The movie is based on John Hughes' short story "Christmas '59", the second Vacation story to be published in National Lampoon's Magazine (the first was "Vacation '58", which was the basis for the first Vacation movie). The Christmas story was printed in December 1980. The label on the home movie reel that Clark finds in the attic is labeled "Xmas '59," a further allusion.
- After Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) unsuccessfully attempts to demonstrate his handiwork with the house Christmas lights to his family, he asks his son, Rusty (Johnny Galecki), to help him check all the light bulbs again. Rusty looks at his bare wrist, pretending to have a watch, and excuses himself. Looking at a bare wrist and pretending to have a watch is one of Chevy Chase's trademark gags.
- In the scene when the police storm into the Griswold's house, the song "Here Comes Santa Claus" sung by Gene Autry is used for the background music. Randy Quaid (cousin Eddie) is the third cousin of Gene Autry.
- All the presents that are on the credenza when Clark goes in to give his to Mr. Shirley are identically shaped and likely the same gift.
- Just before Clark gets locked up in the attic, he pulls out an old present from a hidden slot, and it contains a card that reads "Happy Mother's Day 1983, Love Clark". The first movie, Vacation (1983) was released that same year.
- The only Vacation movie to not feature the Lindsey Buckingham song "Holiday Road" throughout the entire film.
- Chevy Chase appears in some scenes wearing a black Chicago Bears ball cap. He wears the same Chicago Bears cap throughout all four Vacation movies.