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Note: All travel is subject to frequently changing governmental restrictions—please check federal, state and local advisories before scheduling trips.

States across the country are implementing new COVID-related restrictions, just as we’re approaching a time of year when many people are looking to celebrate with friends and family. After the year we’ve had, a little celebration seems like just what we all need. While sporting events may be cancelled and weddings postponed, many holiday festivities are still being planned, albeit with some slight adjustments. We’ve rounded up 11 festively fabulous options if you’re looking for something merry and bright to to lift your holiday spirits.

RELATED: 7 over the top holiday light displays you’ve got to see

Glow Holiday Festival: Minneapolis, MN

Head to the Twin Cities to bask in the glow of one million holiday lights from the safety of your own car. The drive-thru festivities are happening at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds and feature beautiful Christmas trees, art installations, dazzling light displays and even a gingerbread house! Tickets are $46 per car and can be purchased here.
When: Through January 3, 2021

The Rink  at Rockefeller Center: New York City

Always a highlight during the holiday season, the ice skating rink at Rockefeller Center in Midtown is open for business. Skate beneath the stunning Rockefeller Christmas tree or watch from the sidelines with a warm drink. The Rink is open daily from 9am-midnight,, beginning November 21; tickets start at just $5. New York City is always a special place but something about the city during the holidays truly feels magical.
When: Through January 17, 2021

Koziar’s Christmas Village: Bernville, PA

For 73 years, Koziar’s Christmas Village has been lighting up and welcoming guests to Bernville and this year is no exception. Running the first Saturday of the month through January 2, this lovely little village has it all. From the manger scene and Santa’s toy shop, to scenes from Christmas in other countries and an old-fashioned bakery, strolling through is bound to brighten your spirits!
When: First Saturdays through January 2,  2021

Christmas Train Rides: Chattanooga, TN

Visit the North Pole aboard a train so famous, it has its own song! The 60-minute Chattanooga choo-choo train rides depart from the Grand Junction Campus in Downtown Chattanooga and takes you on a magical journey to the North Pole. Along the way, you’ll get to write your own letter to Santa, while noshing on a warm chocolate chip cookie. Santa himself will greet you at the “North Pole” and there, elves will hand out hot chocolate to enjoy while chugging back to the station.
When: Friday–Sunday, and daily during Christmas week, through December 27, 2020

Disney Christmas Events: Multiple locations

Christmas in the Magic Kingdom

Christmas in the Magic Kingdom | Flickr CC: Sam Howzit

The holidays are a special time of year at Disney theme parks. Touting “Holiday magic at every park,” there are events happening at Epcot, Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom. From parades to lights shows, you’re sure to find something fun for the whole family. And be sure to book your tickets well in advance; certain parks at limited capacity to support social distancing.
When: Some events end December 30, 2020; others run through January 5, 2021

Dyker Heights Christmas Lights: Brooklyn, NY

Manhattan gets all the attention when it comes to holiday celebrations but those in the know head to Brooklyn. Since the 1980s, homeowners in Dyker Heights have been having a little friendly competition decorating their homes. This year, you can expect to see massive displays, some put up by professions and costing upwards of $20,000.
When: Most houses remain decorated through January 4, 2021

Christmas in Color: Multiple locations

This multi-state event takes place in Salt Lake City, UT, Morrison, CO, Federal Heights, CO, San Dimas, CA, Shakopee, MN, Garden City, ID, and features more than a million lights hung in stunning displays and synchronized to holiday music you’ll play through your radio. From the comfort of your car, you’ll drive by giant candy canes, beautiful lighted archways, snowmen and brilliantly decorated buildings. Christmas in Color is sure to delight people of all ages!
When: Through Jan 4, 2021

Candy Cane Lane: Los Angeles, CA

For years, a group of neighbors in Woodland Hills has gotten together to put on one heck of a light show. At the intersection of Lubao and Oxnard Streets, cars slow to a crawl to take in the dozens of homes decked out for the holidays.  It begins the second Saturday in December and lasts through the month. Be sure to come before 10pm, when homeowners typically turn off their lights and head to bed.
When: Many houses remain decorated through January 4, 2021

