Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam during Tet Festival

Traveling During Federal Holidays

With today being President’s Day in the United States, I thought I’d give you some tips on how to travel during a country-wide or area specific holiday.

I’ve been a number of places during a federal holiday…and I’ve been to Europe in the summer. Most of my holiday-traveling was in Asia, and I can tell you that during the New Year everything shuts down. And I mean everything. But then there are other holidays, like the Mid-Autumn Festival, where everyone and their mother is traveling, either home to visit family or somewhere else.


This is probably my biggest piece of advice, ever. Research! Most travel guide books will have a section in the front that talks about holidays, either area-specific or country-specific. I know Lonely Planet does. Take a few minutes to browse that section before you start planning. It really can’t hurt, and it could save you a lot of hassle.


If you did your research and know that you’re going to be traveling in Paris in August, or in Asia during the New Year, you’re probably going to want to be a little more strict with your planning. I know, I know, planning is hard, and for someone like me, completely goes against my travel style (I’m much more of a wake up whenever and wander type person), but if things are going to be closed and it’s the last chance you thought you had to go see the Louvre, or get into the Forbidden City, well, sorry, you’re screwed. Try again next time?

So you might want to sit down and map out your days with a little bit more forethought – and you’re going to want to prepare in other ways, too. Make sure that you:

  • have enough cash to last you through that day (or few days) when everything is going to be shut down
  • have enough food to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner (assume restaurants will probably be closed, or really expensive)
  • know around when the celebrations will be, so you can either avoid it or join in

As a traveler, if you’re anywhere there is a celebration going on, I say join in! I was in Singapore during the Chinese New Year, and unfortunately there wasn’t really that big of a celebration when I was there…just lots of empty streets. Being in Vietnam for the pre-New Year celebrations, on the other had, was really cool. There were a lot of lights for Tet.


Whether you join in the celebrations or not, traveling during a major holiday is a time to be the ultimate people watcher (not to sound really creepy or anything) and see a culture at a very specific moment, where people are letting go of worry and care (more often than not). It’s a very unique face to see of any given culture. It makes me wonder what people traveling in the United States think of Thanksgiving or the Fourth of July.

What are your tips for traveling during a holiday?

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