It's the most wonderful time of the year. Smells of freshly baked gingerbread cookies fill your home, you make plans to go ice skating with your friends (even though you won't), you have staged the perfect photo for your holiday card, the temperature is finally cooling off, and you just got your ninth invite to an ugly sweater party. Plus, you haven't made a payment on your credit card yet so it feels like all those gifts you bought from the winter market for your dog were totally free (because he absolutely needed a bespoke collar).
If this is the year you say once and for all you absolutely cannot and will not spend one more Christmas dinner sitting around the table dodging questions from Aunt Sally about your love life and career prospects while trying to avoid eye contact with Uncle Stew, then we've got you covered.
Before you hastily book a holiday vacation that takes you anywhere but home, read through to find out which destinations are overrated and which ones are worth your money. Ask for those couple extra days off work to take a hike in Scotland or travel to California's wine country. You won't regret it (as long as you don't choose someplace cold, expensive, or crowded), but you should come up with a very good story to tell your family that involves some sort of volunteer activity and not the truth.
25 Skip The Holiday Hustle And Bustle In New York City
The entertainment industry paints a picture of New York City at the holidays like a Hallmark channel movie in which everything is perfect (or at least turns out perfect in the end). However, as beautiful as that Rockefeller Center tree is and as festive as those decorated Fifth Avenue windows are, there is a harsh reality.
According to The Active Times, the average cost of spending Christmas day in the Big Apple is nearly $800 per person (without airfare), making it the most expensive holiday destination in the world. Plus, you aren't going to get a good view of that tree or those windows without fighting for space and standing in a line with loads of other tourists.
24 Don't Be Lured By The Sandy Beaches Of Sydney This Christmas
After hazardous winter storms struck much of the United States early this season already, it is reasonable to assume some folks want to trade in the dreary conditions for sun and sand.
Christmas falls during summertime in Sydney, which means you won't be the only person with the bright idea to head to the beach. Sydney's beaches are so popular, in fact, that a trip there over the holidays can cost up to $3000, according to MSN.
23 Save Snowy St. Paul For A Post-Holiday Adventure
For a few months out of the year, Minneapolis-St. Paul is a wonderful place to be for a vibrant music scene, outdoor craft eateries, and nature expeditions. Those months, however, do not include December and January.
According to The Active Times, average temperatures for the city during the winter dip into the single digits nearly every day. So, unless you want to sit inside the whole time (or end up with frostbite while you force yourself to ice skate), save your Minneapolis sightseeing for later.
22 Aspen Is Not The Place To Shop For Your Secret Santa
Unless you planned a full year in advance, you are going to pay a premium to hit the slopes in Aspen this season.
According to The Active Times, Aspen is a haven for celebrities, big family groups, and the ultra-wealthy, so there is a price to pay to experience some of the best powder in the country.
Plus, the flight options are limited. You can either fly into Denver and be forced to drive the three hours to the resort or land in Aspen and pay significantly more.
21 Tis The Season To Avoid San Francisco
Each year thousands of people dressed in Santa suits descend upon cities across the United States in what is known as SantaCon. The official SantaCon website lists the event as a convention of sorts in which adults just get to be silly by dressing up.
One of the largest gatherings takes place in San Francisco (much to the chagrin of locals). The San Francisco Santa convention, while very festive, also marks the beginning of the priciest time to visit the city, according to MSN.
20 You Can't Hear The Sleigh Bells Over The Horns Honking In London
From Big Ben, to Buckingham Palace, to Piccadilly Circus, there are plenty of sights to see in London any day of the year. Sure, the city has a little more character when the lamp posts are covered in holiday decorations and a net of lights hangs above the streets, but it is still a major city and the streets don't shut down just so tourists can enjoy the scene in peace.
The holiday charm in London contributes to what The Active Times refers to as "Christmas Tax", a phenomenon in which you can expect to pay upwards of twelve percent on basic goods and services during the holiday season for the simple fact that it is the holidays.
19 A Tropical Christmas In Cancun Is Overrated
Packing up the family (or your best group of girlfriends) and heading to an all-inclusive resort for the holidays sounds like one of the best ways to spend a usually chaotic, drama-filled time of the year. But the stress-free vibes are going to turn around pretty quickly when you realize that your poolside cabana costs more than it would any other time of the year.
According to The Active Times, Christmas and New Year's are the most popular times for tourists to flock to Cancun, meaning all the resorts have increased their room and amenity prices.
18 The Lights Are Bright, But The Temperatures are Frigid In Washington DC
The District of Columbia has much to offer, including museums and monuments that generally have free entry for visitors. As much as we love free stuff, it's going to be a harder sell to get us there during the winter months.
According to The Active Times, inclement weather can force some tourist hot spots like the Smithsonian and the National Zoo to close (which means no Zoolights, for you). Plus, MSN reports that it is actually the second most expensive city (behind New York City) to visit during the holiday season.
Consider holding off on visiting until Cherry blossom season when you are almost guaranteed better weather.
17 Old St. Nick And His Helpers Aren't So Jolly In Las Vegas
Las Vegas might not seem like a natural choice to spend the holidays (something about smoke-filled casinos and kitschy replicas of worldly attractions just doesn't scream Christmas caroling and reindeer games).
Interestingly enough, according to The Active Times, tickets to the best shows sell out months in advance during the holiday season. This means that people really are choosing to spend their Christmas playing the slots and gorging themselves at all-you-can-eat buffets (okay, that part we can agree sounds good).
You'll have better luck seeing Elvis live-ish another time.
