Yeah, I know, it’s already Christmas. Protip #1: Be punctual. Punctuality is as much planning as it is actually bothering to show up during a time-based vicinity that can be described as “today.” Travel planning and arrangements are proportional to distance/ease of travel. Lemme repeat that:
Travel arrangements and planning are proportional to distance/ease of travel
This does not mean showing up at the airport the day of Christmas Eve and walking up to the ticket counter hoping they’ll take Discover is a good idea. This might sound like a no-brainer - but then again I just got done watching the local news about a practical entire town’s worth of dumbasses who get to see whether or not there are chimneys at Denver International Airport for Santa to shimmy down through. Now granted, many of them decided to think ahead and try to avoid the mess by purchasing their tickets months in advance.
Except “purchasing tickets ahead of time” and “actually traveling ahead of time to avoid the rush” are different things.
If you’re traveling far enough to justify flying, make arrangements and arrive the Sunday the week of Christmas, or the Saturday before. If Christmas happens to fall on a Sunday (or Monday, or Tuesday) arrive no later than the Wednesday prior.
Oh, and here’s a big tip towards avoiding being a jackass: make it clear to your visitee-relatives that you’re going to be arriving at this time. Like, the summer prior. Have everybody write it down on their calendars.
If you’re making a multi-day road trip, leave at least a few “buffer” days between Christmas and when you actually arrive, and again, same planning arrangements. Oh, and make hotel reservations in advance. Again, like, over the summer. If it’s a few hours’ drive, heave a “buffer” of a few hours (basically, at least as long as the trip itself). If it’s an hour or less, yeah, whatever, anything goes, why not.
Protip #2: Travel Light
If you’re traveling by air, carry the least amount of luggage you can get away with. The less you have, and especially the less carry-ons and the less you have on your actual person, the easier it is to go through TSA. Don’t forget to look up the websites of the airline you’ve booked, the airport itself and TSA itself to get a good idea of what could be problematic through the screening line. The most important things to carry are any medications you need plus enough clean laundry to last, and toiletries. Everything else is a judgement call, and when in doubt judge to leave it at home. TSA can’t bin it, thieves can’t pickpocket it, and you can’t lose it if it’s in a drawer at home. If you happen to pick up something while visiting and you’re afraid it might get pitched by TSA, consider mailing it to yourself.
The best investment you can make for what goes in your luggage are portable toiletries that save space. Travel toothbrushes, travel-sized bottles, etc. Or better yet, no toiletries at all. Call ahead to see if your hotel will provide them for you complimentary (I’ve never bothered to travel with a toothbrush, shaving razor or even deoderant from home since ‘08. Also, I’ve amassed quite the comb collection!) But also be prepared in case they run out when you arrive or they just flat out lied to you.
If you’re staying for a few nights, don’t bring more than a single piece of luggage with you. Yeah make it a big piece if you want but again, less is more.
If you’re just staying for the day or a few hours it just boils down to “dont’ be a douche about what you pack” and I haven’t yet lost total faith in humanity regarding people’s ability to intrinsically discover that for themselves.
Protip #3: Clean Up, Please
That said, do at least carry enough changes of clean clothes to last your stay (it’s not hard, even with just a single piece of luggage). If your hotel does give complimentary toiletries, bother to use them, please.
I know what you’re thinking, you don’t really care about your family that much so you don’t bother to shower or toothbrush. Just do it anyway. Oh, and grab some gum or breath mints. Toothbrushing doesn’t last the car trip, especially if you’re sipping on coffee.
Protip: #4: I know this is in vain anyway because you’re going to be “That Guy” anyway, but don’t be “That Guy”
You know exactly what I’m talking about. The guy who thought it was too embarassing to slap a Bernie 2016 or NRA Member bumper sticker directly to the forehead, so he or she just opens his or her mouth to make up for it. I know it goes without explaining, but somehow I guess it’s just become an American phenomenon. Man, politics changes society.
Protip #5: Watch the kids
Hey guess what kids who are related to each other fight.
Proptip #6: Don’t just keep kids trapped with grown-ups either
There’s a fine line between keeping your kids in a place where you can watch them and confining them to Adult Blood Relation Hell. Have the kids all gather ‘round their own area in the living room. If there’s a game console they can congregate towards, great!
Having our brains rotted by video games has been a thing since you were a kid and of all people you especially should know this. Deal with it.
Protip #7: Don’t complain or whine
If there’s something you’re not particularly fond of (like something on TV or a conversation), there’s enough going around you can distract yourself away from it. If there’s a food item that doesn’t look particularly appetizing, just try it anyway, or if it’s a small enough portion just freakin’ eat around it. If you’re a vegitarian just explain (you should’ve made this clear back over summer) and do a compliment sandwich - such as rationalizing that at least there will be more meat for everyone else (there should be enough people to take care of that problem anyway).
Protip #8: Decide on a family activity ahead of time
Whether it’s going out to see a movie, the game on TV, Family Game Night, Family Drinking Night, I don’t care. Again, have some idea over summer already.