Readers share favorite tricks and strategies to make traveling easier.
Managing the Gifts
Because you cannot bring wrapped presents on a plane (and they’d get wrinkled or torn anyway), I pack cloth bags to put gifts in, such as velvet bags from fabric stores or a fun purse I may find on sale. It’s easy to "wrap" the presents once I arrive, and the bag is a bonus gift. It also helps the environment a little by eliminating discarded wrapping paper.
St. Francis, Wisconsin
To travel light and save money when visiting my family in Germany for the holidays, I purchase gifts through the German branch of Amazon.com and have them sent to the home where we celebrate, thus saving international shipping charges.
Traveling With Children
A few tips for traveling with young children on a long flight: (1) Check in early and request front-row seats. You’ll be less frazzled because Junior isn't kicking the seat in front of him for 10 hours, and the nearby crew seat is needed only for takeoff and landing, so you can get some extra space. (2) Bring along little gifts: mini coloring books and crayons, to make your kids happy and relieve boredom; chewable candies to prevent earache and tears on landing; and a spare set of clothes for each child, plus a fresh T-shirt for yourself. (3) If you have a baby or a toddler, take your umbrella stroller with you on the plane. The crew will store it during the flight, and customs and luggage checks are much less stressful when your hands are free.
When I traveled overseas with my 16-month-old daughter, I was inundated with equipment (car seat, stroller, diaper bag). To thank fellow travelers who helped me through the customs and immigration lines, I gave them gourmet chocolate bars―a great way to see smiles on your travels rather than scowls.
My husband and I make his-and-hers travel CDs with copies of our favorite holiday tunes. As we take turns playing them throughout the long road trip, it’s fun to see which songs the other has come up with.
For long drives, I bring holiday and thank-you cards, stamps, and my address book. During the drive, I write cards for those I am on my way to see. On the way home, I write thank-yous for gifts, dinners, or parties for the people we just left. That way, no one is forgotten and the details are fresh in my mind. Finally I stamp them, and they are in the car, ready to be taken to the post office.
Always take notes when making travel plans over the telephone: whom you spoke with, what was said (promises, rates, etc.). Should something go wrong, you will have the details in writing.
Bethlehem, New Hampshire
I order fresh flowers or fruit to be delivered to the home I’m visiting on the day I arrive. It's always a welcome hostess gift, and I don't have to carry it.
Pack your bags for your trip and then carry them around the block. It will inspire you to rethink what you packed and simplify.
The Woodlands, Texas
When I travel, I keep my jewelry in a small fly-fishing box (with storage compartments) in my makeup bag. This keeps necklaces and earrings from getting tangled.
I store a cosmetics bag with travel-size versions of everything I use every day in my suitcase. When I take a trip, I never have to worry about leaving the essentials behind.
When packing for a trip where I'll be on the go a lot, I put together as many outfits as I need (including underwear and socks). I then place each outfit in a plastic grocery bag and put it in my suitcase. While on holiday, I take out a bag each morning and my outfit is ready to go―no fussing about what to wear or digging to the bottom of the bag to find something. At the end of the day, I turn the bag inside out and put the worn clothes in so I know which outfits are dirty.
More Good Ideas
Be sure to get plenty of sleep during the holidays, especially in the days prior to traveling. It’s stressful packing up the family, battling the parking at the airport, and dealing with other travelers, and sleep is one way to keep your immune system healthy so you can thoroughly enjoy the holidays.
Traveling with toddlers is easier if you don't have to rely on restaurants for three meals a day. When possible, book a room with a fridge, a microwave, and a coffeemaker, then stock the fridge with breakfast and lunch basics.
During hectic holiday travel, I make it a point to smile at my fellow travelers and help them with luggage and doors or dropped items. I also thank and extend a sincere "Happy Holidays" to the service workers who are away from their families and festivities while they help me get to where I want to be.
Susan van Allen