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Tips For A Great Christmas Away From Home

Tips For A Great Christmas Away From Home

Visiting family in another state for the holidays? You and the kids taking a much-needed vacation to celebrate the season? Finding yourself in a new city before the new year? No matter why you may be spending the holidays away from home this year, you may be wondering how you can “make the season bright” without being at home.

At InTown Suites, we’re experts at bringing the comforts of home to you. Each of our suites has a cozy apartment vibe with loads of home-like comforts including fluffy bedding, in-room kitchens and HDTVs featuring expanded premium channels. Check out our tips for enjoying the holiday season while spending Christmas away from home.

Looking for the best Holiday festivals in the USA? Click here!


1. Stay connected with those you love.

A family on a video call.Connect virtually with phone or video.

With unlimited technology at our fingertips, staying in touch has never been so simple. Schedule in time when you know family or friends will be gathering to join them virtually – either by phone or perhaps via video on FaceTime or Skype. It’s the perfect opportunity to wish everyone Happy Holidays and to enjoy a little quality time with them.

Reunite with friends & family.

The holidays are the perfect time to reunite with past friends or distant family members. Even if you won’t be in town for an in-person party or gathering, reach out with an email, phone call or hand-written card to wish them well over the holidays. Any connection – even a distant one – can help make you feel more at home if you’re traveling over the holidays.

2. Prepare a nice meal.

Enjoy a little indulgence over the holidays with a festive meal. After all, you’re only a Google search away from finding nearby restaurants serving holiday meals. Since you are on the road, you may want to stay in for your holiday feasts and save that money for a fun holiday activity. Here are a few tips for preparing a holiday dinner on a budget:

Don’t go whole hog (or turkey).

The idea of presenting a whole turkey as the centerpiece for your meal may seem appealing, but the cost and time associated with cooking an entire turkey can be a challenge when cooking on a budget. For an affordable alternative that doesn’t require an oven, here’s a mouthwatering recipe for braised turkey legs and thighs on the stovetop.

No Oven? No problem.

Slow cookers can be used to make savory sides, sweet desserts or even main dishes. With a little bit of prep, you’ll be free to spend more time on what matters most—making holiday memories with loved ones and friends. Grab some fresh cranberries and make a delectable cranberry sauce that puts the canned stuff to shame, or use your slow cooker to whip up a batch of creamy mashed potatoes.

Fear not last-minute chefs, pressure cookers allow you to prepare delicious holiday meals in a flash sans oven. From crispy “fried” chicken and broccoli cheese soup to sweet potatoes and apple turnovers, check out this list of holiday recipes that can easily be prepared in a pressure cooker.

A family having a small christmas meal together. Make in-season veggies the star of the show.

In the winter months, brussels sprouts, squash, sweet potatoes and turnips are at their prime. These veggies make for hearty side dishes that will satisfy your guests without breaking the bank. For the freshest ingredients, skip the store and look for local produce stands or farmers’ markets nearby. For meal planning, here’s a full list of in-season produce.

Add a little bubbly for a lot less.

Sparkling water adds a touch of class to any homemade beverage. It’s cheap, versatile and a fancy alternative to serving alcohol. Mix it with cranberry or orange juice for a holiday spritzer that is child-friendly. Check out this recipe for a rosemary citrus spritzer, both festive and affordable.

Get creative and crafty.

Use the best of what nature has to offer to decorate your dinner table, mantelpiece or coffee table. Create an outdoor adventure for the whole family by hunting for fresh boughs with colorful leaves or winter blossoms. Involve the kids in decorating by having them make place cards and placemats for each guest or fun party hats. You can also stop by a craft store for some glittery bows and ribbons. (Don’t forget to swing by the clearance section where the deals are even better!) Using these simple crafts will not only save you a ton over buying premade centerpieces and decorations but also offer some extra quality time with the family.

Don’t let the crafts stop here! Here are a few of our favorite homemade gift ideas that will make the occasion special while also keeping costs in check this season.

3. Give back.

Giving is part of what makes the holiday season so special. Doing something nice for those around you is what it’s all about. It gets you in the festive spirit while brightening the day of someone around you. So no matter where you are – in a hostel, an extended stay hotel like InTown Suites, or elsewhere – find a way to make giving part of your seasonal traditions.

Here are a few simple ideas: Organize a secret santa with other travelers. Give a small gift to people you met along your way, like waiters, hotel staff or someone you pass on the street. Volunteer in the community you’re visiting. It won’t cost you a dime to donate your time to a food bank, shelter or church service.

4. Wait to open your holiday gifts.

If you receive gifts or cards from loved ones while you’re away from home, you may be tempted to open them immediately. Resist the urge! Waiting until Christmas morning to open your gifts will give you something to look forward to and make the day extra special.

If you have mailed gifts or left presents for your loved ones, ask them to wait also. Connect with them via video call and enjoy opening each other’s gifts together. This small act can really make it feel like you are all together for the holidays.

