Have you ever thought of holiday travel as therapy?
Your answer may be a quick and resounding, “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 the Blu-Ray or DVD 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, the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas went by so quickly, they almost seemed non-existent.
Let me give you 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.
Working a full-time job did not leave much time for shopping for the items I needed to make Thanksgiving dinner. I would often pull out of the parking lot at work and into 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.
My morning hours were spent preparing for company and I worked in tandem with my husband in the kitchen. It seemed that no sooner than dinner was over, and the dishes were cleared from the table 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 vacation that would allow me to enjoy the holiday season with my family without the rush to get back to work.
I knew that the next ship I wanted to sail on was the Disney Fantasy. The Fantasy was going to be the newest ship in the Disney Cruise Line fleet, and would be complete in 2012. The itinerary for the Fantasy had not yet been determined in 2010, so I booked a placeholder cruise while on board the Disney Magic.
When we disembarked from our 2010 cruise, I noticed huge palates of pretty red poinsettias on an upper deck. Thanksgiving was the following week and I knew the ship was getting ready for the holidays. I pointed to the sea of red plants and told my husband that the next Disney Cruise that we would take would sail during the holidays.
It was my wish to experience a Disney ship that was fully decorated for the season.
Those palates of red poinsettias were my inspiration for booking my first Christmas cruise (known as Very Merrytime Cruises) on a brand new ship.
Along with my family, I was one of the passengers on the first Christmas sailing of the Disney Fantasy.
From the moment I stepped on board the ship, I felt completely relaxed.
Even though I knew that this holiday experience with my family was going to be amazing, in the back of my mind I felt guilty about missing Christmas at home.
Then I remembered that I was leaving the hustle and bustle, and fuss and frenzy behind.
We did not buy gifts for each other, and everyone realized that the gift of being present was better than exchanging presents.
This cruise was where I started the tradition of collecting a pin to commemorate each sailing. My kids were giving a spending allowance and treated 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 an excursion in Grand Cayman and used the other port days to ride the *AquaDuck water coaster and go to the movies.
For added relaxation and alone time, 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.
Waking up on board the Fantasy on Christmas Day felt like a dream.
Every Cast Member we met during the day greeted us with a bright smile and a warm greeting of “Merry Christmas!”.
The Fantasy docked 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 was overjoyed that I still had three nights to spend with my family!
Castaway Cay is my favorite port on Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries. Disney Cruise Line’s private island is in the Bahamas and is a wonderful place to spend the day on any sailing. The holidays are when the island is fully decorated, and from the moment you step off the ship, each colorful decoration reminds you that you are on vacation during the holidays.
When I got back 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 made a huge difference in my well-being and work performance.
After I left the corporate world, traveling during the holidays became a tradition in our family.
Within a few years after our first Christmas sailing, I cruised with my family during Thanksgiving. 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 one day together, I started to think of inexpensive ways to extend our holidays when our budget did not allow for travel. Here are a few things I have done to extend the holidays:
Take unused personal days to extend a holiday.
One extra day added to a holiday = one more day of rest.
My kids already 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 ahead for future travels. Get your calendar and pencil in a tropical vacation. Or maybe your dream is to travel 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.
It may take stepping away from the busy and overwhelming holiday season to realize that your wellness is important. The time you spend with your family making lifelong memories is important.
If you have a creative way to extend the Thanksgiving or Christmas holidays into a few days or longer, let me know in the comments.
To inspire my future travels, let me know your favorite destination or staycation location that brings you holiday cheer.