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Over the river and through the woods…

December 3, 2011

If only holiday travel were as simple as the song!  The holiday season has always meant travel to me — we’ve only lived in the same town as my extended family for one Christmas, so every year we road trip or fly back to Wisconsin to spend time with family and friends.

Both the roads and the skies can be pretty stressful during the holidays, not to mention the chance that winter weather can delay or cancel your plans.  Here are my tips to make your holiday travel as easy as possible!

By plane:

  • Take advantage of online shopping (and hopefully free shipping!) and have your presents shipped to a family member’s home.  Bring your own wrapping paper and tags so the presents still have your personal touch.
  • Be sure to warn your family you are flying so they can plan present size accordingly.  Last year my mom and I had to tote home a spice rack, tea kettle, and a 3 foot tall garden gnome as carry-ons because our suitcases weren’t big enough!
  • Long security lines are inevitable.  Get yourself as prepared for the security process as possible. Put your liquids in an easily accessible pocket.  Don’t put anything in your pockets.  Remove your coat, shoes and belt before you get to the baskets.  Keep a smile on your face and give the TSA guards a big “THANK YOU” and remember that while you are stressed out about getting somewhere, they are at work.
  • If you are a regular traveller (i.e., you fly more than 4 times a year), see if your airport has an express security line.  And use it!  If you aren’t sure if you belong in the line, don’t go in it.  You might get the wrath of someone who does belong there.  I may or may not have issued a few snarky looks at a family who thought they could squeeze in the line the last time I was at the airport.
  • Bag fees are a pain, but it can be a lot cheaper than shipping all of your presents home when you only show up with a roll-aboard.  Bring the biggest suitcase you have and pack only the clothes you need.  You pay the same fee whether you check a 24 inch bag or a 40 inch bag!
  • Plan for the weather.  Flight delays and cancellations happen.  Make sure you have something to keep you and your travelling companions occupied.  Airport bookstores and snack stands are outrageously overpriced, so pack some snacks and books you are willing to part with if you need the space in your suitcase later on.

By car:

  • Whether your car ride is 1 hour or 8 hours, take this time while you’re all together in the car to learn some new things about each other.  Listen to Christmas music as a family and share with each other your favorite songs and why they mean something to you.  Talk about your family’s traditions and what Christmas was like when you were a kid.  Your children will listen to every moment, I promise.
  • If you have a really long car trip, try to plan something fun as a side trip.  Sure, you want to put on the miles, but take an extra half hour and stop at a diner for hot chocolate and pie.  Have a snowball fight at a rest stop.  Drive through a random neighborhood and look at the lights. Some of my favorite Christmas memories are of these little side trips.
  • Pack a present to open half-way through your trip.  If you have kids, you’ll both appreciate they have something new to occupy them.  If it’s just you and your significant other, make it something special that you want them to open when it’s just the two of you.
  • Plan for the weather.  Prepare your car with water, flashlights, blankets, and some food.  Put a small shovel in your trunk and write down phone numbers for tow companies along your way – you never know if you’ll be able to look it up on your smartphone in the middle of nowhere!

How far do you travel to see loved ones during the holidays?  What’s your favorite travel tip?

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