It’s not too late to plan a holiday trip this year, and you won’t even have to drive. According to airfarewatchdog.com, airfares are down across the board. Domestically, you can find travel bargains to Las Vegas, Orlando, Denver, Los Angeles and more, but what you might like even better are the international fares.  Aer Lingus’ Saver fares to Dublin start at $343 roundtrip, and WOW Air is selling roundtrip tickets to Iceland for as little as $169. Virgin Australia and Quantas are even offering major sale prices on flights from all over the US to Australia. How does $578 roundtrip from Los Angeles to Sydney sound?

Five of our writers share their favorite destinations for the holidays. We hope they’ll inspire you to experience the holidays somewhere different this year. Check out their suggestions below, and look for cheap flight deals on airfarewatchdog.com.

Paris, France

Children of all ages delight in Galeries Lafayette’s intricate window displays. ©Virginia Jones Photography

Paris is a magical city and even more so during the holidays. Situated in the historical center of the city, stay a boutique hotel on Île Saint-Louis and enjoy leisurely strolls along the quays. Climb the 422 steps of iconic Notre-Dame Cathedral towers to take in sweeping views of Ile de la Cité and Paris. Be sure to check out the opulent window displays and fanstastic shopping experience at Galeries Lafayette, the upscale French department store. As a reward, immerse yourself in Parisian cuisine and culture with a meal at Café St. Regis, a cozy French bistro. As a finale, indulge in a bonne bouche, or elegant treat, at any number of great patisseries. For a real treat, sample the goodies at Berthillon, known for their legendary ice cream and sorbet.

Joy Steinberg   GIVEjoy

Newport, Rhode Island

The Breakers Great Hall © Photo courtesy of The Preservation Society of Newport County.”

For holiday splendor, there’s none finer than the glitter of Newport’s Gilded Age mansions decked out in their holiday best. Don’t miss the Holiday Evening Duet at The Elms & Marble House and the grand Holiday Evenings at The Breakers held on Saturdays. Celebrate the season at a Holiday Dinner Dance in the Great Hall of The Breakers or at a performance of the Nutcracker at Rosecliff. Children delight in Santa’s visits on successive Sundays. Daily mansion tours run through January 1, 2019.

For more on these and other holiday events in Newport, Rhode Island, check out these links:  https://www.newportmansions.org/events/christmas-at-the-newport-mansions  or  https://www.discovernewport.org

Linda Fasteson, Notable Travels

Hungary

The Advent wreath at Szeged Christmas Market © Diane Dobry

Be prepared to celebrate throughout the month of December as the Christmas festivals and markets in Hungary coincide with the Christian season of Advent. The large public advent wreath (with four candles representing the four-week preparation time) brings the religious and the secular celebrations together.

Families gather in the city center to share beer, wine and traditional foods such as lepény (a grilled calzone-like sandwich of ham, cheese and pickles), pork and pepper dishes, and kurtos kalács, or chimney cakes, made of dough wrapped around a fat wooden dowel, cooked over charcoals and rolled in vanilla sugar, cinnamon or nuts.

St. Nicholas (Mikulas) fills children’s boots the night of December 6, and Baby Jesus puts presents under the tree on December 24. Look in local shops for foil-wrapped candies (szaloncukor) to hang on the tree.

New Year’s Eve in Budapest features a wild, exciting Mardi-Gras-type celebration featuring people from Hungary and abroad taking to the streets, wearing costumes and tinsel wigs and carrying long horns to blow or hit each other with. Live bands and fireworks add to the fun.

For more information on spending the holidays in Hungary, click these links: http://www.hungarotips.com/ch/szokas.html or http://www.budapest-discovery-guide.com/hungarian-christmas-traditions.html

Diane Dobry  Getting Hungary

Carmel-by-the-Sea, California

Santa sighting ©Photo courtesy of CarmelCalifornia.com.

If your idea of a Winter Wonderland involves sunshine and the beach, then head to California’s Carmel-by-the-Sea in Monterey County. Whistling distance from Big Sur and the iconic 90 mile drive along the Pacific Coast Highway, Carmel-by-the-Sea turns their European village into a holiday to remember with a town tree lighting ceremony, world-class boutiques that look like they came to life from a magazine and fine-dining with special holiday menu items. Plenty of Santa Claus sightings have been seen, too.

If you want to enjoy the holiday season while getting your shopping in, make sure to bring Fido as Carmel-by-the-Sea ranks among one of the most dog-friendly cities in the USA. On December 8th (following the tree lighting on December 7th), join the Hofsas House Hotel for their 7th Annual Gingerbread House Workshop, benefiting The Carmel Public Library Foundation. The Hofsas Hotel also offers a heated swimming pool and several add-on packages for a holiday trip to remember with your sweetie-whether they be 2 or 4 legged.

Mary Farah, Along Comes Mary

Dublin, Ireland

Enjoy a festive carriage ride in Dublin. ©Christine Cutler

Ireland celebrates the holidays in its own way as the Christmas spirit blankets the Emerald Isle, and nowhere is it more evident than in Dublin. Under a canopy of twinkling lights, Grafton Street welcomes buskers that include everyone from carolers to opera singers, violinists to Bono (who collects money for local charities). Brown Thomas, the iconic Irish department store, dresses its windows with festive displays, and vendors selling flowers, jewelry, handmade gifts, and more urge you to purchase a bit of cheer for yourself or loved ones. On Dawson Street, you’ll find a live nativity scene complete with live animals—goats, sheep, and a sweet donkey. If you find that you need something to warm you up while you enjoy the city’s holiday cheer, be sure to grab a mug of Butler’s hot chocolate or, if you’re into the spirits, hot Irish Whiskey Punch (whiskey, lemon, brown sugar, and cloves).

Should you be very daring, be sure to participate in the annual Christmas morning swim at Forty Foot, a deep inlet on the Dublin coast. The Irish extend their celebrations by commemorating St. Stephen’s Day on December 26 by going out with friends and family.

Christine Cutler, Cold Pasta & Red Wine