Our family is counting down the days until we travel north to spend the holidays with our extended families. My children are already planning sleepovers with cousins, relatives and friends are inviting us to coffee dates and dinner parties.

But my mind is filled with the logistics of packing seven people with luggage full of winter clothes, Christmas gifts, and activities for the nine-hour drive into a minivan. And how to manage our limited time to include as many of our loved ones as possible. Not to mention deal with sleep-deprivation, rich food consumption, and some sort of illness that usually seems to afflict at least one us when traveling.

Here are some travel-proven tips that help our family enjoy spending the holidays afar:

1. Shop online and ship directly to our destination. Ask Grandma if she can receive the boxes of gifts and store them in the garage or a closet until you arrive. Pick up gift bags or a roll of wrapping paper on your way into town. You may want to have her check the boxes when they arrive to make sure all gifts are accounted for.

2. Pack only a few mix-and-match outfits and laundry detergent and a long-lasting stain treatment (such as Resolve Stain Stick) to treat the cranberry sauce stain and wash later.

3. While we value family time and creativity, we allow our kids to overload on movies and electronics on the way up north and request activities for the trip home as gifts from relatives. We give them a new movie or activity in their stockings before we leave, as well.

4. To maximize time with friends, we extend an open invitation to drop in at a local coffee shop on a set day and time or ask a friend to host an open house.

5. Schedule an hour for nap time or quiet time during the day for the entire family. Take a white noise machine or download a white noise app for your smartphone to help them sleep. We are also militant about bedtime for our kids while traveling. If our older kids have a sleepover one night, the next night they are in bed early.

6. Begin using vitamins and/or essential oils (such as Thieves oil) several weeks in advance to build up immunity. Fill plates with salad and vegetables before meat, potatoes, and sweets.

7. When packing for the return trip, remove gifts from packaging when possible. I pack Ziploc bags to store Legos and toys with small pieces.

8.  Plan your contribution to potluck meals in advance, packing the recipe or noting it online. Make a grocery list. I have wonderful relatives who are willing to pick up my items while they are grocery shopping and I pay them when we arrive.

9. Living with relatives for several days can be stressful on everyone. If you are staying longer than three days, consider changing locations (another friend or relative or a hotel).

10.Be a conscientious house guest. Clean up after your family and others, help with food prep, discuss your plans with your host in advance so they know when you will be coming and going and how to plan meals. Purchase or prepare easy meals for breakfast and lunch (yogurt, sandwiches, etc.). Bless them with a hostess gift such as holiday towels, flavored coffee, or a certificate for house cleaning after you’re gone.

For a stress-free holiday, focus on the Christ in Christmas and cherish the memories being made!

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  1. With a family of girls my biggest tip is to plan your rest stops around Starbucks! The restrooms are standard and family friendly and you can load up on your caffeine!