You're not gonna believe this, but I interviewed Santa Claus.
It happened like this: About a month ago I was thinking about how much I dislike traveling around the holidays. Call me Scrooge (who, btw, I did not interview—because he is a fictional character), but I just don't like crowds. If I have my way, I take my family somewhere nice after the holidays. I started thinking about who might be an expert on post-Christmas travel and it hit me: Who works harder at Christmastime—or deserves more of a break afterward—than St. Nick?
Getting the interview wasn't easy. Apparently there's no 800 number, no website. Jeez, even the Wikipedia entry offers surprisingly little in the way of factual information. But there are benefits to working for an award-winning magazine and website, and it turns out that Mr. Kringle thoroughly enjoyed our "How Not to Be the Ugly American Overseas" and agreed to give me a few spare minutes. (Also, full disclosure: I reminded him that we are the house that leaves him Nutella-stuffed chocolate chip cookies on Christmas Eve.) Here's my interview.
Robert Firpo-Cappiello: Thanks so much for speaking with BT—I know this is your busiest time of year.
Santa Claus: You know, that "busiest time of year" malarky is hype. We're fairly streamlined up here at the North Pole. Yeah, years ago we sat around nine months out of the year till the "Dear Santa" letters started arriving, then it was a freakin' goat rodeo to fill the orders of the kids who made "Category: Nice." But these days we're monitoring trends via social media, which allows us to start making toys as early as April.
RFC: Jolly Old St. Nicholas is on Twitter?
SC: Well, I leave Twitter to the younger folks on staff. I do enjoy Pinterest, though. I repinned BT's "Happiness is a direction, not a place" photo badge. I can def relate.
RFC: So, Santa Claus, when does your vacation start?
SC: We deliver the last toys of the night out in the Pacific, by the International Dateline, then I turn the sleigh north and head back home. Typically my elves are feeding and watering Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon...
RFC: You're a Dylan fan?
SC: I like his good stuff, yeah.
RFC: Please go on.
SC: While the elves are taking care of the crew I'm enjoying a cold seltzer and a plate of pierogies on Christmas morning.
RFC: What about Rudolph?
SC: Rudolph is a fictional character. You knew that, right?
RFC: Yes. Of course.
SC: Then I crash for what someone once called a "long winter's nap."
RFC: Do you take off for vacation on the 26th?
SC: Omigosh, no, I won't go near an airport until after New Year's.
RFC: And you're willing to share some post-Christmas vacation ideas with BT readers?
SC: Happy to make some suggestions. First off is Walt Disney World—in early January the place is pretty quiet after all the holiday hubbub, and hotel rates are much lower than they are in December.
RFC: But I'd think you'd get recognized at Walt Disney World—don't people bother you?
SC: Wherever I go, people point and shout, "Hey, it's Santa Claus!". I reply, "Yup, it's me, and my elves tell me you ought to be ashamed of yourself!" And we have a good laugh.
RFC: Do you always go to Disney?
SC: By no means. In fact, last year Mrs. Claus and I had a wonderful getaway to Laguna Beach, down the coast from Los Angeles. It's always a bargain considering that you can stay right on the beach, take a surfing lesson, get some fresh seafood for dinner.
RFC: Surfing lesson?
SC: Son, when you've successfully wrangled a team of flying antlered ruminants, hanging ten is cake.
SC: Yes, reindeer have four-chambered stomachs.
RFC: Gotcha. Any other ideas?
SC: Mexico! We've actually been pleasantly surprised at how affordable the all-inclusive resorts on the Riviera Maya can be. For me, all-inclusive is huge. J'adore not having to reach for my wallet when I'm on vacation. You might say, "I gave at the office." Know what I mean?
RFC: Ho, ho, ho. Where else?
SC: New Orleans is uncrowded and cheaper before Mardi Gras season heats up. And, of course, the Dominican Republic is a great choice for bargain hunters. Mrs. Claus snapped a shot of me riding a horse on the beach in Punta Cana that's just priceless—beard flapping in the breeze and whatnot.
RFC: Would you consider pinning that photo on a BT Pinterest board?
SC: Don't hold your breath.
RFC: Santa, on behalf of our BT audience, I'd like to thank you for your time and your great January vacation ideas!
SC: Keep up the good work, BT!