2019 Holiday Travel Hacker Guide

Get your friends and family something they can actually use this holiday season – the 2019 Holiday Travel Hacker Guide. Enough with the scented candles and regifted scarf-and-gloves sets. From the hottest cities to ring in the New Year (2020, here we come) to the most affordable flights for a festive trip to the top places to get your ski on, these are the top spots for Canadian travellers this holiday season.

Read on for the when, where and how of holiday travel. Gift wrap not required.

Top 10 Wallet-Friendly North American Flights
Top 10 Most Popular Destinations
Top 10 Trending New Year’s Eve Destinations
Top 10 Trending Ski Destinations

Top 10 Wallet-Friendly North American flights

‘Tis the season of giving – until you look at your bank statement. But just because you went a little overboard with the holiday cheer, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t treat yourself. We found 10 cities where flights are actually affordable for a winter getaway – meaning median airfare is lower than anywhere else in North America. If you head to our #3 most affordable pick, put those New Year resolutions on hold and bring your appetite (and also your ice skates).

New York, New York

Median price: $379

% savings: 63% lower than the average airfare for North America

Hacker tip: Wander the holiday market in Bryant Park for festive shopping, snacking and twinkle lights. You’ll also find the borough’s only free ice skating rink — but if you didn’t BYO, renting skates costs extra.

Washington, DC

Median price: $404

% savings: 60% lower than the average airfare for North America

Hacker tip: Take advantage of plenty of free winter activities, like those at The Wharf. Make s’mores at the fire pit where visitors can gather to warm up, or take part in a winter game of broomball. Check the calendar for what’s going on during your visit.

Boston, MA

Median price: $414

% savings: 60% lower than the average airfare for North America

Hacker tip: Take a DIY walking tour by following the Freedom Trail, a 4-kilometre path marked by a red line that will take you past 16 historic landmarks. Begin in Boston Common and end at the Bunker Hill Monument. End with hot cocoa at Tatte Bakery to warm up.

Nashville, Tennessee

Median price: $424

% savings: 59% lower than the average airfare for North America

Hacker tip: Did you even travel to Nashville if you don’t try the hot chicken? The medium flavour will likely be spicy enough, so order anything spicier and you may want some milk handy.

Chicago, Illinois

Median price: $462

% savings: 55% lower than the average airfare for North America

Hacker tip: Grab your friends (and your skates) and head to Millennium Park for a free night of ice skating with  the Chicago skyline as your backdro

Atlanta, Georgia

Median price: $355

% savings: 55% lower than the average airfare for North America

Hacker tip: When it comes to holiday lights, Atlanta knows best. Named one of the “Top 10 Places to See Holiday Lights” by National Geographic, Callaway Gardens transforms into a winter wonderland with more than 8 million light decorations you won’t want to miss. Save money by purchasing tickets in advance.

Seattle, Washington

Median price: $489

% savings: 52% lower than the average airfare for North America

Hacker tip: Still in need of a gift for your loved ones? Don’t fret. Seattle’s holiday craft fairs and bazaars pop up all over the city and surrounding areas during the holiday season, so you can get all of your holiday shopping done while enjoying artwork, entertainment, food and more.

Las Vegas, Nevada

Median price: $489

% savings: 52% lower than the average airfare for North America

Hacker tip: Every December, Las Vegas houses the world’s largest rodeo event bringing in crowds (and animals) from all over the world. Even if rodeo’s aren’t your thing, you’ll definitely want to check out the wastern themed shopping festival with 300+ exhibitors. Entrance is free to the public.

New Orleans, Louisiana

Median price: $489

% savings: 52% lower than the average airfare for North America

Hacker tip: No trip to New Orleans during the holidays is complete without a visit to City Park for the city’s annual “Celebration in the Oaks” – a NOLA tradition since 1986. Enjoy light displays dispersed across the 25-acre park.

Abbotsford, British Columbia

Median price: $236

% savings: 50% lower than the average airfare for North America

Hacker tip: If you’re driving, make sure your car is equipped with winter tires. It’s the law on many BC highways in the north, interior and south coast, as well as Vancouver Island. Unsure if your rental car is properly equipped? Winter tires are marked with a symbol of a snowflake inside a 3-peaked mountain.

