Stress-free Travel Ideas for Holidays

November is upon us and the anxiety of the impending holiday to-do list is growing.  Of course, there is shopping and keeping up with holiday traditions, but there is also the stress of getting ready to travel with kids!

Every year we pack up our car full of dishes to pass and gifts to give and head back to spend Thanksgiving AND Christmas with our family in Wisconsin.  The planning, shopping, and packing have been my burden for the last eight years, and it has left me feeling like a scrooge during a time that should be full of joy and magic.  My little ones will only be this young for such a short time. I want to enjoy this time of year with them and create precious memories instead of checking off items on my to-do list.  This year I am taking a stress-free approach to the holidays!


     1.) Plan ahead and stay organized


I found that a Wonderlist app is a great tool for keeping me organized. You can create different folders in Wonderlist and then organize each folder into subcategories.  My Christmas folder has a list of all of the people I need to buy gifts for and a list of gift ideas that I jot down throughout the year.  As you buy gifts you can check off each person on your list, and then that task is moved to your completed to-do list.  

I also use Wonderlist for my general shopping lists for individual stores.  Delegating some of the tasks to my husband has been one way to make shopping during the holidays less stressful.  By using the group list on Wunderlist I can add new items to a shopping list, and it automatically adds them to my husband’s Wunderlist app.

Making the switch to Wunderlist has helped to stay way more organized.  Now I don’t spend a ridiculous amount of time searching for lost post-it notes buried at the bottom of my purse.

There are many apps and programs that are similar.  My friend is a wiz at using spreadsheets to organize everything.  She keeps a Google sheet for all of her holiday to-do’s and recipes, as well as an accompanying shopping list. Find the method that works for you! Most importantly, don’t forget to involve the rest of your family, so you can finish that to-do list faster and enjoy the season more!

     2.) Pare down on gift-giving

  • Take a family adventure

The holidays should be a time for enjoying time with family and friends.  Although I love buying gifts for people, it seems like today there are more and more people to buy for and less thought is going into each gift.  I wanted to reconnect with my family members, especially because we live so far away.  This year instead of buying gifts that we don’t need, we are going to have an experiential family adventure.  Later in the year, we will get together for a weekend of fun without the stresses of the holiday season.

Check out some of these awesome places to visit for your next family trip!

  • Have a toy exchange

Another idea for paring down on gift-giving is to have the children exchange toys.  All of the kids in our family choose from his or her existing toys and pick out one that they think a cousin would enjoy. This helps children understand and practice generosity and thoughtfulness.

Kids gift exchange

We have fun sorting through our things and thinking about what each cousin would like the most.  Then we spend the afternoon making eco-friendly wrapping paper with old shopping bags or fabric scraps.

     3.) Involve the kids in packing and planning

  • Have the kids decide what to bring for entertainment and snacks

The more involved you make your kids, the more onboard they will be with everything.  Start with having your kids help with packing.  Each kid can get their own backpack (also know as adventure bags at our house) that they can fill with items to keep them entertained while traveling.  Planning our car snacks together is the part that my girls enjoy the most.  Here are some of my favorite mess-free car snacks to make with the kids and take along.

Parmesan Cheddar Basil Bites

Healthy Trail Mix

Energy Bites

  • Put on some jammies and hit the road

Road tripping in jammies is fun! It also helps kids recognize that it’s going to be a long haul! The best part is that when we pull into Grandma’s house at midnight there is no need to put on our pajamas, and then we can head straight to bed.

Check out our post Keeping Kiddos Happy on Road Trips for a ton of other great ideas!

  • Go consignment shopping for fancy holiday clothes

One of my favorite ideas for kids is having the kids pick out their own Christmas clothes at the consignment shop.  Being thrifty and glitter are my two favorite things!  Dress shopping day has become a special holiday tradition for me and my girls.  We grab lunch and then head to the consignment store to pick out the most beautiful, or oftentimes sparkliest, dress they can find.  When we get home, we do our hair and nails and have a fashion show.  The best part is that we put these dresses in our dress-up box to use all year.

   4.)  Shop online and have gifts sent to your destination

After several years of purchasing and wrapping gifts prior to traveling, I have finally adopted a stress-free approach.

christmas gifts

Now I leave the arrival of our gifts to Santa and Amazon Prime. This saves me a ton of time and it avoids the dreaded problem of forgetting to pack the gifts you hid in the closet.

     5.) Find time for yourself and enjoy the holidays

Relax Christmas Coffee

The best gift you can give yourself is time to enjoy everything!  Remember, it doesn’t have to be perfect to be memorable.

Happy Holidays!