Polar Express Train Ride: Palestine, TX

From November 27 through December 26, the Polar Express comes to life in Texas. The Texas State Railroad encourages guests to show up in their cozy pajamas for the ride of a lifetime. While enjoying hot chocolate and cookies, families sing Christmas carols, meet Santa, and get a glimpse at the North Pole.
When: Through December 27, 2020

Glittering Lights at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway: Las Vegas, NV

Glittering Lights | Photo courtesy of Las Vegas Motor Speedway

Glittering Lights | Photo courtesy of Las Vegas Motor Speedway

Turns out the lights on the Las Vegas strip aren’t the only things dazzling tourists. The drive thru light show at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway is a favorite holiday tradition among local Nevadans and visitors alike.  For 20 years, millions of glittering lights have decked these “halls” and delighted passersby, while proceeds benefit a number of different charities so you can feel extra jolly about going.
When: Through January 10, 2021

Tagged: Cheap Tips, City, Destinations, Events, Festivals, Holidays, L.A., New York City, Texas, Texas, Top 10 list, Types of Travel

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It’s Christmastime. In towns big and small all over America, people are gathering around Christmas trees as they are illuminated for the first time this year. Some of those trees are iconic, adorning Christmas ornaments and postcards, but for some of them, their glory lies in their story. And the best part? It doesn’t cost a dime to take in their majesty, save for the cup of hot chocolate you’ll likely buy on your way. Take a look at this list of some of America’s best public Christmas trees.

The Iconic Tree:

Rockefeller Center Tree

Rockefeller Center Tree | Flickr CC: Shinya Suzuki

Rockefeller Center, New York City — This is about as iconic as you can get when it comes to Christmas trees. New York City’s massive tree overlooks the ice skating rink in Rockefeller Plaza and has made it into many a classic Christmas movie scene. Something that really makes this tree iconic though, is its origins. The New York Times did a story earlier this month that revealed the history of the tree, noting that hard-working Italian immigrants first pushed a tree up in 1931 after a long day of constructing the city into what we know it as today.

 

Millennium Park Christmas tree

Chicago’s Christmas tree sits in front of the city’s skyline at Millennium Park. Photo: Ally Marotti

Millennium Park, Chicago — Chicago’s giant public Christmas tree usually sits in the middle of the German Christmas market, Christkindlmarket, in Daley Plaza in the heart of downtown, but this year it was moved to Millennium Park. Now it rises above Cloud Gate (aka, the Bean) in front of Chicago’s skyline.

  

Gifted trees:

Boston Christmas Tree

Boston Christmas Tree | Flickr CC: Eric Kilby

Boston Christmas Tree — A tree has been lit in Boston each year since 1941, and since 1971, each tree has come from Nova Scotia. Illuminated in Boston Common, the tree is gifted to the city each year by Nova Scotia as a thank you for assistance provided during the 1917 Halifax explosion, which destroyed much of the city. Boston sent help immediately, although their train was delayed by a blizzard. Still, the Nova Scotians never forgot.

 

Union Station Christmas tree

The Christmas tree inside Union Station in Washington D.C. is a gift from Norway. Photo: Chris Gladis – Flickr

Union Station, Washington D.C. — Norway gifts a Christmas tree to Washington D.C. each year as a symbol of friendship with the U.S. and as a thank you for the help the U.S. provided to Norway during World War II. The tree is displayed in Union Station, and the Norwegian Embassy chooses a theme with which to decorate the tree each year. In 2013, when the theme was Edvard Munch’s “The Scream,” the tree was fashioned with dozens of tiny reflective versions of the shrieking man in Norway’s most famous painting. This year’s theme is Norwegian music.

 

Public Square Park, Nashville — The Christmas tree in downtown Nashville is often gifted to the city by residents. This year, Tammie Myles donated 42-foot Norway spruce to honor her parents. It will be decorated with 5,000 lights. This idea of individuals donating Christmas trees is common throughout the country, especially when the trees or activities surround them feature some sort of charitable aspect. Local Christmas tree farms will often donate trees for display near the courthouse.

Big trees in small squares:

Rittenhouse Square Christmas tree

The Christmas tree in Philadelphia’s Rittenhouse Square. Photo: Marc Cappelletti – Flickr.

Rittenhouse Square, Philadelphia — Rittenhouse Square is one of five original open spaces in Philadelphia planned by William Penn. It is about two short blocks long on eachside, and in December a 30-foot Christmas Tree rises out of its center. It makes the little historical park even cozier.

