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Though it seems like Fall has only just arrived, it’s already time to start planning your travel for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Airfare is often inflated during peak holiday times, so to help you save your hard-earned cash, Kayak.com has published a list of 10 Holiday Escapes that have cheaper airfare than they did last year at this time. To help you make the most of these 10 destinations, TPG Contributor Lori Zaino shares some suggestions for what to do and see in each during the holidays.
1. Hong Kong (29% decrease in airfare from last year)
Forgoing the Thanksgiving turkey for some dim sum or Cantonese roasted goose could be a great holiday travel plan. Plus, US citizens have it simple because no visa is needed to visit Hong Kong. If you’re into the arts, Hong Kong’s Music and Art Festival Clockenflap features popular bands, cinema, food and art events November 27-29, 2015. Hong Kong’s WinterFest spans almost the whole month of December, which offers holiday events and plenty of Christmas decorations — even a 3-D lights show and pyrotechnics New Year’s Eve event. Cathay Pacific is even offering a deal for US residents who register and complete travel before November 30, 2015, where you can earn 4x the Asia Miles. Check out the posts, Destination of the Week: Hong Kong, Review of the W Hong Kong and Favorite Places: Yardbird Hong Kong.
2. Taipei, Taiwan (28% decrease in airfare from last year)
Taipei’s night markets are an ideal spot to purchase stocking stuffers for friends and family. You may recall seeing Made in Taiwan once or twice on a label, so why not go straight to the source for all your shopping, like the Tonghua Street Night Market where you can find clothes, accessories and all sorts of giftable items. Sip on a bubble tea as you wander through the Huaxi St. Night Market, which is not only known for its delectable Taiwanese food, but also for its snakes, which the locals believe are a nourishing addition to a healthy diet. You can find snakes in all sorts of cooked dishes, soups and even wine and medicine. Check out the Destination of the Week: Taipei post for more info.
3. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (26% decrease in airfare from last year)
It’s often possible to get great airfare deals to Brazil, like the $476 deal we saw a few weeks ago from NYC to GIG and GRU, so keep your eyes peeled. If you want to experience Rio without crowds, a pre-Olympics holiday break could be the perfect time. If you’re looking for the perfect New Year’s Eve festa, the Reveillon is one of the world’s most fabulous celebrations, drawing two million partiers to the famous Copacabana beach to celebrate with music, fireworks and dancing. You’ll also be able to work on your tan, as winter temps hover around the 80-degree Fahrenheit mark. For more info on Rio, check out our Destination of the Week and 10 Photos posts on Rio de Janeiro.
4. Chicago, Illinois (25% decrease in airfare from last year)
Chicago in the winter isn’t for the faint of heart, but it’s still worthwhile to bundle up and see the Windy City dolled up with holiday cheer. Stroll down State Street to enjoy the Macy’s holiday windows and tree, followed by a walk up the Magnificent Mile (Michigan Avenue) to enjoy the festive decorations. Stop to do a few laps around the ice rink in Millennium Park (opening November 13, 2015), and warm up afterward with a hot chocolate topped with mini-marshmallows at the Park Cafe, which is next to the ice rink. The Museum of Science and Industry hosts its famous Christmas Around the World event from November 19, 2015 – January 3, 2016, featuring 50 trees decorated by different ethnic communities in order to represent the holiday traditions of Chicago’s diverse cultures.
5. Tokyo, Japan (24% decrease in airfare from last year)
Although Christmas isn’t an official holiday in Japan, Tokyo certainly commits to its Yuletide decor. For example, the Roppongi Hills shopping area has a Christmas market, a giant tree and a blizzard of dazzling lights. New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day in Japan are even more popular, so be aware that while restaurants and shops may be closed on these dates and shines may be crowded with visitors, you’ll find a particularly awesome New Years Eve fireworks display over Tokyo Bay. Tokyo is highly recommended by the TPG team — read these posts to find out why: 10 Reasons Why I Love Tokyo, Destination of the Week: Tokyo and Using Airline Miles For Award Travel to Tokyo.
6. Bangkok, Thailand (22% decrease in airfare from last year)
If you love holiday lights, then Bangkok is the place to be. Most of the city’s big shopping centers — like Siam Paragon and CentralWorld — will be swathed in twinkling, colorful lights, but the heavily decorated Peninsula Plaza, with its gingerbread house and reindeer barn, may be the most popular spot to visit around the holidays. Meanwhile, one of the December perks of a visit to Bangkok is an average temperature of 80 degrees Fahrenheit, but in case you’re missing the white stuff, the Dream World amusement park offers Snow Town, a room almost entirely filled with snow. For more on Bangkok, be sure to check out Destination of the Week: Bangkok and Five Peaceful Spots in Bangkok.
7. Manila, Phillippines (22% decrease in airfare from last year)
The Philippines has one of the longest holiday celebrations on Earth. In fact, it’s not unusual to see holiday decorations (especially parols, which are special Christmas lanterns) going up as early as September! Unlike its other Southeast Asian neighbors, the Philippines has a huge Catholic population and celebrates the holiday with religious reverence. If you’re looking for a less traditional Christmas, head to one of the archipelago’s 7,000 islands — including the province of Palawan, a 90-minute flight from Manila — where you’ll find white-sand beaches and average winter temps of 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
8. Belize City, Belize (20% decrease in airfare from last year)
Convenient for holiday travelers, a great time to visit Belize is between the end of November and the start of January, thanks to warm temperatures and seemingly endless sunshine — providing the opportunity to spend the holidays padding through a nearby jungle, floating down a river on an inner tube or lying in a hammock all day. Belize at Christmas is a particular draw for foodies thanks to hearty fare like stewed Creole chicken with rice and beans and pork-stuffed chicken, or even tamales. Oh, and don’t forget, you can now fly Southwest to Belize!
9. Cleveland, Ohio (19% decrease in airfare from last year)
Yes, you heard right — a real American winter wonderland getaway to the Midwestern paradise of Cleveland, Ohio. It’s an especially happening spot the weekend after Thanksgiving thanks to the annual WinterFest held in Cleveland’s Public Square, where families will enjoy holiday music, carriage rides, hot chocolate and plenty of light displays, as well as a massive Christmas tree. Adults can indulge in hot ciders, wine tastings and more at the 6th Annual Winter Wine & Ale Fest, which is held on November 28, 2015. Flower lovers can visit the colorful flower display throughout December at the Rockefeller Greenhouse, which includes hundreds of blooming poinsettias.
10. Bogotá, Colombia (18% decrease in airfare from last year)
La Noche de Las Velitas, the night of the candles, is celebrated all over Colombia on December 7 each year and is truly spectacular. Bogotá, which is decked out with candles and lanterns, is a stunning sight to see, especially the Plaza Boliva. Closer to Christmas, this same plaza has some gorgeous light displays and decorations, and you’ll find vendors selling aguapanela, a tasty drink made of sugarcane. December temperatures are mild and pleasant, typically around 60 degrees Fahrenheit — the perfect weather for strolling through this richly historic and increasingly hip city.
Credit cards, such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Citi Prestige, don’t charge foreign transaction fees, making them ideal to use on overseas vacations. To see more cards without these fees, check out Top Credit Cards With No Foreign Transaction Fees.
Even after the introduction of the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is still a fantastic choice if you want to avoid the Reserve’s $450 annual fee, earn 2x on all travel & dining and earn a 50,000 point sign up bonus.
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- 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
- No foreign transaction fees
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- Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
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