There’s little as stressful, or as special, as holiday travel. Is there any place more infused with yuletide spirit than a German Christmas market? Or more firework-filled than Beijing on the Lunar New Year? Spookier than Salem on Halloween? More bumper-to-bumper than I-95 the day before Thanksgiving?
Though travelers do have to deal with extra crowds on holidays, they also get the chance to witness something truly unique—a celebration shared across the globe, or an event cherished by a single locale. Whether you're going home for Christmas (or taking a relaxing beach vacation very, very far away from home) Travel + Leisure knows how to navigate the best and worst of holiday travels. We can even help you nail down the perfect reservation for Valentine’s Day or discover the best place in the nation to grill on the Fourth of July.
The busiest times of year to travel in the United States are, no surprise, summertime, spring break, Christmas, New Year’s, and Thanksgiving. (During Thanksgiving alone, the number of long-distance trips—taken to a destination at least 50 miles away—more than doubles.) T+L has holiday trip ideas ready-made: for three-day-weekends, Christmas in Spain, New Year’s Eve in New York, Halloween in Transylvania, and more.
Though there are less busy, and often less expensive, times of year to travel (basically all of winter after January 1st), holiday vacations are popular for a reason. Not only are travelers more likely to have time off, but their friends and loved ones are, too. So whether you plan to rendezvous at family or friend’s houses, or jet off together for trips far from home, it’s worth the extra effort.
If you do go farther afield, the possibilities are nearly endless. Visit Mexico during Día de Muertos, or Delhi during Diwali, Stonehenge during the Solstice, Rio during Carnival, Thailand during Songkran, Seville during Holy Week, Kyoto during O-Bon—you get the idea.
Because so many holidays across the globe originate as religious festivals (they don’t call them holi-, or holy, days for nothing), it’s important to be respectful and conscientious when visiting a new place and experiencing a new celebration. It’s part of the magic of a holiday getaway: the chance to share something sacred.