Tis the season for holiday travel and visits! It’s pretty much THE busiest time of the year planes, trains and long, long hours in automobiles. Then when you arrive at your destination, the holiday visit stress begins! You worry that your littlest one will insult great-aunt Sally’s odd gift choice, your mom worries that the kids will break her imported china set and your kids are fretting that Santa won’t know where to find them.

Don't let your holiday visits with family turn into an epic nightmare. Check out these tips to keep the peace and make sure everyone has a great time, including yourself!

Seriously, though, as awesome as it is to get together with family, visits can also be really stressful, especially when a house meant for a family of three is holding five families of four! So what can you do to ease the stress on yourself and keep the pressure from turning your Christmas vacation into an epic nightmare? Check out my tips!


*A portion of this post is brought to you by Residence Inn by Mariott. All opinions are my own. 

Raise gracious kids…or really good fakers: It goes without saying that we all want our kids to be gracious, respectful and thankful for the gifts they receive. We teach them that it’s the thought that counts and hope it sticks. Seriously, though, do you remember being five and getting underwear for Christmas? Raise your kids to be gracious, yes, but also give them the tools they need to FAKE IT sometimes too. They’ll need that just as much when they grow up. Tell them in advance, sometimes Aunt Sally gives really weird gifts. Just smile, say ” thank you, I love it,” and move on. Then offer to trade it for something cool later on. I’m not saying you have to trade the undies for an XBOX, but if he pulls off a hug and kiss for tighty-whities, goodness gracious, give the kid a lolly pop!

Plan your gift shopping & shipping logically: You can either buy your gifts at home and bring them or buy them online and have them shipped to a trusted family member at your destination. You can even do a combination. What you CAN NOT LOGICALLY DO is expect to buy all your gifts at your destination. Unless you’re arriving weeks before the holiday, you WILL NOT have time. Trust me. It never works out the way you think it will. You’ll find yourself standing in a supermarket five minutes before closing on Christmas Eve wondering if there’s any way you can pull off a box of stale bakery donuts as a gift.

A Place for Everyone, and Everyone in Their Own Place: The best thing you can do for yourself and your family? Get your own place to stay. I know, the point is togetherness and all that jazz. I watched A Very Brady Christmas too. That many people under one roof is just too much. I suggest staying at a Residence Inn by Mariott. They have locations throughout most of the US, plus around the world. Check out this handy list to see all their locations.

You can get a whole apartment-sized suite for a great price. So not only do you have your own space away from your family, but your own family members each have their own space within your space. Plus you’ll save money because you get a hot breakfast every morning. They’ll even go grocery shopping for you, so if you ignore tip #2 and have to settle for that dozen donuts gifts, at least you don’t have to get it yourself!

Don’t engage: Every family has that one member that loves pushing buttons. They start seemingly innocent conversations that drip with ill-intent. Suddenly, everyone is yelling and the proverbial daggers are flying. Do yourself a favor: don’t engage. That’s it. That’s all it takes to stop the spiral dead in its tracks. Encourage the rest of your sane family members to do the same. I learned this a long time ago and I’m much happier for it. Arguing doesn’t change people’s opinions, it just leaves everyone feeling bitter. Save the debates for another day if you must, the holidays are supposed to be a happy time. It’s an election year, we have way too much bitterness ahead anyway.

Repeat after me: good enough is good enough: I have this burning desire to make every single holiday THE BEST holiday ever for my son. I don’t know if it’s part of my anxiety disorder or single mom guilt, but it can make me feel really stressed out for no real reason. He’s always happy. I’m the one who gets freaked out if I feel like I didn’t give him adequate holiday experiences. This year, car troubles prevented us from doing all the stuff I wanted to do. He’s still happy. I’m ready to cry. When you’re with your family, you can feel even more pressure to be the best, make everything perfect, be the very best you imaginable. At some point, you have to step back and realize that you’re good enough, and that’s good enough. The holidays aren’t about being perfect, they’re about being together.