It is back to school time and you know what that means, right? No, not lunchboxes and homework, it means it is already time to start planning your holiday travel! If you are ready to start counting down the days until the next holiday break, take a look at this list of the best Christmas hotels and get ready to book, but stay tuned because I have a trick for you to save money on holiday travel (and the rest of your holiday shopping!)

We all know that Thanksgiving Weekend and the days right before and after Christmas and New Year’s are some of the worst days to fly. But they are also when hotels in prime holiday destinations book up early. So the time to book is now!

Saving Money for Holiday Travel

Christmas Tree Lights on 6th Avenue

Christmas tree lights on 6th Avenue

When I’m looking for a deal, I first jump over to some of my favorite hotel booking sites to check availability and rates. I usually look at a few to compare and debate whether or not I want to go with a “mystery deal” on Priceline or Hotwire. The mystery deal has actually worked out really well for me when booking at hotel for Christmas in New York City, but if you want to stay at one of my specific Christmas hotel recommendations, then you need to know where you are booking. A few of my favorite booking portals are Booking.com, Hotwire, Expedia, Priceline, and Hotels.com. I was thrilled to recently learn that all of these have partnered with Ibotta.

Note: This is a sponsored post written by me in partnership with Ibotta. All opinions are my own.

In case you haven’t heard of it, Ibotta is a cash back and rewards app that lets you save time and money when you shop. Basically, you can receive cash back on purchases that you make online and in-store on hundreds of brands from hundreds of retailers and websites/apps. Frankly if you aren’t using Ibotta, you are leaving cash on the table. With Ibotta, when you are buying ingredients for your holiday cookie dough, you are saving dough to use towards your holiday travel.

This is how it works:

  1. First you download the free mobile app to your phone and open it up to look for offers on products you are planning to buy. You can search by category, retailer, or product.
  2. Add your favorite offers to your app.
  3. Purchase the products, either online or in-store.
  4. Redeem your offer and earn rewards! To redeem in-store purchases, just scan the receipt and the product barcode. Online purchase offer redemption is even easier! Plus, you can earn extra cash through welcome bonuses and special offers.

Before I run out to the store or buy something online, I pop open my Ibotta app and see what offers are available for products I need (or want.) Once I’ve added them to my offers, I start shopping. Just make sure you purchase the EXACT product that is shown in the offer, otherwise it won’t be valid. On the average Target run, I can get an average of $10-20 in cash back (and that doesn’t count the 5% saved with my Red Card.) It adds up and big purchases add up even faster, like booking a hotel room at Christmas!

Ibotta app

Don’t forget to check your app for details as offers change frequently and may not be available in all areas.

You can even earn cash back when doing your holiday shopping from retailers like Amazon, Walmart.com, and Target.com. Or, if you are like me and still need to do back to school shopping (don’t blame me, it is still hot here, she doesn’t need sweaters yet!), you can save at many clothing retailers as well (like my daughter’s favorite – American Eagle.) Maybe instead of a trip OR a gift, you can actually swing both this year with Ibotta cash rewards.

Ibotta’s travel partners offer some generous cash back rewards including:

  • Booking.com = up to 4% cash back
  • Hotels.com = up to 6% cash back
  • Expedia = up to 5% cash back
  • Hotwire = up to 4% cash back
  • Priceline = up to 5% cash back

Ibotta travel partnersThere are also deals on vacation rentals like $10 cash back from HomeAway and VRBO. But now that you know how to save money towards your Christmas vacation, let’s talk about where to go.

Best Christmas Hotels

Last year I shared some of my favorite places to go for Christmas, and now I want to get a little more specific and offer up ideas for hotels that go above and beyond to create a magical Christmas experience for guests.

