Lifestyle, Money, Organization

Home for the Holidays (2019)

A blurred picture of a Christmas themed table setting and Christmas tree in the background

This Christmas was the first year that Nick and I had to travel many miles via the airways to be with family for the holidays. We quickly discovered that bootstrapping our way to December 25th wasn’t going to work. Lucky for you my friend, here’s my take on how to hack the holidays for traveling years to come.

Gifts

We did most of our shopping Thanksgiving weekend and left the presents with our parents then. This allowed us to pack more clothing and essentials for our 7-day Christmas stay. I would recommend any shopping done after that to be shipped ahead of time to your destination instead of your current location.

When packing initially, account for a second suitcase to take gifts back home. I took most of our gifts out of the packaging and expertly packed them in the suitcase. With airlines like Southwest, it really pays off to have your 1st and 2nd checked bag free.

Airfare

It sucks but this is the worst time to book flights because all of them will be expensive and packed. Make it a rule of thumb to save your money during the summer/autumn months and book your flights at the end of October. Also, lessen the stress by upgrading your seats and airline experience with other perks like early check-in. We booked our return flights from a neighboring city to save money but their airport is so much bigger and a hassle to navigate. We could’ve booked a roundtrip from our hometown if we planned ahead. Try to fly airlines that you have a rewards account with. Earning or redeeming points helps save money in the long term. This is a great opportunity to be loyal to a company that provides good service.

Lodging

Unfortunately, I’m very allergic to most house pets, so we were unable to stay our 6 nights with family. Instead, we redeemed 2 free nights with points earned throughout the year and paid for the rest of the trip. I highly recommend staying at an extended stay type of hotel if you’re traveling for more than 4 nights. Our first hotel where we redeemed 2 free nights was a Residence Inn. Their “regular room” has a kitchenette and larger living space and plenty of clothing storage. We loved the location and long-term room amenities.

In an attempt to save money, we booked a much cheaper hotel with Hyatt across town. We didn’t like this location at all, so we booked the final 4 nights of our stay with a sister hotel of the Residence Inn where we previously received exceptional service. It was a smaller space, but we received the service we wanted for the long stay.

If you’re staying at a hotel, simply plan for a stay at a favorite hotel because this is your home away from home. You want to be as comfortable as possible. Also, a nice and inviting space will give you a reason to ask family and friends to hang out with you where you’re staying. It’s also helpful to pick a place with complimentary breakfast to save money.

In the long run, this may cost a pretty penny, but if you’re signed up for the rewards program, it will benefit you in the long term.

Food

Food for the trip can really add up once you visit a restaurant for each meal. Try to cut back on fast food by visiting family during meal times. Obviously give them a heads up that you’re visiting, so they know to prepare for more people. If you feel weird about “taking advantage of the family” remember that you’re a guest and they’re happy to have you home. It’ll be a great bonding experience.

Managing Time

It was very exhausting for us to set plans and meet up with friends during our time home. There were lots of last-minute changes and people we couldn’t see at all. Avoid these issues by putting out a mass text, social media post or email that you’ll be home and ask friends to send suggestions for meeting up. Putting the burden on them allows for you to vet who’s available and truly willing to spend time. It seems harsh, but it’ll save you a headache and kind of help you determine your real friends ?????

Setting the Itinerary

We didn’t have much logic to our plan to stay for 7 nights. We just wanted to take advantage of our PTO and real quality time at home. Thanksgiving felt rushed and busy. However, we ended up realizing that this trip length was way too long and the financial investment was a bit much.

When thinking about your full itinerary, quickly map out what your days will look like. If you have an inkling that you’ll have a ton of free time, shorten your trip to save yourself the headache!

Those are some of the things I’ve learned about long-distance Christmas travel. I hope it’s helpful for you. If you want a Christmas 2020 timeline/reminder checklist, download this free PDF.

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