How do you celebrate Christmas when you are a traveling homeschool family?
Christmas is usually filled with traditions and spending time with your loved ones. I've spent Christmas in either a hotel suite or an apartment away from home with my family for the past 3 years now. In fact, we're likely to do it again this year too.
I can give you a few Christmas suggestions while you're spending Christmas away from home too so that your kids will still feel the magic in the air wherever you're at.
It wasn't always easy, but we spent Christmas away from our permanent home in Texas for the past 3 years now. And if there's one thing I've learned it's that Christmas happens no matter where you are.
Christmas Happens No Matter Where You Are
There's been times when we had to order presents and get them sent to Aaron's coworker so that the kids weren't privy to their presents. There were times when I had to go shopping solo while Aaron watched the kids so I could shop for the kids. And then there were times when we had to just keep the presents behind the front desk, or wrap them downstairs in the breakfast area and lobby, away from little prying eyes!
Christmas away from home is possible. We've made some of the best Christmas memories because we were away from home. Each new place offers its own kind of magic. It's usually up to Mom to hunt these places and make things happen!
One thing that hasn't changed though over the past few Christmas Days? The excitement and gleam in the kids' eyes waking up Christmas morning, waking us up entirely too early, and feeling that beautiful, almost tangible, magical quality of our Christmas Day all together, wherever we're at.
Spending Christmas Day will still lend its magic to your family. Your kids will still wake up happy and excited on Christmas morning. You will still wake up entirely too early that morning too. You'll just need to be creative when it comes to presents and Christmas morning!
How to make Christmas Special for you and your kids wherever you are
I suggest the first thing you do is go on the current city's city website. Look at seeing what's going on in the area, what sort of events are happening. Usually, most cities have a city-wide parade dedicated on a weekend, along with perhaps ice skating, delicious food, Santa's workshops, and more.
It's your job, as Mom, to hunt for these events and schedule them for your family. No one else is going to do this, so it falls on your shoulders to do the planning as well as the executing.
Think about what your family likes, what would make this year special for everyone, and maybe even hunt around for something you haven't done before. For example, if you've never gone ice skating as a family, look around for an ice skating place. Or if there's a Christmas-inspired workshop going on in a local store, plan to make a day (or days) out of it.
Oddly enough, my small town's local Lowe's hardware store actually hosts a children's workshop. They make gingerbread houses and build wooden things. Tables and materials for this are set up and the entire place is decked out Christmas-style.
The local mall where you're currently located is going to have some fun holiday events going on too. Santa Claus is usually sitting on his throne just waiting to take a picture with your little ones. And some malls even have an ice skating rink inside! That or a train going on the tracks around the mall or a large play area for kiddos. Some might have workshops set up inside the mall too.
Another way to make the Christmas holiday special wherever you are is to look at different Facebook pages that are location-specific. Most businesses are now on Facebook and they'll be telling you what's going down around the holidays. There may be some pleasant surprises just waiting for you that you or the kids have never experienced before!
One more thing to make this Christmas special for your kids is looking on Groupon. Groupon is an app that you can make location-based and it will disclose all the events going on in the area that have discounts. Usually everything during the holidays have discounts and sales or just want exposure, so they add in their info to Groupon for people like you to see what's going on in the area. You'll find some interesting opportunities in Groupon and at a fabulous price!
And lastly, you want to decorate the place you're in, even if it is small. In a section below, I tell you about adding a 3-foot sticker tree onto the wall if you don't have a lot of space for a tree. You can do this as well as add decorations all over the room(s). You can add cute knick-knacks on tables, make Christmas sun catchers and collages, add stickers to the windows, add a large plastic Christmas decorate sheet onto the back of the door (we've done this – front and back, even in a hotel!), and even if you want add some Christmas pillows onto the chairs or couches! String Christmas lights around the perimeter of the room too. Add in a mechanical train that goes around an area and it'll look like you have officially decked the halls!
Make Your Own Christmas Traditions
One way to keep the holiday spirit among your family when traveling is to have or create Christmas traditions. Bake cookies, go caroling, attend church, do crafts, whatever it is, just do it every year.
For us, we always watch the same Christmas movies every year. Aaron really loves A Christmas Miracle and so we added that to our Christmas tradition! We also attend the town or city's Christmas events because usually there's something new wherever we're at.
If you want your kids to adopt a giving and selfless attitude, if you're a giving person yourself, you could do Meals On Wheels every year or help out in the local homeless shelter. Doing this every year, wherever you are, will surely be a memorable tradition for your kids when they look back on these days!
