Yes, we know it’s only September, and we’re still getting over the school holidays, but given how quickly this year seems to have whizzed by already, it’s never too early to turn our minds to a cool Yule. Please don’t hate us for using the ‘C’ word, but if you’re not feeling like a turkey dinner in Singapore this year, we’ve got some awesome direct flight ideas for a festive break that includes everything from hitting the ski slopes to BBQs on the beach, Christmas lights in London to festive fairs in Europe…
1. Mulled wine, hog roasts and Christmas carousels : London!
We might be a little bit biased (most of the HK team has spent time living in London) but we adore London in the winter! The Brits really know how to do Christmas, and with mulled wine, turkey with all the trimmings, Father Christmas in every shopping mall, traditional carousels and outdoor ice-skating opps at cool places like the National History Museum and South Bank, need we say more? Once you have completed your Harrods shopping list, have had your fill of mince pies and have snapped a gazillion photos of your sightseeing expeditions, why not take a hop, skip and a jump over to the nearby ski-resorts dotted around Europe? The perfect family Christmas if ever there was one.
Don’t miss: Harrods and Hamleys for your Xmas shopping, the famous London sightseeing icons (Buckingham Palace et al), The National History Museum, London Zoo, Greenwich Observatory and a Harry Potter Studio Tour (a short drive from London).
Family-friendly digs: We love the location of the Melia White House near Regent’s Park. We also like the more wallet-friendly Novotel Tower Bridge Hotel!
Direct flights: Singapore Airlines, Norwegian Airlines and British Airways are the 14 hour (ish) direct options, but we’ve tried (and survived!) many a stop-over flight with kids and no dramas. It’s kinda nice to stretch your legs half way!
2. Surf’s up! Have a seafood barbecue and grab a cold beer at the beach: Australia!
Head Down Under with your sunscreen, flip flops and sense of adventure for a Christmas all about sun, sea and surf: Australia in December is summertime! Stop off in Perth for some dramatic surf waves and a farm stay before taking an adventure along the wineries of Margaret River. Head over to Sydney for a sand and city break, and then jet up to the Great Barrier Reef for snorkelling and diving heaven, and don’t forget to swap that roast for a seafood BBQ on Xmas Day!
Don’t miss: The surfing, wineries, cool animal encounters (where else on Earth will you find such outrageous creatures like the duck-billed platypus?), scenery, city and sand.
Family-friendly digs: We fancy hanging out with Xena the cow and Rachael the rabbit at Settlers Rest Farmstay in Perth before heading to Sydney for the perfect beach and cafe vibe at Crowne Plaza Coogee Beach Hotel (and challenge the kids to the scenic Coogee to Bondi walk!). For Great Barrier Reef family fun check in to the Shangri-La, The Marina in Cairns. That view!
Direct flights: Scoot, Qantas, Singapore Airlines and Jetstar all fly to various parts of Aus.
3. Ski slopes, national parks, kimchi and Santa dressed in blue: South Korea!
Did you know that there are more Christians in South Korea (around 30% of the population) than in most other Asian countries? Christmas is BIG in Seoul! Expect lights galore, carol services and plenty of chances to meet Santa (known as Santa Grandfather, and often dressed in blue). Plus it has snow! The whole family will love heading to the slopes: We like the look of Konjiam Resort, just 40 minutes from Seoul, which has nine ski slopes with challenges for all levels of expertise.
Don’t miss: Skiing, Santa dressed in blue, Gangnam (just so you can check in on Facebook: practise your moves before you get there), National Parks galore and kimchi with everything!
Family-friendly digs: The great location, indoor swimming pool and good sized rooms at the Hotel Grand Ambassador Seoul (part of the Pullman group) make a great pick.
Direct flights: Singapore Airlines and Korean Air fly directly to Seoul.
4. Sea, sun, city, sand and safari: Sri Lanka
With its friendly people, delicious food, beautiful scenery, phenomenal wildlife and top-notch beaches, Sri Lanka is the real deal when it comes to the perfect family holiday. Head down to Galle for a Christmas with the sand between your toes (you have to try the Sri Lankan crab: way more yummy than a turkey!), or take your explorations to the wildlife reserves for a safari-kinda Christmas!
Don’t miss: The southern beaches and surf, stilt fishing (a sight to behold: and all the better if you get a chance to try it!), Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage, Yala National Park and the beautiful tea plantations.
Family-friendly digs: We loved the Thaproban Pavilion Resort & Spa in Unawatuna for our own family jolly. For the adventurous amongst you, try a glamping holiday at Yala Safari Camping: We can’t promise Santa and his reindeers, but you might spot an elephant wandering around.
Direct flights: Singapore Airlines and Sri Lankan Airlines
5. Snow, skis and Mickey Mouse: Japan!
Adrenaline-fuelled families should head to Hokkaido ski resorts for a gorgeously white Christmas break. The mountains are covered with tons of powdery snow during December, making it one of the best ski spots in the world. If hitting the slopes is not your thing, then how about making this Xmas a Disney kinda Xmas? Join Mickey, Goofy and the gang at Disneyland Tokyo for a magical Frozen (we dare you not to start singing Let It Go right about…now!) festive season that you’ll never forget.
Don’t miss: The mountains (even if you are not ski-fan, it’s still worth a trip on the bullet train to go check out the Christmas card picture-perfect scenery), Disneyland Tokyo, the bullet train, Onsens and Tokyo Imperial Palace.