Top 10 Most Popular Destinations

Like that one toy that tops kids’ gift lists each year, these are the destinations topping travellers’ most-wanted lists this year. From tropical islands and other warm-weather favourites to cities perfect for winter exploring, these 10 destinations saw the most holiday season.

Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Hacker tip: Get in the festive spirit with a Florida twist on the annual Holiday Lights Tour aboard the city’s Water Taxi. Cruise by waterfront homes all dressed up in lights and decorations for the occasion. There will also be seasonal music and a bar aboard for maximum holiday cheer.

Orlando, Florida

Hacker tip: While winter is great weather to hit a theme park, there’s plenty more to do if you don’t want to splurge on a ticket. Drive 20 minutes to Celebration, FL. With great shops and restaurants, this city that Mouse built has a lot of the park appeal without the price tag.

Cancun, Mexico

Hacker tip: Escape the party atmosphere of Cancun with a day trip to Isla Contoy. It’s easily accessible by ferry in 1-2 hours. Explore the natural beauty and don’t miss the archeological underwater museum, but plan your excursion in advance – the island restricts visitors to 200 people per day.

Bangkok, Thailand

Hacker tip: With cooler temperatures (which can still reach 30C), winter is the high season in Bangkok. To beat the crowds, start your day early, especially when popular attractions are on your to-do list. Then, take a break (or an extended lunch) and continue exploring later in the day.

London, England

Hacker tip: While it may seem like an unexpected choice for winter, enjoying rooftop views is possible even when the weather cools. With blankets and heaters, the experience can be quite cosy. Skylight in Wapping even adds a rooftop skating rink to the mix, while Fest in Camden boasts an outdoor cinema.

Paris, France

Hacker tip: While temps can dip during the winter (January is the coldest month), there’s plenty of ways to stay warm. There are plenty of galleries and museums to visit but save time for Ateliers de Lumieres, an immersive experience that surrounds you with art.

Las Vegas, Nevada

Hacker tip: Head to a Tix4Tonight booth to score same-day tickets to popular Vegas shows for half off. There are multiple locations on the Strip, and you may even discover a show you hadn’t considered.

Miami, Florida

Hacker tip: Restaurants in this trendy city can be pricey, especially on Ocean Drive. Ask for prices when your waiter offers you a drink or food special (it’s usually one of the most expensive). And be sure to check your bill before you tip. Many add on a gratuity in advance, no matter the size of your party. items).

Tokyo, Japan

Hacker tip: Since you’ll likely be using the train to get around, score a SUICA card online or at any JR Station. This reloadable smart card can be used to tap in and out of stations across the city, as well as some other tourist spots around Japan.

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Hacker tip: Winter is the best time to whale watch in Puerto Vallarta, when humpbacks arrive in the Bay of Banderas for mating season. While you may catch a glimpse from the shore, your best bet is to book a tour.

Top 10 Trending New Year’s Eve Destinations

Counting down the days until 2020? Pass the time planning an unforgettable New Year’s Eve getaway. We found the 10 places where traveller interest has spiked compared to last year. From bucket-list-worthy long-haul picks to low-key island celebrations by the beach, choosing just one will be the challenge.

Castries, St. Lucia

% search increase: 331%

Hacker tip: If you’re looking to ring in the New Year with a lively celebration, Rodney Bay is your best bet – think an impromptu street party and beachfront fireworks.

Osaka, Japan

% search increase: 129%

Hacker tip: While a lot of attractions close during the New Year holiday, the nightlife scene is alive and well. Head to the Dotonbori area where you’ll find no shortage of neon-lit bars and clubs, as well as tons of local food to try.

Hamilton, Bermuda

% search increase: 88%

Hacker tip: Head to downtown Hamilton along Front Street. It will be closed to cars and many local restaurants and bars will have events on offer.

Kailua-Kona, Hawaii

% search increase: 73%

Hacker tip: While many area resorts offer private fireworks, why not ring in the New Year with fire dancing instead? You’ll find luaus happening at many of the area resorts.

