Santa Flies Coach Around The Globe To Bring Presents To Sick Kids Who Believe

Merry Christmas To All, And To All A Good Flight

Santa gave the sleigh a rest this year -- he's flying coach instead.

St. Nick took to the skies in a sniffle-inducing video from Expedia, traveling 19,602 miles to seven world cities over the course of 49.7 hours. He collects a lei in Honolulu, greets a starstruck little passenger in Tokyo and chugs milk with his pals in Dublin's airport bar.

But it's what happens at his destination of Memphis that's truly special.

Santa lugs his bag full of toys -- which he's been stowing in the carry-on bin, of course -- into St. Jude Children's Research Hospital to deliver treats to the kids there.

The wide-eyed surprise, the the shy little smiles and the big fuzzy hugs are all real -- and we were so thrilled to see Santa reach his final destination.

Expedia invites travelers to donate rewards points or a monetary gift of their choice to St. Jude's this season -- you can do so at their website.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good flight.

Before You Go

No. 1 Aspen, CO
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A combination of luxe living and quaint charm helped this Rocky Mountain town capture the spot as the merriest of them all. Wandering along Cooper Avenue, you may chance upon cookie exchanges, public s’mores roasts, or elf meet-and-greets. But the two most famous hotels in town act as the nerve centers for holiday cheer. The lobby of the Hotel Jerome regularly hosts carolers, while the Ajax Tavern and Element 47 at the Little Nell both serve fabulous holiday meals, with indulgences like venison loin with huckleberries, black truffles, and chestnut-and-caramel profiteroles. The Little Nell also hosts the all-you-can-sip Bottomless Cristal New Year’s Eve Party.

Photo: Jeremy Swanson
No. 2 Vail, CO
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Ski season kicks into high gear during the holidays in this Colorado wonderland. December brings the festivities of Snowdaze—where the fresh powder is celebrated with live concerts every evening—and Holidaze, which includes the village’s tree lighting during the winter solstice and a New Year’s Eve torchlight parade down Golden Peak, followed by fireworks. Any time of year, readers love Vail’s liquid nourishments, ranking the town highly for its hot coffee (compare local favorites Yeti’s Grind and Loaded Joe’s) and equally warming cocktails. You might toast the New Year with a Rosemary Lemon Drop (rosemary-infused vodka with lemon juice and a sugar rim) at the icicle-decorated bar Frost, inside the recently renovated Sebastian Vail.

Photo: Chris McLennan, Vail Resorts
No. 3 Ogunquit, ME
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Readers may be drawn to this former artists’ colony in Maine as a beach getaway, but the holiday season brings the perks of winter on the sand: lower prices and overall calm, with just enough festivity to keep things humming. Mid-December’s Christmas by the Sea Festival typically includes a bonfire on the beach and a soul-warming chowder fest. From Ogunquit, you can also easily reach two shopping areas for getting through your list: the Kittery Outlets and, an hour away, Freeport. For distinctive local shopping, browse the Harbor Candy Shop, where the gift boxes include a Vegan Sampler, featuring soy truffles, marzipan, and orange peel enrobed in dark chocolate.

Photo: Monique Meadows
No. 4 Nantucket, MA
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The banner event during the holidays in this island town started in the 1970s, because too many locals left to shop in Cape Cod. Today, during the annual Christmas Stroll—typically the first weekend in December—you can shop downtown amid dozens of seven-foot, decorated Christmas trees, and take part in wine tastings, ghost walks, and home tours. Pick up some gifts at Murray’s Toggery Shop (the mother ship for holiday-ready Nantucket Reds pants) and Jessica Hicks, the boutique of a local jewelry designer. For more tree-gazing, go to the Whaling Museum, which houses 80 trees decorated by local artists, merchants, and kids. Nantucket also scored well with readers for feeling both mellow and romantic.

Photo: Mike Galvin
No. 5 Naples, FL
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This Florida town lacks snowman-building material—it ranked highly in the survey for warm weather and beach getaways. But the snowbird-style winter wonderland still lured holiday revelers with its luxury stores, cool boutiques, and festive ambience. Third Street South is the headquarters for the official tree, evening “snow” showers during Thanksgiving week, and gorgeous window displays, like those at department store Marissa Collections in the Old Naples Historic District. Continue shopping along Fifth Avenue South, and check out whimsical clothing and gift shop Wind in the Willows, whose window won Best in Show at the 2013 local holiday decorating contest. Of course, the holidays are about more than retail; catch the Naples edition of the worldwide TUBA Christmas, a concert on Fifth Avenue South’s Sugden Plaza featuring brass tubas, euphoniums, and baritones.

Photo: America / Alamy
No. 6 Breckenridge, CO
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Scoring well for active locals, Breckenridge gets revved up during the holidays, as ski season swings into high gear. Indeed, this resort town skates the fine line between thrills and low stress, ranking well in the survey for both adventure and safety. On the first weekend in December, the traditional lighting of the town’s official tree coincides with the Running of the Santas, in which hundreds of red-clad, supersize elves take to the streets; on December 31, there’s a torchlight parade down the mountain, followed by fireworks. Readers also loved the après-ski watering holes, from the house-made brews at Breckenridge Brewing to the martinis and flights of Colorado beers at Base 9 Bar.

Photo: Nathan Bilow
No. 7 Lewisburg, WV
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Grande dame hotel The Greenbrier is the epicenter of the holidays in the Lewisburg area. The 236-year-old resort trims the lobby with opulent decorations, holds ribbon-tying seminars in its Christmas Shop, and offers weekday discounts on treatments at its legendary mineral-springs spa. While you can hear the West Virginia Symphony play at Lewisburg’s own Carnegie Hall, the town may otherwise win the Silent Night award, getting high marks for peace and quiet. It also scored well for local bakeries like The Bakery, which serves pumpkin bagels.

Photo: Aaron Maxwell