Give your loved ones their Best. Holiday. Ever. These unforgettable celebrations have it covered.
They say there’s no place like home for the holidays. But if home is where the heart is, you’ll find it right here in these destinations that know a thing or two about making every spirit a little brighter.
RIU HOTELS & RESORTS
Spending the holidays “as you like it” should be a given. When obligations start to say otherwise, it might be time to reconsider your plans … and take a look at this global all-inclusive beach brand. A go-to for Mexico, Caribbean, and Costa Rica getaways, RIU gets a place on our nice list for their sheer number of options. Family-friendly, adults-only, spa days, Splash Water World, themed restaurants, little-bit-of-everything buffets. And that’s just what they offer year-round.
Holiday touches from late November through early January add extra possibility. Christmas trees light up lobbies starting in December, while gala dinners for Christmas night light up faces realizing they can enjoy their favorite dishes sans the cleanup. The biggest party of all, though, isn’t until the last night of the year. Kick off 2022 the same way you’ll want to spend it: having a blast. A live show and outdoor DJ-led dance party turn New Year’s Eve into the social spectacle you’ve been missing. Count down with a glass of complimentary sparkling wine and all the enthusiasm of Times Square—but none of the cold! The next morning, start the new year the best way possible, by relaxing on a world-class beach.
Planning 2022: Take your pick of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve. Booking early means you’ll have no problems getting your ideal room for your choice of holiday. If you’re nervous about missing out on a lower price later on, add Travel Protection Plus to get the ALG Vacations® Price Guarantee, plus the power to cancel for any reason should you need to.
When you can’t stop humming “Feliz Navidad,” it’s a sign that the North Pole isn’t the destination on your mind. Head south for the winter to celebrate every moment of the holidays with the recently rebranded AMR™ Collection. From Cancun and Cozumel to Los Cabos and Puerto Vallarta, find their properties in Mexico’s top beach resorts, and their amenities all included.
Live shows and entertainment, most free and many featuring local traditions, make appearances on the calendar in the days around Christmas across the brands. Gather the kids for Santa Claus’ arrival at Dreams Vallarta Bay on Christmas Eve, or the Grinch’s at Dreams Los Cabos. On the other coast, Now Emerald Cancun celebrates with a piñata and optional dinner show. Older guests staying up for Santa should finish the night by the pool, where a DJ spins tunes to spread the cheer.
Couples and friends traveling without kids might prefer waiting a week for New Year’s Eve and the over-the-top bashes it brings to AMR™ Collection adults-only resorts. Look forward to themes like Sparkling Night at Secrets Aura Cozumel, the cosmic Mythical Breath at Breathless Cabo San Lucas, and a neon jungle party at Breathless Riviera Cancun. Those who greet 2022 a little too enthusiastically can revive with a Recovery Brunch at the latter two the next morning—and indulge on thoughts of their next trip back.
Planning 2022: Most events are free of cost, but ask when booking what specifically is included to make sure you don’t miss out. If you’re planning on attending a party, check the dress code a month or so in advance to give yourself time to find an outfit on theme.
HOTEL XCARET MEXICO (FAMILY) & HOTEL XCARET ARTE (ADULTS-ONLY)
One of the best parts of this time of year is the lights. Whether blue and silver for Hanukkah, red, green, and bright white for Christmas, or gold for New Year’s, seeing nighttime scenes suddenly illuminated is enough to make any scene seem extraordinary. But when you take an already breathtaking setting and turn on the shine, the result is a holiday backdrop far more stunning than any card.
Sister resorts Hotel Xcaret Mexico and Hotel Xcaret Arte in Mexico’s lush Riviera Maya know how to play up their natural beauty year-round. Guests lucky enough to stay for the winter holidays will find it enhanced with eye-catching light displays like at the chapel—a Hallmark-worthy venue for a Christmastime wedding. Dazzling as the lights are, though, it’s the gift that keeps on giving that cemented Hotel Xcaret’s spot on our list: included, unlimited access to ALL of the Grupo Xcaret eco- and adventure parks, plus certain tours to Cobá and Tulum. A major benefit of their All-Fun Inclusive concept, couples and families alike will be hard-pressed to decide if they’d rather be out ziplining, challenged by adrenaline-inducing activities in Xavage, dancing on a Mexican gondola, or savoring the sun on site by the pool. Stays coinciding with Christmas or New Year’s Eve add another perk, with premium dining experiences travel advisors can reserve in advance.
