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Tips for spending Christmas abroad

For those seeking a break from the traditional snowy Christmas in Canada, a trip to warmer destinations during the holiday season may be just the answer.
Christmas abroad
There are many pros and cons to spending Christmas in a warmer climate, according to travel consultant Doris Himmelspeck.

For those seeking a break from the traditional snowy Christmas in Canada, a trip to warmer destinations during the holiday season may be just the answer. But enjoying Christmas abroad comes with many things to consider, according to Doris Himmelspeck, an independent travel consultant with Tier One Travel in Airdrie. There are pros and cons to travelling during the holidays, she said, adding flights booked for these dates may come with higher ticket prices. According to cheapair.com ­– a website that tracks 11,000 flight itineraries to compile an annual report on the average cost of flying during the holidays ­– the days leading up to Christmas are the most expensive time of year to travel. The website’s 2018 report claims Dec. 21 and 22 are the most expensive dates to fly this holiday season. Travellers should also factor in how busy the airport will be when they depart. “Sometimes at Christmas, parking at the airport, if you’re using Park and Go, you might need to reserve,” Himmelspeck said. Once you’re on the plane, she added, it’s ideal to have something to keep you occupied, as not all flights are guaranteed to come with in-flight entertainment. “Make sure you have books, an iPad or whatever for your own entertainment,” she said. “Munchies for the plane ride, because otherwise, you’d be buying on board.” Ensure you have the right documentation needed for your trip, such as travel visas or medical insurance, which Himmelspeck considers crucial. While customs declarations forms  are generally provided on the flight, she said some countries – like Cuba – require other papers, such as a tourist card, completed prior to departure. It may also be worthwhile to obtain the appropriate currency for the country you’re travelling to before you leave, she added. Exchange rates can vary depending on where you obtain the money, according to Himmelspeck – whether it’s at a bank, the airport or a currency exchange office. Regardless of where you pick up your foreign bills, however, she said having a few American dollars on your person is also a good idea, as it is accepted almost universally for tipping. Getting the proper vaccinations is also important, Himmelspeck said, depending on your destination. According to vaccines.gov, vaccinations can protect Canadians from diseases they wouldn’t come into contact with locally. Most shots are recommended four to six weeks prior to travelling, and some countries require travellers provide proof of certain vaccinations. Something novice travellers may not realize until after they’ve already arrived in a new country, Himmelspeck said, is that other continents have different electrical outlets than North America. “Some places, like Cuba, have 220 volt [outlets], so you might need an adapter,” she said. A final thing to research before travelling to a warm destination for Christmas, Himmelspeck added, is whether the holiday customs of the country you’re travelling to are different than those in Canada. “Christmas in the destination might not have a turkey dinner like you do here,” she said.