Gaylord Hotels (Multiple Locations)

Gaylord Opryland Country Christmas

Image courtesy of Gaylord Opryland

The Gaylord Hotels in Maryland, Nashville, Kissimmee, FL and Grapevine, Texas all offer a spectacular holiday experience, making it one of the top Christmas hotels. Each hotel features an ICE event with ice sculptures, displays, millions of lights and tons of family fun. In 2018, the Gaylord Opryland will feature “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” as their ICE attraction, while the Gaylord National Resort in National Harbor, Maryland will feature a Charlie Brown Christmas, and the Gaylord Palms in Florida will feature “A Christmas Story.” At each, you can have breakfast with featured characters, take photos with Santa, decorate gingerbread, eat cookies with Mrs. Claus, and so much more. The Opryland property also features a 6,000 square-foot ice rink, kids train, outdoor nativity, horse-drawn carriage rides, Christmas fountain shows, and riverboat cruise through the hotel atrium.

The Resort at Paws Up, Greenough, MT

The Resort at Paws Up

Photo credit: The Resort at Paws Up

If you want a storybook Montana Christmas, The Resort at Paws Up is the place to go. Families will enjoy real-life sleigh rides, gingerbread house building, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, snow tubing, game nights, dogsledding, bonfires, even a Christmas Eve kids’ party – all set against a background of snow-covered mountains. Each guest has their own tree, in their own private home, and everyone gets a personal visit from Santa, complete with an exclusive Paws Up Christmas stocking. It is like Christmas at home, but so much better with fantastic holiday meals prepared in the resort’s amazing restaurants (or delivered to your home on property.)

The Little America Hotel, Flagstaff, AZ

Little America North Pole Experience

Photo credit: North Pole Experience

If you want something a little more affordable and not so cold, consider The Little America Hotel in Flagstaff, Arizona. This hotel’s North Pole Experience allows kids and families to travel through the “North Pole” to explore Santa’s workshop. Nestled on 500 acres of pine forest, Little America gets decked out for the holiday season. The experience starts with a trolley ride through the forest filled with snow and over a million Christmas lights. Inside Santa’s toy factory, guests work side-by-side with Santa and his elves to build toys, then attend Elf University. They finish up with cookies and snowman soup inside Mrs. Claus’ Bakery. Families can bunk down in one of their newly renovated lodges with all-inclusive package rates starting at $200 per night. Pair a visit with a Christmas visit to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon or ski at the Arizona Snowbowl.

Leavenworth Tiny House Village, Leavenworth, WA

Leavenworth WA Tiny House Village

Photo credit: Leavenworth Tiny House Village

The Bavarian-themed town of Leavenworth, Washington is a classic holiday destination with a Christkindlmarket, Nutcracker Museum, Reindeer Farm, and a magical Christmas Lighting Festival. Now you can combine the Winter Wonderland beauty of Leavenworth with the trendy tiny house movement. The Leavenworth Tiny House Village is located in the Leavenworth RV Campground. These five Bavarian-themed tiny houses offer an affordable, unique, and fun way to celebrate the holidays. Plus, guests have convenient access to over 200 miles of groomed snowmobile trails, cross country skiing, and sledding hills located on site.

Sonnenalp Hotel, Vail, CO

Sonnenlap Hotel

Photo credit: Sonnenalp Hotel

Sonnenalp Hotel in Vail is a winter wonderland for those seeking a mountain Christmas. The resort is decked out in greenery, twinkling lights, and holiday decorations. Guests enjoy live music during cocktail hour at the King’s Club and s’mores and Gluhwein by a roaring fire. For those that stay for Christmas, they can enjoy Christmas Day carolers at the creekside fire pit and visits from Santa. With one and two-bedroom suites, as well as private residences with two, three, or four bedrooms, the Sonnenalp is perfect for families looking for a holiday ski experience.

Hotel del Coronado, Coronado, CA

Hotel del Coronado ice skating rink

Photo credit: Hotel del Coronado

The classic Hotel del Coronado in Southern California is well-known for its “Christmas Legend” holiday celebration. From November 22 through January 1, 2018, The Del brings wintertime fun to sunny Southern California with Skating by the Sea with a beachfront ice rink. This year, they have added a new VIP lounge area and a special skate experience with gold medalist Tara Lipinski, as well as 16 cozy fire pits and luxury lounges.

Lansdowne Resort & Spa, Leesburg, VA

From late November through early January, the Lansdowne Resort & Spa outside of Washington DC transforms to a winter wonderland. For 2018, the resort will offer a one-of-a-kind golf cart parade, carriage rides, and petting zoo. In addition to thoughtfully curated holiday décor the resort features special seasonal packages and activities for children of all ages, as well as a holiday market for people to purchase the perfect gift for that special someone.

