Last year, my family and I took a week-long road trip to Quartzsite, Arizona to visit a family member. We arrived there on Christmas Eve, and because our family member was elderly, she did not do a lot of Christmas decorations. It was winter in Arizona, with 70-degree days, so even the weather did not give a very Christmas-y vibe.
My son is 11, and while he logically knows that I’m Santa, we still have fun with the concept. Each Christmas, Santa delivers a special gift to the family, which is often candy–we particularly love the Lindt chocolate balls and the orange-flavored chocolates in the shape of an orange that you whack to break into pieces.
Even though we were away from home, we were together on Christmas as a family, and I wanted to keep some of our Christmas traditions alive. Unbeknownst to the other family members, I packed along some pre-wrapped chocolate oranges, so that “Santa” would be able to make a delivery during the night.
If you’re traveling over Christmas and you want to keep some of your traditions alive, here are some ways you can do that.
Hold Christmas early
I warned the kids that Christmas would be “lite” this year since we were spending a fair bit of money on the road trip. The kids knew that they wouldn’t be getting as much as they normally would. Although we did not put up a tree, we did put up Christmas lights and we held our family gift-giving the day before we left for the road trip.
Prepack some gifts
I had a Christmas gift for our host which was already wrapped and placed in the car in a spot where I could easily get it out once we arrived. I stayed up just long enough to go out to the car and get the gifts after everyone else went to sleep. If you’re in a hotel on Christmas morning, pack your stockings along and maybe a Christmas ornament and hang them up in your hotel. Fill them with your pre-packed gifts after everyone else is asleep.
Send gifts early
If you’re going to a family member’s house or even to a hotel somewhere, you can put pre-wrapped gifts in the mail and send them before you leave for your trip. This way, no one has to go out and do last-minute shopping, and you can get the box when you’re ready for it.
Find a Santa where you are
If you know where you will be in the days before Christmas, look around for a place to visit Santa once you get to your destination. Your young child will get a chance to let Santa know that they won’t be in their usual spot for present deliveries. If you’re in a nice hotel, the hotel may offer something special for children on Christmas eve or Christmas morning. Ask them, and see what they might be able to arrange.
Editor Julie Henning found Santa in North Pole, Alaska with her son on a December trip to Fairbanks a few years ago.
Enlist a neighbor’s help
If none of this will work because you don’t know where you’ll be on Christmas and you can’t send anything along early, enlist a trusted neighbor’s help back home. Get your gifts ready and give them to your neighbor. Set up your tree before you leave just like you normally would. Give your neighbor a key and ask them to deliver your gifts and put them under the tree back home. Have them send you a photo, so your kids will know that Santa came even though you weren’t there.
Keep your traditions alive
If you always have hot cocoa on Christmas eve in certain mugs, bring them and some packets of cocoa along. If you always read certain books, bring those. You can even pack along a small bottle of milk and a package of cookies and leave those out for Santa–his magic will find you, even if you’re in a hotel.
If you’re going to a family member’s where your kids will be coming home with a lot more loot than what they left with, remember to save room in your car for the extra items on the return trip.
What are your tips for traveling with kids during the holidays?