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The Most Popular Travel Destinations for Christmas

Central Park's iceskating rink
Central Park's iceskating rink

We know, we know. It's not even Thanksgiving yet and we're already talking about Christmas. But it's for good reason; while the best time to book your Christmastime flights is about a month out, it's the sooner the better when it comes to hotels for the holidays. 

And this is particularly true for the most popular destinations of the season. 

Looking at data based on where Oyster.com users were booking hotels for the week of December 18 to 25 in 2015, we found the 10 most popular Christmas destinations. So get inspired -- and then get booking!

1. New York City

A high-density, vertical city with tourists and locals from everywhere on the planet, New York delivers -- no matter who you are or what you're celebrating. Sure, wintertime in the city gets quite chilly, but with the cold comes activities such as ice-skating, perusing holiday markets, attending shows, and viewing the spectacular window displays at luxury department stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue. Many hotels also get dressed up for the season with festive decorations, and some offer special holiday deals and perks, such as discounted packages and free hot cocoa.

Holiday Hotel Pick:

2. Cancun

Though many associate Cancun with spring break, this top beach destination (in the world) is incredibly popular come Christmastime, when travelers are looking to swap snow for sun. Its turquoise waters, beautiful stretches of sand, and night-long parties are a main draw here, but there’s a lot to do besides going to the beach. Cancun is the gateway to the breathtaking Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza and Tulum (Coba is also nearby, but is less well-preserved). Even for those planning to spend most of their time in lounge chair, these centuries-old archaeological sites are well worth a visit.

Holiday Hotel Pick:

3. Dominican Republic

There are numerous reasons why the Dominican Republic is one of the most popular wintertime getaways; chief among them are the beautiful natural landscape, great weather, convenient flights, reasonable (sometimes strikingly low) prices, and ubiquitous merengue beats and dancing. Rum, chocolate, coffee, and amber jewelry, among other goodies, are for sale everywhere as you stroll through the colonial city of Santo Domingo, and Cabarete Beach at the northern end is famous for its kiteboarding and windsurfing. 

Holiday Hotel Pick:

4. Jamaica

Sensing a trend? Though the number-one destination of New York City may have the more traditional, wintry Christmas appeal, travelers like to treat themselves come the holidays with vacations down to the Caribbean, and Jamaica is a top island pick. Aside from the usual draws of fantastic reggae, beautiful beaches, and delicious jerk chicken, the holidays in Jamaica also mean bustling grand markets packed with vendors and revelers enjoying rum, street dance performances and fireworks -- and fresh fruitcake, which is a must.

Holiday Hotel Pick:

5. Hawaii

Offering some of the world's most beautiful beaches and most stunning natural wonders, virtually endless recreational opportunities, year-round temperatures that hover around 80 degrees, and a well-organized tourism infrastructure that creates a mostly seamless vacation experience, Hawaii attracts some seven million tourists each year. What's more, the best of Hawaii -- its natural attractions -- can be enjoyed at little cost, and the islands make for a popular Christmastime spot, particularly among West Coasters.

Holiday Hotel Pick:

6. Las Vegas

The celebration of Christmas in Sin City may seen ironic, but the truth is that Las Vegas goes over the top for the holiday, so it's particularly popular come winter. Plus, a dry desert -- versus a wet, windy metropolis -- sounds kind of nice, right? Aside from red, green, and gold decorations everywhere, the city gets into the spirit with ice rinks, lights displays, performances (such as The Nutcracker), and even a Great Santa Run, usually kicked off by an Elvis impersonator in a bedazzled red suit.

Holiday Hotel Pick:

7. Barbados

All of the Eastern Caribbean islands are popular picks come the week leading up to Christmas, and Barbados is one of the most. At first glance, it might be easy to view the white and pink sand beaches and breathtaking coral reefs of Barbados as a clichéd Caribbean island experience, but there's more to it than that: The friendly locals (known as Bajans) maintain a noticeable amount of British customs from their colonial past, such as afternoon tea time and driving on the left. The local cuisine is even a hybrid: expect to see flying fish on every menu --it's so culturally important it's even on the local currency -- and spicy Caribbean stews served next to English fare like potatoes. Frosted with "royal icing," a holiday favorite is a fruit-and-spice cake called "great cake."

Holiday Hotel Pick:

8. Miami

Miami's a great place to spend the holidays -- especially for those already visiting relatives in Florida; in fact, many come to Miami right before or after Christmas and stay through New Year's Eve. Its couture shopping, A-list clubs, renowned art galleries, and innovative cuisine draw some pretty famous faces year-round, with paparazzi (or Secret Service) frequently in tow. But beyond the glitz, Miami is a safe, impressively clean city with a touch of small-town charm in neighborhoods like South Beach, Coconut Grove, and Coral Gables

Holiday Hotel Pick:

9. Los Cabos

Upon hearing the words “Los Cabos,” many first reactions include the infamous “Cabo, baby!” line, which showcases the area’s popularity with party-seeking college students. But even though this area on the southern tip of Mexico's Baja Peninsula has a reputation for being a wild time, it's got plenty of culture, charm, and natural beauty as well -- and winter is a nice time to come if you're looking to avoid the spring break crowd. Visitors can enjoy the many golf courses, restaurants, bars, and resorts, and plenty of beaches lend to a wide variety of outdoor sport options, including sport fishing, snorkeling, wind surfing, and scuba diving.

Holiday Hotel Pick:

10. Puerto Vallarta

Another sunny locale in Mexico, Puerto Vallarta is a picturesque beach destination, with historic white-washed buildings, and cerulean seas set against a rugged mountain skyline. The massive Banderas Bay alone offers over 25 miles of seashore. With all this ocean comes a variety of water sports year-round, like scuba diving with manta rays off Islas Marietas, boating around Los Arcos' reefs, and parasailing off of the popular Playa Los Muertos. Other popular daytime activities include shopping at Puerto Vallarta's maze-ish markets, which are great spots to find unique gifts for the holidays. One of the best, Rio Cuale Flea Market, has multiple vendors selling wood carvings, handmade jewelry, and glass and beadwork (among many other items). 

Holiday Hotel Pick:

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