St. Regis Atlanta, Atlanta, GA

St Regis Atlanta

Photo credit: St. Regis Atlanta

Located in elegant Buckhead, The St. Regis Atlanta has long been a holiday destination for seasonal travelers. In 2017, the hotel raised the bar by partnering with Sugarfina, a luxury candy boutique, offering a gingerbread house, a holiday pop-up candy shop, and a Sugarfina-inspired special cocktail. This year, the hotel will be adding new components and holiday programming.

The Village at Squaw Valley, Olympic Valley, CA

Village at Squaw Valley Carolers

Photo credit: The Village at Squaw Valley

The Village at Squaw Valley in Olympic Valley, California comes alive in the last two weeks of December with its “Merry Days and Holly Nights,” Christmas celebration. Guests will enjoy visits with Santa, torch light parades, musical performances, ice sculptures, and more. This year’s events include shows such as The Twisted Nutcracker and the Tale of the Rat King, holiday carolers, the Reno-Jazz Orchestra and the Toccota Symphony Orchestra. There will be skiing/snowboarding with Olympian Jonny Moseley, Dawn Patrol early mountain access for the adventurers, and plenty of family fun off the slopes including live music, horse drawn carriages, Ice Gardens, and Moonlit Snowshoe Dinners in a mid-mountain Chalet.

The Edgewater, Madison, WI

Located on the shores of Lake Mendota, the historic Edgewater embraces the winter season to the fullest. It starts off on November 23 with a tree lighting ceremony of three large trees on the outdoor plaza.  This is followed by a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus, along with performances from many community organizations including local choirs, handbell ensembles, ballet troupes and more.  For 2018, there will be large replica of the State Capitol created in Gingerbread by Pastry Chef Paul Trecroci. Even the inside of the Grand Ballroom transforms into a Holiday Village with crafts, story time, and ornament making. The hotel hosts various holiday events including Breakfast with Santa, Holiday Afternoon Tea, and a Christmas Brunch.

Williamsburg Inn, Williamsburg, VA

Williamsburg Inn

Photo credit: Williamsburg Inn

For a historic Christmas, head to Williamsburg, Virginia and the AAA Five Diamond and Forbes Travel Guide Five Star property, the Williamsburg Inn. The area is spectacular during the holiday season, filled with thousands of lights, decorative 18th century-style wreaths throughout the historic area homes, and dozens of uniquely themed holiday events. Visitors can go ice skating, enjoy specialty holiday dining, and Christmas Town at the nearby Busch Gardens. The season highlight is the Grand Illumination fireworks spectacular on December 2, 2018.

Majestic Hotel, Yosemite, CA

The legendary Majestic Hotel in Yosemite National Park offers elaborate Christmas celebrations including elegant and sumptuous Old England Christmas feasts called Bracebridge Dinners. The meal is followed by a magical theatre performance originally directed by famed photographer Ansel Adams. The Majestic Yosemite Hotel’s Dining Room is transformed to a manor hall for this celebrated Yuletide extravaganza.

Mission Inn Hotel & Spa, Riverside, CA

Mission Inn Hotel Christmas Lights

Photo credit: Mission Inn Hotel & Spa

Southern California’s historic Mission Inn Hotel & Spa offers a front-row seat to the Annual Festival of Lights, named one of the “Best Public Lights Display in the Nation” by USA Today. This annual tradition attracts more than 500,000 visitors from all over the world for the free, six-week-long holiday extravaganza. During the famous “Switch-On” Ceremony, the castle-like hotel is instantly illuminated with five million holiday lights followed by a full fireworks display. The Festival of Lights includes 200 animated figures including angels, elves and Dickens carolers; appearances by Santa Claus, the world’s largest man-made mistletoe, horse-drawn carriage rides, elf tuck-ins, freshly fallen snow, elaborately decorated Christmas trees; and delectable holiday confections at the famous Casey’s Cupcakes, among other festive offerings.

