the Holy Land? It’s hard to beat Bethlehem as one of the world’s best Christmas destinations. The ancient town’s Church of the Nativity is where Jesus was born, and the annual celebrations there are meaningful and memorable. There are performances in Manger Square, inclusive Christmas masses with audiences from around the world, twinkling lights and ornaments, a parade and other processions, and Christmas markets and trees.

In nearby Jerusalem, there are biblical places galore, including the Via Dolorosa, where Jesus walked, as well as the Church of the Ascension, where Christians believe that Jesus ascended to heaven. Jerusalem also has one of the Middle East’s most impressive Christmas markets. And Jewish people visiting Jerusalem during this time of year will be deeply moved to see the menorah being lit at the Western Wall each night of Hanukkah.

In northern Israel, Nazareth, Jesus’s hometown in the Galilee, also hosts Christmas celebrations worth experiencing. On Christmas Eve, a colorful parade makes its way through town, with the procession ending at the Church of the Annunciation with fireworks as well as a Christmas mass. Surrounding the event are outdoor Christmas and Hanukkah markets, Santas, religious services, and festive lights.

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North Pole, Alaska

santa's house and sleigh in north pole alaska.

Yes, Virginia, there really is a town called North Pole. And if ever there was a Christmas-themed entire town, this is it. Santa’s always available for visits in the Santa Claus House—where 400,000 letters per year addressed to “Santa Claus, North Pole” land. (Local volunteers respond to every letter.) And the streets have names like Kris Kringle Drive and Mistletoe Lane.

Even if you can’t arrange a trip here exactly on December 25, no worries: It’s Christmas here all year long, although only December attracts ice sculptors from around the world displaying their prodigious talents.

North Pole is just 13 miles southeast of Fairbanks, but if you want to stay overnight at this ultimate (if only slightly kitschy) Christmas vacation destination, there are several comfy hotels, as well as RV hookups and campsites.

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Southern California

child and lego santa legoland california.

The best Christmas vacations for families are in Southern California. Mix blessedly snow-free weather with mile after mile of coastline—not to mention decked-out theme park after decked-out theme park—and you’ve got yourselves a Christmas vacation to remember.

At the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, there’s post-fireworks “snow” every night, a 60-foot-tall Christmas tree, holiday-themed parades, explosions of decorations, multicultural seasonal music, and holiday overlays to several beloved rides, including It’s a Small World and the Haunted Mansion. Disneyland makes a heartwarming effort to include traditions besides those that celebrate Christmas—a klezmer band and Jewish food tip a hat to Hanukkah, soul food is offered for Kwanzaa, and Latin favorites get presented for Navidad.

Over in Buena Park, Knott’s Berry Farm transforms into “Knott’s Merry Farm,” with Christmas-themed shows, a Christmas Crafts Village, and nightly snow in Ghost Town. In Studio City, Universal Studios hosts “Christmas in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter,” including an impressive projection show centered around Hogwarts Castle, as well as “Grinchmas,” with a huge tree and caroling Whos. Down in Carlsbad, LEGOLAND has the world’s biggest LEGO Christmas tree, limited-edition holiday treats, live holiday shows—and yes, a LEGO Santa. Keep heading south for San Diego Zoo’s “Jungle Bells,” during which the renowned attraction turns into a light-filled wonderland.

When you’ve had enough of theme parks, head to Malibu or La Jolla for a relaxing December afternoon on one of the Pacific Coast’s best beaches. Or head into the heart of Los Angeles for some culture. L.A. is a particularly great place to celebrate Kwanzaa: Pasadena has hosted a notable Kwanzaa celebration for 30 years now, led by Thanayi Karenga, the daughter of Kwanzaa creator Maulana Karenga. And South L.A. puts on the annual Kwanzaa Heritage Festival and Block Parade and candle-lighting ceremony.

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The Canary Islands, Spain

christmas decorations in tenerife.

Although Barcelona’s Día do los Reyes Magos, or Three Kings Day, is one of Spain’s most celebrated festivals, certain types of travelers might prefer for their Christmas travels to take them to Spain’s Canary Islands instead—which are actually not on the European continent, but off Africa’s northwestern coast.

Picture this for your December holiday: 900 miles of sun-drenched coastline, nativity scenes sculpted from sea sand, Christmas markets selling traditional pastries called truchas, Christmas feasts at local restaurants, open-air Yuletide concerts, and New Year’s Eve fireworks on the beach. Best. Christmas. Vacation. Ever?

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Southern Iceland

northern lights over mountain in iceland.

For true winter lovers, South Iceland is among the world’s best places to travel for Christmas. Faced with all-day nighttime, this remote island knows how to cheer things up during this dark, frigid time of year with lots and lots of twinkling lights. Visitors partake in Arctic adventures in the plentiful snow and ice, including dog sledding, exploring ice caves by snowmobile, skating on frozen lakes, sampling Christmas buffets in restaurants, and strolling Iceland’s charming Christmas markets.

Southern Iceland provides some of the world’s best views of the northern lights—it’s a great place to check “aurora borealis” off your bucket list. And hotels here let travelers experience Iceland’s Christmastime tradition of getting visited by not one but 13 Santa Clauses. The festively decorated Hotel Rangá, for example, lets kids into the folklore by inviting its young guests to leave a shoe in the windowsill to get a holiday treat from the country’s festive elves.

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San Juan, Puerto Rico

christmas decorations in san juan puerto rico.

