Plan ahead of time, be an early bird, and get the best deals.

Christmas and New Year are undoubtedly two of the most awaited celebrations across the world. While many people wish to celebrate them with their near and dear ones at home, many others look for the coolest and economical getaways ways to celebrate Christmas and New Year by travelling to picturesque locations and witness the extravaganza up, close and personal.

“In November, December and January, the festive fervor is at its peak, and almost everything seems phenomenally expensive. However, there can be some thrifty, yet super fun ways to nail some amazing holiday fun. Plan ahead of time, be an early bird that catches the most fun, and gets the best deals,” says Sujatha V Kumar, head of marketing, India and South Asia, Visa.

According to The Global Travel Intentions Report**, which assessed the travel behavior and tourism spending patterns of global travelers across 27 markets, 84 per cent of Indian travellers preferred digital payments. The report also revealed that Indians have averaged 5.6 trips in the past two years, compared to 4.7 for APAC (Asia Pacific) and 4.2 globally. “This could mean we are likely to take more trips during the year, and hence, budget constraints,” says Kumar, who lists down five cost-effective places to ring in 2020!

Zagreb, Croatia

Budget – if you have INR 1.25 lacs for a week*

Voted as the best Christmas destination in Europe, Zagreb is where you should be if you want to partake in the most authentic European celebrations. If you are wondering where to shop, then look no further than the pop-up flea markets all over the city. King Tomislav Square is where all the action takes place. Everyone gathers to have fun at this open-air ice rink. Catch performances by fire eaters and stilt walkers at Strossmayer Square. You can also explore the Gric tunnel which runs right under the centre of the city. Zagreb will surprise you with magnificent sculptures, 3D installations, along with grand concerts and video displays.

Helsinki, the ‘Christmas City’ of Finland

Budget – if you have INR 1.10 lacs for a week*

While travellers prefer warmer places in Northern Europe, you will miss out on all the jazz if you don’t visit Helsinki. Nicknamed “Christmas City”, Helsinki will show you what a full-throttle Christmas and New Year celebration looks like. Aleksanterinkatu street is your ticket to fun where you can watch the dreamlike snowfall, pick Christmas ornaments, and gorge onto some delicious snacks. It is surreal when the bells in the grand churches of the city start tolling. An unmissable spot is the Temppeliaukio Church or “Church in the Rock”; it is among the most popular tourist attractions in Helsinki. Book lovers, you will be mesmerised after walking into the National Library, which is also an architectural marvel. In the weeks preceding Christmas, locals celebrate pikkujoulu, which means “little Christmas”. Don’t forget to keep yourself warm by sipping hot Glögi, a Christmas drink made of spiced wine, almonds, raisins and a dash of vodka.

Nagano, Japan

Budget – if you have INR 1.10 lacs for a week*

Budapest, Hungary

Budget – if you have INR 1.00 lacs for a week*

Danube River lends its energy to the spectacular city of Budapest which is known for its rich heritage, history, architecture, art and more. You are sure to get the best bang for your buck here. Plan a leisurely cruise down the Danube to bring in the New Year with your loved ones. The dazzling beauty of Christmas decorations can be seen at the musical fountains of Margaret Island, Buda Castle, Royal Palace, the Parliament Building and Vajdahunyad Castle. A Christmas feast is not complete without relishing the lip-smacking Hungarian Gulash. Over a hundred stalls set up at the oldest Christmas market of Vörösmarty Square are ideal for shopping. With scores of live concerts, and yummy treats of flódni, and beigli, Christmas in Budapest is simply splendid. Also, remember to pick handicrafts and special Hungarian delicacies from the Christmas market of Basilica. Be a shutterbug at Budapest Design Terminal, which is set up early December every year. This grand terminal is accentuated by installations, exhibitions and fairs.

Boracay Island, Philippines

Budget – if you have INR 1.00 lacs for a week*

Filipinos beat the world when it comes to planning for Christmas and New Year. September is when they start decorating everything for the celebrations in December! Boracay is a serene beach where you can let your hair down and party through the night. It is a surprisingly inexpensive destination that swears by the motto “party on”. Travel to Boracay, where the best parties await you, via Kalibo to get cheaper tickets. Create fascinating memories of snorkelling, kayaking, and cliff diving from Ariel’s Point. Unlimited partying is the mood at the White beach, Bulabog beach, and Diniwid beach.

*The total budget includes flights, accommodation, food, places of attractions and activities, and are purely indicative in nature. They may vary as per the season of the year, the choices made, and most importantly, how soon one books it from the date of trip. Also, the indicated budget is for a solo traveller.

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Friday, Nov 15, 2019