Topnotch Resort, Stowe, VT

How many resorts are there where you can bring home your own Christmas tree? Topnotch Resort in the scenic town of Stowe, Vermont has partnered with Paine’s Christmas Trees for an “O’Christmas Tree” Package. Guests can take a wagon ride through the tree farm to find the perfect tree and pick out an ornament from the shop. In addition to tree shopping, Topnotch offers a host of winter activities including sleigh rides, cross country skiing,and outdoor firepits. And, the tallest mountain in Vermont is only a short drive away.

HarbourView Inn, Charleston, SC

HarbourView Inn

Photo credit: HarbourView Inn

Charleston, South Carolina transforms into a real-life Charles Dickens scene every December, with city-wide events like James Island’s Annual Holiday Festival of Lights, Marion Square’s one-of-a-kind holiday farmer’s market, and Magnolia Plantation’s Children’s Holiday Village. At the HarbourView Inn, in the heart of the Historic District, live Christmas carolers will appear with Santa Claus on Christmas Eve and a gingerbread house replica of the hotel is displayed in the lobby. Guests are also provided with an impressive list of holiday-inspired complimentary amenities including local artisanal chocolate truffle turndown, warm winter breads baked by famed Saffron’s Bakery, and lavish holiday décor displayed in-room and throughout the property for a truly mystical Christmas vacation.

The Towers Mansion, Natchez, MS

The Towers Mansion in Natchez, Mississippi features a “Jeweled Christmas” featuring thousands of pieces of vintage costume jewelry. The Towers, which was originally constructed in the late 1700s, operates as a B&B throughout the year but each holiday season incorporates a dazzling display of diamonds, making one of the most unusual seasonal tours in the South. From late November through early January, the tour embodies the welcoming spirit of the south mixed with old school glamour. In the area, many other antebellum homes offer special Christmas candlelight tours and host Christmas celebrations.

Barnsley Resort, Adairsville, GA

Barnsley Resort Christmas Lights

Photo credit: Barnsley Resort

The Barnsley Resort, located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Northern Georgia, lights up the night with an array of colorful holiday lights at the historic Manor House Ruins. From Thanksgiving night through January 1, guests can stroll the gardens or relax in the resort’s hammocks while overlooking the twinkling lights. In addition, the resort offers several holiday-themed events perfect for travelers looking to get into the holiday spirit, including Gingerbread House Crafting, Wreath Making Class, Harvest Hayride, Campfire Stories, and Cookie Decorating, as well as a Christmas Day Buffet.

The Broadmoor, Colorado Springs, CO

The Broadmoor offers the quintessential Colorado Christmas with a massive gingerbread display and a million twinkling lights. There are also elegantly decorated trees, music, games, activities, and special events including a concert with Debbie Boone and Breakfast with Santa. 2018 is The Broadmoor’s 100th anniversary and they will put on the biggest gingerbread display yet. Guests can also visit the nearby Seven Falls, one of Colorado’s most captivating natural wonders during all seasons of the year, but in winter you can see the Frozen Falls and soar across them with The Broadmoor Soaring Adventure.

Harraseeket Inn, Freeport, ME

Harraseeket Inn Christmas lights

Photo credit: Harraseeket Inn

If you need to do some last minute shopping before your holiday, the Harraseeket Inn offers the perfect location for both preparing for, and enjoying the holiday. A family-owned and operated luxury inn, the Harraseeket is a classic Maine hotel just steps away from the flagship L.L. Bean store and more than 170 upscale outlets. On Christmas Day, the Inn puts together a buffet that dreams are made of. The hotel is also beautifully decorated so that every guest can feel the holiday spirit and many of the rooms have fireplaces. Guests are invited to bring an ornament and write their name and the year they began staying at the hotel and find a place for it on the “Guest Tree” in the lobby. And to not leave the kids out, owner and General Manager, Chip Gray, jingles the sleigh bells around 1 a.m. on Christmas Day to let the little ones know that Santa hasn’t forgotten them, a long-standing tradition in the Gray Family.

JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa, San Antonio, TX

There is no need to freeze at the North Pole when you can enjoy the holiday in Texas Hill Country at the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa. From mid-November through December 31st, the resort’s annual “Light up the Night” holiday show will brighten and dazzle guests and visitors with more than 250,000 twinkling lights choreographed to holiday music in an outdoor wonderland. Other activities include Breakfast with Santa, JW Elf Tuck-Ins with a bedtime story and a special keepsake from the JW Elves, Sandy the Snowman building contest, and a life-sized gingerbread display. Of course guests can also enjoy the resort’s nine-acre River Bluff Water Experience featuring heated pools, two body drop slides, three water slides, and a 1,100-foot-long lazy river.

The Roosevelt New Orleans, New Orleans, LA

Roosevelt New Orleans christmas lights

Photo credit: The Roosevelt New Orleans, a Waldorf Astoria Hotel

Every holiday season, The Roosevelt New Orleans, A Waldorf Astoria Hotel, opens its spectacular holiday Waldorf Wonderland lobby to welcome the holiday season. Ranked among the world’s best displays by USA Today and the Wall Street Journal, Waldorf Wonderland incorporates over 100,000 white lights; 1,600 feet of lighted garland; 387 bows, over 4,000 glass ornaments; 78 birch trees; and 46 Christmas trees. The block long displays are free and open to the public through New Year’s Day.

Historic Hotel Bethlehem, Bethlehem, PA

Hotel Bethlehem lights

Image courtesy of Hotel Bethlehem/Discover Lehigh Valley

Bethlehem, Pennsylvania is also known as “Christmas City,” not just because of the name but also the holiday decor, Christkindlmarkt, Christmas City Village, and the 81-foot-tall steel “Star of Bethlehem” that radiates atop South Mountain. Historic Hotel Bethlehem is the perfect spot to soak in the Christmas spirit. When entering, guests are ushered into the 1920s, with elegantly-adorned floor to ceiling trees, a stunning Nativity scene, and glistening ornaments and lights.

Great Wolf Lodge (Multiple Locations)

Snowland Suite at the Great Wolf Lodge

Great Wolf Lodge — Grand Mound, WA // Photo by Daniel Berman/www.bermanphotos.com

For a howling good time, take the kids to the Great Wolf Lodge. Known for the indoor water parks, the Great Wolf transforms into Snowland from November until the New Year. Entertainment includes festive family movies, a Snow n’ Glow dance party when it “snows” in the lobby, visits from Santa Claus; North Pole University, where kids complete fun, holiday-themed assignments around the resort for the chance to earn a Snowploma; the Polar Wolf Walk, where a tour of a lobby teaches lessons about polar bears and penguins, and more. For something extra special, book a Snowland Suite complete with an in-room tree and holiday decor.

Grand Wailea, Maui, HI

Who said Christmas has to be snowy? The Grand Wailea, A Waldorf Astoria Resort offers a celebration of a different kind for those that want to flee the snow. Special Christmas offerings including the Grand Wailea’s Tree Lighting Ceremony (with eight miles of lights), a gingerbread display, holiday cookies and cocoa, breakfast with Santa, dive-in movies featuring holiday classics, and special holiday meals. Santa even arrives by Hawaiian canoe on Christmas Eve.

Hotel Hershey, Hershey, PA

Hersheypark at Christmas

What better place to spend Christmas than in the Sweetest Place on Earth? Hotel Hershey offers special packages including a milk and cookie delivery. Plus, you can enjoy Christmas Candylane in nearby Hersheypark, where Santa, his elves, and live reindeer (including Rudolph), make an appearance. With over 50 rides and 6 coasters, and a choreographed light show with four million lights, it provides the sweetest theme park holiday experience. Nearby, families can also enjoy the drive through “Sweet Lights” display of nearly 600 illuminated displays.

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Best Christmas hotels in the USA. If you are looking for a holiday getaway, check out one of these 25 options that go above and beyond to celebrate the festive season. #christmas #travel #holidaytravel #familytravel #hotels #luxuryhotels

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Best hotels for Christmas in the USA. If you are looking for a holiday getaway, check out one of these 25 options that go above and beyond to celebrate the festive season. #christmas #travel #holidaytravel #familytravel #hotels #luxuryhotels

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