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Passports with Purpose

Our annual guide to surviving visits to relatives over the holidays

Christmas at Griswolds

UPDATE (Dec. 17, 2013) — The American Automobile Association (AAA) is projecting more than 94.5 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home during the holiday season, up 6 percent from last year.  This is the fifth consecutive year of increasing holiday travel and the highest travel volume ever recorded for the season.  Read the full report.


Told any white lies lately?

According to a new holiday travel survey from Embassy Suites, 60 per cent of Americans fess up that they are willing to tell a white lie to avoid being a house guest during the holidays.

Maybe you would like to stay in a hotel. You’ll find plenty of deals as business travel grind to a halt.  (Check sites like www.hotels.com or www.getaroom.com or for an apartment, www.airbnb.com )

If you are planning to stay with the relatives, take a deep breath and remind yourself why you are bringing the kids—or hosting the crowd.  These gatherings help us and more important, our kids, feel connected when we live so far apart. 


Bring the Goldfish, Tofu, organic baby food and whatever else your gang can’t live without these days. If you’re flying, call ahead and ask your host to pick up what you need at the grocery store and—this is key—offer to pay for the groceries. Suggest—nicely—that for the kids, sauces should be left on the side. Tip: flavored club soda won’t stain or give the kids too much sugar. .

Pack holiday DVDS, toys and a recipe all of the kids can make together. Tip: Bring a children’s cookbook or a classic game like Scrabble or Monopoly as a house gift.

Bring along your own portable crib or rent one. You don’t want to use one that has been in the attic for 20 years and is not up to the latest safety standards.  Tip: Stash a crib sheet and the baby’s night light  in the suitcase.. Having their familiar sheet and night light can help them adjust to an unfamiliar environment, pediatricians suggest.

Move the glass ornaments, grandma’s purse, cleaning supplies and anything else fragile or potentially dangerous as soon as you arrive if you have toddlers, move the ornaments that are breakable or have metal hooks to the top of the tree.  Tip: if toddlers are coming,  make sure you’ve got all the outlets covered.  You’ll find more holiday safety tips from Safe Kids Worldwide

Volunteer to take all the cousins to a movie, playground or nearby museum to get them out  of the house—and out of everyone’s hair.  Tip: Check what  special family programs are being offered at local museums, zoos and aquariums.  You’ll find plenty to choose from. 

Set the ground rules  for the kids. Little ones especially like to feel useful. Even five year olds can make their beds, roll up their sleeping bags and pick up their toys.  Tip:  Take them on a “house tour” with your host when you arrive  and go over the rules—no food in the living room, the office computer is off limits, no teasing the dog or letting the cat out.

Keep your mouth shut no matter how  atrocious your nephew’s behavior or how overcooked the Holiday roast. Tip: Do not try to discipline anyone else’s child. It will only get you in trouble.

Just remember, it could be worse. They could all be at your house.   Happy Holidays.


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