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What destinations won't be overrun with kids at Christmas?

At i-to-i, a volunteer travel company, book a trip to care for orphaned elephants in South Africa.

The Question: I'll be on my own for Christmas. Where can I go for the holiday, where I won't be overrun with families celebrating?

I once spent a Christmas in Rajasthan, India. It was refreshing to be in a place not obsessed with the shopping countdown; no big build-up, no bluesy day-after letdown. Instead, for the special day, my then-boyfriend and I splurged on dinner at an upscale hotel (where an employee was wandering aimlessly in a Santa suit).

So there's a world of off-the-yuletide-path destinations out there. Gene Shannon, Canadian regional editor for Frommer's Travel Guides, suggests these three options.

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In the spirit of the season, consider a volunteer vacation.

"Tour operator i to i has 20 Holiday Season trips available [ i-to-i.com] including the chance to do hands-on work at an elephant park in South Africa," Shannon says. "How about bottle-feeding orphaned baby elephants for Christmas?"

Or, follow the lead of Frommer's readers who voted Turkey the favourite destination for 2012.

Istanbul is one of the world's most cosmopolitan cities, Shannon says. "[The] city is packed with rich Byzantine history, divine architecture, fantastic street food and one-of-a-kind shopping. If you travel along the Mediterranean coast – particularly by sailboat – you'll be rewarded with stunning coastlines."

If you want to stick closer to home and embrace the dark nights of winter, head north.

This is the time of year to see the aurora borealis and Yellowknife is an ideal place to do it, Shannon says. Watch the skies in comfort from heated viewing chairs at Aurora Village (auroravillage.com) or from the deck of a wilderness cabin with Yellowknife Outdoor Adventures ( yellowknifeoutdooradventures.com).

Meanwhile, Diane Redfern, founder of the long-running Connecting: Solo Travel Network ( cstn.org), suggests finally doing something on your bucket list. For example, Friendship Travel ( friendshiptravel.com) promotes a number of Christmas holidays ranging from a Nile cruise to a beach break at the child-free LaSource resort in Grenada.

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But, she warns, "all your resorts, ski resorts, vacation resorts, holiday resorts, warm resorts are crawling with family and friends."

You could, she suggests, travel in a less pricey, less hectic season.



E-mail your travel questions to concierge@globeandmail.com.



Follow Karan Smith on Twitter: @karan_smith

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