Toronto, Ontario

% search increase: 67%

Hacker tip: Catch the biggest (free!) NYE celebration in Toronto at Nathan Phillips Square with live music, food trucks and fireworks at midnight. There’s also an ice skating rink in the square.

Willemstad, Curacao

% search increase: 63%

Hacker tip: If you’re ringing in the New Year in Curacao, you’ll want to make sure you’re still in town for Fuikdag. This free party held on Fuik Bay brings together crowds of laid-back revelers on giant inflatables (BYO float – we like a flamingo or pizza slice) while listening to world-class DJs.

Montego Bay, Jamaica

% search increase: 61%

Hacker tip: While there are tons of private New Year’s Eve parties with high entrance fees, always compare your options and consider what’s included. We like the Twist party at local favourite Pier 1, which offers up music, drinks and midnight fireworks with a waterfront view.

Oranjestad, Aruba
% search increase: 49%

Hacker tip: Nearly every hotel will have a New Year’s Eve dinner or party happening along with fireworks. Be sure to check in with your hotel well in advance to find out and book your spot since these types of events can often fill up.

West Palm Beach, Florida

% search increase: 47%

Hacker tip: The variety of NYE festivities in West Palm Beach is truly impressive. From black tie galas to lively block parties to family-friendly “Noon” Year’s Eve events, there’s no shortage of opportunities to celebrate 2020.

Bogota, Colombia

% search increase: 37%

Hacker tip: Head to the bustling Carrera 7 – on New Years Eve it’s closed off to vehicular traffic and instead offers up live music and street vendors, as well as an annual fireworks display.

Top 10 Trending Ski Destinations

Whether you’re a well-seasoned skier seeking new challenges or you’re in search of the perfect apres-ski hot toddy, we’ve found 10 trending ski destinations where traveler interest is up compared to last year. From tried-and-true favourites to unexpected snow spots you may not have previously considered, these on-trend ski spots are sure to impress avid skiers, as well as those new to the slopes.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

% search increase: 58%

Hacker tip: Philly?? Hear us out. Staying in Philly means you’re an hour to family-friendly ski resorts like Spring Mountain Adventure. So ride the slopes during the day, and enjoy Philadelphia’s art and culture at night.

Calgary, Alberta

% search increase: 24%

Hacker tip: No news here. Banff’s incredible vistas, crystal-blue lakes and sloping mountain sides are also home to some of the most epic skiing in the world. After you get in your runs, book a table at Pancini to carb-load on comforting Italian food in a cozy setting.

Reno, Nevada

% search increase: 15%

Hacker tip: Head less than an hour to Lake Tahoe for your choice of top ski resorts, like Squaw Valley. It offers up 3,600 acres of ski terrain and more than 170 trails. Plus there’s something for every experience level, which means noobs can enjoy easy trails (or even skip the skis and go tubing instead), while those with more experience will find tons of challenging runs.

Toronto, Ontario

% search increase: 10%

Hacker tip: Head to Barrie, about an hour from Toronto, to hit the slopes at Horseshoe Valley. This resort offers downhill and cross-country skiing on 32 kilometres of trails. Aside from skiing, also partake in snowshoeing, tubing, fat biking and ice skating, or grab a day pass to the indoor pool and hit the spa.

Montreal, Quebec

% search increase: 7%

Hacker tip: The closest mountain to Montreal is about an hour away at Bromont. While the 450 acres of terrain are reason enough to visit, the night skiing is the real draw – it’s the largest lit skiable area in America.

‘Tis the season to be merry and travel more. And we’ve got the information you need so you can be confident you’re making the right holiday travel decisions.

Methodology

Most Popular, Wallet-Friendly, Trending Ski: All data is based on median airfare found on KAYAK US for searches ran 1/1/19 – 10/8/19 for travel from 12/1/2019 – 01/05/2020. To compare year-over-year findings, KAYAK considered searches from 1/1/18-10/8/18 for travel between 12/1/2018 – 01/06/2019.

Trending NYE: All data is based on median airfare found on KAYAK US for searches ran 1/1/19 – 10/8/19 for travel from 12/26/2019 – 01/05/2020. To compare year-over-year findings, KAYAK considered searches from 1/1/18-10/8/18 for travel between 12/26/18-1/6/19.

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