16 You Will Be More Merry If You're Not In Miami
Buzzfeed just released its eighth annual list of crazy things that have happened in Florida this year (which definitely included the guy that printed fake money at the public library and the woman that stole a live lobster from Red Lobster).
Despite weird things occurring in that state regularly, it is still an extremely popular destination. It's popularity skyrockets in December and January, according to The Active Times, especially in Miami and Ft. Lauderdale. Although the holiday boat parades might be worth the trip, you will be met with higher than average prices on hotels and airfare.
15 Dance The Night Away, Just Not In Vienna
Late November marks the beginning of ball season in Vienna, a tradition that carries through Christmas and New Year's Eve. There's a ball for everything, according to Vienna's tourism site: The Doctor's Ball, The Flower Ball, The Coffeehouse Owner's Ball. All in all, it amounts to nearly 450 balls, many of which are open to the public.
Although it sounds rather dashing to spend Christmas waltzing to the fine tunes of Vienna's orchestra (in the place that invented the waltz), that holiday international airfare cost is going to significantly take away from your ball wardrobe budget. Find another party in another city and just pretend.
14 Paris Is At The Top Of The Naughty List
The romantic in you is eager to spend Christmas sipping champagne and looking longingly from your hotel balcony at the Eiffel Tower, but the practical side of you knows it's not a good idea. Your practical side is right.
According to The Independent, it's not worth the cost to chance a visit to Paris in the winter when you might have cloudy skies and rain the whole time. Pick a springtime date instead, when everything is in bloom and you can spend hours walking through the city and falling in love (there's the romantic side, again).
13 The Crowds In Rome Will Leave You Feeling Like A Scrooge
Spending the holidays in Rome means walking past empty shops on Christmas Day. According to The Active Times, most stores, restaurants, and tourist attractions are closed in observance of Christmas.
If you had thought you would just wander up to the Vatican for the Pope's sermon, that's not quite right either. Christmas Eve Mass requires a ticket and Christmas Day Mass, while a non-ticketed event, draws gigantic crowds. Rather than the holidays, pick a calmer time to visit Rome when everything will be open.
12 Don't Waste Your Christmas Wish On A Trip To New Orleans For The Holidays
New Orleans is the party place to go if you want to celebrate anything. While the hotels in the area do a stand-up job of decorating to make the place feel a little more festive, New Orleans is still the party place to go if you want to celebrate anything.
The Active Times suggests it's not worth going to scour Bourbon Street and the French Quarter anytime other than Halloween, Mardi Gras, or Heritage Festival (except to beat the crowds) because not much goes on outside of those three main events and you might be left feeling dissatisfied.
11 If It Is A White Christmas You're Looking For, Don't Go To Reykjavik
If you can't actually get to the North Pole, then Reykjavik might be your next best option.
The only problem is that, as Wake Up Reykjavik reminded us, there are only about four hours of daylight in the city during the holiday season. Of course, that might help you witness the spectacle that is the Northern Lights. But then again, light pollution from a rapid increase in tourism is ruining some of those pristine viewing opportunities. Oh, and airfare and hotels are going to cost you a fortune.
Okay, let's find another time to go to Iceland.
10 It Is Packaged So Nicely, But The Gift Of Park City Is Deceiving
Any winter sports enthusiast would clamor at the opportunity to soar down the mountain under Utah's wide open sky. However, if you choose to spend your holiday ski trip in Park City, you might be breaking the bank.
According to MSN, average hotel costs per night were just over $500 (up from about $100 over Thanksgiving). We're sorry to say this doesn't get much better if you wait, either, as the arrival of film stars, critics, and movie-goers making their way to the Sundance Film Festival increase prices in January.
9 Make Your List And Check It Twice To Be Sure Machu Picchu Isn't On It
We commend your choice to use your holiday vacation time to take a more cultured trip to Machu Picchu, but you could be putting yourself in a tough situation (sore muscles from a lot of walking, aside).
According to The Active Times, Christmas falls during Peru's rainy season. While this might seem like a small issue if you pack appropriately, the base of Machu Picchu has been known to close due to flooding and resulting mudslides. This means you might be spending a few more days on the trail if you can't get out (which your boss will not be happy about).
8 You're Getting A Lump Of Coal If You Decide To Spend Your Holiday In Cape Town
We know everyone you have ever met is suddenly raving about South Africa and you already decided your holiday card is going to have a picture of you kayaking with dolphins in Cape Town on the front, but we hope you might reconsider.
It turns out everyone is raving about Cape Town because everyone is going now. According to MSN, the city has seen record numbers of tourists in December alone for the past two years. With record arrivals come record prices.
Maybe just a picture of you holding an ornament and your cat for the card instead?
7 Jack Frost And Rudolf Agree That Brussels Is Not The Best Place To Start A New Tradition
Brussels really knows how to greet people for the holidays. The city puts up a huge tree in Grand Place, dazzles visitors with a light show, maintains a gorgeous ice rink, and tops it all off with a fireworks display. And, once you're there, you can keep a relatively reasonable budget.
However, the price of the airfare is going to make you do a double take. According to a search on Kayak, from various destinations in the United States into Brussels, you can expect to pay at least $1500 roundtrip to have a Belgian holiday.
6 You Won't Have Any Money Leftover To Stuff Your Stockings If You Fly To Hawaii
We've got to hand it to Honolulu for their marketing strategies. With images of palm trees plastered all over the television, on subway ads, and strategically placed on our web browsers, we were almost convinced that Hawaii needed to be our vacation destination for the holidays.
Thanks to our friends at The Active Times, we snapped out of our palm-tree induced delirium and remembered just how expensive that trip was going to be. If those ads really got you though and you're itching for Hawaii, just stay out of the touristy areas.