There’s no shame in admitting you’d rather be nowhere close to home when Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and New Year’s come around. However, unless you’re planning to fly out of the most isolated airport on the planet, you’re probably going to have to deal with insane crowds and lines at the international terminal. Here are a few destinations guaranteed to alleviate the stress of holiday travel by lightening the burden on your wallet and still giving you a taste of home.
1. Angkor Wat
Flying into Siem Reap may be a bit of a hassle with a stopover in Bangkok or Phnom Penh, but once you arrive there’s nothing but good vibes and wholesome adventures without a hefty price tag. 12 USD is usually enough to hire a tuk-tuk for the day to guide you around the temples, and the most expensive hotel in town, the Park Hyatt Siem Reap, has rooms for about 200 USD/night if you want to treat yourself; other far more reasonable ones can go for 10-20 USD.
If you still want to experience a proper winter with old churches, snow, and good beer, then try flying into Sofia first. Unlike its Turkish and Greek neighbors, this eastern European country has a far lower cost of living and is home to a number of popular attractions including Nesebar, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Because not many tourists are crazy enough to visit in the bitter winter, the crowds and hotel prices drop.
Getting to this remote island in the Philippines isn’t exactly the least stressful way to start the holiday season, but once you arrive you’ll be happier knowing there are no cars — only tricycles allowed — fewer people, and nothing but suckling pig and smoothies to eat. Boracay is popular with windsurfers, divers, and beach bums. The limited size available for infrastructure means it’s unlikely we’ll see a chain hotel or a Build-A-Bear anytime soon.
4. Chiang Mai
While a lot of Thailand is hit or miss in terms of carefree destinations, with some of us incredibly annoyed by vendors yelling and outright harassing tourists, Chiang Mai is a welcome escape. Maintaining the low costs of Thailand while still having popular attractions like elephant preserves, the only thing in this northern city has to remind you of the routine at home is three Starbucks.
A holiday vacation with mulled wine, spiced meat, and history to boot? There’s nothing like walking down the Charles Bridge, eating under the Astronomical Clock, or looking out from Prague Castle in the middle of winter. In addition to beer sold more cheaply than bottled water, there are several free sights like the Lennon Wall and the locations of the three defenestrations.