5 Ways to Celebrate the Holidays That You'll Never Forget
NEW YORK -- Anyone can put up a Christmas tree and a sprig of mistletoe to celebrate the holidays, or pop a bottle of champagne to toast New Year's.
If those traditions have become too ho-hum and you have the urge to indulge in a more exotic, unusual or luxurious holiday celebration, there are several companies catering to these types of desires. If money is no object, there's no limit to the over-the-top or simply out-of-the-ordinary ways to say goodbye to 2014.
What, you've never had New Year's Day breakfast atop the Arc de Triomphe? Or had Santa deliver your presents to a private, deserted beach in St. Barths? Maybe this is the year to start a new holiday tradition.
"We have a lot of entrepreneurs as clients who do these type of trips, especially during the past two years. They will do these trips at the end of the year to celebrate things they have accomplished," says Jaclyn Sienna India, of Sienna Charles, an exclusive luxury travel company that specializes in unique itineraries.
If you want to mark your year's worth of accomplishments in style and grandeur this holiday season, read on for five ways to have a not-so ho-hum holiday. But here's fair warning: These options are not for the budget conscious.
1. 12 Days of Christmas Package at the US Grant Hotel, San Diego
Inspired by the 12 Days of Christmas song, the US Grant has developed its 12 Days of Christmas Package as a one-of-a-kind journey through San Diego to bring each verse of the well-known tune to life.
Here's how it works: Reserve 12 consecutive nights in the US Grant's Presidential Suite this December and you get 12 days of VIP Christmas experiences.
Remember verse number two, the one about two turtledoves? At The US Grant this involves a behind-the-scenes cooking demonstration with the hotel's executive chef teaching you how to make chocolate turtles.
%VIRTUAL-pullquote-We've definitely seen a growing trend of people wanting unique experience gifts, and that's essentially what this is.%Next up, three French hens. The US Grant's interpretation involves having you create your own perfume and cologne in a class hosted at one of La Jolla's boutique perfumeries.
To bring the song's fifth verse to life, the one involving five golden rings, the hotel has enlisted the expertise of an artisan who will host a private, hands-on workshop in which you will create two gold rings customized to your style and taste.
"We wanted to create something for the couple who has it all already and doesn't know what to get each other," US Grant Marketing Manager Vanessa Randazzo says."We've definitely seen a growing trend of people wanting unique experience gifts, and that's essentially what this is. It's for the couple that wants to be the ones to receive this exclusive collection of gifts and experiences."
That's right: the couple. Only one package will be sold.
The cost for this 12-day Christmas extravaganza is $3,500 per night, or $42,000, and must be booked for the full 12 nights.
2. Snorkeling in St. Barths
Do your holiday dreams include sunshine and sand? Dream bigger.
Anyone can have fantasies about a warm beach -- and could go somewhere as tame and domestic as Florida to experience it. But Sienna Charles takes this particular holiday vision to new heights.
The sun-drenched dream from Sienna Charles involves traveling by private jet to St. Barths, staying at the island's top villa and chartering a fully staffed yacht for some Christmas Day snorkeling and diving off uninhabited islands.
The snorkeling excursion would be topped off with a catered lunch on a deserted beach, where perhaps Santa might even be convinced to drop off some gifts.
The price tag? Brace yourself. It will set you back about $560,000.
3. Paris Exclusive
If beaches aren't your thing, there's also holiday fabulousness to be had in Paris, the world's fashion capital.
Once again, Sienna Charles takes the festivities to new levels -- literally, by recommending an exclusive breakfast atop the Arc de Triomphe on New Year's Day.
"You're literally at the center and top of Paris," Sienna India says. "We bring people up there who have tuxedos on. We can bring champagne, smoked salmon, hot chocolate, and make it really fun."
The rest of your trip would be filled with private access to The Louvre, private visits to various fashion houses (Hermes and Louis Vuitton, if you pass a background check) and Michelin-rated meals. And there is always the option of renting out Versailles for a dinner that won't soon be forgotten.
Accommodations would be equally as fabulous: the deluxe Eiffel Tower Suite at Plaza Athanee.
The price tag for this holiday dream is around $3.5 million plus $50,000 to visit The Louvre.
4. The Sicilian villa Christmas
You can also enjoy an authentic Sicilian Christmas with all the trimmings in a sprawling villa owned by Italian aristocrats.
If you have about $21,174 to spend, the villa Don Arcangelo all' Olmo could be your home for Christmas week. Feel free to bring friends and family, because the house and its 12 bedrooms and bathrooms comes to life when filled with people.
Located in Giarre, near Catania, the stunning home overlooks the Ionian Sea and has Mount Etna for a backdrop.
In addition to jaw-dropping scenery, a Christmas week stay includes the services of an in-villa cook who will create a Sicilian Christmas dinner.
"Sicilian cooking is generally a mixture of Arabic, French, Italian and Spanish, " says Huw Beaugie, founding director of The Thinking Traveler, which manages the villa. "There are spices, raisins, pine nuts, the pistachio, a lot of fish, great meats, pasta and lot of fresh produce."
In addition to the cook, there will be five to six other staff on hand to cater to guests' needs and ensure an aristocratic vibe.
The final details of this Sicilian experience could include having locally crafted presents under the Christmas tree and even entertainment provided by local musicians.
"What's nice about this experience, apart from all the things that you take for granted for Christmas -- good food, good wine and being surrounded by people you like -- there is something very, very authentic about being in this particular place," Beaugie says. "It's not a product you buy off the shelf, like a Marriott or Four Seasons. This is something very authentic."
5. Celebrate New Year's Eve -- Twice
Finally, for those with endless stamina and dedication to having a truly unique New Year's Eve, there's one experience you could be telling friends and family about for years to come. PrivateFly is offering the chance to celebrate New Year's Eve twice this year by jetting you just below the speed of sound -- on the world's fastest private jet -- from one time zone to another Dec. 31.
Celebrate first in one of the world's largest cities -- Sydney, Australia. Then do it all over again in Hawaii.
This is possible thanks to a 3 a.m flight between the two locations on a Gulfstream G650.
In a mere seven hours you're shuttled from Australia to Hawaii, leaving plenty of time to hit the Honolulu beaches for a few hours of recovery and watching the waves hit the shore, before celebrating New Year's Eve all over again.
"There is 21 hours' time difference between the Honolulu and Sydney, but it's a relatively short flight, so this itinerary allows you to have the maximum time in Hawaii to repeat the whole experience," says PrivateFly CEO Adam Twiddell. "It's kind of like Groundhog Day."
Between the 21-hour time difference between the two locations and flying eastward, you gain 14 hours of New Year's Eve party time.
The cost for this dizzying, yet memorable, party experience is $210,000.