How To Go Off-Grid For The Holidays — And Not Piss Your Whole Family Off
Start your own tradition.
It’s par for the course to feel a little overwhelmed this time of year. Between family dynamics, gift shopping, and busier-than-ever work flow, the holidays are at best frenetic and at worst a hotbed of anxiety. Throw in the health concerns of still present global crisis, and you’ve got a recipe for stress. And while traditions are always tempting in their familiarity, you may want to exercise some different options this season — namely off-grid holiday travel.
Just think about it: No family arguments during dinner, no work emails, no packed mall parking lots. Instead it’s just you and the expansive, wooded wilderness. Or perhaps the serene coastline. Or the meditative desert. According to Dr. Paulette Sherman, psychologist, author of The Book of Sacred Baths and the host of The Love Psychologist podcast, the appeal of going rogue for the holidays — particularly somewhere remote — is understandable for a variety of reasons. And that’s specifically the case this year. “There has been a lot of extra stress,” she says. “People may have lost employment and have less money to spend on lots of gifts, cooking, entertaining, and dressing up. They may desire social distance. Many may not want to travel in planes or to big cities to see extended families.”
According to Dr. Sherman, spending the holidays either alone or with a partner or friend in a remote setting can eliminate many of those triggers. And besides, as she explains, “being in nature in a quiet settling can be calming.”
Going off-the-grid may give you a break from friends and family, but they’ll still be there when you get back — and some may be a little disappointed or hurt that you skipped the usual plans and traditions. If you’re concerned about keeping the peace while you go off on your own, Dr. Sherman suggests compromising by making a plan to connect virtually. Schedule a FaceTime on the holiday itself for a special and timely moment, and if you typically exchange gifts, make sure you get yours squared away and/or shipped off before you head out of town.
Once you’ve decided to get off-the-grid for the holiday, there are a few other important things to keep in mind. “For those who are used to traveling to more tourist-trodden locales, going 'remote' can be a bit unnerving,” explains Jen Curran, Chief Explorer for Globe + Tribe. “I would say be prepared as you can be — whether that be in supplies, exit strategies, or communication strategies. Providing loved ones with information on where you'll be and when to anticipate contact is very important. Also, making sure you have travel insurance or med-evacuation coverage can be important depending on the location.” Additionally, you’ll still want to be cognizant of travel protocols wherever you go, and do so as safely as possible.
And of course, when in doubt, trust the details to a pro. “The last thing you want is to end up in a place that doesn’t live up to your expectations, Eric Hrubant, Founder and President of CIRE Travel explains. “Especially over the holidays.” Travel agents can help you have an exponentially smoother trip, not to mention suggesting accommodations, sights to see, and things to do that you wouldn’t have known of otherwise.
Now it’s time for the fun part: Deciding where to go! Ahead, find 16 destinations across the globe which — according to the experts — make excellent off-the-grid options, no matter if your idea of getting away from it all involves a traditionally snowy setting, a sunny escape, or just anything that’s different from your typical holiday.
Taos, New Mexico
About two-and-a-half hours from the more bustling city of Santa Fe (and ditto Albuquerque, where New Mexico’s biggest airport is located), Taos is an artistic, deeply historic, and cultural oasis that makes for a great getaway any time of year. But what you might not know is that this desert area actually can get snowy during the holidays. If you love winter sports, Taos Ski Valley isn’t to be missed, but if you’re more interested in a funky, earth-friendly, and decidedly remote getaway, Kristin Addis, CEO of women’s solo travel blog Be My Travel Muse, has a pretty unique alternative. “Earthship Biotecture in Taos truly is off-the-grid in every sense of the word,” she says. “These homes are works of art, created to be completely self-sustaining, ecological masterpieces that can even grow their own food. Staying here is one of the coolest trips I have ever taken and you get to be totally isolated.”
Maupiti, French Polynesia
Craving something more tropical and exotic? Head to French Polynesia, where Travel Freak CEO Jeremy Scott Foster says there are hundreds of islands “big enough for someone to live on, but too small to be worth everyone else's time.”
Specifically, Addis loves the island of Maupiti, which is so remote that hotels are not allowed. “Here you have to stay at small, locally owned pensions and most of them are made from local materials,” she explains. One caveat? This small area books fast. “But since the holidays are the low season, you might get lucky,” the travel expert adds.
If the California coastline is your idea of an alternative holiday destination, this scenic spot should be right up your alley. “[Mendocino is] probably one of my favorite parts of the world,” Addis says. “There are so many adorable B&Bs and cute, isolated cabins that you can rent all along the coast. If you want to camp and be truly off the grid, there are plenty of campsites as well. It's truly enchanting.”
Florida Keys, Florida
Another sunny, oceanside respite is this string of islands off the coast of Florida. Need a more specific recommendation? “One ideal place to disconnect is Little Palm Island in Florida Keys,” says Barbie Mission, Content Strategist at Trip101. “This secluded location offers an authentic, electronic-free hideaway. The absence of an internet connection lets guests fully enjoy the white-sand beach, underwater life, spa treatments, and tropical dining scenes.”
On the polar (pun intended) opposite side of things is this Alaskan escape. If this time of year has you fantasizing about a winter wonderland, you’ve come to the right place. And if you want a glamorous place to stay, Mission says you’ll love the Ultima Thule Lodge. “Since this property is out of cellphone range, guests can pass the time by exploring the nearby glaciers, the wilderness terrain, or the vast Wrangell-St. Elias National Park.”
