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9 best Christmas holiday destinations for families

Plan a December to remember with our roundup of the best family-friendly Christmas holiday destinations, from snowy spots to sun-drenched resorts.

By Kim Gregory | Last updated Jan 3, 2023

Husky sled ride through snowy Lapland forest

Fancy a change this Christmas? Leave the turkey-basting and boardgame arguments at home, and jet off for a December to remember at these best family-friendly holiday destinations for Christmas. Go crackers for Crimbo in Lapland, try an epic winter city break in New York or kick back with some winter sun in magical Mauritius.

It’s worth considering that some destinations can get very cold, busy and expensive at this time of year (hi Lapland!) so do your research to check if it’s right for your family and book in advance to avoid disappointment. Then, pack your tacky jumpers and jet off to create magical yuletide memories during the school Christmas holidays.

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1. Best for a Christmas city break: New York, USA

The Rockefeller Center with Christmas trees underneath

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“New York… Magical!” - recommended by Mumsnet user, bitofabelly

“I would recommend The Rockettes show at Radio City. Very Christmassy and cheesy but a must do. Saks on Fifth Avenue have a light show on the outside of the store every night which is lovely. Rockefeller Centre for ice skating - we just watched. Central Park. The Christmas trees and decorations dotted all over the place outside. Honestly just being there is amazing” - recommended by Mumsnet user, RoofFlower

New York City gets even more magical at Christmas when the Big Apple is decked out in sparkles galore. Beyond the usual hotspots like the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty, make time to see the larger-than-life Christmas trees (the Rockefeller Centre tree is a must) and mesmerising department store window displays around Manhattan. Stop at Macy’s to meet Santa then head to Central Park for ice skating. You might just feel like you’re in a Christmas film - and you can take a festive movie tour to boot. Just prepare for cold weather, crowds and relatively high prices.

2. Best cold weather Christmas break: Lapland, Finland

Husky sled ride through snowy Lapland forest

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“We did Finland/Lapland last year. Outrageously expensive, but properly fairytale snow! The air literally sparkled, lovely soft snow everywhere, completely magical!” - recommended by Mumsnet user, HalloweenCooking

“It will be the best holiday of your whole lifetime. My dc were past the Santa age when we went (with Tui) and it made no difference to the magic of the place. It was by far the most expensive holiday I have ever had but also the best. It was -26c while we were there but the clothing we were given by Tui was fab” - recommended by Mumsnet user, TwoleftUggs

“I’ve been with my family and it was the best experience for the kids and the most amazing and magical day making memories. We went 9 years ago with the kids and still talk about it all the time. It was magical and the memories last forever” - recommended by Mumsnet user, WifeMotherWorkRepeat

Meet the big man himself at Finland’s Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi: the “Official Hometown of Santa Claus”. Meeting Santa and his reindeer in the snow-capped village will make a believer out of any sceptic so the Christmas magic lives on. It's truly one of the best Christmas holiday destinations for kids.

You can also experience unforgettable activities in resorts like Levi, Pyha, Ruka, Saariselka, Salla and Yllas, including husky sled rides, snowmobiling and possible sighting of the Northern Lights flooding through the Finnish skies. View them from a glass igloo hotel, if you’ve the budget. Snow isn’t guaranteed everywhere so it’s best to research conditions before booking. Regardless, prepare for the freezing cold. Because of temperatures and the hefty price tag, some Mumsnetters suggest it’s a trip for kids aged 5+.

3. Best for a stress-free Christmas holiday: Christmas cruise

Cruise ship on the ocean

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“Went on a cruise for Christmas twice when my kids were teens and loved it! I was ready to escape the Christmas stress and it really worked. The ship was decorated beautifully and Christmassy, no cooking or baking, the children's Christmas presents were things they wanted on the cruise and nothing else. Best decision ever, we did it twice” - recommended by Mumsnet user, newusernamelouise

“Cruising at Christmas can be very special. The decorations are out of this world, you don’t have to worry about food and everything is Christmas themed (e.g. all the music and onboard films). When we went, there were fake snow machines, gingerbread decorating, carol singing, midnight mass, wreaths on all the cabin doors, Santa’s grotto, elf workshops, a tree lighting ceremony…. I could go on!” - recommended by Mumsnet user, Fivemoreminutes1

