Last time I wrote about Polish Christmas Traditions. This time I’ll tell you how I’m somehow sticking to those traditions while being on the road during Christmas. Well, those will be traditions with a twist or a different perspective on spending Christmas.
For the past three years instead of spending Christmas at home in Poland I decided to travel during this period. Well, there are ups and downs. Traveling during Christmas is more expensive as the flight tickets and hotels have a higher rate. On the other hand, you are not spending money on Christmas shopping so eventually it equals out. What I personally like about Christmas on the road is that you close the apartment door behind you and come back after the New Year. Meaning you are not running around like a headless chicken busy with Christmas preparations.
Why travel during Christmas?
As mentioned, traveling during Christmas and New Year is more expensive. If the normal rate for a night at a hotel is 30 Euro during Christmas and New Year, it’s at least 25% more. So, why bother to pay more? Wouldn’t it be better to travel to the place you want to after Christmas when the prices are lower? Well… it all depends on your priorities. Once I made a calculation of how much I spent for Christmas if I don’t travel.
It turned out that all the shopping, presents, and wine equals the amount I would spend on travel. Additionally, I prefer to go away for Christmas for several reasons.
1. Avoid the Christmas hustle
All the preparations, the crowds in the supermarkets and shopping malls, the cooking and cleaning, go and visit relatives and more relatives… NO! Can’t be bothered to do that anymore. There was a time when I was spending Christmas with my now ex-husband. Each year I was doing all the shopping and inventing a new Christmas menu that didn’t include a fried carp and dried fruit juice. God that was so exhausting. All that hustle just for three festive days. Just not worth the effort. Now I’m closing my apartment door around the 15th of December and coming back in the first week of January.
2. I’m not a family person
Although I love my Mum and Dad, I don’t like to spend Christmas at my parents’ house. It’s the same every year. Same food, same decorations, same schedule. I’ve spent Christmas with my parents for like the past twenty years, think that’s enough. Furthermore, when I go to visit relatives, the aunties always ask those questions that every thirty-year-old doesn’t wanna hear. Like – when will you find somebody, oh when will you have children? The time is ticking. Look at your younger cousin, she has two already.
Yeah, I absolutely love to hear that. Hence, I prefer to be away for Christmas. Mum and Dad understand 😉
3. It’s a present for myself
I treat the Christmas travel as a present for myself. As I work hard throughout the year, I want my Christmas trip to be very special. This year I’m going for a skiing trip to winter wonderland. It will be the first time in a very long time that I’ll have snow for Christmas. In the previous years I went to Thailand, Indonesia, China, Southern Spain, and Portugal. Yeah, it will be a bit more expensive but how many times do you have the chance to spend Christmas and New Year in the heart of the Alps? Hell yeah, well deserved Alice!
Christmas travel hints
If you decide to travel during Christmas, you need to pay extra attention to, for example museum opening hours. Not all restaurants might be open, or some attractions might be completely closed. Hence, doing research while planning the itinerary is crucial. Some hints what to pay attention t.o
1. Book way in advance
If you want to have some good hotels options to choose from, book in advance. Accommodation in popular tourist places is disappearing at lightspeed for the Christmas period. If you are late the only remaining options will be either high end hotels or cheap third-class hostels. The mid-range accommodation sector will be even more expensive than usual. If you book around August, there is a good chance you will be lucky to get a decent hotel deal. This year I was a bit late with booking my accommodation in the Alps – did it in September but there were some good options left. The places I’ve booked are not bad and reasonably priced with an acceptable distance from the slopes. Only, had I done it earlier, the range to choose from would be larger. Anyhow, I’m happy with what I got. Now, I’m just keeping my fingers crossed that Austria will lift the lockdown after December 13th 😉
2. Check business hours
Depending on the country the business hours of restaurants, museums, cafes, and attractions might differ. Hong Kong for example, everything is open during Christmas. The shops might close earlier, and the small shop owners choose whether to open for business but generally all is open.
