What to Do About Santa When You’re Traveling for Christmas


traveling for christmasMost of our family assumed we’d stop traveling back east for Christmas once we had kids, and that was a reasonable expectation. The urge to create our own family traditions around Christmas morning was strong, and enjoying a staycation in quiet San Francisco was tempting.

Dealing with the bustle of holiday travel and a jam packed schedule of family visits is not easy, but the pull to spend the most magical time of year with our extended family is much, much stronger than the conveniences of staying home. So, we pay the exorbitant airfares for our cross-country flights, stuff our bags full of cold weather clothes, and join the throngs of other holiday travelers who promised to be home for Christmas. 

Now that our kids are old enough to understand the concept of Santa – a tradition we’re keen on keeping alive –  and are excited to receive presents on Christmas morning, we had to figure out a way to have Santa visit us on our trip and account for the bulky items we’d have to transport back across the country.

The solution is easy:

Christmas comes early… and on time.

We write a letter to Santa letting him know that we won’t be home for Christmas. In the letter, the kids share their wish list and ask Santa to deliver gifts to their grandparents’ house. Santa replies to our letter assuring us he’ll visit our forwarding address and explains that he has presents to deliver before we leave for the holidays, too.

What this means: we celebrate Christmas twice – first, at home, a few days early. We leave milk and cookies for Santa and sprinkle Reindeer treats outside, just like it’s really Christmas Eve. The kids wake up to presents under the tree the following morning. Many are from Santa, and a few are from family members who we won’t see over the holidays or who wanted to give the kids a present that would be too hard to bring home on the airplane. They get to play to their hearts’ content with their new toys, and we get all of the benefits of a quiet holiday at home, plus the excitement of spending the real holiday with our loved ones.

A few days later, we pack for our trip, set our house alarm (Santa is the only trespasser we allow), and head to the airport. On December 25, Santa still delivers a few smaller items to my parents’ house with a little help from Amazon, and the kids open presents from their grandparents, too (who, frankly, out do Santa’s Christmas shopping most years). They get a few more presents from aunts and uncles, and then it’s on to visit my husband’s family for even more gift giving  and revelry. 

We pack a couple foldable duffel bags in our suitcases to accommodate the extra loot we’ll be lugging home (you can find my favorite one on this list), and, by the time we’re back, the toys from Santa are brand new again. 

My kids love the fact that they open Christmas presents multiple times, and we love it, too. Moving from one family celebration to another keeps the spirit of the season alive for longer, and being in person with our family is always worth the hassle of travel.

Our non-traditional approach to Santa actually allows us to have a quite a traditional Christmas, and, for us, we wouldn’t have it any other way.


  1. We, too, are often out of town for Christmas. After my kids and husband load up in the cab / Uber to the airport, I dash back inside for something “I forgot” and quickly fill the stockings and put some gifts under the tree so they’ll magically be there when we return. My kids are 10 and almost 12 and we still do this! Santa also visits wherever we are for Christmas day itself . . . the most challenging was at a hotel, where I had to sneak gifts out onto the balcony of our hotel room for the girls to find on Christmas morning.


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