 

Cincinnati's Christmas tree

Fireworks go off at the tree lighting ceremony in Fountain Square in Cincinnati, Ohio. Photo: 5ch4r7z – Flickr.

Fountain Square, Cincinnati — The Christmas tree dominates downtown Cincinnati’s Fountain Square each December, and shadows the temporary ice skating rink that is assembled nearby each year. The smaller size of the square, which is mostly enclosed by the city’s skyscrapers, makes the tree seem even bigger and more festive.

When the trees don’t move:

Town Square Lighting, Jackson Hole — Instead of decorating one giant tree, Jackson Hole sets Town Square ablaze with multiple tree lightings. Fitting in with its outdoorsy M.O., the town does not cut down any trees for its Christmas celebrations, so it earns a spot on our list for being environmentally aware.

Coeur D' Alene, Idaho

Coeur D’ Alene, Idaho | Flickr CC: Tracy Hunter

Coeur d’Alene, Idaho — A nearly 200-foot grand fir at Coeur d’Alene Resort is decorated with tens of thousands of lights and at one point set the world record for the tallest living Christmas tree. The star on top is 10 feet alone.

Sardy House Tree, Aspen — This is the 31st year the owners of the Sardy House illuminate the large fir tree on the corner of Main and Aspen streets in Aspen. (New owners spent $250,000 to amp up the lighting in 2006). It is strewn with 10,000 LED lights hooked up to a system that can emulate everything from fireworks to a cascading waterfall. The glory of using a live tree? The lights stay on year-round and can be used during other holiday celebrations.

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Tagged: Cheap Tips, Festivals, FREE!, Holidays, New York City, Seasonal

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Cheap Right Now gives a snapshot of a cheap weekend getaway each month.

Whistler, British Columbia is a real-life winter wonderland, and what better place to visit during the most magical time of the year. The resort area near the town, which is north of Vancouver, covers nearly 8,000 acres over Whistler and Blackcomb mountains. It’s the largest ski area in North America, gets nearly 40 feet of snow a year and is still tingling with some of the energy the 2010 Winter Olympic athletes left in the mountains. But traveling this time of year can be tough, what with the pockets growing so shallow after all that Christmas spending, and ski trips have some expensive fixed costs that can’t be avoided (i.e. lift tickets). We’re here to keep your time off the slopes down to earth and affordable in Whistler in December.

 

Vancouver International Airport

Vancouver International Airport. Photo: JamesZ_Flickr – Flickr

Plane, train or automobile — A trip to Whistler is much more feasible as a weekend getaway for those on the West Coast, as it’s only about a five-hour drive from Seattle. For the rest of us, plane is the most efficient way to get there. Fly into Vancouver International Airport and take the 2.5-hour scenic drive to Whistler. The Pacific Coach Line (which has Wifi) offers frequent daily transport from the airport to the resort, but it costs $72 per adult, and must be booked in advance. If you bring travel companions, it would be more economical to rent a car.

 

Whistler car rental

Renting a car is probably your best and most affordable transportation option for Whistler. Photo: kcxd – Flickr

Cheap local transit — The hub of Whistler is a compact village ripe with chalet-style lodges, and most of it is walkable. For longer distances, rely on the BC Transit system, which connects the valleys and villages near the ski resort and allows skiers another route to a new slope. One ride is $2.50, and day passes go for $7. Also, make sure you don’t forget about that car you rented. It could beyour route to beautiful vistas.

Coffee

Coffee. Photo: waferboard – Flickr 

Energize your day — Carb up before you hit the slopes with a ham and egg breakfast panini and cup of joe at Mount Currie Coffee Company. Prices vary, but whatever breakfast delicacy you decide to indulge in, it won’t put you behind on your budget before the day is even in full swing.

 

Snowshoeing in Whistler

Snowshoeing outside of Whistler. Photo: pfly – Flickr.

Strap on your snowshoes — There are hundreds of miles of trails in the mountains surrounding Whistler, many of which are traversable even in the winter by snowshoe. The Sea to Sky Trail is a great placeto start. It stretches 20 miles through Whistler, from Lost Lake Park north of the village to Green Lake, and is wide and easily navigable via snowshoe or ski. If you’re feeling ambitious, extend your expedition — the whole trail runs more than 111 miles from D’Arcy to Squamish.