Planning 2022: Several of the parks don’t require a reservation, and those that do don’t need to be set up until you arrive, giving you plenty of the spontaneity the holiday season typically doesn’t allow for. Just be sure to book your hotel room well in advance, since December is always a popular time to travel.
NICKELODEON HOTELS & RESORTS PUNTA CANA
’Tis officially the season at this first-of-its-kind all-inclusive property by Karisma. December 6 marked the first day of the resort’s holiday celebration. Expect all the decorative delights of Christmas, from trees to wreaths to glowing strands, throughout the property and a full list of themed activities (check the hotel app daily) at the Kids Club, Club Nick, and Plaza Orange—all places where you can catch a glimpse of the Nickelodeon gang.
Santa SpongeBob and Patrick Christmas Tree (with, of course, a Star on top) are just two of the characters to don their holiday apparel for photo ops. Spot them walking around the grounds, or book a dedicated experience to guarantee the kids get to meet their favorite toons in person. If matching holiday PJs is your family’s annual tradition, book a Pajama Jam character breakfast for a new spin. Or, go for glam and strut your stuff down the Orange Carpet. Kids can opt for a “slime mohawk” or face painting to nab Best Dressed. The star attraction, though, has to be the live musical show at Gourmet Village. Dance and sing along to familiar favorites, and keep an eye out for surprises.
If it’s season’s eatings that’s your favorite part of the holidays, you’ll be right at home here all December long. Each of the six à la carte restaurants has updated their menu to include themed treats and displays. For an out-of-this-world dinner, make your reservation at Spacewalker early. Three times a night, six days a week, they dish out food “from far-flung galaxies” served by “astronauts.” Adults can get into the holiday spirit at Vino Vino with a Christmassy cocktail. After, bring everyone back together in your suite or, for an early present splurge, the unique Pineapple Villa, inspired by SpongeBob’s home and upgraded with butler service and preferred dining and spa access.
Planning 2022: Thanksgiving gets its own celebration as well, complete with turkey and all the fixings you’d be munching on back home. New Year’s and even Three Kings’ Day (1/6/22) also have spots on the Nickelodeon holiday roster, giving you more options for more playful partying.
UNIVERSAL ORLANDO® RESORT
Fifty-one days and nights of holiday fantasy—that’s what Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure are offering up for the most festive time of the year. Now through January 2, guests of every age can get into the spirit of the season with help from their favorite characters.
Unwrap smiles as cheerful as The Grinch™ after his heart grew three sizes with the Grinchmas™ Who-liday Spectacular, a live retelling of the Christmas classic, starring the maven of mischief himself, The Grinch™, at Universal’s Islands of Adventure. Stroll through Who-ville afterward to feel like you’re walking through a real winter wonderland of giant candy canes, decorated trees, and tinsel garlands. Then, experience Christmas in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™ at Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure. The streets of Hogsmeade™, Diagon Alley™, and London become beautifully adorned with themed decorations, garlands, and lights as the sounds of special holiday-themed performances fill the air. Toast the Frog Choir’s caroling with a hot Butterbeer™, or catch wizarding world sensation Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees in Diagon Alley™, before capping off your evening in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™ – Hogsmeade™ at Universal’s Islands of Adventure to enjoy The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts Castle, featuring special holiday projections and moments inspired by the films.
This year marks the return of Universal’s Holiday Parade featuring Macy’s—parade experts if we’ve ever seen them!—at Universal Studios Florida. Together, they’ve put on a show to remember with over 30 gigantic balloons and character appearances by Minions from Illumination’s Despicable Me and fan-favorite characters from DreamWorks Animation’s Shrek and Madagascar, and more … not to mention the jolly big man in red himself, Santa Claus. Make sure to stay until the finale to see Santa Claus light the breathtaking 80-foot Christmas Tree. But if it’s a sweeter treat you have in mind, head to CityWalk® for desserts and cookies so good, you won’t want to leave any for Santa.