On Christmas Eve—Noche Buena—in San Juan, locals enjoy huge, traditional dinners of pork, rice, and beans. But more importantly, they drink coquito, a creamy, eggnog-like rum cocktail that signifies the occasion. After the feast, roam Old San Juan’s lit-up cobblestone streets and join (or just watch) the parrandas, which are Puerto Rico’s take on carolers, during which groups gather in front of houses late at night with traditional instruments to sing the lively songs of Navidad. In short, the events that happen here every December 24 make Puerto Rico one of the world’s best places to go for Christmas.

Stay on the island for New Year’s Eve and beyond, especially if you’re overnighting at the iconic Caribe Hilton, just as Liz Taylor and Sophia Loren used to do. The property is famous for creating the piña colada, and also for hosting epic New Year’s Eve parties. This year’s bash will be bigger than ever, thanks to the hotel’s recent $150 million renovation. If your schedule allows, stay in Puerto Rico until at least January 6, since Día de Los Reyes Magos, or Three Kings Day, is the island’s biggest annual celebration.

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Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

lagoa christmas tree rio de janeiro.

Another of the world’s best places to visit for Christmas is Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and not just because the city’s iconic Christ the Redeemer statue gets magnificently illuminated with the works of significant artists.

On December 1 every year, Rio debuts Lagoa, the world’s largest floating Christmas tree—more than 170 feet tall—to fireworks and fanfare on Copacabana Beach. The impressive tree stays lit and floats on the water until early January.

Rio is in the Southern Hemisphere, so the weather during Christmas is generally quite warm. There are Christmas Day concerts on Copacabana Beach, holiday pastries called panettone and rabanadas in the city’s bakeries, and plenty of restaurants that serve traditional Brazilian Christmas dinners to travelers. On Christmas Eve, the parties start late, with feasts typically beginning at 11:00 p.m. and the celebration escalating at midnight.

Stay through New Year’s Eve for unforgettable fireworks over Copacabana and the company of some of the world’s most enthusiastic partiers.

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At Sea

holiday decorations on carnival cruise ship.

If the mere idea of all the effort that goes into celebrating Christmas at home—shopping, decorating, wrapping, cooking, hosting—works you into a cold sweat, take a deep breath, call your relatives, and tell them you’re going on a Christmas cruise instead.

Holiday sailings make for the best Christmas vacations for families, and can be a fantastic option for cheap Christmas vacations. Many holiday voyages are reasonably priced and go to beautiful destinations around the world, from the Caribbean to the Mediterranean to the Christmas markets along European rivers—the Rhone, Seine, Rhine, and Danube.

Onboard, there’s as much holiday theming as you can bear: ugly sweater contests, elaborate holiday shows, massive Christmas trees, Santa appearances, carolers on deck, huge gingerbread houses, mistletoe and wreaths, midnight mass, Hanukkah menorah lightings, and traditional Christmas dinners. Check out the offerings from Royal Caribbean, Carnival (featuring the Grinch!), and Norwegian, as well as Disney‘s Very Merrytime Cruises.

The best part? You’ll be able to kick back and enjoy the celebrations while others are doing the work—kind of like being a kid again.

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Categories
Active Travel Miscellany

How to Book a Ski Vacation: A Definitive Guide to Ski Packages

If you’re thinking of planning a ski vacation, you’ve got options. You can, of course, purchase your airfare directly from an airline, rent a car from an agency, book a hotel near a ski resort, and then buy lift tickets on the mountain. But before you do, know your options: Bundling several travel components into a ski package can potentially save you time and money.

If you decide to research a ski package vacation, there are a number of ways to start planning, depending on the type of vacation you want:

In addition, online resources such as user reviews can help you refine your search and choose the offer that works best for you.

Air-Inclusive Ski Packages

Airlines often have a good selection of bundled ski packages. United Vacations consistently offers a variety of deals. And since United typically includes lift tickets in its packages, it’s a good place to start. United’s major rival, American Airlines Vacations, is also worth looking at. Its wide network of flights means it can provide access to ski towns across the country and around the world.

Of course, all of the major airline vacation providers offer ski packages, so it’s a good idea to search the carriers that have service from your airport. Nearly all of the packages are for resorts in the Western states, with a few Canadian options as well. Each provider will bundle airfare, accommodations, car rental, and lift tickets into any of their packages.

Don’t confine your search for an air-inclusive ski vacation to the airline vacation providers, though. Expedia can combine specially-negotiated airfares and hotel rates into low package rates. And Expedia features vacations not only to the West, but also to New England, Quebec, and even Europe. Orbitz also has many ski vacations for sale, including to destinations like Aspen, Banff, Tahoe, and Whistler.

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Ski Packages Without Airfare

If you’re lucky enough to live within driving distance of the mountains, but you want to stay for longer than just a day trip, you can save money by picking up a package that comes with both accommodations and lift tickets. And there’s no better place to start your search than the mother of all ski websites, Ski Central, which features links to resorts, hotels, and an avalanche of travel agencies specializing in ski vacations.

You’ll also want to visit SkiNet.com, which allows you to choose between pre-set packages and vacations that you build step by step.

Ski.com has a similar setup, and also includes what it calls “last-minute bargains,” though we didn’t see a significant difference between the restrictions for those and the other offers that rotate through its home page.

Ski Resort User Reviews

Once you’ve found a deal that looks promising, it’s a good idea to educate yourself about the resort in question, so that your ultimate choice is an informed one. Start with OntheSnow.com, which offers user reviews of ski resorts around the U.S.

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Editor’s Note: This story was originally published in 2008. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.