 

Burger and Fries

Burger and fries. Photo: Maya83 – Flickr

Taste the valueEl Furniture Warehouse, or El Furny, as it’s so fondly referred to, offers all meals for only $4.95. All day, every day. They use ingredients sourced as locally as possible to create dishes that are sure to make your altitude-adjusting stomach growl—think everything from green apple and quinoa salad to braised beef dip sandwich au jus. You can also warm up with their alcoholic hot beverages.

 

Brandywine Falls near Whistler

Brandywine Falls before the freeze. Photo:Matt Swern – Flickr.

Fathom the falls — Head to Brandywine Falls Provincial Park just outside the city. The parking lot is closed during the winter, but snowplows create a makeshift lot nearby. It’s about a 20-minute snowshoe trip to the majestic falls, where you’ll watch the water plunge into hole carved out of the frozen pond below. Keep going to the Bungee Bridge if you have the energy. If you don’t have snowshoes, check out the path anyway and see if someone has already packed it down enough to walk on.

 

Whistler Olympic Park

The Olympic spirit is still alive and well in Whistler. Photo: Jon Wick – Flickr

Follow the paths of Olympians — Visit Whistler Olympic Park, where one-third of the medals awarded in the 2010 games were won. There is plenty to do at the park, but watch the hours, it closes at 4:30 p.m. most days. The park offers  tobogganing, skiing, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and more. $25 will get you a shuttle ride from Whistler village to the park and a snowshoeing excursion.

Whistler mountain views

Check out the vistas surrounding Whistler. Photo: chispita_666 – Flickr

Utilize your rental car — If you ended up renting a car for this trip, take advantage of it. There are too many beautiful vistas in the area to even comprehend, so pile in and go.

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Tagged: Cheap Tips, Food & drink, FREE!, Holidays, Seasonal, Sports, Tips & advice

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Memories are really the most precious gift that can be given, but have you ever tried to stick a memory in a box and put a bow on it? It’s darn-right impossible. So let us turn to experiential gift giving this holiday season, because gifting experiences is fun for everyone and the best bang for your buck. It also comes with the guarantee that your carefully thought-out gift won’t be re-gifted or end up stuffed in the back of the closet behind dusty VHS tapes. 

The Nutcracker at the Joffrey Ballet

The Nutcracker at the Joffrey Ballet | Flickr CC: Gabriel Saldana

Tickets to ‘The Nutcracker’ — Chicago’s renowned Joffrey Ballet will be putting on The Nutcracker throughout December. Make this an early Christmas present for family or friends and get in the holiday mood with one of the most cultural Christmastime classics. Get 10% off tickets to “The Nutcracker” performances and other ballets across major U.S. cities by using the promo code BLACKFRIDAY10 Cheaptickets.com.*

Seats at a Big Ten basketball game — Winter is great time to hunker down and watch some basketball. College teams play nearly every night of the week, so there are plenty of dates to choose from, and tickets are usually pretty affordable. Ohio State plays Illinois in Columbus on Jan. 3 at 5 p.m. Tickets start at $32 on Cheaptickets.com

Beach getaway

A trip to the tropics — Forget the gift giving and put that money toward a tropical getaway for you and your bae this holiday season. All-inclusive resorts can be quite affordable and typically include food and some excursions. An all-inclusive trip to the Grand Park Royal Cancun Caribe resort through Cheaptickets starts at about $144 per night, for example. Deals are constantly changing, and holiday sales are burstingwith them right now**, so keep your eye out for a dream destination.

Related: Urban holiday escapes: Cheap rates in big cities

 

Take up yoga

Take up yoga | Flickr CC: elidr

Pass to a yoga studio — Or really any sort of gym membership, depending on who you buy for. Plenty of people are desperate to spend some time on themselves, be that through the calming effects of yoga or relieving stress at, say, a boxing gym, but don’t want to fork out the extra $100 or so per month for a membership. Gyms in every city offer varying membership packages so you can choose what would work best for your gift receiver.

Tickets to the first showing of Star Wars: The Force Awakens — This may be the perfect gift, assuming, of course, that the person you’re buying for is into Star Wars and this isn’t just some scam to get them to the midnight premier with you. Buy tickets ASAP though–some theaters are already selling out.

