Survival Tips: Heading Home for the Holidays

For children, November and December are the two most highly anticipated months of the year - full of sweets, vacation from school and, of course, presents. As adults, these two months can often mean stressful travel, ten extra pounds and awkward family conversations. As a little gift to you, we've listed a few survival tips for this holiday's journey home. Hopefully one or two of these will help keep you in jolly spirits this season when the going gets tough.

1. Get a Schedule Strategy
Attempting to fit in quality time with every single relative can be quite the daunting feat. While it may be hard, try and stick with a set schedule ahead of time so you don’t get overwhelmed. When possible, keep in mind the needs of your various family and friends when making arrangements. A trip to Great Aunt Ida’s will probably be more meaningful to her than dinner at a restaurant or a trip to the mall (and you know she’s been waiting all year to show off her elaborate, miniature Christmas village). Also, don’t forget to factor in some much needed down-time, when possible.

2. Pack These First: 4 Travel Must Haves

    • Eye mask
    • Head pillow
    • Ear plugs
    • Noise canceling headphones

3. Avoid a Home Alone Airport Fiasco
Keep important travel documents and itineraries organized. Create a folder where everything can live throughout your time away (we love this Family Passport Organizer available at The Company Store!). Tripit, available at the iTunes store is a great app for organizing travel plans and building itineraries, no matter where the trip is booked.

4. Keep the Kids Smiling
The holidays will be much more enjoyable if everyone is having a good time. Keep the kids entertained with fun-packs of coloring books, small games and snacks for travel. Make the dinner table fun for children with paper place settings and crayons, or take a tip from this Odeedoh post on More Kid’s Table Fun. Also, there are many kid-friendly apps available for the iPhone and iPad. Check out, where you can search by age-range to find and download the best creative and educational apps that are sure to keep the kids quietly amused.

5. Waistline Watch Y2K10: Healthy Eating in the Air and On the Road
While there's typically no shortage of heavy and rich foods during Holiday meals, some of the fattiest foods seem to beckon to travelers during their voyages. Whether trekking by car or by air we’ve found these tips on healthy options from popular fast food restaurants from Independent Traveler to be super helpful.

6. Keep Precious Cure-All’s At Hand
When Aunt Jolene brings out her spicy sausage stuffing, you know heartburn is right around the corner. Instead of rooting around unfamiliar medicine cabinets, keep small amounts of helpful medicines within reach. Before travel, make sure you are well stocked with whatever antacids, pain-relievers or sleeping pills you will need to remain comfortable during your time away. We love the friendly packaging and portability of Help Remedies, founded by Apartment Therapy House Tour Alums Richard & Natasha.

7. “Oh, Second Cousin Richie, I Didn’t Know You Were Coming!"
When showing up to a family function (or hosting one), there is oftentimes an unexpected additional guest in attendance. Rather than making anyone feel uncomfortable or left-out during the inevitable gift exchange, bring along a generic gift that anyone would enjoy, such as a gift card or bottle of wine. Even if they aren’t gifted, both are always good to have on-hand for future engagements - and that wine can be quite the helper during clean-up time.

8. Pack Wisely 
Make sure to leave room to pack that reindeer sweater from grandma! Prices for checking baggage have been skyrocketing recently and there are several methods you can follow to learn to pack a little lighter (this AT article on 5 Tips for Packing Light is very helpful) to avoid these added fees. It's always smart to bring an extra roll up bag to accommodate gifts and such on your journey home - and remember to keep presents unwrapped when traveling home. For a list of food and gift items you should check, visit these tips on the website. 
9. Wow the Host Who Wow’d the Party
Traveling during the holidays can be stressful, but hosting the holiday get-together can be taxing on an entirely different level. Show your hostess with the mostest you care and arrive with a great gift. Why not bring them something to help them relax, like a gift certificate for a pedicure or a massage, or maybe a soothing lavender scented candle? For more host gift ideas, check out this previous roundup on Apartment Therapy.

10. Take a Deep Breath - Why, It’s Called “The Holidays” After All!
Lastly, as hard as it can seem, it’s important to remember to try and roll with the punches. Your spread might not rival Martha Stewart’s, you may get asked waaaaaay too many personal questions at supper, and you could possibly be chosen as the lucky recipient of a lengthy frisking at the airport – but the holidays should be all about family, friends and fun. We recommend making a playlist of your favorite relaxing tunes and listening during your travels or during a carved out moment of “me” time. If that doesn’t de-stress, pop in It’s a Wonderful Life and spike that egg nog. Happy Holidays!

Image: National Lampoons Christmas Vacation