Many Israelis choose to book their vacations abroad around the summer months and Israeli holidays. But there are those who prefer the month of December, during which the Christmas markets open around the world - mainly in Europe and the USA.
The end of the year is a time that offers a lot of advantages, if only you are ready to face a big obstacle, which many actually see as an advantage - the cold weather.
On December 25, the Christian Christmas, most businesses, attractions, restaurants and other activities that attract tourists are closed in many European countries.
But with the end of the holiday, a big celebration of a different kind begins - the beginning of the season of promotions and sales.
One of the sports that Israelis excel at is hunting for bargains, especially when the prices in Israel are often tens of percent higher than the prices that can be found in the US and Europe. With a precise shopping trip in Madrid, Berlin, Barcelona or New York, you can save a lot of money.
Shopping center in Berlin.
You can save a lot of money, photo: REUTERS
So when do the discounts start?
The dates of the elk season vary between states, but in most cases the season begins shortly after Christmas.
In London, for example, "Boxing Day" is celebrated on December 26.
Unlike many countries during the Christian holidays, in England everything remains open, and on "Boxing Day" the season of sales and promotions actually begins.
This is a tempting time: most of the clothes and products sold at discounts are still in stock, most times there is a variety of sizes, and you can go on a shopping trip with discounts that can reach up to 70 percent.
And England is not alone.
Also the shopping destinations we all know, such as Paris, Milan, Barcelona, Madrid, Berlin,
Budapest and the other big and beloved European cities, start the sales season a little after Christmas.
In some cities the big sales start as early as December 27, and in some the big sales days are launched in early January.
Many Israelis choose to combine the sales days with the New Year's celebrations, thus capturing double and very profitable celebrations.
The hunting season usually lasts between three and four weeks, and most Israelis tend to fly to the familiar destinations we mentioned.
But there are also some less popular destinations, which are known as excellent shopping destinations, especially at this time of the year.
Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, is less known to the average Israeli tourist, but those who have visited it know that it offers very cheap shopping throughout the year, and during Christmas it offers even better discounts - along with a trip to a charming and cheap city.
Athens, the capital of Greece, is another destination that is mostly loved in the summer, but becomes very attractive in the winter, especially due to the low prices it offers.
The sales in Athens are considered very attractive and allow you to enjoy the sales season even without flying long hours to more distant (and usually colder) destinations.
It is impossible to talk about shopping without mentioning the most sought-after destination of the last year - Istanbul.
The Turkish city, which has become a favorite among tourists from Israel, offers affordable prices that are tens of percent lower throughout the year, especially in regards to clothing and apparel - but during the sale period, the discounts deepen and become even more profitable.
Enjoy attractive promotions, photo: EPA
Another destination to which shopping enthusiasts flock during this period is Poland, and we deliberately did not mention only the capital Warsaw here.
Poland offers many other attractive destinations for shopping, such as the cities of Krakow or Wroclaw, and in all of them you can enjoy very attractive promotions in the period around Christmas.
The time of the big outlets
The big sale celebrations are of course not the exclusive property of Europe.
In the USA, the big discounts start around Christmas, and even after that you can enjoy huge discounts in stores and chains. Our recommendation is to stay a little away from the most touristic areas and try to get to the huge outlets scattered throughout the country.
In these outlets, which are traditionally considered centers of attraction for shopping enthusiasts, you can find many big brands that are united in one complex - and offer even deeper true discounts.
Don't forget to give yourself a few good hours, some would even say a whole day, to the big outlets such as "Jersey Gardens" in New Jersey or "Sawgrass Mills" in Florida.
Cheap also on flights and hotels
Those who choose to fly during this period will enjoy a double advantage, and some would even say a triple advantage.
We have already talked about the New Year celebrations and the accompanying sales, and now we can talk about an equally important part - the tourist season that is considered the most convenient in terms of queues, flight prices and hotel prices: the month of January.
Mainly because of the challenging weather, January is one of the sparsest months of the year in terms of tourist traffic in Europe.
Large and sought-after destinations, built to host a large number of tourists in the summer months and other busy periods, remain relatively empty in the month that opens the year.
This is why the hotels, which are full and expensive during the peak periods, offer dozens of percent lower rates in the cold season compared to July, August, December - or during the international holidays.
In addition to the low hotel prices, the flights are also very cheap, and you can still find direct flights to London for a little more than $100 (yes, direct round-trip flights), to Paris for about $150, to Amsterdam for about $170, and to Budapest, Bucharest, Vienna and destinations different in Italy - only a few tens of dollars.
All of these allow for a very cheap vacation, with less long lines at the entrances to the various attractions and at the airports.
The Israeli tourist's favorite this year,
Pay attention to what is open and what is closed
And now for the big disadvantage - the great cold, especially in Europe and North America.
This week the European cold reared its head, with snow in London and dropping temperatures in many northern destinations, such as Berlin, Copenhagen, Vienna and Amsterdam.
A European vacation in January can be very challenging, and if you suffer from a cold - you should equip yourself with much warmer clothing than what you are used to in Israel.
And one more thing: in some of the cold countries this week we also saw flight cancellations and public transportation disruptions, and this is also something that should be taken into account when going on a winter vacation of this kind.
It is very important to remember that in many destinations, on the Christmas days themselves (26-25 December) and on January 1 - many businesses close completely.
In countries that are considered "more religious", such as Romania, Poland and Bulgaria, most attractions in the cities are not open to the public throughout Christmas.
In cities whose character is a little less religious, you can find open businesses, although the atmosphere on the streets will be much quieter.
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