With many people staying in the UAE over Christmas this year, a festive staycation could be a good way to break up the holidays and give the family a change of scenery.
And while rates at hotels over the festive season can often be higher, there are some bargain stays to be had at several resorts around the country.
From a beachfront escape in Dubai to a camping experience in Al Ain, we've rounded up budget-friendly staycations in every emirate to help you find a cut-price winter escape.
Ajman Saray, a Luxury Collection Resort
How does Christmas in Ajman sound? If you're quick, you can get a bargain rate at Marriott's Ajman Saray, a Luxury Collection Resort, where the surrounds are very much all about the luxury.
Located right on the beachfront, this palatial resort has a private coastline, two swimming pools, a squash court, kids' club and a gorgeous spa – perfect if you need to escape the festive madness.
Rooms are spacious and make the most of their seaside vistas, which are only 40 minutes from Dubai but feel so much more tranquil. Dining options are plentiful with several restaurants on site and, if you want to ramp up the festive feels, there's a Christmas Day brunch and festive barbecue to book.
Rates for a Deluxe Room on Christmas Day cost from Dh556, plus taxes; marriott.com
Al Seef Heritage Hotel Dubai
For something a little different this Christmas, go back in time with a stay at Al Seef Heritage Hotel Dubai, part of Hilton's Curio Collection. The hotel is in a great location for exploring old Dubai, abra hopping across the creek and wandering the shops and restaurants that make up the Al Seef neighbourhood.
It also offers traditionally decorated rooms and is likely to appeal to anyone who appreciates the culture and history. All overnight guests also get complimentary access to the infinity pool at the nearby Canopy by Hilton Dubai Al Seef hotel.
Christmas rates start from Dh364, plus taxes; hilton.com
Rove La Mer Beach, Dubai
Located in Jumeirah’s popular La Mer neighbourhood, the brand-new Rove La Mer Beach has a sea-facing pool, an outdoor terrace and direct access to one of Dubai’s most popular beaches. It's also a great spot to soak up the festivities happening at La Mer's other attractions.
The wallet-friendly hotel epitomises its seaside location with giant fish murals, retro surfboard decals, coloured beach-chic furniture and quirky nautical accessories. Christmas stays fall under the hotel's special opening rate, which includes a sea-view room, late check-out until 2pm and 30 per cent off food and drink. There are also festive brunches taking place on Christmas Day.
Christmas rates from Dh299 per night, plus taxes; rove.com
Mysk Al Badayer Retreat, Sharjah
Located about an hour's drive from Sharjah, the Mysk Al Badayer Retreat is nestled on the emirate's southern border in the desert area of Margham. Inspired by an Arabian castle, rooms are filled with traditional artefacts and design touches and there's a real sense of Emirati hospitality.
Check in for a dune-inspired festive escape. There are two restaurants to choose from, or you can opt to dine in-suite – there's also an indoor pool for a Christmas Day dip. Outside, there are lots of activities on offer to make the most of Mother Nature's playground, including sand-boarding, desert safaris and dune-bashing. At night, the stargazing opportunities are something truly special.
Christmas Day room-only rates from Dh450, excluding taxes; myskhotels.com
Aloft Al Ain
Abu Dhabi residents who don't want to have several Covid tests upon returning from a staycation might consider a trip to Al Ain. The Garden City is a great option for a change of scenery and the Aloft Al Ain boasts funky rooms and bargain prices. It's also in a good location for exploring the city's sights such as Al Ain Zoo, Wadi Adventure and Jebel Hafeet.
The hotel's rooftop infinity pool is one of the highest in Al Ain and comes with great views of the oasis city, and there's also a 24-hour gymnasium and all-day dining restaurant.
Rates over Christmas and New Year start from Dh400, excluding taxes; marriott.com
Jebel Hafit Desert Park, Al Ain
2020 hasn't been a typical year, so why not keep the theme going with a non-traditional Christmas celebration? Instead of a turkey dinner and festive films, how about an open barbecue and overnight tented stay at Jebel Hafit Desert Park in Al Ain.