5. Watch a Holiday movie.

Snuggle up to enjoy a holiday flick! Whip up some delicious hot chocolate and settle in to enjoy one of your favorite holiday movies of all time. Here’s a list of the most festive movies and below is an incredible homemade hot chocolate you must try!

A delicious cup of homemade hot cocoa.Homemade Hot Chocolate

1 liter of whole milk
1 chocolate bar (see step 1 for details)
Pinch of salt (optional)

1. Pick out your favorite chocolate bar, avoiding those that have fillings, nuts or candies added to them. (For a sweeter drink, choose a milk chocolate bar. For an intense chocolate drink, pick a dark chocolate bar.)
2. Finely chop the chocolate bar.
3. Pour the milk into a pot, and warm it until it just starts to simmer.
4. Add in the chopped chocolate, and the salt (if using).
5. Stir continuously, until the chocolate is fully melted and the mixture is nice and hot (without bringing it to a boil).
6. Carefully pour into cups or mugs.

If you want to stop there, you’ll have a perfectly delicious cup of hot chocolate. If you want to take it to the next level, here are a few easy additions to jazz it up.

  • Add a big dollop of whipped cream on top
  • Add a pinch of cinnamon or nutmeg
  • Make it a Mexican hot chocolate by adding in a dash of cayenne pepper
  • Make it adult only with a splash of Bailey’s
  • Use a peppermint stick as a stir-stick for a mint chocolate flavor
  • Like Terry’s chocolate oranges? Add in a little orange peel or orange extract
  • Add a spoonful of dulce de leche for a caramelly delight
  • Stir in a tablespoon of malted milk for a hot malted milkshake
  • Fill your mug with half coffee, half hot chocolate for the ultimate mocha
  • Stir in a teaspoon of melted peanut butter — it tastes like a melted peanut butter cup

6. Embrace local festivities.

The holiday season always brings about a great sense of community across the country, no matter where you live or what your beliefs are. There’s a magic in the air that clings to each twinkling light decorating town squares, beckoning locals and visitors alike to bundle up and get outside.

With community being one of the pillars of InTown Suites, especially when it comes to our extended stay guests, we are constantly on the lookout for events, festivals and celebrations taking place near each of our 188 locations. With the hope of spreading some holiday cheer, we’ve gathered a solid list of merrymaking festivities across the county, including personal favorites from our staff, to help you and yours get out and about this December.

A couple enjoying a christmas festival. Christmas Town USA

Where: McAdenville, North Carolina
Nearest InTown Suites: Charlotte, NC on Pressley Rd (15 miles away)

With a name like Christmas Town USA, it’s hard to imagine anywhere else we’d like to be right now. The small town of McArdenville, NC changes its name each December to reflect the sheer amount of effort and spirit they put into the holidays. Join the annual crowd to catch a glimpse of the town’s brilliantly-lit streets fringed by over 375 illuminated trees. Walk the perimeter of the lake at night guided by twinkling lights, or stop by the town center to see the fountain put on an elegant light show. With so much to see and do in Christmas Town USA, it’s the perfect place to take a winter stroll after a scrumptious dinner in Charlotte.

Charlottesville’s Historic Downtown Mall

Where: Charlottesville, Virginia
Nearest InTown Suites: North Chesterfield, VA on Green Springs Rd (68 miles away)

It’s hard to pass up a good holiday Market, and Charlottesville has one of the best on the east coast. This tight-knit community transforms its Historic Downtown Mall into a pedestrian-friendly winter scape around its bustling Holiday Market. Stroll down the Mall and visit up to 90 local vendors to nosh on seasonal bites, sip hot cocoa or pick up unique handicrafts. While in town, hop over to James Madison’s Montpelier Estate for a 19th-century holiday celebration that includes live entertainment, candlelit tours and fun for the little ones.

Suwannee Lights *Staff Pick*

Where: Live Oak, Florida
Nearest InTown Suites: Valdosta, GA on Baytree Rd (43 miles away)

“We love the lights at Suwannee Music Park’s Light Festival. It’s approximately 45 minutes to an hour south of Valdosta, Georgia but well worth the journey! You can drive your vehicle through the park to look at the light displays, then park and get out near the end to explore the small shops and grab refreshments. My kids loved it when they were younger. There’s also Wild Adventures, located only five exits south of InTown’s Valdosta property. The park opens this season between December 4th and January 2nd, from noon to 9:00 p.m. It’s completely decorated for the season, with tons of rides and fun for the entire family.” – Rick Greer, Valdosta, GA

A family shopping at a christmas market.

Celebration in the Oaks *Staff Pick*

Where: New Orleans, Louisiana
Nearest InTown Suites: Metairie, LA on Hearst St (6 miles away)

“The holidays season in New Orleans has turned into a huge celebration, basically like everything else. We have an annual event called Celebration in the Oaks, where you can see the park completely decorated for the holidays and enjoy amusement park rides and attractions for the entire family. There’s also the annual NOLA Christmas Fest. It takes place at the New Orleans Convention Center and includes rides, an ice skating rink and many other festive activities. In addition to these two events, the city plays host to several nationally recognized holiday parades, the main parade being the Krewe of Jingle.