Go on a distillery tour

Go on a distillery tour | Flickr CC: Ben

Distillery tour — A trip along the Kentucky Bourbon Trail might be exactly what your gift receiver needs to warm up this winter. Tours at any of the most well-known distilleries run between $5 to $30 and typically include tons of rich, bourbon-soaked history and lessons on how to get the most flavor out of your bourbon.

Sugar Bowl tickets — Since tickets to the Super Bowl are a little unattainable (think upwards of $4k), nab up a pair of tickets to the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans. Isn’t college football more exciting anyway? The game is scheduled for New Year’s Day, so these tickets come with the added perk of ringing in the New Year in the Big Easy. Tickets start at $166 on Cheaptickets.com. Prices will spike once the teams that will actually play in the Sugar Bowl are determined, so throw your allegiances aside and get a head start on your shopping.

Play laser tag

Play laser tag | Flickr CC: heipei

Laser tag — Insert a little competition into your gift. Laser tag has the potential to provide hours of good ol’ fashioned, competitive fun, and it is usually very affordable. It’s only $8.99 per person for a round at the Blazer Tag Adventure Center in Austin, Texas, for example. So find the nearest laser tag center near you and have at it.

Take flying lessons

Take flying lessons | Flickr CC: woodleywonderworks

Flying lessons — Giving flying lessons could also mean making someone’s dream come true. You can choose the extremity of this gift as well, opting in for the whole nine yards and giving the beginnings of a flying career, or gifting a pass for a one-time trip up into the air. Companies all over the country offer different packages. Windy City Flyers in Chicago offers a “Discovery Flight” package for $225 that includes an hour flight in a Cessna 172 and pre- and post-flight briefings. Twoadditional passengers can ride along for free.

Become a master chef

Become a master chef | Flickr CC: DC Central Kitchen

Cooking class — A cooking class is the gift the keeps on giving, especially if you plan on gifting this to a roommate. Take your pick of food and type of class, because these offerings span the spectrum. Learn how to make desserts or ethnic foods, or dishes that pair well with certain types of wine. Learn to prepare four courses or just an appetizer, vegan or meat-focused. Some cooking classes are even diving into the BYOB trend so you can get your buzz on behind the counter.

*Use promo code BLACKFRIDAY10 to get 10% off all event tickets Nov. 23-30, 2015.

**Use promo code RIBBON to get 20% off qualifying hotel stays Nov. 23-30, 2015.

Also, get up to $20 back in CheapCa$h with any flight booking of $100 or more Nov. 23-30, 2015.

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Tagged: Cheap Tips, Family, Holidays, Seasonal

Note: CheapTickets compensates authors for their writings appearing on this site.

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Philadelphiahotels
Even with cheap flights and cheap hotels, your wallet could probably use a break this time of year. So here’s our second roundup of free holiday events to help you celebrate the season on the cheap.

BOSTON — From strolling with historic characters to performances of the Nutcracker, Boston has lots of events to celebrate the season. We’ve listed a few of the free ones below. You can see all the events online.

  • Sparklefest Holiday Parade: Santa and others parade from the Inn at Harvard down Massachusetts Avenue. Sunday, December 21, 12-1 p.m.
  • Skating rink at the Charles Hotel: Free skating and skate rentals during the grand opening Sunday, December 7, 12-8 p.m.
  • Tree lighting ceremony: Local and national performers and carolers join Santa for holiday entertainment and the lighting of Boston’s official non-denominational holiday shrub. December 4 at 6:30 p.m. Boston Common.

PHILADELPHIA — Light displays, children’s programs and events celebrating Chanukah and Kwanzaa are part of Philly’s holiday celebration. Learn more.

  • Holiday Light Show: 100,000 LED lights illuminate to create holiday images, accompanied by music from the Wanamaker Grand Organ. November 28-January 1 at Macy’s Center City.
  • Sharing the Heritage Holiday and Pre-Kwanzaa Celebration: If you bring an unwrapped gift to donate, you’ll get free admission to this event featuring discussions, films and performances about Kwanzaa. The African American Museum in Philadelphia. December 20
  • Holiday Railroad: More than a dozen model trains traverse snow-covered mountains and wind through miniature towns at this display at Reading Terminal Market. November 28-December 31.

