This is Day 16 of the 21 Days to a Stress Free & Debt Free Christmas. I’m so excited that you are joining me for what I hope will be a really helpful series designed to walk with you step by step through the Christmas season in a way that ensures you keep your sanity and that you don’t overspend.
Today, it’s time to start thinking about holiday traveling.
If you don’t travel often, the thought of travelling at the holidays can seem like a nightmare. Kids are more than likely over-stimulated from all the Christmas festivities and the thought of making it through a road trip to visit family or friends may sound like nothing short of torture. I get it….I really do!
While we are certainly not travel experts, we have had to do it quite a bit over the years since our families do not live in town. We’ve done short trips (3 hours) and then long trips (16 hours) and although some have been a little crazy, we’ve learned a few things along the way (we are still learning too as our kids continue to grow). Here are some things to consider as you start planning for peaceful holiday travel.
Prepping for the trip
1. Look over your vehicle
Make sure that your car is in good working order. Check the fluids, tire pressure, oil, etc. before you plan on driving out of town. We often take our vehicle to a mechanic if we will be driving long distances. It’s probably a good idea to make sure you have your jumper cables and to check to see that your spare tire is in good condition.
You should also clean out your vehicle. The Teacher likes to wash it before trips, but you will want to at least clean out any trash, crumbs, etc. so that your riding space is free of clutter. Your car will be filled with luggage, but you want it to be as spacious and comfortable as possible.
2. Make a packing list
Determine the number of outfits and types of clothes you will need before you even consider pulling out your luggage. Check the weather forecast for your destination to determine what items you will need to bring.
Try to to pack as light as you can, since you’ll have extra items like Christmas gifts or other travel items (pack n’ plays*, portable high chairs*, air mattresses*, etc.). If you are staying somewhere that has laundry facilities, then there is no need to pack a ton of clothes. In those cases, I pack half the amount of clothes I will be need and just wash and re-wear my clothes or mix and match them a different way.
3. Create a staging area
My guest room bed is usually my staging area for our clothes and suitcases during the days leading up to our trip. As I continue to work on laundry throughout the week (keeping up with your laundry before travel is KEY), I add to each person’s pile. It allows me to quickly see what I have in case I need to make any changes.
4. Pack gifts discreetly
Travelling at the holidays can be a challenge when it comes to packing your gifts. You don’t want your kids to see what you are bringing along, so make sure all our gifts are wrapped before you load them. This year, I’m planning to put them all in a storage tote*, so they can’t even see what the packages look like.
5. Consider your travel route in advance
Think about your travel route before you get on the road. Traffic can sometimes be unpredictable at the holidays, but a couple of friends have raved about the Waze app. I’ve decided to download it for myself and give it a try when we travel. From what I’ve heard, it helps to reroute you based on traffic delays, so that you avoid lots of standstill in the car.
On travel day
6. Bring along entertainment options
What you bring along to help keep your children entertained will vary based on their ages and interests. Our kids are young (5, 3, and 1), so we usually let them bring a lunchbox filled with some small toys/figurines, along with a few books. We are also not ashamed to admit that we have used a DVD player*. As much as I hate the idea of my kids getting so much screen time on a road trip, our main goal is to get from point A to point B safely and with our sanity intact. You do what you have to do in order to survive – ha! 🙂
7. Make strategic stops
Don’t try to be superhuman and not make any pit stops. You will need to fill up your gas tank, eat, and use the bathroom, so you might as well make sure your stops are strategic. We have learned that choosing fast food restaurants with a playground is key for us at this stage. My kids can play and stretch their legs for awhile before hopping back into their car seats* for another few hours. We also like rest stops where you can walk around a bit or eat at picnic tables.
Think about what sorts of stops will work best for your family. We typically stop every 2-3 hours, some are shorter stops for bathroom breaks only and others are longer where we eat and play for a bit.
8. Pack snacks
We always have a snack bag when we are on longer road trips. This will give your kids something else to do and help tie them over until their next meal time. We do limit the amount of liquids since our kids are younger and have small bladders, but we keep a water bottle* for them to sip on while we travel.
9. Bring a travel or overnight bag
Pack a travel bag (or an overnight bag if you are staying somewhere overnight while travelling). We keep our snacks in there, along with fresh clothes in case we have any accidents. If we think an overnight stop may happen, then I will keep our toiletries in there as well. We like to avoid having to unload our luggage if we make any last minute stops at a hotel*, so a travel bag is a necessity.
10. Be patient, flexible, and give grace often
Whether you have kids or not, travelling can be stressful. Planning ahead is crucial, but it doesn’t mean that there won’t be any hiccups. Remind yourself now to be patient and give grace often. Set aside any of your expectations and just roll with the punches as best you can. Even if your travels turn out to be a disaster, I guarantee that you’ll laugh about it later!