The temptation to use holidays off to travel is great. It’s one of the reasons I’ve always advocated for Thanksgiving travel, but December holidays are a whole different animal. Traveling during Christmas and New Year’s kind of sucks. This is a non-exhaustive list of reasons why.
Things are likely to be closed
Unlike the US, where constant consumption is our entire culture and holidays are spent at malls and movie theaters and restaurants, many countries place a greater importance on rest and family time during the holidays. This means that when you’re traveling on New Year’s Day or Christmas Day (and sometimes the day after Christmas), you might unexpectedly find a lot of the things you want to do are closed. Some restaurants and bars take the opportunity to close for up to a week. Not only is this frustrating, it strips you of the ability to enjoy the best the city has to offer.
It’s more expensive
The last two weeks of December see peak travel crowds all over the world as people fly around to get together with family. So flight prices are more likely to be higher at this time of year. By contrast, traveling just before the holidays but not during the holidays can save you money and feel just as festive. Christmas markets go up weeks ahead of the holiday, but you may be sad to find out that on Christmas, the markets are closed because everyone is home.
You might end up at crappy holiday events
When you’re not from around somewhere, it can be hard to discern the party of the year from a $250 shitshow at the lamest club in town. Or else you could end up at a local gay bar trying to find a girl to kiss at midnight unaware that all the women around you are gay. The same thing is true for Christmas menus. Even restaurant reviews aren’t going to help you figure if a brewpub’s holiday roast is any good. In addition to the potentially mediocre experiences, businesses that are open tend to fleece people because they know that tourists don’t know any better. And in some situations, they also don’t have many other options.
The weather sucks
Unless you’re traveling to the southern hemisphere, you’re likely to experience awful weather during the holidays. It can be cold, dreary, dark, and very wet. Which is perhaps fine if you’re enjoying the slopes in Aspen, but if you’re slipping on black ice while you try to sightsee in most generic big cities, you might feel rightfully miserable. There’s not a whole lot to do outdoors when it’s cold. It’s not a good time to take sightseeing boat tours or climb to high windy altitudes. It’s the best time to stay home.
There is a higher chance of delays and cancellations
In a confluence of bad circumstances, lots of travelers and bad weather can leave you stranded in a random airport over the holidays. Winter storms tend to ground flights all over the place, and these delays get especially gnarly when the volume of travel is generally higher. It’s harder to get you rebooked on the next flight when there are hundreds of other people also waiting to be rebooked. So on top of paying a premium for your fare, your fare may not even get you where you want to go.
This has only worsened as a result of the pandemic, since entry or local restrictions might unexpectedly be tightened to curb the winter wave of the virus.
It may feel worse than being home
The holidays are challenging for many people – it can be sad or lonely. But the only thing worse than feeling some holiday blues in the comfort of your own home is expecting to have a fabulous time on vacation and just feeling even more lonely and sad in a crappy hotel room because everything is closed. Even if you love the holidays, some destinations just don’t feel very festive. You might get caught up in the whirlwind of last minute holiday shopping or end up in a destination that’s too hot or too gloomy to give you much of the warm and fuzzies of the holiday season.
If you wouldn’t go out to eat on Christmas or go to a wild club party for New Year’s Eve in your own hometown, why would you do it anywhere else?