The song “There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays” has graced radios and shopping malls every December for as long as I can remember. And if you hear something enough, you might start to believe it. The truth is – home is a great place for the holidays…but so is a romantic getaway and some flights to Paris, or some quick flights to Orlando with the kids to see Disneyland! The holidays are all about the people you’re surrounded with. And since you and all the people you want to spend the festive season with likely have the time off, what better way to make memories than to leave town? After all, 62% of adults surveyed in a U.S. Travel Association poll said their earliest memories were of family vacations taken between the ages of 5 and 10. They also said the vacations were more memorable than school events or birthday celebrations!
So if you’ve made the noble decision to spend your holidays somewhere other than home and still want to preserve the magic of the holidays, rest assured, it can be done! I do it nearly every year, since we live in Florida and most of our family lives in the west. We also love to travel and take full advantage of the Christmas vacation time. So from one parent and self-proclaimed holiday expert to another, here are a few ways to make holidays away from home just as magical as it is at home:
Choose a Homey Home-Away-from-Home
When traveling for Christmas, we try to choose a kid-friendly place to stay. Multiple rooms help a lot to preserve the magic of Christmas. (After all, setting out gifts when you’re all snoring in one spot isn’t easy.) I also prefer a small kitchen so we can cook our traditional cinnamon rolls and bacon in the morning. But none of that is necessary. Even a small hotel room will do in a pinch, as long as you have a private space to place some presents.
Ship Your Gifts
Or wherever it is you like to shop that ships worldwide. Ship as many of your gifts as possible to your destination ahead of time. Packing gifts at home is easier than taking them to your destination because bringing them home means that Santa already came, and there’s no magic left to preserve. If you’re going to visit family, ask them to put them somewhere out of sight. If you are shipping to a hotel or other rental, you may need to make arrangements ahead of time, but most places are accommodating. I always ship some gift wrap and tape too, just so I’m not scrambling at the last minute. Then I send the kids out for an activity with Dad or the Grandparents so I can wrap and assemble presents before the big night.
Bring an Extra Suitcase
You’ll definitely have more to bring home if you’re shipping your gifts ahead of time, so when you’re packing for your flights to Orlando for that trip with the kiddos, bring an empty suitcase with you. I usually stow a duffle into a larger bag. That way I don’t have to stress about how to get all of it home. And if you buy a larger gift that you can’t bring, take a picture of it and wrap that up. A few years ago I bought my husband a smoker. My friends kept it at their house and before we left I took a picture of it with a big bow. He opened that on Christmas morning and it was a lot more fun than the promise that I would buy it once we got back home.
Pack some Decorations
Sure, starting from your flights to Paris to the very end of your trip, the “city of love” will offer you a fantastic experience for your holiday getaway, with tinsel and trees lining many of the streets. But if you get even the smallest tinge of homesickness while you’re away, a few homey touches to the place you’re staying will go a long way. Bring a garland or a string of lights if you have room to spare. We once bought a tiny tree from the dollar store for our room. If you don’t have decorations, bring some white construction paper and a pair of scissors and make some snowflakes to hang from the window.
Keep Your Traditions Alive
Whenever possible, perform your traditions from home. And plan ahead for those so you can bring what you need. If you always read from the Bible on Christmas Eve, pack one. If you have a favorite menora you light each day, bring it with you. If you always go ice-skating and get hot chocolate, find a local ice rink ahead of time and pencil it into an afternoon. If you like to eat cheese-whiz and ritz crackers while you watch A Christmas Story in your toe-socks, bring all of the necessary components. Traditions matter, especially to kids, and the best way to make it feel like you’re home for the holidays is to keep them up.
Write a Letter to Santa
“Santa Claus is a citizen of the world. No matter where you are, he will find you.” It’s a sentence I find myself saying a lot in December. My daughter is always concerned he won’t find us. She also worries that if we don’t have a chimney, she won’t get her presents. I remind her that he will find us wherever we are, and we always write a letter to the North Pole. In it, we tell Santa where to find us on Christmas, just in case.
Find a Way for Family to Participate in Your Celebrations
If you are spending the holidays away from family and friends, find a way to include them. This could be Facetiming on Christmas morning, taking and sending pictures to them as you light candles on each of the days of Hannakah, or singing carols together on speakerphone. If possible, celebrate early beforehand. Gift-givers love to see reactions in real-time, and bonus – it means fewer presents to bring along with you.
Do As Much As Possible Before Your Leave
You might make it to the mall or store while you travel, but it will likely be harder than it is at home. Especially if you don’t have a car or are in a foreign country. I make a list of what we need and for weeks in advance, I put items aside so I can pack them easily. My list includes things like tape, stockings for Christmas morning, and a balsam candle to make our hotel room smell like a tree. You know, the necessities. I also wrap the stocking stuffers and other gifts I am bringing with me ahead of time.
Prepare for the Worst
Nothing ruins the magic of the holidays quite like the airlines losing your bag full of gifts. The holidays mean crowded airports, which often leads to misplaced baggage. (One more reason I like to ship things to my destination!) If there is anything you must have on Christmas or during the holidays, bring it in your carry-on bag.
Focus on the Memories
We all know from The Grinch that Christmas isn’t really about material things. Traveling during the holidays is a great way to teach our children that. While memories and holiday magic are special and important, quality time is the best gift of all. And traveling with your loved ones is a fantastic way to practice what you preach.
How do you keep the magic in the holidays you spend away from home? Tell us your tips below!