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How to Plan a Holiday Vacation

How to Plan a Holiday Vacation
It's December and it's also time to start planning your family vacation this holiday season.  Where are you going to go?  Will you be staying with family or friends?  Or will you be on an adventure together?  Do you have everything planned that you need to?

Planning someplace to go for a holiday vacation can be really fun or really stressful.  While we can't help you with the stress of the people you might be associating with, we can help you take some of the stress out of your travel arrangements this year.

It all comes down to some very simple planning beforehand to make your holiday much more pleasant.

Travel Arrangements


This is probably the most self-evident part of this whole planning segment.  How are you going to get to where you are going?  Will you be traveling by car?  Flying?  Only you can decide this but here are a few tips to help you make that decision for yourself.

If you are traveling by car or truck, there are a few things which must be considered especially if you are traveling over a long distance.

  • Money for gas
  • ire condition (especially in snow and icy conditions)
  • Oil levels
  • Engine tune-up for long distances
  • Windshield washer fluid that can thaw ice or remove bug guts
  • Headlight condition (both working and clear)
Photograph of a sedan style grey car parked on snow in Pocatello, Bannock, Idaho by Cramer Imaging

If you are planning to fly to your destination, you have some different considerations to think about.

Cramer Imaging's professional quality stock photograph of wheeled nesting olive green luggage on a white background in Pocatello, Bannock, Idaho
Luggage requirements vary from airline to airline and can be found on their respective websites.
  • Have you booked your flight at least 2 weeks out for the best price?

  • Do you know what the airline requirements are for luggage?  Will your luggage pass through TSA issue-free?

  • Will you be needing a rental car?  Will you book it ahead or hope that the rental company at the airport has something which will work for you?

  • Will the rental car you choose have enough space to carry all your passengers along with all the luggage you are bringing?

  • Do you have a budget set aside for rental car gas money?

  • Have you booked a hotel if you will be needing one?

  • Have you made calls to confirm your plane, car, and hotel reservations just in case?

As previously stated, these are probably the easiest part of your vacation to think about.  These should be settled as soon as possible in order to guarantee that you have a flight/rental car or that you can get an appointment for your own vehicle maintenance.  Last minute prices or surprises can destroy your entire trip.

Accommodations


Once you have your travel arrangements settled, you need to think about where you will be staying over the course of this vacation.  Will you be staying with someone you know or will you be seeking out the convenience of a local hotel?

If you plan on staying with family or friends in a guest room, you do need to make sure that there is space enough for all of you.  This also includes bathroom space and time.  Vacation accommodations like this can turn into nasty and unpleasant affairs simply by having too many people too close together for too long.

If this is a problem for you or if this is not an option at all, then you will be looking at hotel accommodations.

Hotel entrance decorated with Christmas lights for the holidays by as photographed by Cramer Imaging
Hotels get booked up fast during the holiday season.
You will need to get your hotel accommodations booked at about the same time as your plane flight.  This is because Christmas-time and other big holiday seasons are also big times of year for travel.  The hotels will book up as fast as the airlines and will stay full for longer.

You might also have to contend with a local conference, sports championship, or community event.  If this is the case, then you probably need to get your accommodations set up several weeks ahead of time so that you can get in.

Your next issue is how much sleeping space you need.  Most hotels have single bed rooms and double bed rooms.  You will need to evaluate what amount of bed real estate space you will need.  If you need more than two beds (king or queen size), then you might look into adjoining rooms for your family.

Food and Meals


Everybody's got to eat.  It doesn't matter whether or not you are on vacation or not.  This means that you need to add food into your holiday vacation plans.

Cramer Imaging's professional quality still life photograph of crock pots with soup sitting on table part of soup bar in Idaho Falls, Bonneville, Idaho
You have a couple of options in this area.  You can be fed by your hosts or you can provide it for yourself.

Having your friend or family member host feed you and your own is something that you need to discuss with them.  You need to come to some sort of agreement about this beforehand.

Don't just expect that it will happen out of the goodness of their hearts.  That is unfair and presumptuous on your part.

You also have the option of partially or completely providing your own food in this situation.  If you aren't eating out the whole time, then there are a few things you need to think about when planning your food.

  • Food budget
  • Safe storage (cold, non-compressible)
  • Transportation room

If you are planning to eat out the entire trip, then you only need to worry about your budget and where to keep left-overs (if you have any).

What to Pack


What to pack for a holiday vacation depends greatly upon where you are going.  You should pack for the conditions of the area you are heading to.  Warm conditions necessitate warm weather clothing and shoes.  Cold weather destinations require much more thought in packing as you will need coats, long pants, and other cold weather gear.

You should take standard toiletries with you.  There are small versions available which TSA will permit through the security checkpoints.  You should also bring extra socks and underwear.  It's for those "just in case" situations you hope you never have.

Cramer Imaging's photograph of pile of clothing and toiletries for luggage packing for a trip
These are some items you should think about packing in your suitcase.
You should make sure that you also take any medications that you need or might need during your trip.  It's far better to be safe than sorry and without access to a crucial prescription like an inhaler.

Make sure that the luggage you select will meet the airline requirements (without extra size or weight charges) or will fit in your vehicle.

How to Handle Christmas Gifts


When traveling for the holidays, you run into the inevitable problem of how to deal with the gifts for your family and for your hosts.  Do you take physical gifts with you or send cash?  It can all depend upon your travel arrangements.

If you are flying, then you cannot wrap your gifts.  Period.  This means that you cannot take something and hope that your kid won't notice what his or her gift is without some serious craft on your part. Gifts for hosts, if visiting friends or family, can be equally difficult to bring with you on an airline.

Cramer Imaging's professionally photographed quality still life photo of three brightly colored and stacked Christmas gifts or packages
Bringing pre-wrapped presents with you is no longer an option on a plane.
Your best options here are for you to give gifts to your in-home family either before or after the trip.  For hosts, you can give gifts of cash/check or ship your presents using a shipping company.

If you are traveling by your own vehicle, then you have a few more options.  You can use the options I have already listed or you can look at this next option.

If you have the space to do so in your car, you can bring your gifts with you to your destination.  Depending upon the size of your car and the amount of luggage and passengers you have, this still may not be a good option for you.  Carefully consider how you will handle your gifts this year.

Where to Go on Vacation


This part of your holiday vacation planning is the first and most fun part of the holiday season.  When it comes to destinations, the sky is the limit.  You can go where ever you want to go within your budget.

Get advice from your family as to where they would like to go.  Make sure that, if you are visiting someone you know, that you call and make arrangements for the visit before you set the rest of the criteria above.

My personal recommendation is to go some place that has a climate you will not see for the rest of December, January, February, and March.  It will be a change of pace that can help you get through the rest of the winter season no matter where you live.

Conclusion


As you can see, planning for a holiday vacation need not be so complicated or stressful.  Make sure that you have settled your travel and other accommodations along with your food, luggage requirements, and gifts.  With a little attention to these few basic matters, you and your family can enjoy a unique and memorable holiday vacation this year.