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Skip Christmas And Head To One Of These 5 Islands Instead

12/16/2016 07:04 EST | Updated 12/16/2016 07:04 EST
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A woman wades in the surf at Frenchman's Cove.

Christmas is expensive, and many of us are depleting our travel funds to put presents under the tree. But the memories of a holiday season spent in style on a not-so-faraway island can be much more fulfilling than another holiday-themed sweater or the five-pack of underwear in your stocking. It's not too late to forego your old holiday traditions and opt for your first annual trip to the islands instead.

These five islands are easy to reach from the Great White North, affordable, and guaranteed to ease your holiday spending blues.

Jamaica

"Ya mon," may not be the first thing you typically hear on Christmas morning, but you'll get used to it quickly in sunny Jamaica. As one of the most affordable island nations to visit in the Caribbean, you can lounge by the beach at one of many budget-friendly resorts without stressing about your holiday spending. Jamaica is known for its laid-back vibes, jitter-inducing coffee, and picture-perfect beaches backed by the tree-covered Blue Mountains. Whether you're spending the holidays on the "rock" as a couple or an entire family, you'll find an affordable hotel, guest house, or resort that you'll have no problem calling home for the holidays.

Puerto Rico

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Photo credit: Trish Hartmann

A direct flight from Toronto to San Juan, Puerto Rico takes less than 4.5 hours. You'll hardly even have to sacrifice part of your day to land on this affordable and tropical Caribbean island. Because the island is an American territory, it's relatively easy for Canadians to swap their loonies for U.S. bucks, and start exploring the world-renowned surfing waves in Rincon, winding caves in the Parque de las Cavernas del Río Camuy, and even the nearby islands of Culebra and Vieques. Traveling to Puerto Rico is affordable year-round, which means you won't get sticker shock when searching for a hotel during the holidays.

Roatan Island

Roughly 65 kilometres north of Honduras is the picture-perfect tropical island of Roatan. A haven for fishermen, snorkelers, and avid divers, you'll find yourself spending the holidays in the sea rather than snow. While Roatan looks and feels like a faraway island paradise, the Roatan International Airport is easily accessed from major U.S. cities, like Houston, Miami, Atlanta, and New York. Daily passenger ferry services from La Ceiba and charter flight services from Toronto and Montreal make it easy to turn your Caribbean holiday dream into a reality -- even on short notice.

Grand Cayman

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Photo credit: Bruce Harlick

You won't miss out on holiday cheer by heading to the Caribbean this time of year, and that's especially true if you head to Grand Cayman. The north end of the island's planned community features a Town Centre with a towering Christmas tree and daily holiday workshops and activities for visitors of all ages. Kids can even take part in two hours of supervised holiday programs at Starfish Village while adults enjoy a little alone time. As the largest of the Caribbean's three Cayman Islands, Grand Cayman is loaded with easily-accessed reefs, the iconic, crescent-shaped Seven Mile Beach, the Stingray City sandbar, and countless other activities that will make you forget about shoveling snow in no time.

Grenada

Grenada is one of the most underrated destinations in the Caribbean, but that means you'll enjoy more of the white sand beaches and turquoise waters to yourself. While it remains one of the most laid-back and affordable Caribbean islands, you'll save even more by visiting in early winter before the January and February warm-weather seekers arrive. Experience the vibrant colours of St. George's harbour, feel the soft sands of Grand Anse Beach, and don't forget to fill your stocking with the island's locally grown spices and world-renowned rum.

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