Keeping the Magic Alive: Tips for Celebrating Christmas While on Vacation

Spending Christmas Away from Home

The Christmas holidays can be a fantastic time to travel as a family as it falls over an extended school holiday. Mom and dad may also have an easier time getting off work since things seem to be a bit more laid back around the office this time of year. If you are considering a holiday getaway, your first question may be: how you will celebrate Christmas?

Christmas is such a time of tradition and ritual that doing something totally different (like heading to the beach) almost seems wrong. However, with a bit of careful planning, you can preserve your family’s priceless holiday traditions and still have a great vacation. Here are some ideas for how to celebrate Christmas while traveling.

Celebrate Christmas Before Your Trip

One way to not feel like you are missing out on Christmas is to celebrate Christmas before you leave. This way you can follow all of your normal family routines, and then head out for a great trip! When we’ve traveled over Christmas, we’ve often decided to “move” Christmas. We simply choose another day that is free of any other commitments and declare it Christmas.

We wake up to our typical Christmas morning cinnamon rolls, open stockings, exchange gifts, share a special meal and then spend a lazy family day enjoying each others’ company, just as we would if we were home for Christmas Day. This may not work with older kids who will start to question how Christmas can be moved, but with a young child or toddler, it’s worked just great for us!

Celebrate Christmas on your Trip

Moving Christmas may not work for every family. In those cases, it’s still possible to go on your trip — you’ll just have to plan ahead a bit so you can take the essential elements of Christmas along with you! Perhaps it’s those special stockings that your family hangs on the tree each year, or a special candle you light, a book you read, or a religious service you attend as a family.

You know what the special things are in your family that make it feel like Christmas. So, bake up a batch of grandma’s special Christmas cookies, pack the stockings and other important odds and ends, and bring Christmas to your hotel room. Some have used a felt Christmas tree, or a tapestry of a Christmas tree to hang in their hotel room to make it seem a bit more festive.

As far as Christmas dinner goes, many hotels and resorts around the world will offer special festive meals to fill your tummies with holiday goodness. These are often accompanied with beautiful place settings, decorations, music and often visits from Santa to really make your holiday special.

If your hotel or resort isn’t offering anything, do some research in advance to see what holiday events may be happening in the town you are visiting. Virtually every town small and large in the US will have special events for Christmas, and many cities around the world host festive happenings as well.

If you’re traveling to one of the best European cities for Christmas, there’s sure to be plenty of holiday magic in the air and celebrations to join in.

If attending a religious service is an important part of your family’s Christmas traditions, research services in the area before your trip and make a plan to attend one. Sorting these details in advance will help your Christmas plans go off without a hitch.

Giving Gifts on the Road

Gifts can be a tricky aspect of doing Christmas away from home, especially if you have young kids who are expecting a visit from Santa Claus. One idea is that you could have Santa deliver the stocking to the hotel along with a note that there are more gifts waiting at home.

If you plan to give the kids all their gifts at the hotel, it might be fun for the kids to write a letter to Santa explaining that they will be away and where they can find them on Christmas. Gifting experiences is also a nice way to give special gifts that don’t take up a lot of room.

Zoo passes, amusement park tickets, sports tickets or other special experience gifts are a lot of fun and don’t add much at all to your luggage weight or have a lot of small pieces that you can lose.

If you’re planning to bring some presents, make sure you follow these guidelines for putting wrapped gifts in checked luggage to ensure there aren’t any issues.

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Celebrating Family and Friends

So as to not be labeled a Grinch during the holidays because you are skipping town, make sure you plan to send gifts and cards to those special people in your life. You won’t want to forget someone in the hustle and bustle of travel, so do this well in advance. Make a gift and card list, and then ship those gifts out early.

No one I know ever complained about getting an early Christmas gift!

Traveling to Visit Family

If you are traveling to visit family for Christmas, this changes things somewhat. We have often does this, as we live far from our family. While it’s quite special to get to spend the holidays with our family, we also find it a bit hard to feel like we really have our own family Christmas traditions.

As far as gifts go, we’ve found it easier to order most of our gifts online and ship them to the family members’ house we plan to celebrate at, or the family member we will be staying with. You can even order gift wrap and tags in advance so you don’t have to rush out to the store and fight the crowds for the rolls that are left on Christmas Eve.

Include Your Kids in the Planning

Whatever the age of your kids, including them in the planning is an important part of making them feel included in your Christmas family vacation. We all want our kids to have special holiday memories. Letting them — in age appropriate ways — choose some of the elements of Christmas that are important to maintain while on the road can be a key part of this.

This can also give them a place and time to voice any concerns they might have about traveling over Christmas, and give you the opportunity to address them as a family.

With these tips and a bit of advance planning, I’m confident you will have a successful Christmas during your trip to whatever destination you have chosen this holiday season.

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