Five ways to make a dollar go further in New England this holiday season

New England was made for the holiday season. Sure, it’s a bit chilly up there in the winter, but bundle up, and it’s impossible not to be sucked in by the charm of one of the oldest corners of America. If you’re looking for a great way to maximize your spending power this Christmas (who isn’t?!), check out five great ideas from New England Inns and Resorts. There’s plenty of variety … but little room for Scrooges.

Cut your own Christmas tree
This is a tough one if you’re traveling any distance, and trying to cram a fir into the overhead bin will not help you win friends and influence others. But, if you’re within driving distance, check out The Beachmere Inn in Ogunquit, Maine. The holiday package gets you two nights in an ocean view room and a fresh-cut Christmas tree from nearby Bragdon Farms. Fortunately, they’ll wrap it and fasten it to your car. Back at the inn, you’ll also get two hot chocolates and use of the sauna and spa – you’ll need this to warm up a bit; Maine gets pretty cold.

Shop ’til you drop
At the White Mountain Hotel & Resort in North Conway, New Hampshire, you’ll be close to the outlet stores (famous to anyone who grew up in an adjacent state). The package includes discount coupons to make the savings even greater, and you’ll also get breakfast every morning (two-night stay required). So, instead of cramming into the local mall, dash off to do your shopping this year, and make it an experience worth remembering.

No stress involved
Up in Lyndonville, Vermont, The Wildflower Inn wants to make your holiday season as easy as possible. Rather than worry about fold-out couches and relatives lurking in your kitchen in the middle of the night, invade the Wildflower and occupy its 570-acre resort. Stay for three nights, get a full breakfast every day and unwind. Every room has a Christmas tree that’s ready to be decorated. And, the inn will serve dinner on Christmas Eve and Christmas day itself. Don’t worry: Santa goes to Vermont (hell, he doesn’t live far from it). Every room can be expected to have packed stockings!

Movie marathon by the sea
Meadowmere Resort in Ogunquit, Maine is offering a low-key holiday that will make any holiday host drool. Instead of fussing over guests, take advantage of the “Ho-Ho-Ho Package,” and enjoy a holiday movie marathon, caroling and a visit from Santa himself (he doesn’t live far from Maine, either). Bring an unwrapped gift for Meadowmere’s Toys for Tots tree (do it), and relax be the fire.

Think past Christmas
There’s more to the holiday season than Christmas. For the next big event, skip the mayhem of Times Square (or the boredom of watching the ball drop on television), and go to Adair Country Inn & Restaurant in Bethlehem, New Hampshire. Spend two or three nights at the inn, and sit for a four-course dinner on New Year’s Eve. Bring your tux; formal attire is encouraged. A party will follow, with dancing, champagne and a fireworks display. When the festivities are over, scarf down a late-night snack. Drag yourself out of bed the next day for high tea.

Five ways to rock Idaho for the holiday season

Coeur d’Alene, Idaho may not be the first destination that comes to mind for holiday travel. I mean … who jumps to Idaho?! Well, this is a problem that needs to be remedied. If you’re looking to take off for a few days between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, there’s a lot happening in Coeur d’Alene.

1. Holiday Light Show: More than 1.5 million lights are hung along the Coeur d’Alene waterfront every winter, creating the largest on-the-water holiday light show in the United States. The festivities kick off the day after Thanksgiving with a parade through downtown with more than 5,000 candles. One button is clicked at the end, bringing the waterfront to life with white lights, a 30-foot wreath and a fireworks display. This event runs through the end of the holiday season.

2. Fantasy Cruise to the North Pole: Cross the water by boat to visit the workshop run by the esteemed Santa and Mrs. Claus. On display, you’ll find a 161-foot Christmas tree with north of 30,000 sparkling LED and colored lights. The lights themselves take on the shapes of nearly 150 characters, from fire-breathing dragons to dancing elves to giant snowflakes. You can take advantage of this from the day after Thanksgiving until New Year’s Day. Set sail at the Coeur d’Alene Resort.

3. Migrating Bald Eagles: Watch the bald eagles stop in Coeur d’Alene every winter to dine on Chinook salmon near Wolf Lodge Bay. From Thanksgiving until the end of the year, you can see up to 100 eagles hanging out on the shore of Lake Coeur d’Alene.

4. Shop for the Holidays: Stop by Sherman Avenue, where you can find plenty of unique shops and art galleries. Add a local flavor to the gifts you give this year — a great alternative to the big box stores (and their online equivalents).

5. Parks of All Types: At Silver Mountain, a half hour from Coeur d’Alene, you can do some skiing or tubing — or throw on a swimsuit to splash around at an indoor water park, despite the freezing temperatures outside.

[Photo by Jami Dwyer via Flickr]

Put your Paws Up for the holidays this year

While the rest of the world is trekking out to Rockefeller Center to see the tree or hanging around Times Square while waiting for the ball’s big drop, head the other way. “The Last Best Christmas Vacation” package from the Paws Up resort in Montana pulls together everything you’d want in a traditional winter holiday celebration … along with the luxurious touch that you’d expect at a remote, upscale and high-touch destination.

From December 22 – 29, 2009, you can hole up in one of the Paws Up villas, dash off on snowmobiles or push yourself along on cross-country skis, while the world continues its rush without dragging you along. As part of this six-day/five-night package, you’ll also be able to enjoy sleigh rides and an old-fashioned tree-trimming party. The basics are covered, too, such as breakfast, lunch and dinner daily, a half-day winter adventure, a decorated Christmas tree (and some egg nog, of course!), nightly ice skating and an open fire nearby. If you have some talent, take part in the Gingerbread house building contest … while wearing the Paws Up wrangler stockings you’ll be given.

Christmas Eve, of course, is when the magic will happen. A special menu will be put together in Pomp, the Paws Up restaurant, and the highlight of the party for the kids will be a special visit from Santa Claus.

So, put civilization behind you this December, and create a vacation experience that will stay with you for the rest of your life. Enjoy nature, and frolic in the snow … and eat, sleep and relax at a resort that will positively blow your mind.

Send Christmas to a Friend

Christmas Tree in a BoxThis year, a number of my friends are spending the holiday season in remote locations. Some are off helping orphans, others are in Rwanda and Russia working with women’s charities, and some enlisted friends are overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan. Also, plenty of college kids can’t afford to fly home this year, with the economy being what it is.

So? Send them Christmas. The Christmas Tree in a Box (right) is an easy alternative to trying to buy someone a gift that will make them feel loved. If you want to make someone feel loved with commercial goods, buy them the very spirit of the most commercially awesome holiday ever. No, not Jacob Marley, the tree.

Once constructed, it stands nearly two feel tall, and it comes with 24 foil boughs, 25 glittery foil ornaments, one spool of silver thread, one gold foil star tree topper, and 20 sheets of 6 x 6 origami paper in four vibrant patterns. The kit also includes a book of carols, an egg nog recipe, and orgami instructions.

If your holiday orphan friend is Jewish? Send them nine, and they can light one on fire each night. That’s a joke.

Buy yours (or theirs) here on Spoon Sisters for $14.95. For $4.25 extra, they’ll wrap it up nice in a box with a pretty hunter green checkered ribbon.

It’s Christmas. It’s okay to have it gift wrapped even if you’re buying it for youself. I give you permission.