by Candyce H. Stapen, special for USA TODAY
5:44PM EST October 2. 2012 – The December holidays—Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa—provide families the opportunity to celebrate together, see friends and relatives and even treat themselves to winter vacations. But these getaways, whether to grandma’s or grand resorts, take extra planning. A key to ensuring that crowded roads, airports and hotels plus other potential travel glitches don’t squelch your family’s joy is to turn your gang into a team. Involving your kids in the holiday process, from planning to partying, goes a long way toward gaining their cooperation and lightening your load. Here are some suggestions.
The vacation destination
–Ask for input. Do your kids want to ski and snowboard or surf and swim? You may not be able to afford the far away slopes or sands of their dreams, but ski areas or beaches within a short flight or doable drive make a good compromise.
–Keep the holiday spirit. Task your children with decorating the hotel room or condo. Little ones can hang crayon drawings and fashion mini-Christmas trees or menorahs from pipe cleaners, cardboard and other easy-to-pack objects.
–Pick a family project. Get back to the meaning of the holidays by helping the community. Suggest your teens contact the destination’s Chamber of Commerce or the resort to discover the local community’s suggestions. Send clothing or toys ahead of time or have your children pool their allowance to purchase a holiday meal for a family in need.
–Select a special activity. Instead of the typical individual presents, consider gifting your family with a memorable group outing you wouldn’t normally do such as a horse-drawn carriage ride to a mountain lodge dinner or a day-long snorkeling outing. Give kids travel apps and guides to review the possibilities.
–Tell kids about the family history. Use the time en route to let kids learn about their relatives. Your youngsters may only know 60-something Uncle Fred as that cheek-pincher. Let them hear how he helped save his platoon in the Vietnam War.
–Use tweens’ and teens’ digital expertise. Ask these Web wizards and YouTube masters to chronicle the family holiday by taking photos, shooting videos and editing them into a family movie. Be sure these budding directors interview grandparents, great-aunts and any senior family members. Years from now, this family feature will become a treasured memento. Little ones can get into the act by asking questions. Try “How did you celebrate the holidays as a kid?” Before any posts, be sure to exercise your right of the final edit just to make sure the finished product fits in with your family’s values.
–Mail gifts ahead of time. Morph your older kids into Santa’s helpers by having them take presents to the post office. Shipping gifts in advance lessens your luggage load, eliminates excess baggage fees and prevents the disappointment of watching airport security personnel select your painstakingly prepared package for unwrapping.
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