It’s hard to deny the pull of home for the holidays: there’s the huge family dinners, cozy nights around the fire catching up with family members or friends you haven’t seen in ages, holiday parties, the excitement around gift exchanges, and eating till you’re ready to drop. But there’s also a small but increasingly popular alternative route for the tail end of the year: spending the holiday season traveling to your dream places.

Yes, airfare might be a bit higher based on flight popularity. But in much of the world it’s off-peak season, meaning hotels, dining and entertainment are less costly than in peak summer months. With Christmas and New Year’s both falling on weekends this year, it’s the perfect time for an escape. If you’re looking for places where you can enjoy the holiday spirit while experiencing the thrill of traveling, here are some places to consider:

For the Traditionalist: Austria/Germany

I've flown to Germany with @lufthansa where I'm exploring their home city of Frankfurt for a few nights. This city is not only the home of #Lufthansa and a lot of German banking but it's also where one of the oldest and largest of Germany's christmas markets can be found. According to my research, there's been a Weihnachtsmarkt here since as early as 1393! Back then the Christkindchensmarkts were for locals who wanted to purchase essentials for the long winter ahead and only citizens of Frankfurt could trade products. Now, more than 200 stalls sell everything from handmade wooden toys to roasted nuts to candles and glühwein. After moving around town in the post-war years, the market moved to Römerberg in the 1970s and the area features my favorite architecture in the city!

A photo posted by Kirsten Alana 📷 (@kirstenalana) on

Ready to ditch family drama but not the holiday spirit? See the season at its best with a trip through Austria and Germany.

Begin in Vienna, where you can meander through outdoor Christmas markets. Take a warm break from shopping by snacking on traditional sausage with mulled wine. In the evening, hum along to the Vienna boys choir, known worldwide for its angelic tones. From Vienna, drive through year-around favorites Salzberg and Munich as you make your way to the idyllic town of Nuremberg. There, you’ll experience what is often hailed as the world’s greatest Christmas market. Travelers can grab an oversized gingerbread cookie before hopping into a horse drawn carriage to get a tour of the medieval town.

For Night Owls: Iceland

Days are short, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a blast on a winter wonderland trip to Iceland. During the four hours of daylight, be sure to look for the 12 Yule Lads, from Iceland’s own holiday tale, as you listen to the live music and learn more about Nordic tradition in the city museum.

Once the sun goes down, the real fun begins. The Northern Lights are visible eight months a year in Iceland, but the holiday season is in the very middle, meaning you’re near-guaranteed to see the aurora. Head just outside Reykjavik – the road to the airport is a local favorite – on a night with clear skies. Once you’ve gotten your fix, head back into the city for legendary nightlife.

For the History Buff: Mexico

The holiday season is a great time to check out one of Mexico’s most historic towns and a UNESCO World Heritage site, San Miguel de Allende. It was the first municipality to declare independence during the Mexican War of Independence, and more recently it’s become known as a hub for artists and musicians.

Between museum tours you can catch a procession or a posadas reenactment. Taste ponche, a Mexican hot toddy, as you take in the Spanish colonial architecture. At night, dance to live music in the main square under the sparkle of a fireworks show.

For the Snow Bunny: Vancouver

Let it snow ❄️ #dinachmutphotography

A photo posted by Dina Chmut Photography (@dinachmut.collection) on

Tucked between scaling peaks, Vancouver is one of the prettiest cities in the world. It might shock you that the city has a mild winter, without much snowfall, so it’s easy to explore year around. Pop in to one of the trendy new restaurants or get a ticket to a Canucks game to experience how the locals live.

Once you’ve got your bearings, it’s time to head out of the city for the area’s most loved winter activity: winter sports. Whistler, just a two-hour drive from the city, is a world-renown ski town that hosted the 2010 Winter Olympics. For those looking for something a bit lower key, Cypress, Grouse, and Seymour resorts are also nearby.

For the Beach Bum: Australia

Looking to escape the winter cold? Get a ticket for down under. Australia’s seasons are opposite the US, so the heart of our winter is when their summer is in full swing. Animal lovers adore the Kaikoura Peninsula, which is teeming with seals, dolphins, and multiple types of whales. Boathouses on the beach rent snorkel gear and kayaks so you can get up close. Afterwards, relax on the beach and soak up the sun.

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