Family trip during Christmas

I have about 10 days to spend in Israel over Christmas.  We are likely traveling with 2 other families.  Most of us have never been before.  As we are traveling with teens, we want to mix up history (all the "musts") with fun-active things to do.  Would welcome all suggestions of activiites, tours, tour guides, places to stay and tips.

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  • Hi Meryl,

    We offer custom self-drive tours of Israel: the itinerary is created with your interests and time frame in mind. You receive mapped routes for each day, guides meet you at certain places, and you gain independence of movement and a close family experience. We can include ocean kayaking, cave exploration, rapelling, wine tasting, and other hands on activities to keep your teens interested and involved. We book the accommodations as well - including vacation apartments if that is more suitable for you. Check out for more info and our Tour Israel Blog.
    Looking forward to creating a superb trip to Israel for you!

    Best regards,

    Meryl Pearlstein said:
    Thank you Ed and Ophir. I'm looking into all of this right now.




  • Hi Meryl,

    This is Robyne, writing to you from Avitours here in Jerusalem. It's great that you'll be here at Christmas but really important that you start to get some things set up now as Christmas time can be very busy here. Ten days is a good amount of time but I think you're smart to think ahead to what you'd like to do and where you'd like to concentrate your time. Israel is a small country but it's easy to spend four days just in Jerusalem. If you'd like some help with putting together your itinerary, arranging guiding and transportation, flights and site entrances, feel free to get in touch with me either here or at my business email address: and you can look at our website too if you'd like: Robyne
    Tours in Israel - Avitours
    Avitours - Tours in Israel, Jerusalem's top travel agency, offering various private tours and excursion in Israel according to your specifications an…
  • Meryl, one great place to start is the official Israeli tourism website - As you plan your trip, try to first decide what your interests are beyond the "Israel 101" must-see sites which everyone sees. If you're interested in nature, there are wonderful things to see for that. And if you're interested in art or spa treatments or military history, there are places for those interests as well.

    As you plan each day in the itinerary, keep in mind that kids (and especially teenagers) have a tendency to get bored very quickly. The Christian pilgrims touring Israel have a term for it: "Churched-out", meaning the churches are already coming out of their ears after a few days on the road. So planning each day to include a bit of this and a bit of that, will usually make everyone happy.

    Ed was right about the layers to wear but it's also important to remember that in December, the days are very short and so don't put too many sites into each day. 3-4 sites at most should be fine and you can make an "if-then" chart for bad weather days. If we don't go to X because of rain, then we'll go to Y, etc.

    I further agree with Ed that Haifa is a beautiful city, unfortunately missed by most tourists as they head up north. If you decide to stop there for a day and the weather happens to be clear - you can go up to the 32nd floor at the university tower, from where you can see the whole northern part of the country on a good day.
  • Ophir reminds me of something (thank you, Ophir): Jerusalem and the coast have different climates. It could be 65 degrees and sunny in Tel Aviv--a perfect day for cafe-ing or for volley ball on the beach-- but 45 degrees and rainy in Jerusalem. And on a windy day in winter, Masada can really feel cold. So wear layers to Israel; every 20 miles, you might have dramatically different weather.

    Meryl Pearlstein said:
    Thank you Ed and Ophir. I'm looking into all of this right now.
  • Thank you Ed and Ophir. I'm looking into all of this right now.
  • P.S. I haven't said a thing about Jerusalem. That place, to me, is too moving, too thought-provoking. Now, how's that for a battle cry in favor of being shallow?

    But you will go there, so here's an alternative to staid, formal places like the King David: Harmony Hotel.
    It's in the Old City, with its Jerusalem of Gold exteriors, but the interior of this hotel is sleek, modern, hip. Some links follow.
    The Harmony Hotel, Jerusalem
  • Meryl, my favorite place in Israel, hands down, is Haifa. It's a beautiful and remarkably integrated city whose live-and-let-live attitude and Germantown strip of restaurants and cafes is comfortable and comforting to mature, sophisticated visitors. It might bore the kids, though, so let's start with me unrecommending my favorite place.

    But just north of Haifa, in Galilee, there's a dude ranch (I'm not kidding) where I got the best riding lesson I've ever gotten. Why? Because after the instructor tells you how to do this and that, he sets you free in the fields. Really splendid, and it's a lesson for the kids -- not just in riding, but in the possibility that a Jew can have all the positive attributes of a boy named Tex. This paragraph is from a two-part piece about Haifa at

    "Vered Hagalil calls itself a "guest farm" but is actually a dude ranch. Not only have I enjoyed the riding there (excellent horses and instructors), but this ranch offers guests a bumper sticker you'll actually want to put on your car. It says: SHALOM, Y'ALL."

    Tel Aviv rocks--so much so that I'd prefer not to be there with my parents, if I were a teen. But who knows? My parents were not your son's parents, so it could be fine. Prepare to find some exquisite shellfish, of all things, and a spectacular beach. See If you don't have a hotel yet, click on Part II as well.

    The Dead Sea area has Masada, which really is amazing (it's so Roman--no wonder the mucho-assimilated Herods were afraid of their own people), and the Dead Sea itself, which left my skin covered with angry red welts. But since you're there with kids, I would also recommend a guided jeep ride through the dessert (a hoot!) and a walk on the wild side: En Gedi. See
  • Shabbat Shalom Meryl,

    Congratulations on your decision to visit Israel. You're doing it in perfect timing because this far in advance seats are still available on flights and most of the hotels are yet to be sold out, especially in Jerusalem where there are too few hotels to house the tens of thousands of tourists visiting during the Christmas break.

    Visiting Israel during December can be a hit or a miss, weather-wise. You can have weeks which are stormy and cold, or you can have weeks which are sunny and warm. And so when planning your tour, it's important to have a "Plan B" for each day, especially in areas such as the northern Galilee, the Golan Heights or Jerusalem.

    When planning tours for my clients, I always recommend to save Jerusalem for the end. This is especially important with kids because you'll be having so much fun and doing so many activities, it will be easy for them to forget what they did or saw just a few days before. So in my humble opinion, Jerusalem at the end will allow them to fly back with a very strong sense of history and attachment to their land and people.

    It will be a pleasure to provide you with all the information and services you need in planning your tour. Please visit my website at and also on Facebook (search for Scopia LLC). I always include the "must see" sites, but especially love planning the side trips to places other tourists usually don't see.

    Hotels I recommend for quality and location: The Alexander All Suites Hotel in Tel Aviv, the Colony Hotel in Haifa (boutique), Kibbutz Kfar Blum Pastoral Hotel in the Galilee, the Hod Hotel at the Dead Sea and in Jerusalem - the Harmony Hotel, Mount Zion Hotel or Prima Kings. There are, of course, plenty of hotels to choose from by standard and price, but these have all worked very well for my clients in the past.

    Welcome home.

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