From dazzling decorations to unforgettable entertainment, it’s the awesomest celebration of the season—only at Universal Orlando Resort.
Our favorite type of California dreaming? The kind with sugarplums, of course! … Or perhaps a little pixie dust. Disneyland® knows how to do good cheer any day of the year, but over the holidays, they dial it up to Olaf-in-summer levels. Magical extras from simply stunning—a towering Christmas tree on Main Street, U.S.A., “snow” flurrying down on an illuminated Sleeping Beauty’s Winter Castle, costume changes for Mickey Mouse and friends—to delightfully unexpected. Take the scenic route through the holiday-bedecked Cars Land, or dance along with the Three Caballeros during the Disney ¡Viva Navidad! street party. Find even more global-inspired celebrations with the Disney Festival of Holidays, flavors new and familiar at Festival Foods Marketplace and Jolly Holiday Bakery Café, and a special holiday edition of It’s a Small World perfect for even the youngest Disney fan.
Tweens and teens will likely be drawn to another ride’s holiday get-up: the once-a-year Haunted Mansion Holiday, inspired by Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas. Appearances from Jack Skellington, Sally, Oogie Boogie, and the rest of the Halloween Town crew make it a “Skellebration” they’ll never forget.
No matter their age, every family member can find magic in the small touches throughout the resort, and the joy of the season Disney has mastered expressing.
Planning 2022: The holiday magic begins mid-November and runs through early January (1/9/22 for this season), giving you more time to enjoy the magic—and making for an extra-special gift this year to start the excitement for next year.
WALT DISNEY WORLD® RESORT
What better place to celebrate the most wonderful time of the year than "The Most Magical Place on Earth"? Currently in the midst of the Walt Disney World® Resort 50th Anniversary celebration, the Theme Parks and beyond have all upped the already high-as-the-Skyliner ante on the guest experience. From an EARidescent makeover of Cinderella Castle in Magic Kingdom® to the inspirational Harmonious nighttime spectacular at EPCOT®—not to mention delicious new sweet and savory treats and special anniversary merchandise everywhere you turn—Walt Disney World® has truly outdone itself. But when you add that dash of holiday festivity, visits somehow become even more enchanting.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios® will leave you starstruck with a motorcade featuring Santa and photo ops with his helper, Santa Goofy, and the rest of the Fab Five. Later on, catch Sunset Seasons Greetings, which sets the iconic Hollywood “Holiday” Tower Hotel twinkling as it transforms into Arendelle, a Muppets gingerbread scene, Mickey’s Christmas Carol village, and more. At Disney’s Animal Kingdom® Theme Park, another Beacon of Magic, the Tree of Life, becomes as festive as the Christmas trees sprinkled around the park, and EPCOT® turns into one giant holiday market with the EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays (now – 12/30).
Attractions get into the holiday spirit as well. Kids and kids-at-heart will love looking for seasonal touches at Disney Springs®. Take the Disney Springs Christmas Tree Stroll, returning once again, to discover the elaborately decorated, Disney-themed Christmas trees dedicated to favorite rides (Don’t miss the one for the Haunted Mansion near T-REX™!), parks, and films. Afterwards, stock up on obligatory not-so-ugly sweaters, plus stockings, character merch, and special 50th Anniversary souvenirs.
Back in Magic Kingdom, it’s not until after dark that things really kick off. Cheerfully called the Disney Very Merriest After Hours, the new four-hour ticketed event, held after regular park hours on select nights through December 21, dresses up Cinderella’s Castle in holiday patterns; makes wishes come true with Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas Parade; and lights up the sky with Minnie’s Wonderful Christmastime Fireworks. Seasonal songs, snacks, and shorter wait times for attractions add to the festive fun. Best of all, guests don’t need a day theme park ticket or reservation, making it a great option for locals and vacationers staying elsewhere in Orlando.
Planning 2022: Walt Disney World® Resort offers one of the longest holiday celebrations on our list, so you can time your visit as early as the week before Thanksgiving to join in. Stay on property for perks like more time in the Theme Parks and the chance to see your hotel’s baked-from-scratch gingerbread masterpiece.
Want to share the holiday magic? Check out our collection of “Gifts from Travels for This Holiday Season” ... and check OFF your gift-giving list!