Another fun tradition to add to your Christmas holiday is making a large gingerbread house together. You can get one pretty much anywhere these days, like the local grocery stores, Walmart, and even order online via Amazon. You could also do a google search for gingerbread houses and I bet you'll find stores that specialize in gingerbread houses!
Making gingerbread houses together is a fun creative way for all the kids. They get to decorate it with icing and candy and once they're done, they have a standing, magnificent gingerbread house your kids will be proud of.
Another thing that makes the Christmas tradition list is writing letters to Santa Clause, and then having Santa write back! Each year, not only do the kids write a Christmas list, but they also write a letter to Santa. They don't only talk about presents, although that's the thing on kids' minds, but they also discuss how they were overall for the year. They address part of the year where they could have acted differently or done something – or not done something – and what lessons they've learned from it. This is an especially sneaky way to add in writing practice when on school break!
On top of having the kids write to Santa, they leave milk and cookies and even reindeer food for Santa.
Not only do the kids write to Santa, each year Santa leaves a letter for each kid. Santa talks about their year, specific details about things, and ends with encouragement. The kids love these letters and it really does make for a special Christmas morning.
I want to close this section but telling you that each year you should get Christmas pictures done. We've always gotten our Christmas family photos done each year no matter where we're at (New Hampshire, Virginia, Hawaii).
One thing you can do just about anywhere when you homeschool and travel is to get family photos done. You can go to the mall and get pictures taken with Santa Claus, go to stores that have professional pictures done in the mall or other stores, like JCPenney, or you can just call a local photographer and do the pictures in their studio or even outside somewhere. The photographer will have loads of suggestions if you want to take the family photos outside since you may not be familiar with the area, so I recommend doing this if this is the type of family photo experience you want to have.
Lastly, you can add a few different days for crafts. Stockpile some at the local dollar tree or Walmart, and start making some hand-crafted Christmas ornaments!
Christmas Tips to Make This Christmas Special When you're a traveling homeschool family
I know we've talked about traditions and doing fun things during the holidays to make this season special, but I know what you're thinking: what about presents and Christmas trees!
Well, presents are business as usual. If you are in a hotel, just have the front desk hold them for you or have them placed in a closet. Or as they come in, go down to the lobby and wrap them and haul them back up to the room. Many hotels even provide the wrapping paper and supplies!
You can get a non-clear bag to put the unwrapped presents in and hide them in the car, or the trunk of the car, or in the back of the closet. Keep that area off limits. The kids won't know which presents are from you and which are from Santa!
Another idea is to have the presents stowed away at a local friend's house or a coworker's place. This is what we had to do one year! Last year, as a matter of fact. All our presents went directly to Aaron's coworker's apartment and he stored them there until we were ready and able to wrap and/or get them.
Of course, you can get them shipped to you, just be a ninja about it so the kids won't see! You can have gifts already wrapped and under the tree, waiting for Christmas Day if your kids aren't Santa-believers. And if they are, just add a few under the tree, and save the rest for Christmas Day since Santa came.
As far as trees go, you can go to a nearby tree farm and grab one if you are able to. We don't. We just use a fake walmart tree! Your tree doesn't have to be extravagant; in fact, one year, when Scout was a crawling machine, we didn't want him to get into the tree, so we got a small 3-foot tree and placed it on top of an end table! That was our Christmas tree for the year!
Last year, we didn't really have a legit tree. We used this huge potted tree that was already in the room and put Christmas lights on it! Hey, it worked! And the kids loved it when they added their own specially-decorated ornaments to it.
If you don't have much room like we don't sometimes, grab a small-ish tree from the store, grab some decorations or add the kids' decorations to it, and call it a day.
And if you REALLY don't have room for a tree, get a large 3-foot STICKER of a tree and place it on the wall! I've considered doing this every single year, actually. I think it would add an element of holiday decor to where we're at, to be honest. How fun would it be to even make this large sticker-tree 3D? Sure your tree is a sticker on a wall, but you can tape ornaments onto the tree to have a truly visual effect!
Christmas Ideas for a Traveling Homeschool Family
I've given you some pretty good ideas to heed when traveling or when you're home away from home during Christmas and the holidays to make this time of year special for your family. It can be difficult to wrap your mind around celebrating Christmas, especially when you're used to doing the whole sha-bang at home. It is my hope that you are able to use any or all of these Christmas ideas to make your Christmas time a time to remember!
So over to you–what are some ideas to celebrate Christmas where you're home away from home?