Occupying a nine-kilometre stretch at the base of Abu Dhabi’s tallest mountain, traditional tents sleep up to four people and each comes with its own firepit to keep you warm when night falls. Make sure you bring your sense of adventure; there's biking, trekking, horse-riding and more on offer. If you're a keen camper, you can also bring and pitch your own tent in the public campsite.
Rates in a traditional tent start from Dh500, excluding taxes and park entry fee, tent plots from Dh300; jebelhafitdesertpark.backhotelite.com
Marriott Al Forsan, Abu Dhabi
Located in Khalifa City, the Marriott Al Forsan is home to one of the biggest swimming pools in Abu Dhabi. It's also part of Al Forsan International Sports Resort, which means guests have adventure on tap. The lobby does a mean afternoon tea and the spa is well worth visiting.
Over the holiday season, the hotel is offering an adventure package. This includes breakfast for two, a 20 per cent discount on food and drinks, late check-out and your choice of a complimentary karting, archery, wakeboarding or horse-riding session.
Rates start from Dh580 per night, activities subject to availability; marriott.com
DoubleTree by Hilton Resort & Spa Marjan Island, Ras Al Khaimah
An action-packed family-friendly festive stay is on the cards at the DoubleTree by Hilton Resort & Spa Marjan Island. The resort offers an excellent children’s club that has a climbing wall, arcade games and a huge outdoor playground.
Water babies will love the Pirate Boat Aqua Zone, the water trampoline and the inflatable bouncy castles. The Tarzan Boat adults' water park gives mum and dad a place to have fun, too, with two slides, high dive boards and a rope swing.
And when it’s time to turn down the activity level, there’s a spa, 650-metre private beach and seven swimming pools. While rates are considerably higher on New Year, if you want a Christmas Day staycay, there's still time to bag a bargain and space to book a table at their brunch on Christmas Day.
Rates start from Dh581, excluding taxes and for Honors members only (it's free to join Hilton's membership programme); hilton.com
Barracuda Beach Resort, Umm Al Quwain
A long-time favourite among UAE residents, Barracuda Beach Resort on the edge of the Umm Al Quwain lagoon, still has some availability over Christmas. Located about 60 kilometres from Dubai, it’s far enough to feel like you’ve escaped the hustle, but only takes an hour to reach from the city.
When it comes to dining, check out Biryani Junction for Indian dishes or Thunder Road Pizza & Grill for Italian eats. Days can be spent by the lagoon-side infinity pool and children have their own paddling pool and play area. It's also right beside Dreamland Aqua Park, ideal for a day out.
Rates for two adults in a King Pool View start from Dh595 including breakfast, but excluding taxes; barracuda.ae
Anantara Eastern Mangroves Abu Dhabi
If you're craving a peaceful festive season, then Anantara Eastern Mangroves Abu Dhabi Hotel might be one to consider. Surrounded by waterways and the emirate's natural bounty, it's easy to slow down the pace at this tranquil hotel.
The hotel's infinity pool overlooks the mangroves and there are water sports, a promenade and plenty of outdoor eateries nearby. There's also some impressive festive decorations in place, including a huge sparkling tree in the lobby.
Staycations in a Deluxe Balcony Room over Christmas, including daily breakfast, start from Dh463.32 plus taxes; anantara.com
Al Bahar Hotel and Resort, Fujairah
Hotels in Fujairah are always popular, so it can be tricky to find a bargain, but if you know where to look, you may luck out. The five-star Al Bahar Hotel and Resort has its own private shoreline, sprawling outdoor swimming pool and gardens. It's also fewer than 3km from Fujairah's popular Umbrella beach and next door to Fujairah International Marine club.
The hotel is serving a daily festive high tea to help you get in the Christmas spirit.
Rates on the hotel's own website are higher, but booking.com lists marina-view rooms from Dh500 plus taxes; booking.com