There’s never a bad time to go travelling with kids, and spending quality family time together on holiday is always going to be a rewarding experience. However, travelling with kids over Christmas can throw up additional challenges.
How will Santa know how to find you? How will you carry home all the toys he brings?
And what will you do about your traditional Christmas Day family feast?
Here we give you some tips about travelling with kids over Christmas to help make the festive season more fun, and less stressful.
Looking for general advice on traveling with a toddler? Click here to read all our top flying with toddler tips.
Tell Santa where you’ll be
Probably the biggest concern for children who are travelling at Christmas is “How will Santa know where we are?” Easily solved – get your children to let Santa know in their Christmas letter.
If you are an adopter of the Elf on the Shelf phenomenon, then the kids could also ask the Elf to tell Santa where they will be on Christmas Eve. Just don’t forget to pack the Elf!
The kids can then track Santa online using the awesome Norad Santa Tracker to make sure they know he is coming to wherever you are. This amazing website is run by the North American Aerospace Defense Command, who use satellites, radar and ‘SantaCams’ to track Santa’s flight across the globe.
Bring some decorations
We all know you end up with way too much luggage when you travel with kids. But a few Christmas decorations will make a big difference in helping make sure your hotel room or holiday accommodation feels festive.
If you aren’t going to be staying near any shops to buy decorations when you get there, then bring a few with you.
Christmas cards, advent calendars and pictures the kids have drawn will all brighten up your accommodation and won’t take up too much room in the luggage. Or bring a load of coloured paper and get the kids to make paper chains.
Retain some of your family traditions
At no other time of year are family traditions more important. If your kids are old enough to remember Christmases past, then make sure you stick to some of your Christmas traditions to make it feel ‘right’.
Whether this is bringing a Christmas movie on your iPad or DVD, or a book you read at Christmas time – or leaving out mince pies and carrots for Santa and his reindeer (although this might have to be a local cake or cookie), retaining family traditions at Christmas is all part of the magic.
But be sure to remain flexible. Work with what you’ve got. We even built a ‘snowman’ on the beach one year, to keep the Christmas spirit alive in the tropics!
If you always plan your Christmas meal for lunchtime, but you are going to be staying in a beach resort, maybe plan to spend the day on the beach with a picnic lunch and have your turkey and all the trimmings at dinnertime instead.
Embrace local traditions
Embracing local traditions from the country you are spending Christmas can help make your Christmas more memorable. You may find some fun traditions that will stick with you for future Christmases too.
Research your destination
Research your destination before you go to see if there are any local Christmas events planned. Talking about these with the kids before you go will help them to get excited about the holiday.
We took the kids for an ice skating lesson before heading to New York so that they would be able to join in with one of the most fun New York Christmas traditions – ice skating at the Rockefeller Center.
If the Christmas family meal is a big part of your Christmas Day, make sure you find out where will be throwing a good bash, or where you will be able to get all the ingredients to make your own.
Be super organised
Remember that many places book up well in advance at Christmas time as it is a popular time for travelling. This includes hotels, transport, tours and restaurants – so plan ahead and make reservations.
Make a packing list in the weeks up to leaving to make sure that you have everything covered. Download our Family Holiday Packing List to get you started.
Don’t forget the wrapping paper and sticky tape! We were in New Zealand for my daughter’s 3rd birthday and I only remembered the night before that I hadn’t wrapped her presents – or brought any wrapping paper with me.
At ten o’clock at night, the best our hotel concierge could come up with was that day’s newspaper – luckily she didn’t notice…
Even if you choose to wrap your presents before you pack, make sure you have additional wrapping paper and sticky tape in case you have to unwrap at airport security, or buy any last-minute presents while you are there.
Leave the big gifts at home
In my house the BIG gifts come from mum and dad, and the smaller stocking gifts come from Santa (I’m sorry, I just refuse to give the big guy all the credit!).
However, if you do it the other way round in your house, then you might need to have Santa leave a note saying there is a surprise waiting at home (be warned though, we did this when we spent Christmas in Langkawi and the kids spent the last week of vacation asking to go home so they could get their ‘surprise’!)
If you can get a family member or friend to arrange them under the tree for you when you get back, even better.
If your kids are feeling disappointed about leaving behind family and friends at Christmas time – remember, they are only a Skype or FaceTime call away.
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