On a Christmas cruise, you’ll have everything you need for a classic Christmas day with your family - without having to plan, cook, wash up or even make the beds. Think festive shows, films, games, food and drinks, Santa visits and carolling concerts; plus you’ll have access to the ship’s usual trimmings like swimming pools, activities, on-land excursions and kids’ clubs (so you can gift yourself a trip to the spa!). The level of Christmassy-ness will vary per cruise line and ship so check the details before booking. It might be more expensive than your average cruise but given that everything is taken care of, it’s a small price to pay for a stress-free Christmas holiday and you certainly won’t have to endure the kids complaining of boredom.

4. Best for a luxury Christmas break: Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Dubai buildings lit up at night

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“We did Atlantis Dubai at Christmas, it was amazing and very stress free” - recommended by Mumsnet user, Youcanlaugh

“I was also going to suggest Dubai as we have been at Christmas. Perfect temp at that time of year for young children. My DCs were 2 and 5 when we went” - recommended by Mumsnet user, BunsyGirl

Dubai’s famously luxurious hotels and malls are kitted out in the sparkliest trees and extravagant decs you ever did see in December (though Christmas isn’t a national holiday here). Imagine Christmas Day spent at an epic all-you-can-eat brunch promising new levels of Christmas-dinner-fullness; followed by an afternoon on the beach in the 25(ish) degree heat; then a flurry of family activities like toboggan rides in the snow at Ski Dubai or heading up the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building. Stick around for epic New Year’s Eve fireworks.

5. Best short-haul Christmas beach break: Lanzarote, Canaries

A bay in Lanzarote

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“Canaries Islands. Our fav is Lanzarote, been many times and always had good weather in Dec” - recommended by Mumsnet user, Roselilly36

“Short haul with mild, warm weather at Christmas - Canaries. There are lots of different holidays you could do there (hotel, SC, AI, etc). If you fancy Lanzarote then the Princess Yaiza always seems to get the thumbs up with families. We've been to the Sandos Papagayo with our kids and loved it” - recommended by Mumsnet user, juneau

Leave drizzly December days at home and opt for yuletide by the seaside in the beautiful Canary Islands in Spain, where you’ll avoid a dreaded long-haul flight with darling little ones. Many Mumsnetters recommend Lanzarote, around a 4.5-hour flight from the UK. Expect ideal temperatures of early to mid 20s, dropping cooler at night, a pleasant, festive atmosphere that's great for families, and a post-Christmas lunch dip in the sea.

6. Best fun-packed Christmas holiday: Florida and Walt Disney World Resort, Orlando, USA

Cinderella castle at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida

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“We went to Florida Keys and stayed in Islamorada then did Disney in the 2 weeks over Christmas. It was fab. It was plenty hot enough - mid to high 20s every day” - recommended by Mumsnet user, mummymeister

Double the family’s excitement with two holidays in one. Start in the Florida Keys, where you can indulge in exciting activities like snorkeling, kayaking and dolphin-spotting alongside relaxing days on the picture-perfect, palm-lined beaches and indulging in the decked-up resorts.

And combine with an explosion of festive cheer at Walt Disney World Resort, Orlando where your children’s mince pies - read: eyes - will light up at dazzling Christmassy shows, Disney-tastic festive fireworks and parades featuring Mickey, princesses and Santa. All that’s besides the usual rides, lands and meet-n-greets.

7. Best long-haul Christmas beach break: Mauritius

Sea, beach and hills in Mauritius

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“Been to Mauritius quite a few times. Always lovely. Going back at Xmas with DC and DH to Le Telfair. Mauritius has a lovely vibe. Quality of beaches and reef better than most of Caribbean (except St Vincent, Curaçao and Bonaire)” - recommended by Mumsnet user, thesootherfairy

“We did Mauritius a few years ago with a 6 &12 Yr old. It was our favourite holiday ever and we have travelled a lot. The island is very compact and easy to explore. Loads of stuff for kids” - recommended by Mumsnet user, bert3400

You’ll likely find a joyous, family-friendly atmosphere at Christmas time in Mauritius. Even the landscape seems to join in, as flame trees blossom an eye-catching red at this time of year. Shops and hotels will be decked to the nines and family-friendly resorts will throw impressive festive brunches and dinners. Temperatures are typically in their high 20s to early 30s. Do like the locals and pack a beach picnic for a festive family feast on the sand. Why spend Christmas watching Xmas reruns when you can watch sunsets with a cocktail in hand? Bliss.