DENVER — The Mile-High City has plenty of holiday happenings. See them all online.

  • City & County Building Holiday Lights: 600,000 lights illuminate the building and the bell tower plays carols. Nightly November 23 – January at 6 p.m.
  • Parade of Lights: Eight marching bands, giant balloons and brightly lit holiday floats wind through downtown Denver. December 5 at 8 p.m. and December 6 at 6 p.m.
  • Denver Christkindl Market: Vendors from Germany and throughout Europe offer traditional handcrafted items and food. At 16th Street Mall and Arapahoe Street through December 23. Note: It’s free to enter the market and browse, but if you want to shop, bring your wallet.

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Tagged: City, FREE!

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‘Tis the season for holiday travel. And while that may bring visions of flight delays and long security lines, don’t despair. CheapTickets wants to spread some holiday cheer. We’ve compiled a list of free holiday events in a selection of cities across the country, and we’re sharing them here in a two-part series. Consider it our holiday gift to you.

If you’ve got airline tickets and hotel reservations for one of these warm-weather destinations, you’ll have plenty of ways to celebrate:

Los angeles hotels
LOS ANGELES

  • The Light of the Angels: This seven-minute multimedia light display runs nightly December 4-31 at 7, 8, 9 and 10 p.m. at NOKIA Plaza. A key feature of the program is a 37,500-pound tree with 11,000 lights.
  • Marina del Ray Holiday Boat Parade: A fireworks show kicks off the event just before 6 p.m.; then boats decorated with lights circle through the harbor. December 13.
  • DWP Light Festival: From Thanksgiving weekend to the end of December, this mile-long Crystal Springs Drive route in Griffith Park turns into L.A.’s most awesome display of holiday lighting. Open 5 -10 p.m.

SAN DIEGO — San Diego has a ready list of 25 free activities for holiday travelers to enjoy. Here are a few highlights:

  • Coronado Christmas Open House and Parade: Santa arrives by ferry, and a concert follows the parade.
  • Balboa Park: Free organ concerts with holiday music. Sundays at 2 p.m. at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion. And don’t miss the "Whoville" decorations outside the Old Globe Theater in honor of the production "How the Grinch Stole Christmas."
  • La Jolla Christmas Parade and Festival: December 7
  • Mission Bay Christmas Boat Parade of Lights: Over 100 brightly lit boats parade along Mission Bay. December 13
  • Horse-drawn carriage rides: In Escondido. December 1, 8, 15, and 22; 5-9 p.m.

NEW ORLEANS

  • Cathedral Christmas Concerts: Local choirs perform holiday music in the historic St. Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square. Select evenings at 6 p.m. from December 1-22.
  • Cooking Demonstrations: Celebrated local chefs share their secrets for making delicious recipes. Select days at 10 a.m. or 3 p.m. December 2-20.

FORT LAUDERDALE

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Tagged: City, FREE!

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Cheap cruises
The holiday travel season is here, and CheapTickets has great deals for people who want to celebrate at sea.

Cheap cruises offer an easy and affordable way to combine holiday celebrations with vacation, and there are plenty of sailings over Thanksgiving, Christmas and Hanukkah. Here is a sample:

  • Seven-night Eastern Caribbean: Cruise to St. Maarten and St. Thomas aboard the Royal Caribbean Mariner of the Seas. Enjoy three pools, a rock-climbing wall, ice-skating rink and plenty of other activities. Cruise leaves November 23, and prices start at $499.
  • Four-night Bahamas: Sail to Nassau and a private Bahamas island aboard the Monarch of the Seas. Let the teens hang out in the ship’s special teen loungewhile you lounge at the spa. Rooms start at $389 for this November 24 sailing.
  • Ten-night Southern Caribbean: Leave the cold behind when you visit St. Lucia, Barbados, the British Virgin Islands and more. You’ll celebrate the holidays in style with four restaurants and a Champagne and Caviar Bar. The Celebrity Galaxy leaves December 19, and prices start at $649.

Four-night Thanksgiving cruises start at just $229, and four-night December cruises start at $319. With cheap cruises from CheapTickets, your holiday travel can be easy and affordable.

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Tagged: Cruise, FREE!, International

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