We are not talking here about Chinese New Year as the majority of things are closed during that time. Once when I was coming back from Australia on Easter Monday, I went to the bakery to get bread. It would be impossible in Poland as all bakeries are closed on Easter Monday. Indonesia for example, the business operates as usual only some dive shops or tour operators are closed on the 25th of December but resuming business on the 26th. Spain on the other hand is different. Sevilla on the 25th of December looked like after a zombie apocalypse. I left my hotel around 9 am and was the only person on the bus that was going to the city centre. All restaurants were closed. After some time walking I found one where I could have breakfast. The Real Alcazar was closed that day, luckily it was open for sightseeing the next day. Noticed that in the countries where Christmas is more of a big deal like Spain, the US or Poland the opening hours differ, and places can be closed for the festive period. In countries where Christmas isn’t celebrated or is not such a big deal, like the Middle East all operates as usual.
3. Have a backup plan
Before covid times I would say have a backup plan for the sights you want to visit and when. During covid times I can say have a backup plan when it comes to your entire holidays. When booking flights or hotels make sure the tickets are flexible and the hotels have a decent cancellation policy. Right now, I keep my fingers crossed that Austria won’t extend the lockdown beyond the 13th of December. If they do, I can cancel my hotels free of charge. While booking those I triple checked the cancellation policy. Also, if the lockdown gets extended, I’ll change my destination to Switzerland. Sadly, during covid times there is more work involved in Christmas holiday planning then usual. Anyway, worth the effort.
All I want for Christmas is…?
So, what happens when you do all those preparations and leave for the Christmas holidays? In the end you’re gonna end up alone in a hotel room. Not necessarily. At some point yes you will end up alone in your hotel room. How is that different from ending up alone in your room at your parent’s house? Point is that for most of us Christmas is all about spending time with family and enjoying all that food, presents and traditions together. I can’t stop myself from asking, do you really? Of course, some of us absolutely love family Christmas. Once I got invited by my bestie PRS to her house for the second day of Christmas celebrations. Have to say it was super fun! However, when I listen to my other friends, they are not fans of spending Christmas with the family. Sadly, they either don’t have the guts to say they don’t want to, or they simply can’t mix themselves out of family Christmas celebrations for various reasons. So, how does it feel like to be by yourself for Christmas? Absolutely fabulous!
Every time when I’m spending Christmas on the road, I try to resemble the traditional food we have for Christmas back in Silesia. In Thailand for example I had tom yum kung soup, shrimps as a starter, papaya salad and a delicious, steamed fish as the main course. As tradition goes, I’ve put a two Euro coin under my plate. Placed it in my wallet after dinner and didn’t spend it till the next Christmas… that to have fortune in my finances. In Indonesia the divers I met on the boat came over to my hotel for a Christmas BBQ. We had an amazing time eating, drinking, and talking. Last year in Spain the traditional dinner looked a bit different. It had meat on the menu but in my hotel room I’ve hung up a mistletoe. Did I feel lonely while spending Christmas alone?
Absolutely not! Because deep down all I want for Christmas is peace and quiet. I don’t want to hear if I want some more cheesecake or that I must, yes, must go to visit relatives. Also, I don’t wanna get upset during Christmas. Now let’s be frank, in most households Christmas doesn’t exist without an argument somewhere during the day. You forget to pick up something last minute from the shop and you get yelled at by Mum. Or Mum while cleaning misspaces Dad’s stuff… perfect situation for an argument. Geez, no… was witnessing it for too long and at some point, had enough.
If all you want for Christmas is peace and quiet, close the apartment door behind you before Christmas and fly away. Besides, the feeling of swimming in the ocean on the 24th of December is amazing!
In case you haven’t planned for any Christmast travel yet, no worries. You can always get into a car and start driving. All nice and ad hoc style… there are plenty of home stays that you will be passing on your way 😉