How to Fit Christmas in Your Suitcase – Packing Tips for Families Who Travel During the Holidays

Spending the holidays with loved ones is the best but for those of us that live far away from family it can be something of a logistical nightmare. So, if you need to fit Christmas in your case read our guide to gifts that travel but still pack in all the fun of the season.

While the children always love having Christmas at Grandma and Grandad’s I don’t want to have to ruin Santa’s magic for them simply because we have luggage restrictions.  I want them to have gifts to unwrap, items that they will truly enjoy but ones that I can still get home without having to airmail a great crate ahead of us! After a few years of practice I think, hope (!), I’ve finally got this worked out for the times when we are away from home.


A Holiday Gift Guide for Families that Travel

Tickets and Experiences:

As a mum I love these no bulk gifts regardless of where we are spending the big day; anything that doesn’t add to the clutter in my house.  Memberships to the zoo, children’s museums, sports and play places, botanical gardens, and local kiddie hot spots are great way of using Christmas to enrich our whole year. Most places seem to offer both an email or mailable card option which means there’s no need to worry about the packing.

Tickets to shows and events are also popular now the boys are getting older.  Monster Jam tickets were a big hit recently and looked great under the tree when bundled up with small Hot Wheels Monster Truck toys and some ear defenders. Watch out in your local events listing for family theatre, shows, movies and concerts that might suit your brood – you might even spot a great grown up date night treat for you and your significant other!

two white and red admission tickets

These types of gifts are often the ones we remember when toys would have long been forgotten.  Spending family time doing something special is after all the essence of Christmas.

Something They Need:

One my favorite tricks for stretching the budget as well as economizing on space is to gift items they truly need and you’d have bought anyway. PJs are a dream – I can pack one less pair than they’d normally need knowing that they’ll be opening a pair each from the Elves on Christmas Eve.

I encourage my family to only ask Santa for ‘something they want, something they need, something to wear and something to read’.  This works so nicely, on so many levels, at home or away…

All other gifts are labelled from the family or friends that give them and are due a handwritten thankyou card.

The years we travel I encourage them to ask for something they  might need on the trip. Like wise, reading material can be good for the journey back and something to wear can always just be worn! This helps considerably with the packing issue although that wasn’t why I introduced the concept…

Stockings when away tend to be heavily food and bath focused! Seasonal bath bombs are a luxury that dissolve  nice and quickly in one treat of a bathtime.  Snacks from the country we are visiting also make a great novelty. Basically, I am on the hunt for anything they can consume quickly so I don’t have to cart a ton of plastic rubbish back across the ocean (or just as importantly send it to land fill).

The Best Things Come in Small Packages:

I hit lucky this year.  None of the items on the boys’ Santa lists were particularly big!  These items would all fit in our cases pretty neatly:

  • Wooden trains
  • Pokemon cards
  • A Wii game
  • Swimming googles
  • Small Lego sets
  • A Snark metronome and tuner
  • Snow gloves

I can think of few little gifts in teeny tiny boxes that would suit me too!

When a big item has been requested Santa may just have to leave a letter explaining that he left that one gift back at home.  Something to look forward to on your return.

brown gift box

Sometimes Big Packaging Is Actually My Friend!

Apologies, I know I am often heard bemoaning the excess and frustration surrounding packaging on toys, food and goodness knows what else.  It is normally something I fighting against.  I hate the rouse that makes it look like you’re getting more, the idea of the worlds’ resources being wasted and the nightmare that is hunting our scissors and a screwdriver to get out a toy that you child has been waiting months to get their hands on.  But when the vast majority of their gifts are either or the petite side or things they will have to wait for (see subscriptions below!) I like to fill the space under the tree with one over packaged gift. A more tradition wish list item that will give them something to play with on Christmas morning. A gift that looks, sounds and feels like a kid’s present.

Little Brother is enamored with Super Wings at the moment and would love these tiny Super Wings transformers that would probably even go into hand luggage once out of the box.  Similarly, Big Brother would love these mini Transformers, but if we don’t opt for those (they are at an inflated price right now) I may just wrap his smaller gift in a big, old cardboard box for visual effect. Or even several boxes inside each other that all need unwrapping, I can imagine that amusing me  greatly!

Delivery! Subscriptions to Spread the Joy

The trend for subscription boxes for kids really hit the mainstream this year.  We tested and reviewed our pick of the bunch last month including Kiwi Co which is our personal favorite but will also be giving Little Passports and Mail Order Mystery a go for Christmas.  Look out for the low down on these in the New Year.

We have also gifted magazine subscriptions before. In the past we’ve had High Five, Aquila, and various age editions of National Geographic. Although, I still think you can’t beat the cbeebies range of magazines for the pre-school crowd.

Final Tips…

My final hope for making sure we can transport the fruits of Santa’s labors home with us is to take some of the gifts we’ll be giving to other people with us.  I’m hoping if I support small business and shop locally, even on the years that we choose to travel and have to pack these presents to take with us, that they’ll leave a gap  big enough in our cases to get everything back home again.  Here’s hoping! Good luck to all you travelling Santa’s out there…



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