Summer vacations are fine. But the holiday season is a great time of year to relax as well. The weather is cooler, throngs of tourists are nowhere to be found, and many venues offer outstanding bargains. Here’s what you need to know about taking an end-of-year pleasure trip.

Choose the Right Destination

Most people flock to large cities for wintertime fun. But why follow the crowds when it comes to enjoying yourself? Many of the most rewarding locations rarely grab the headlines. Here are some of the best examples:

Orange, California, especially the Olde Town historic district – Economic growth has brought the Golden State enormous economic blessings over the years. That being said, some folks yearn for the flavor of “Old California,” as it was in the days before shopping malls and interstates. Does that sound like you? If so, then a trip to Orange, CA is in order. The town’s historic district has quaint neighborhoods filled with storied homes, friendly mom-and-pop businesses, and a pace of life that’s well suited to the fine art of relaxation. You might even run across a film crew while you are there. If you aren’t sure where to start, perhaps you could go on a walking food tour to learn about the history of the area as well as enjoy plenty of delicious treats. While you are in the area, make sure to visit Irvine Regional Park and board the Christmas train for a chance to see Santa, and visit the Orange County Zoo housed within the park as well. Of course, what California trip is complete without a stop at the happiest place on earth — Disneyland You’ll love the gentle warmth and snow-free landscape that passes for “winter” in Southern California. Bring your suntan lotion and hit the sandy slopes.

Anna Maria Island, Florida – the Sunshine State has undergone many of the same changes as its West Coast counterpart over the years. But, just as there’s an Old California to enjoy, so there’s an Old Florida as well. You’ll find it when you visit Anna Maria Island. This Gulf Coast getaway spot has jaw-dropping natural beauty, uncrowded beaches, and plenty of activities to fill your days and nights, according to ABC News. Plus, as you swim in the clear blue water, there’s a high chance you’ll be joined by a slow, gentle manatee or two. Once you’ve had your fill of the beach, head over to charming Bridge Street where the shopping has a homey feel due to the cottages and boutiques lining the streets. There are dining options as well, and the pier offers the perfect spot to view the infamous Anna Maria sunset.

Western Montana – instead of escaping the cold, why not embrace it instead? Skiing is the kind of adrenaline-pumping exercise that will give you a rush like nothing else. But there’s no need to endure the long lines and inflated prices of other states when Montana slopes offer enough excitement to suit all ability levels, according to the travel experts at Billings Gazette. You’ll enjoy added perks like comfy lodging, excellent food, and scenery that’s so beautiful it might make you cry. If you’d prefer a little less adrenaline, set up camp at one of the many state parks in Montana, where you might even catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights. For those with an appreciation for arts, the 58 murals painted on the walls and ceilings of the St. Ignatius Mission will be a true treat, and as an added bonus, the area is well-known as the hot spot for beginner ice climbers.

Secure Your Castle

Nothing ruins a winter vacation like coming back to find someone has desecrated your home. Before you leave, make sure you activate your alarm system, have the post office suspend mail delivery, lock your garage from the inside, and ask a friend or relative to check on things while you’re gone. Installing a cloud-linked webcam is a great way to check on things while you’re away, according to Computerworld. 

Secure Your Vehicle and Yourself

The holidays are a merry time of year for many people, including criminals. Stop lawbreakers from targeting you or your companions during your trip by taking these precautions:

  • If you’re using your vehicle, then have a trusted garage check it out beforehand to prevent trouble while on the road.
  • Limit the amount of cash you carry in case you run into pickpockets or muggers.
  • Use discretion when dealing with strangers. Never reveal personal information and be ready to say “thanks but no thanks” to unwanted advances.
  • Keep your cell phone charged and on hand. So-called “dumb phones” are a smart option for emergency backup, just in case your primary device is lost, damaged, or stolen. Smaller models slip into pants or jacket pockets with ease and present a low profile to onlookers.
  • Keep pricey jewelry in the hotel safe if you’re unsure about the parts of town you plan to visit. Thieves love finding gold and silver jewelry, so use a safe or keep it on you.

The holidays are all about enjoying yourself. So use the tips in this post to plan a getaway that will give you memories to cherish for a lifetime. There’s no better way to start the new year on the right foot.

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