(CNN) — Andy Williams may have sung that “it’s the most wonderful time of the year,” but for many people, Christmas can be the most stressful time of year, too.
Expectations for the perfect Christmas season can run as high as the highest blood pressure, with a cocktail of cranky relatives and hard-to-find gifts all adding to the seasonal tension.
It doesn’t have to be like this every year. Letting someone else take the strain is an alternative worth adding to your list of Christmas travel ideas.
With these 12 destinations, all you need to do is kick back and enjoy:
1. The LifeCo, Phuket, Thailand
If the thought of all the Christmas consumption and consumerism turns you off, perhaps it’s worth aiming to improve your health and happiness through a series of wellness programs held by The LifeCo in Phuket, Thailand, and two sites in Turkey.
They’re designed to offer benefits including better digestion, healthier skin, a boosted metabolism and an improved immune system. But don’t expect to be tucking into a hearty Christmas lunch if you sign up for the Green Salad detox program, where you’ll eat salads of dark green leaves and sprouts while knocking back raw vegetable and fruit juices.
Elsewhere, yoga, meditation, colon cleansing and a steam room are among the amenities on offer. Santa hats are optional.
2. Silversea Cruise, Caribbean and Central America
What can be more relaxing than a Christmas cruise?
For many, the definition of relaxation comes in the form of a cruise, especially an all-inclusive Silversea cruise.
Champagne on Christmas morning? Your Silver Spirit personal butler will take care of that for you in your suite. Snorkeling in the turquoise waters? Not a problem. Take a tour of rum distillery? But of course.
You can choose from several cruises that will have you out on the sea or in a tropical port on Christmas.
3. Urban Christmas at Ritz-Carlton, Tokyo
If embracing new cultures and horizons is part of the deal, then few destinations mix the familiar and the new like Tokyo.
A Christmas tree takes center stage at the elegant Ritz-Carlton in the city’s lively Roppongi district.
There’s a Nutcracker-themed afternoon tea to the tones of a string quartet, with spectacular Tokyo and Mount Fuji views, while Michelin-starred Christmas lunches and dinners include festive treats that can’t get much more gourmet, with desserts in particular almost too pretty to eat.
4. Santa arrives by canoe at Halekulani, Hawaii
They’ve been welcoming guests since 1883, so the resort’s got more than a few festive tricks up its sleeve. Kids get in on the action with a chance to meet Santa and take photos, while balloon sculptures and gingerbread decorating classes are also on offer.
Elsewhere the hotel features its own 12 days of Christmas, including snow cones — poolside, of course — amid plenty of seasonal culinary treats.
5. Spanish Christmas at Iberostar Las Letras, Madrid
The Spanish capital is a stylish and relaxed Christmas destination, meaning you can quickly feel right at home in the festive season.
Iberostar Las Letras Gran Via is right in the heart of the action on Gran Via, Madrid’s equivalent to Broadway, meaning Christmas shows from “The Lion King” to “The Nutcracker” are on your doorstep.
A former private mansion, it boasts elegant high ceilings and beautiful frescoes, while discreet decorations put you in the festive swing of things.
This being Spain, Noche de Buena (Christmas Eve) is the focus. Santa Claus is known to visit some children, but the more traditional bearers of gifts are the three wise men, or Reyos Magos.
6. Beachside Christmas at Alila, Bali
Another beach destination to take the winter blues away, this time on the Indonesian island of Bali. December brings temperatures in the 80s, so the only snowballs or ice will be in the bar.
Bali is a predominantly Hindu island and a 19th century temple, still used daily, sits on the elegant Alila property in Seminyak.
At their recently remodeled signature restaurant, Asian flavors and spices join traditional Christmas favorites, while Santa’s helpers will be working alongside chefs in the kitchen.
The real show-stealer is the ocean at the door, with waves crashing in just yards from where you eat. Cool cabanas then make the perfect spot for a post-feast nap, while long beach strolls can help walk off those calories.
7. Belmond Le Manoir Aux Quat’Saisons, England
Let your troubles lift away in England’s Oxforshire.
When it comes to feeling festive, you’d be hard-pressed to find somewhere more romantic or historic than Belmond Le Manoir Aux Quat’Saisons in England’s Oxfordshire.
The picture-perfect setting of the honey-colored stone manor house, surrounded by gardens, is even more of a Christmas jackpot if it snows.
The suites are huge and comfortable, all individually designed, but if you do venture out, then there’s no better destination than the two Michelin star restaurant. Past luxury lunch or dinner choices included their goose or suckling pig, rounded off by Christmas pudding with brandy butter.
8. Fly-in to Antarctica
If you’re keen to get away from it all but still love the idea of wrapping up warmly, it’d be difficult to get much cooler than Antarctica.
Jacada Travel offers a fly-in cruise to help avoid the notorious Drake Passage crossing, something that could really play havoc with the festive spirit.
After nights in Santiago and Punto Arenas in Chile, you fly to King George Island and board a small luxury boat. Then all you need do is marvel at the staggering scenery and observe the wildlife.
Christmas coincides with the penguin chicks starting to hatch, while sightings of sea birds, penguins, seals and whales are all guaranteed.
9. Rosewood Mayakoba, Mexico
The 1,600-acre Rosewood Mayakoba resort an hour south of Cancun boasts a mile-long arc of white Caribbean sand, just the ticket to take away any winter chills.
Your Christmas break starts with your butler taking you to your room in a deluxe motor launch, having first served you a welcome drink.
The 130 suites feature private plunge pools, sun decks and garden showers, while diving, sport fishing and snorkeling on the world’s second largest coral reef are all close at hand. For those who like to golf, the Greg Norman-designed El Camaleon should provide a solid test.
The region’s remarkable heritage is also close through the ancient Mayan ruins of Tulum and the lost city of Chichen Itza.
10. Four Seasons, New York
Few cities do Christmas as well as New York. From skating at Rockefeller Center to romantic snowy walks or horse-drawn carriage rides in Central Park, it’s in the air.
Madison Avenue is steps away from the Four Seasons if you need to send out for last-minute gifts, while guests can also donate to “Toys for Tots” as the hotel has again joined forces to help those in need during the holiday season.
Christmas Day lunch features three courses with desserts such as fig and cranberry pudding with spiced orange.
11. Christmas safari, Botswana
No one is stressed out covorting with elephants.
Short, sunless days and cold weather in the Northern Hemisphere seem a million miles away from the sunshine and open skies of a safari with A2A Safaris in Botswana in southern Africa.
Abu Camp is in Botswana’s vast Okavango Delta, one of the world’s largest wetland ecosystems. Along with traditional game viewing by jeep, plane or on water, Abu allows visitors the chance to walk with and ride the Abu elephants, with elephant conservation a critical part of their operation.
Christmas falls a month or so after the first rains, meaning greenery and floodplains teeming with game, while migrating birds returning south for the summer add to the kaleidoscope.
12. Seoul, JW Marriott Dongdaemun
In the South Korean capital of Seoul, temperatures will be wintry and snow a distinct possibility, but the JW Marriott overlooking historic Dongdaemun Gate hopes to warm visitors with traditional fare at its signature restaurant, Tavolo 24.
The hotel’s associates are known for their service beyond the call, so any last-minute requests to Santa or elsewhere can doubtless be arranged in no time.
If the weather isn’t too blustery, you make want to take a walk in Bukchon historical district, considered by many to be the city’s most lovely.
Chris Dwyer is a Hong Kong-based freelance food and travel writer. For more of his work visit www.finefooddude.com.
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