unique winter vacation ideas

50+ Unique Winter Vacation Ideas

Winter is coming, which means cooler weather, school and work resumes, the holidays, and the potential for time off. While many people take vacation time to see family or go somewhere warm, these winter vacation ideas can help you think outside the box.

Warm Weather Destinations

Change Hemispheres

If you really do want to get away from the cold, then one of the best winter vacation ideas is to change time zones and hemispheres.

Countries in the Southern hemisphere have opposite seasons from us here in the Northern hemisphere. So, our winter is their summer, which makes it the perfect time of year to visit. Some excellent destinations to consider include:

  • New Zealand
  • Australia
  • South Africa
  • Singapore
  • Malaysia
  • Southern part of India
  • Argentina
  • Uruguay
  • Peru
  • Brazil


Now, if a beach is something you’d like no matter what, then you always have the option of staying stateside and visiting our own fantastic southern beaches in Florida, Key West, and the Gulf coast.

If you’d like some fresh ideas, then consider the following:

  • Caribbean Islands (Turks & Caicos, Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Bahamas)
  • South of France
  • Greece
  • Bali/Indonesia
  • Belize (excellent for beaches and water activities!)
  • Costa Rica
  • Panama
  • Tulum, Mexico (Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta, and Riveria Maya are also excellent choices)
  • Hawaii
  • Tahiti
  • Southern California (San Diego, Los Angeles)

Cold Weather Destinations

There are some very special things to do in the winter around the world that make braving the cold worth your time. These next activities should be on your bucket list. If not, add them!

See the Northern Lights

Some of these places have resorts with glass igloo hotels where you can sleep under the stars, catch the Northern Lights, and see some amazing sights.

  • Finland
  • Iceland
  • Norway
  • Sweden
  • Canada (certain parts are better for this)

The northern portion of the Norweigan peninsula is best for viewing Northern lights due to less light pollution. Several resort options with glass igloos are available in those areas, and these destinations have things to do that are unique to it. Look into activities such as sleigh rides, visiting reindeer, dog sledding and other opportunities to get outside and explore.

Christmas Markets

If you’re able to travel before the Christmas holiday season, then the Christmas markets in Europe are legendary and should be high on your to-do list. The best cities to think about are:

  • Germany (e.g., Nuremberg, Berlin, or Munich)
  • Denmark (Copenhagen)
  • Czech Republic (Prague, supposedly one of the best!)
  • Austria (Vienna)
  • Hungary (Budapest)
  • Belgium (Brussels)

Not a Christmas market, but a lovely winter vacation destination stateside to experience the Christmas spirit is visiting New York City – visit Rockefeller Center, go ice skating, and take in the city sights!

Experience Glaciers

If you can brave the cold a little more than average, or are willing to go all in on winter travel gear, then consider these:

  • Antarctica Cruise (book well in advance)
  • Patagonia
  • Alaskan Cruise
  • Camper van through Iceland (you’re allowed to park anywhere!)
  • Norweigan Cruise (cruise past the fjords and take in views you otherwise can’t get!)

Skiing and Snowboarding Trips

If you’re a cold-weather athlete, then these winter vacation ideas are specifically for you.

  • Skiing in the Alps
  • Visit Banff
  • Jackson Hole
  • Vermont (consider Trapp Family Lodge)
  • Quebec City, Canada
  • Park City, Utah
  • Jackson Hole, Wyoming (and hit up Yellowstone National Park while you’re there!)
  • Lake Tahoe, California
  • Big Sky Resort, Montana

Most of these locations have downhill skiing as their big activity; however, you may also find other outdoor options such as snowshoeing, sledding, cross-country skiing, and snowmobiling to mention a few.

Of course, for anyone in your travel group who prefers to refrain from winter activities, there is always the option for hot cocktails by a fireplace, spa time, and breaks in the hot tub!

Check Out Snow Sculptures

There are competitions in the United States and around the world for this. It can make for a very unique winter getaway and even a fun family experience.

  • Stillwater, Minnesota
  • Breckenridge, Colorado (home to the International Snow Sculpture championships)

Unique Cultural Experiences

Some countries are better visited during winter because of the climate and/or because winter is considered the off-season for travel. These destinations also have rich histories and cultures that make for a unique visit.

  • Cappadocia, Turkey (hot air balloons, Turkish coffee, hookah, and much more awaits!)
  • Visit Morocco (consider camels, the desert, all the food, and souvenir shopping)
  • Hike Macchu Picchu (a fantastic experience)
  • Visit the Galapagos Islands
  • Experience Carnivale (this can be in Brazil or Trinidad & Tobago)

These options are the tip of the iceberg. Look up winter festivals worldwide and what else may interest you and your family. There are many cultural experiences available, we just have to find them!

Planning Winter Vacation

Of course, time off is limited around the holidays, and many familial obligations are to consider. Here are some ways to maximize time off and still make time for the family.

Depending on where you intend to go and how long you want your vacation to be, ask off only over one holiday (e.g., work on Thanksgiving and take off at Christmas). This helps increase goodwill when you ask for what you want.

Invite extended family on the trip, or suggest celebrating the holidays at a new destination. This technique involves everyone and still gets you your trip!

Consider asking for time off right before the holidays versus during. You’ll likely be the only one to do this in your office and much more likely to have your request approved.

Plan ahead and ask for a vacation well in advance. Later requests often don’t work because people are overworked, overwhelmed, or everyone decides to take time off at once.

Final Thoughts

The ideal winter getaway very much depends on what you hope you get out of it and how much time you have. These unique winter vacation ideas are sure to provide once-in-a-lifetime experiences and memories to keep forever.

Hopefully, this list provides a solid starting point to brainstorm your travel planning and create fresh memories with those who matter most this season.

Happy Travels!

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