You don’t really want to sit around eating turkey and arguing with your relations, do you? Instead, book a last-minute trip to a guaranteed sun spot and swim on Christmas Day.
Merry-making in the Maldives
Head for the sun-drenched Maldives where idyllic family resorts offer barefoot luxury and sumptuous festive packages to international guests, within an hour’s seaplane transfer from the capital, Male. Expect carols sung on white-sand beaches in temperatures of 30C and gala dinners overlooking the shimmering ocean.
Themed activities are offered in kids clubs while older children chill at festive beachside parties. Savour the pampering spas, topnotch restaurants and the thought of escaping kitchen drudgery at home.
Scott Dunn (020 8682 5055; scottdunn.com) offers seven nights at five-star Per Aquum Niyama resort on the Dhaalu Atoll from £6,900 per person, half board, based on a family room. Departs December 20.
Animal magic in the Galapagos
Swap robins for red-footed boobies on family trip to the Galapagos islands where December temperatures average around 26C, dropping to a comfortable 16C by night.
The extraordinary range of species, from iguanas to albatrosses, is the main reason for visiting this region, but it’s also a great choice for active families who want to spend Christmas kayaking through quiet bays, hiking in dramatic, volcanic landscapes and snorkelling with turtles and sea lions. Join locals for a turkey dinner on Christmas Eve, washed down by traditional “canelazo", a warm, cinnamon-flavoured cocktail.
Activities Abroad (01670 789 991; activitiesabroad.com) offers a six-night “Galapagos in the footsteps of Darwin” from £2,845 per person, full board. Excludes flights. Departs December 23.
Palm-fringed beaches in Mauritius
December is one of the best months to visit this lush Indian Ocean island. Not only are temperatures hovering around 29C, but sea water has reached a bath-like 26C, with eight hours of sunshine per day.
This month also sees the landscape ablaze with the scarlet flowers of the country’s flame trees and market stalls piled with seasonal fruits, including succulent mangoes, pineapples and lychees. Spend Christmas day on a palm-fringed beach or snorkelling in aquamarine seas. Or take a Catamaran cruise to spot dolphins and find quiet bays,
Powder Byrne (020 8246 5300; powderbyrne.com) offers seven nights at five-star Residence Hotel from £2,129 per adult and £1,569 per child (up to 12 years), half board, based on a luxury garden pool villa. Excludes flights. Departs December 20.
Activities in Thailand
While the UK days are at their shortest, Thailand is bathed in sizzling heat, with around 11 hours of daylight. Thais are mostly Buddhist, so pack your own tinsel and spend Christmas exploring the superb beaches, delicious cuisine and fascinating culture.
It’s a good destination for an active holiday with plenty of scope for sea-kayaking, snorkelling, sightseeing and exploring rainforests alongside the sunshine fix. Join an organised tour offered by specialist family operators to make the most of your time.
Families Worldwide (01962 302062; familiesworldwide.co.uk) offers a 10-day “Rainforests and Islands” group tour from £1,199 per adult and £1,149 per child (under 12 years) including some meals. Excludes flights. Departs December 23.
Festive fun in Tenerife
The Canaries are a popular Christmas destinations for Brits. Not only is the weather reliably warm throughout the winter months, but the four-hour flight time is manageable, too.
The archipelago’s largest island, Tenerife, not only scores highly for scenic beaches, buzzing nightlife and stylish shopping, but it is also a great pick for late bookers thanks to the volume of flights and accommodation there. Five-star hotels, offering excellent sports facilities and well-supervised kids clubs, unveil mouthwatering menus, tailored tastings and beach parties over the Christmas period.
Sovereign Luxury Travel (01293 832 459; sovereign.com) offers five nights at five-star Ritz-Carlton, Abama, from £1,750 per person, half board (based on children aged from 4-12 years) including a complimentary stay for one child (saving £1,401). Departs December 21.
Yuletide cheer in South Africa
A time difference of just two hours makes up for the long, 11 hour 30 minute flight to Cape Town. So does the balmy temperature of around 24C in December.
It’s peak season and the city is busy, but the festive lights and shops in Adderley Street, and evening carol concerts in Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden make this a wonderfully atmospheric destination for a Christmas break. Take the cable car up Table Mountain and visit the Cape Point nature reserve before taking an excursion to the great wine-making region around Franschhoek, an hour’s drive to the east of Cape Town.
Trailfinders (020 7368 1200; trailfinders.com) offers five nights in a two-bedroom apartment in Cape Town and two nights in a suite at the four-star Franschhoek Country House at £1,675 per person (based on children aged under 12 years). Departs December 19.
Self-catering in Morocco
Hooking up with extended family or groups of friends for a Christmas celebration in a spacious self-catering villa near Marrakech is a brilliant option for many reasons - not least is the number of relatively cheap December flights available to the city from the UK and the pleasantly warm temperatures (highs in the 20s) with little chance of rain.
Children will love buying last minute gifts in the city’s buzzing souk, and, because Christmas is a normal working day for Moroccan muslims, parents will love the help with food shopping, cooking and clearing up afterwards.
Scott Williams (01749 812721; scottwilliams.co.uk) offers a seven-night stay at Dar Zita villa at £445 per person, based on ten sharing, including daily breakfast and maid service. Other meals available at extra cost. Excludes flights. Starts December 20.
Underwater in Oman
Spectacular dunes, dramatic mountains and comfortable hotels plus temperatures at around 22C makes this Middle Eastern destination a top contender for warm December sunshine. Christmas isn’t celebrated in this muslim country, but hotels may organise in-house festivities.
Jebel Sifah Resort, 45 minutes from the capital Muscat offers diving to suit beginners and intermediates. Sites are between 20 and 30 metres deep, and range from shallow reefs to steep walls, with the chance to see reef sharks, turtles and stingrays. Dolphin watching and desert excursions are also available.
Dive Worldwide (01962 302 087; diveworldwide.com) offers a seven-night stay from £2,225 per person, half board, at Sifawy Boutique Hotel, including five days’ diving (10 dives in total) with tanks and weights. Choice of departure dates.
Elephants in Sri Lanka
Christmas time on this exotic island coincides with temperatures hovering around 30C and seven hours of sunshine per day. Although most of the population is Buddhist, Christmas is celebrated as a public holiday with decorated streets, Christmas trees and festive dinners served at hotels.
A great way of exploring this fascinating country with the family is by joining an organised, child-friendly tour to discover fortresses, temples, palaces, caves, tea plantations and elephants in Minneriya National Park.
Exodus Travels (0203 811 4071; exodus.co.uk) offers a 14-night “Tropical Island Wanderer” tour from £2,379 per adult, £2,141 per child (14 years and under). Departs December 16.
Spice and ruins in Mexico
Eating too much at Christmas won’t break the bank if you book an all-inclusive package. A stay at one of the luxurious, all-inclusive hotels on Mexico’s Riviera Maya means everything, including family activities and evening entertainment, is covered.
This is also a good base for exploring the Mayan ruins of Chichen, Itza and Tulum in comfortable December temperatures of around 22C (dropping to a chilly 4C at night). At Christmas you can dine on the delicious yuletide speciality of Tamales, made by steaming corn husks or banana leaves containing masa, a maize dough, wrapped round pork or beef.
Kuoni (01306 747008; kuoni.co.uk) offers a seven-night, all-inclusive stay at the Paradisus Playa del Carmen La Esmeralda in a Paradisus junior suite, from £2,692.25 per person (based on children aged up to 11 years), with a saving of up to £4,992 per family (quote tour reference MX055). Departs December 20.