Last year, more than 112.5 million Americans traveled over the holiday season, and experts anticipate this record will be broken in 2019.
So, where are all these folks headed, and what are they planning to do on their trips? We partnered with Allison+Partners and surveyed 1,017 Americans above the age of 18 to get some answers.
of travelers plan to venture outside of their home state for the holiday season.
of travelers, when given a set of options to choose from, said their primary purpose for holiday travel is to spend quality time with loved ones.
Okay, so most of you want to spend the holidays someplace new with those you care most about. Whether you’re dreaming of escaping the chilly weather on a sun-soaked beach, or reveling in a winter wonderland, we’ve got some ideas to make your holiday vacation the best yet.
Tidying up after houseguests can be stressful and exhausting—especially after you’ve spent hours preparing a holiday meal. Luckily, when you check out of a professionally managed vacation rental, you’ll have very little to clean, since housekeeping is included in your reservation costs.
Forget bickering over who gets to host the celebration (and all the guests). A vacation rental is the perfect blank canvas for any holiday tradition—and for starting new ones.
Above all, this is our favorite reason to spend the holidays at a vacation rental. Let your group feel like locals in the town you’re visiting. After enjoying an activity-filled day, you get to cook meals with friends and family, huddle around the dining table for a rousing game of cards, then cozy up next to the fireplace together.
We used a comprehensive set of Vacasa and partner data to evaluate combined occupancy of our U.S. markets during Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa, spanning 2017, 2018, and what we have on the books so far for 2019.
Then, our travel experts hand-picked some of our most popular locations and nearby hidden gems to rank the top 10 holiday vacation rental destinations.
Featured Vacasa home: Sky Fall
If you’re seeking crisp mountain air and cool temperatures, consider Lake Arrowhead. Rent a spacious cabin nestled in the trees, where you can cook delicious meals and stay warm by the fire. Lake Arrowhead hosts a ton of holiday events, including an annual tree lighting ceremony in the heart of the village and the beloved Blue Jay Parade in early December.
Featured Vacasa home: Upper Pines Lodge
With a population of less than 2,000 people, Warren is a hidden gem full of charm and fascinating history dating back to the 1700s. The town is situated between the two ranges of the Green Mountains, and it’s home to Sugarbush Resort, one of the largest mountain resorts in New England. During the winter months, you’ll be surrounded by stunning snow-covered tree tops and mountain peaks—perfect for sledding, skiing, and building snowmen.
Featured Vacasa home: Pacific Beach Gem
On the flip side, San Diego is ideal for snowbirds craving a warm, oceanside holiday. The Southern California city is always brimming with activity. From epic menorah lightings to booze-fueled holiday cruises to SantaCon, San Diego’s local flavor makes it impossible to get bored.
Featured Vacasa home: Highfield Trail
Tucked at the base of the Rocky Mountains, Breckenridge is a go-to destination for snowsport-lovers, with Instagram-worthy Victorian architecture. Visitors often spend their days on the sunny slopes of the local ski resort before heading to one of the many pubs to enjoy snacks and brews. Don’t miss the Lighting of Breckenridge, Holiday Dog Parade, and Race of the Santas!
Featured Vacasa home: Sapphire Nights
Located on the Mississippi River, the “Big Easy” is popular year-round due to its vibrant nightlife and jazz music scene. It combines African, American, and French cultures, making tourists feel as if they’re in a different country altogether. Though Mardi Gras is widely thought of as its flagship holiday, we recommend visiting NOLA during its coldest months; celebrate Kwanzaa at the Ashe Cultural Arts Center, or check out the winter carnival.
Featured Vacasa home: Honua Kai - Hokulani 829
So, we know the idea of a Hawaiian Christmas is nothing new, but this is a reminder that you deserve at least one in your lifetime. The whole family can enjoy iced drinks with their toes in the sand before heading to the Holiday Lighting of the Banyan Tree Festival in Lahaina—and, if you need a break from the beach, it’s never a bad idea to choose a vacation rental with a pool and hot tub access.
Featured Vacasa home: The Laughing Salamander Cabin
There’s much to love about the small town of Sevierville, from the Forbidden Caverns to the Great Smoky Mountains and everything in between. Come wintertime, Sevierville cools off but the local activities heat up. After a long day of hiking through winding trails and chasing waterfalls, guests can hit up the Smoky Mountain Christmas Festival, then retire to their log cabin rental for some R&R.
Featured Vacasa home: Fantasy Family Escape
Is the little kid in you secretly (or not-so-secretly) dreaming of a Disney holiday? Avoid bustling Orlando in favor of Kissimmee. Only 25 minutes from Disney World, Kissimmee remains close to all the action, but you’ll likely find better deals, so you can save your hard-earned cash for the park.
Featured Vacasa home: Lakeside Splendor
As its name suggests, Lakeside sits on Flathead Lake, offering gorgeous views of the water. Adventurous friends and family members can spend a full day exploring Glacier National Park or skiing Blacktail Mountain before sitting around the table for a hot turkey (or tofurkey!) dinner.
Featured Vacasa home: Loggin' Off
To round out the list, we wanted to highlight this incredibly tiny, magical, and almost cinematic town. Mineral is close to more popular destinations like Fredericksburg, but visitors adore it most for its kindhearted locals and close proximity to beautiful Lake Anna. It’s an idyllic setting for any holiday gathering.
If you wait too long to book a vacation rental, your options may be seriously limited and prices could go through the roof. Reserve your vacation rental as early as possible; aim for no later than one month out from your planned travel date. And, make sure there’s enough room—and beds!—in the home for everyone.
Once you have your vacation rental locked in, make sure you and everyone in your group knows what time to check in and check out. If you’re thinking of bringing a big item like a tree or a wreath, consider how it will be disposed of. Most companies or hosts will charge extra if it’s left behind.
Most vacation rental kitchens are stocked with basic cooking supplies such as pots, pans, dishes, and utensils. Talk to your vacation rental company ahead of time to determine exactly what you’ll need to bring. Think dinner settings, spices, seasonings, serving plates, Tupperware, and tinfoil. Check whether your rental has an oven—especially one that’s large enough to hold a turkey!
Even if you’ve crossed everything off your packing checklist, it seems there is always something left behind. Find the closest grocery or convenience store in case you need to make a last-minute run, and don’t forget to check holiday hours.
When spending the holidays away from home, it’s nice to bring a little of your own style into your rental. In addition to special trinkets like stockings, a menorah, and Grandma’s champagne flutes, bring your own decor to make the rental feel more like home. Plus, gauge how guests will interact with these items and where they’ll spend their time. Look into the dinner seating in particular to ensure everyone will be comfortable at the table.
While dinner may seem like the focal point of any holiday gathering, spending quality time together after meals is also important. Factor in which vacation rental amenities will excite your guests, such as ping-pong, foosball, an in-home movie theater, a hot tub, a fire pit, a porch swing, and more.
If you’re shipping holiday gifts to your vacation rental, timing can be tricky—especially considering the high volume of packages during the season, combined with dodgy weather conditions. Use pickup centers through FedEx or UPS, or try locker services.
Percentages have been rounded to the nearest whole number.