Have you ever thought of holiday travel as therapy?
Your answer may be a quick and resounding IN ALL CAPS, “NO!”.
And I understand. I get it.
Your version of holiday travel is probably as stressful as the scene in “Home Alone” where everyone wakes up late and runs around the house in complete and total chaos.
If you haven’t seen “Home Alone” borrow it from your local library.
(That’s a free money saving tip from me to you.)
When you get to the scene I mentioned, you will probably feel the stress of the McCallister family.
When I worked full-time in the corporate world, holiday time was a strange bird.
Since Thanksgiving is the closest 2018 holiday, let’s take a glimpse into my former Thanksgiving holiday schedule:
Close of business was 1:00 p.m. but that did not mean it was the end of my day. I worked full-time and would often pull out of the parking lot at work and into to the parking lot at the grocery store to pick up the remaining ingredients for dessert or side dishes.
Ah…finally a day off-ish.
Relaxation was not an option for me on Thanksgiving Day. The morning was spent preparing for company and I worked in tandem with my husband in the kitchen. It seemed that no sooner than dinner was over, the day was over. I found a few moments to sit on the couch to watch Christmas programming or a movie with my family and it was time for bed because the next day was a work day.
Christmas was a repeat of Thanksgiving.
It’s no wonder every employee rejoiced when Christmas would fall on a Friday, giving everyone a 3-day weekend.
Don’t get me wrong. I was thankful for my job and the opportunity to have Thanksgiving and Christmas Day off with my family. I just needed to find a better way to celebrate the holidays and spend more time with my family.
After our first Disney Cruise in 2010, I decided to take a holiday for my soul. I longed for rest and an opportunity to spend more than 1 day with my family during the holiday season.
When we disembarked from our 2010 cruise, I noticed palates upon palates of pretty red poinsettias on an upper deck. Thanksgiving was close and I knew the ship was getting ready for Christmas. I leaned over and told my husband that one day we would sail and see a Disney ship that was fully decorated for the holidays.
The itinerary for the Fantasy had not yet been determined in 2010, so I booked a placeholder cruise while on board the Disney Magic. Remember those red poinsettas? They were my inspiration for booking my first Christmas cruise on a brand new ship. Along with my family (and a few thousand people) I was one of the passengers on the first Christmas sailing of the Disney Fantasy in 2012.
From the moment I stepped on board the Disney Fantasy, I felt completely relaxed. There was peace and comfort in knowing that the week ahead was set aside to enjoy moments with my family.
At first, I felt guilty about missing Christmas at home. Then I remembered that I was leaving the hustle and bustle, fuss and frenzy and all the other terms that describe a harried holiday. We did not buy gifts for each other, and everyone realized that the gift of being present was better than exchanging presents. Everyone was able to treat themselves to something in the gift shop.
The itinerary included Grand Cayman, Costa Maya, Cozumel, and my favorite, Disney Cruise Line’s private island, Castaway Cay. I booked one excursion in Grand Cayman and used the other port days to ride the *AquaDuck, go to the movies, and for added relaxation, my husband and I enjoyed a couples massage at Senses Spa & Salon.
*DCL tip: Port days are the best days to ride the AquaDuck without the long lines that are present on sea days.
Christmas Day fell on a Tuesday and it was incredible. Every Cast Member greeted us with, “Merry Christmas!”. The Fantasy was at port in Costa Maya and we didn’t have a care in the world. At some time during the day, a small gift from the cruise line was delivered to our stateroom. There were no dishes to clean, no leftovers to store, and no job to report to the next morning.
I couldn’t help but feel overjoyed with the fact that I still had 3 nights to spend with my family!
Castaway Cay is always our favorite port on the Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries. The only thing on our agenda for the day was relaxation. The island is decorated to remind you that you are on vacation during the holidays.
When I got home, the investment I made in spending an entire week during Christmas with my family had a huge impact on me both mentally and physically. I went back to my job prepared to work and I felt rested and relaxed, which was a HUGE difference in my well-being compared to having one day off and going back to work the next day.
Even after I left the corporate world, traveling during the holidays became a tradition in our family. A few years later my family cruised during Thanksgiving and another couple of years after that we spent Christmas in Oahu.
When I discovered how much it meant to me and my family to enjoy more than just a day together, I started to think of inexpensive ways to extend our holidays when our budget did not allow for travel:
Unused personal days can extend a holiday.
One extra day off was an answer to prayers for one more day of rest. My kids had the week off and they were happy to have me at home for one more day.
Use the holiday week to enjoy a holiday staycation.
Most cities are beautifully decorated for the holidays, and have parks or neighborhoods that are decorated and set up with family friendly holiday activities. Most activities are within driving distance, and sometimes a nearby major city has bigger attractions set up for the season.
Look to the future and plan your dream holiday vacation.
I strongly believe in planning future travel. Grab your calendar and plan a tropical vacation. Or maybe your dream is somewhere that transforms into a winter wonderland. Whatever your dream may be, start planning and saving today!
Holiday travel doesn’t have to mean holiday burnout. Your wellness is important. The time you spend with your family making lifelong memories is important. Use your time your way and refresh your soul in the process.