This Argentinian locale will defy expectations in a number of ways, which makes a visit here for the holidays feel especially adventurous. “Located in Argentina's mountainous lakes district, [Bariloche] looks more like a Swiss village with wooden chalets and stone churches along the clear waters of Lake Nahuel Huapi,” explains Craig Zapatka, Co-founder of digital travel company Elsewhere. “Saint Bernard dogs roam in the plazas, there are delicious restaurants, and tons of adventure activities from hiking, biking, rafting, and chocolate tasting!”
But if you’re expecting snowy weather in this mountainous region, you might want to consider the fact that the holiday season is actually summer in Bariloche. That said, the great outdoors here are conducive to lots of exploration. “Bring warm weather gear and hiking boots,” advises Zapatka. “Hike to see the world's only black glacier, a geologic wonder caused when a volcano erupted and the ash settled in the frozen ice thousands of years ago.”
“There are few places more magical than Lapland in the winter,” Zapatka says. “Blankets of fresh snow cover pristine forests where actual reindeer roam.” Because it’s such a quintessential holiday, it can be a bit touristy here, so the travel expert says to skip Santa's Village and stick to Rovaniemi. “[Here] you can find fully equipped cottages and cabins with fireplaces and burners for hot chocolate,” he adds. “Bring your own marshmallows!”
The Grenadines, Caribbean Islands
“One of my favorite less trodden locales for holiday travel would be sailing in The Grenadines,” Curran tells TZR. Not only does she say the weather is ideal, but traveling this way you’ll get to see a few different towns in the idea. “Hiring a sailboat (bareboat or with skipper) is a great way to get away from the crowds, enjoy warm sunny weather in the depths of winter, and connect with nature in a different way. We usually pepper in a few evening port calls for dinners in the islands with BBQ and cooking on the boat.”
You might not immediately consider Cuba to be off-the-grid, but Curran explains that eastern parts of the country, including Baracoa, are mostly without WIFI — so it offers a great opportunity to disconnect. “[This small town] is green and lush, has beautiful beaches, and is chock full of proper Cuban hospitality,” she says. “There are myriad of day activities from here including hiking in the beautiful Parque Nactional Alejandro de Humboldt. You can get as remote and off-the-grid as you like in this part of the country, but still have access to lively cultural activities that abound during the holiday season.”
Another option for an idyllic winter getaway is this town, located in Georgia’s Svaneti range/region — especially if you want to get out into nature. “Hiking abounds here throughout all four seasons,” Curran said. “Georgia is a dream to explore with a small group of friends, solo, or with family as the infrastructure is good, the food is incredible, and the Georgian culture is fascinating to unwrap.” This is also a great spot to consider for some of the traditional holiday trappings. “As Georgians are extremely devout, Christmas is celebrated in every corner of the country,” the expert adds.
Landaa Giraavaru, The Maldives
For beautiful beaches, it really doesn’t get much better than the Maldives. “With an immense amount of luxury resorts to choose from, gorgeous beaches, and delicious dining, [this] is easily a top choice among my clients,” says Sarah Pierson of Purposeful Wanderings. Chances are, if you’re looking into this celebrity-favorite destination, you love the luxe life — in which case, Pierson suggests a stay at Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru, where you’ll feel equally pampered and remote.
Get in the holiday spirit — minus the family fighting — with a visit to this European destination that’s quite conducive to more traditional celebrations. “Most of us are familiar with the German Christmas markets, but Regensburg is not as well known as Munich or Nuremberg,” Pierson says. “It is a charming town with an incredibly festive feel.”
Guanacaste, Costa Rica
Surfers, hikers, and other outdoor sports enthusiasts flock to this lush locale for good reason. Costa Rica offers plenty of more cozy, rustic accommodations, but if a lavish hotel is what you’re looking for, Pierson suggests a stay at the Four Seasons Peninsula Papagayo, where the attentive staff will go the extra mile to create a memorable holiday away. “I had clients there last year and upon request, their room was decorated with a Christmas tree and stockings,” she says.
Weekapaug, Rhode Island
“I love Rhode Island with its long, craggy coastline, Hrubant tells TZR. “It’s stunning in the summer, but goes into a different gear in the wintertime. It really does feel like a Hallmark movie, but without all the pesky people around!” As for where to go for a more remote stay, the travel expert says to try Weekapaug Inn. “Beach walks, and birding and seal spotting are just a few of the naturalist activities you can enjoy at this charming property.”
Harbour Island, Bahamas
Hrubant admits that during winter’s cold dark days, he can’t help but dream of low-key, beachy spots such as Harbour Island. “The Bahamas is easy to get to for East Coasters and has one of my favorite secret gems, Bahama House.”
Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico
Just over the California/Mexico border lies an under-the-radar destination for food and wine enthusiasts, the Valle de Guadalupe. “It’s an easy trip from LA that still feels like you’ve transported yourself much further,” says Sam Patil, Co-founder of Well Traveled. And it doesn’t get more off-the-grid than the Campera Hotel, which offers see-through “bubble suites” that overlook a vineyard, offering a holiday experience like no other.