Family Vacation Over the Holidays

Family Vacation Over the Holidays

The key to a successful family vacation over the holidays is to plan, plan, plan. There are sure to be crowds and many places may not be open or will have limited hours.  Make sure you know what you’re in for and plan accordingly.

Leave Time for Travel

vactionAllow plenty of time for travel.  Weather and heavy traffic can affect both air and car travel.  Expect delays and be sure to leave plenty of time to travel so that you don’t compromise any plans.

Plan Your Activities on the Holiday

If you’re traveling on Christmas, Thanksgiving, or New Year’s day, you will find a lot of attractions closed or open only limited hours.  Likewise, public transportation schedules might be altered.

When we traveled to Washington D.C. over Christmas, we were pleased to find that Mount Vernon was open on Christmas Day.  However, after waiting more than half an hour on a bus that never appeared, we ended up spending more than we planned to take a cab. And cabs were also few and far between.  We made arrangements with our cab driver to pick us up again after a few hours so we wouldn’t be stranded.

Do your research ahead of time to make sure that you can get where you’re going and that your destination will be open.

Or Plan for a Day of Exploration

vacationAnother option is to spend the holiday exploring the city your visiting.  Traffic and crowds are likely to be light, and wandering the city is a great way to understand the layout and discover hidden gems.

When we spent Thanksgiving in New Orleans, we decided to wander the French Quarter after lunch.  We ended up stumbling upon a parade–what’s more fun than a parade in New Orleans?

You can wander freely or try downloading a walking tour app on your phone if you want a little guidance.

Plan Your Meals

Whether you have other activities planned, want to explore unfettered, or just want to chill in your hotel, I highly recommend that you plan for meals.  Many restaurants close on holidays, and those that remain open tend to be very crowded.  Making a dinner reservation ahead of time can save a lot of time and frustration.

My family has had multiple holiday meals at Buca di Beppo.  My kids are too picky for anything more upscale, and I’m happy any time we can find a restaurant that no one complains about. But there is always a long wait for those who haven’t made reservations.

If you haven’t made reservations ahead of time, most hotels have restaurants that are open on holidays, as are Ihop and Dennys.

If you’re roadtripping, pack plenty of snacks and maybe even meals–especially if there is a chance of inclement weather. In rural areas, there might not be any restaurants open. Once upon a time, it was even tough to find an open gas station, but that’s not much of an issue with pay-at-the-pump.

Decide How You Will Handle Traditions

vacationHow will Santa find you if you’re spending Christmas in Florida? Will it feel like Christmas if you don’t have a tree?  Will you be able to leave cookies for Santa? These can be big questions if you haven’t traveled over the holidays before, particularly with younger kids.

We usually exchange gifts at home before a holiday trip, and Santa will only fill stockings in our hotel room. It is really hard to keep bigger gifts hidden when you’re all sharing a single room. We’ve told the kids that Santa knows they’re traveling and that Disney is already a really big present, so they’ll get fewer things so that Santa can give more to those who don’t get to do something awesome like Disney over the holidays.

We’ve also got a tiny fiber optic tree that we can take when traveling to add a little Christmas spirit to our hotel room. And we’ve hit up hotel gift shops for Santa cookies.

If your family has holiday traditions, you don’t have to overlook them just because you’re away from home.

Tip Generously

Service personnel in hotels and restaurants are giving up holiday time with their families to serve yours.  I try to keep this in mind and be extra generous with gratuities when traveling over the holidays.

Happy travels!

I am a 40-something lawyer and mom of 3 teenage girls. I love exploring new places, and when I can't be on the road, I'm planning my next trip. Over the years, I've learned a lot about how to travel in a pack of five. Our trips range from budget-friendly road trips with the family, to more luxurious trips for work, either solo or with my husband, Kenny.

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