8. Best for a traditional festive escape: German Christmas markets

German Christmas market from above

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“Cologne is good, very accessible by train and has lots of different markets. You also have Bonn, Dusseldorf and Aachen down the road so you can go to different ones outside Cologne as well” - recommended by Mumsnet user, gatehouseoffleet

“We had a lovely time in Cologne with 2 little ones. Lots of markets, a little road train to take you between them, the Lindt chocolate museum and the zoo” - recommended by Mumsnet user, FlagDay

Don your festive knitwear and hit the Christmas markets in Germany - one of the best places to go on holiday at Christmas - where the sound of carolers mingles with the smell of toasting waffles and roasting chestnuts. Sip mulled wine (hot choc for your little elves) as you browse stalls of handcrafted gifts and wooden toys that kids will go mad for. Just prepare yourself for the cold weather and overpriced sugary treats!

Many markets will have rides, like carousels and Ferris wheels, and Santa’s grottoes (bonus points to Berlin market, where Santa flies overhead in his sleigh!). Cologne is a popular option with its Christmas Express train between markets. See several cities' or towns' markets in one trip by catching the train (the normal one, this time) to other Christmas market destinations near Cologne like Dusseldorf and Aachen.

9. Best long-haul Christmas holiday: New Zealand

Snow-capped mountains in New Zealand

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“I would go to NZ - it's amazing! Whale watching, wineries, penguins, mountains, beaches - really has everything” - recommended by Mumsnet user, ShanghaiDiva

Outdoorsy families can make the most of the Christmas school hols with an adventurous trip to New Zealand. With stunning mountains, beaches and islands, you’ll be spending Christmas among some of the world’s best scenery - and in pleasant temperatures (varying per region) as it’s spring and summer there.

Enjoy activities galore from hiking, kayaking and forest zip-lining, to wildlife encounters and Lord of the Rings tours. Consider joining an organised tour for unique experiences (that you won’t have to plan). Keep your eyes peeled for Santa parades and light displays in the big cities. Complete your unique adventure with a sunny BBQ for an unforgettable Christmas dinner.

Where’s warm at Christmas for a holiday?

From our list, you’ll find December sunshine in New Zealand, Mauritius, Florida, Lanzarote and Dubai. Mauritius is the hottest destination, while Lanzarote offers temperatures in the early to mid 20s, but with a much shorter flight time.

What’s the most festive destination for a Christmas holiday?

If you’re going for full Christmas cheer on your December holiday, Mumsnetters reckon you can’t beat Finnish Lapland. Disney World goes all-out of course; while Germany plays host to some super-festive Christmas markets.

What’s the best destination for a Christmas holiday?

It depends what your family wants. Outdoorsy adventure? New Zealand. Easy family fun in the sun? Lanzarote. Full Christmas cheer? Lapland. Dubai will make a luxurious break; while New York promises a sparkling big city experience. Consider prices, crowds and temperatures when you choose. For further inspo, check out our roundup of the best winter sun destinations and our guide to the best city breaks for families. Looking for something closer to home? Read our UK Christmas breaks guide.

How we chose our recommendations

First we consulted our Mumsnet forums, relying on the views and opinions of real parents who have booked a Christmas holiday for their family. We then researched each destination, taking into account travel publications, review sites and blogs. Then, we used the research to create our shortlist of the best family-friendly holiday destinations for Christmas to help inspire your festive trip.

Why you should trust us

We work hard to provide unbiased, independent advice you can trust. We do sometimes earn revenue through affiliate (click to-buy) links in our articles. This helps us fund more helpful articles like this one.