I wrote up some recommendations for a friend last week about aerial holiday light tours. These were specific to the Dallas/Fort Worth metro area, but the general information is valid for almost any community with an airport.
What to Expect
Fixed wing tour flights are probably going to be cheaper (or longer w/comparable price to helicopter) and can usually be found at any of your local airports. Most flight schools offer up their flight instructors to fly tour flights in the evenings when student activity is lowest. You just have to ask about holiday flight tours and should be able to get a very new aircraft these days. Older aircraft are fine, but newer is usually more enjoyable.
If you have both helicopter and airplane options available, you have a decision to make. There is a certain novelty, even for me, with helicopter flight, but they are typically shorter and/or more expensive than fixed-wing tours. Visibility out of the cabin may be better and the ability to get slow and take it all in is a definite plus for the helicopter option.
When you show up for your flight, your pilot should give you a short safety briefing and answer questions. He will usually have a planned route for the best experience, but may also take suggestions if you have a specific neighborhood that you want to see. Metro areas have controlled airspace restrictions, so some neighborhoods may not be accessible. Take at least a light jacket and gloves along. Light aircraft heaters are extremely effective. Boiling lava hot effective, to be more specific. The operator should provide you with headsets to wear. These knock down some of the noise and provide intercom capabilities between the passengers. If you are taking young children, ask the operator when you make your reservation if they have any child headsets. If they don’t have them, our girls wear these very hip Peltor Kids or a small adult headset with some extra padding.
Especially since the Dallas area had a serious injury already this season, do not EVER walk towards the front of the airplane or the tail of a helicopter without assistance.
Finally, watch this short Dallas holiday light tour flight video (near the bottom) from one of the local operators and have a great flight!
Dallas / Fort Worth Metro Area
Epic Helicopter is an excellent choice and launches their holiday tours from Dallas or Fort Worth: http://www.epichelicopters.com/Tours/TourDetails.aspx?TourID=7
Starlight Flight is actively promoting their holiday flights packages: http://starlightflight.com/flight-descriptions/christmas-light-airplane-tour/
The following are my short list of flight schools from around town that should have holiday flights: http://www.monarchair.com/ (Addison Airport) http://mesquiteaviation.com/ (Mesquite) http://www.usaviationacademy.com/ (Denton) http://marcairaviation.com/ (North Fort Worth near Texas Motor Speedway)