Holidays away from home: Tips for preparing kids

At least every other year, we travel during the holiday season. This means my kids are pretty accustomed to celebrating holidays away from home, and as a parent, I’m pretty good at making Christmas special…wherever we are. This year, we’ll be celebrating Christmas Day in Italy. In the days leading up to the holiday, we’ll be renting a HomeAway apartment in Paris. Here’s how we’ll celebrate the holidays away from home:


Think of your trip as a gift in itself:

Older kids and teens should be able to appreciate that a family trip during the holidays costs money and can be considered a gift in its own right. To help kids take ownership of this gift, allow them to plan a portion of your vacation, pick one special activity each, or otherwise engage in the planning process. Spend a day doing each child’s special outings or attractions, if possible. As an alternative idea, gift kids souvenir money (in the currency of the destination) and don’t put any restrictions on how they spend it.

Help kids feel oriented by ‘rerouting’ Santa:

A recent study by HomeAway has shown that 84% of families will spend the holidays together. But traveling to be with family can have its difficulties. It’s hard to change the way gift-giving works in your family if you have Santa believers among you. And kids can feel genuine worry that Santa ‘won’t find them’, causing unnecessary stress during a happy vacation. HomeAway has solved this problem with their ‘Rerouting Santa’ microsite. Check it out: Just tell Santa where you’ll be, and he’ll find you!

Consider gift-giving in a new way:

For our upcoming trip, we simply won’t have room in our carry-on luggage to bring gifts halfway around the world. Instead, our school-aged kids (and we parents) will be gift-giving on the go. We’ll each draw a family member’s name, and shop for them while we travel. We’re focusing on smaller, stocking-stuffer type gifts in order to keep the ‘stuff’ we haul around manageable. If you have more space, such as a car trunk, you could adapt this system to include larger gifts.

Alternatively, parents can gift kids with one smaller gift per day during their trip, instead of all gifts on Christmas morning. For those celebrating Hanukkah, this ‘new’ system will feel even easier to implement. Gift kids with small toys, crafts, goodies, and games they’ll use during your travels.

Bring holiday decorations:

I love bringing decorations with me on trips when possible…so much so that we have an entire post on decorating your home rental, condo, or hotel room. It’s especially easy to decorate a HomeAway house for the holidays: ask the home owner if there’s a stash of holiday decor you can access…chances are they’ll leave them out for you or decorate before your arrival. We like to bring small strings of lights operated on battery pack (these can even be adorned to strollers or backpacks!).

Ask your home owner for seasonal events and tips:

We asked our Parisian hosts for their top holiday events in Paris, and almost immediately, I received an emailed list of events and happenings during our stay. Inspired, we did the same for our Italian hosts! Plan to attend at least a few holiday events in your destination to add cheer and keep ‘normalcy’ for kids who are used to plenty of seasonal hoopla in their home town. Some of the best activities include parades, holiday window shopping, and light displays.