Nothing is done small in New Orleans, including the holidays, and our team here at [Metairie] has fallen nothing short of that. We fully decorated our lobby including a big fat, a 7-foot-tall tree that our guests love taking pictures in front of. Our team will also be delivering a stocking full of treats to each child staying in our hotel on Christmas Eve.” – Brandon P. Hernandez, Metairie, LA

Ozark Mountain Christmas

Where: Branson, Missouri
Nearest InTown Suites: St. Charles, MO on Veteran’s Memorial Prkwy (250 miles away)

Mountains, snow and thousands of twinkle lights—what can be more festive than that? Branson kicks it up a few notches with its annual Ozark Mountain Christmas each December. Witness the city transform into a winter wonderland with bright lights wrapped from walkway to walkway and verdant garlands draped along each shop front. Walk Main Street, get tickets to the Christmas Show at Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede, and visit Silver Dollar City’s An Old Time Christmas festival to see more than 100 decorated trees and hit the amusement park’s rides.

Weihnachtszeit (Christmas Season) in Fredericksburg

Where: Fredericksburg, Texas
Nearest InTown Suites: San Antonio, TX on San Pedro Ave (66 miles away)

If you couldn’t tell by the name, Fredericksburg’s German heritage comes out in spades during the holiday season including outdoor ice skating, parades, tree lightings, concerts, craft fairs and spicy seasonally brewed German-inspired bock-style beers. Get the family out to explore the market stalls, see the twinkling lights and take in the live entertainment. Festivities start in late November and continue until the new year.

The Polar Express™ Train Ride

Where: Durango, Colorado
Nearest InTown Suites: Albuquerque, NM on Commerce Dr NE (210 miles away)

Durango, CO is a historic mining town with a vintage steam engine train. During the holidays, this narrow gauge railroad train transforms to offer a Polar Express-inspired journey through the snowy mountains that hug the Animas River. Board the Durango & Silverton this December with the kids for a whimsical ride or even take advantage of its passage to cut your own tree in the Colorado wilderness and bring it back home with you on the train.

Ogden’s Christmas Village

Where: Ogden, Utah
Nearest InTown Suites: Woods Cross, UT on S 700 W (25 miles away)

Who knew that Santa’s other home was in Utah? The town of Ogden delivers some serious festive vibes and sightings of the big guy with their annual downtown Christmas Village. From the beautifully decorated Union Station to Santa’s North Pole Village, there’s plenty to explore no matter what your age. Wander the winter wonderland complete with 59 pint-sized pop-up cottages, each with its own holiday theme. Hop on one of the town’s historic railways for a train ride through an elaborately decorated glow-in-the-dark tunnel. You can always take a leisurely stroll through the park, enjoying the twinkling lights with a warm bevy in hand.

A mom and son enjoying an outdoor christams lights display.

Austin Trail of Lights

Where: Austin, Texas
Nearest InTown Suites: Austin, TX on North Lamar Blvd (12 miles away)

Over 400,000 people a year flock to Zilker Park to catch sight of the wonderous 57th annual Trail of Lights. The Trail of Lights Foundation works hard to keep half the event nights available for free so all can experience this favorite holiday event in Austin. Families can enjoy food, music and of course, the thousands of lights while celebrating this year’s Yuletide season.

Festival of Trees

Where: Orlando, Florida
Nearest InTown Suites: Orlando, FL on Lee Rd (3 miles away)

If your favorite part of the holiday season is decorating the tree, you won’t want to miss the Festival of Trees hosted by the Orlando Museum of Art. Each year in late November, the museum transforms into a sparkling wonderland with trees of all sizes decorated in every style you can imagine. Families will enjoy musical performances, live entertainment, tree lightings, face painting, balloon artists and many more special activities for kids.

Illumination: Tree Lights at the Morton Arboretum

Where: Lisle, Illinois
Nearest InTown Suites: Downers Grove, IL on Ogden Ave (2 miles away)

The Morton Arboretum in Lisle, IL offers a light show unlike any other across the United States. Illumination features a one-mile trail of trees lit with festive colors that are synchronized to holiday music. It truly highlights the beauty of winter. There’s over 50 acres of fun and merriment to enjoy including a bonfire with plenty of marshmallows to roast and hot cocoa to sip. The festival starts in late November and continues through the new year.


We hope this list of enjoyable activities will make your Christmas away from home a truly delightful experience. If you are still looking for the perfect destination for your winter vacation, check out our 188 locations found in over 20 states across the USA. We offer affordable rates, comfortable amenities and three suite styles to perfectly fit your family’s needs.

From all of us at InTown Suites, we wish you bright and Happy Holidays!

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