Family-friendly digs: If you are going for a splurge then the all-inclusive Club Med option in Hokkaido will guarantee a special stay. We are also loving the family-friendly Airbnb options all around Japan!
Direct Flights: Direct flights to Tokyo include Singapore Airlines, All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines.
6. Easy-peasy family fun: Thailand!
If quick and easy is your priority, then Thailand is not only a great option for families, but the weather over Xmas in Phuket and Krabi is near perfect. Hurrah! You can’t go far wrong with an all-singing, all-dancing kid-friendly beach hotel (thank goodness for kids’ clubs), and it really does make for a very merry Xmas break. Bangkok is a great choice for a city-break (we took our own kids there for New Year last year and they loved it) with tons to see and do, fab food and great hotel choices. Or how about heading up to Chiang Mai to hang out with the hill tribes for a Christmas with a difference? The choices are endless when it comes to The Land of Smiles.
Don’t miss: The food, the temples, the massages (heaven on earth), the beaches, the jungles and a ride in a tuk-tuk.
Family-friendly digs: Check out the pools and family fun at the Holiday Inn Phuket, the great apartments in Bangkok at the Marriott Executive Apartments Sukhumvit Park, or the beautiful scenery and great family-vibe at Sofitel Krabi Phokeethra Golf & Spa Resort in Krabi.
Direct Flights: Silk Air, Jetstar, Air Asia, Scoot and Bangkok Airways all have regular, direct flights to various parts of Thailand.
7. Santa, reindeers, huskies, snow and the Northern Lights: Helsinki and Lapland!
Little kids and big kids will be bowled over when meeting the REAL Santa and Rudolph in Lapland… Head to the Arctic Circle and Santa Claus Village for the Christmas of a lifetime in Rovaniemi. Okay, so it’s a little bit of an extra trek: a direct flight to Helsinki and then either a short flight from there to Santa’s hometown, or a nine hour train journey through the Finnish countryside, but it will all be worth it when your small elves meet the legendary man in red. Santa Village is all about husky sledge rides, hanging out with elves in the underground Santa’s Park and Christmas activities galore. And if you’ve always wanted to see the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights), then this is the chance to cross it off your bucket list.
Don’t miss: Santa and the Northern Lights. Please, please can we come with you?
Family-friendly digs: Get outta the cold for a cosy stay at Apartment Hotel Aallonkoti in Helsinki, and when you get to Rovaniemi it has to be one of the hotel options (including an Igloo hotel!) at Santa Claus Village. You can’t put a price on memories… (it’s not cheap!).
Direct Flights: Finn Air will whizz you to where the magic’s at with direct flights to Helsinki.
8. Spend Christmas as a castaway: Fiji!
How about getting away from all the traditional Christmas trappings and spending the festive season soaking up some sun? Head to the tropical paradise that is Fiji, people! Kids will love feeling like castaways on remote islands and with over 300 islands to choose from the perfect pick will be easily found.
Don’t miss: The beaches, snorkelling, boat trips, and wonderful local culture.
Family-friendly digs: Castaway Island Resort has won a heap of awards for being family-friendly and we spent a happy day there on an island hopping tour. We stayed at Plantation Island Resort which was a MASSIVE hit with our kids. Giant inflatable sea playground: say no more.
Direct Flights: We used Fiji Airways for the 10 hour direct flight.
9. Markets, markets and more Christmas markets: Germany!
Two words: Christmas Markets! There are literally hundreds of Christmas markets (or Christkindlmarkt when in Germany!) scattered all over Germany, but the big trio can be found in Berlin, Cologne and Munich. Our tip? Go to all three and triple the fun (and the mulled wine, stollen and Xmas goodies!). The Frankfurt market is also worth trying if you can: It dates back to 1393 and is not only one of the oldest markets in Germany, but also boasts the biggest Christmas tree in the country!
Don’t miss: The medieval market squares, amazing Christmas fare (hog roast and mulled wine for starters!), cathedrals, and of course Christmas Market shopping galore!
Family-friendly digs: A family run hotel that looks like a small castle complete with turrets? That’s what you’ll be getting at the Hotel Laimer Hof in Munich (the owners have twin boys: they get us!). Try Hollywood Media Hotel in Berlin, where rooms have fun themes such as Wizard of Oz, and in Cologne head to the Cologne Marriott Hotel.
Direct Flights: Singapore Airlines and Luthansa will get you there directly in around 13 hours flying time.
10. Camels, cocktails, gold and sunshine: Dubai!
Swap the mulled wine for exotic cocktails, reindeers for camels, and snow dunes for sand dunes and head to Dubai for Christmas! This is a country that knows how to pull out all the stops when it comes to decadence: the family will all love the desert adventures, super luxe hotels, soaking up the scents in the souks and being wowed by some of the world’s most amazing fireworks on New Year’s Eve.
Don’t miss: The Burj Khalifa – the world’s tallest man-made structure, a visit to the Dubai Turtle Rehabilitation Project and an adventure into the desert for camel and dune buggy expeditions!
Family-friendly digs: We had a fabulous family stay at the Jumeirah Beach Hotel (ice lollies on tap and a great kids’ club plus it’s right next door to the Wild Wadi Water Park – think Adventure Cove on steroids).
Direct Flights: Emirates will take you there in around seven hours, and its service is especially family-friendly (we’ve tried it on your behalf – you’re welcome).