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Last-Minute Holiday Travel Tips & Safety Guide For Your Family

By Casey Slide

car driving in snowAlong with the joy and festivities of the Christmas season comes much holiday stress, especially when holiday travel is involved. Whether you’re flying, driving, or traveling by bus or train, there is a lot of prep work that goes into your trip. And on top of that, there’s the worry of leaving your home unattended while you are away and the concern for your safety while you’re traveling.

To make your holiday travel preparations smoother and less stressful, use this checklist to ensure that you have made all the necessary arrangements for yourself, your home, and your family before taking off. That way you can have a pleasant, less nerve-racking trip.


There are a lot of different options for pet care while you’re gone for the holidays including kennels, pet sitters, and even pet hotels. If you’ve never left your animal alone for an extended period of time before, it’s a good idea to do a trial run beforehand. For example, I’ve had my dogs stay at a pet hotel for a day before leaving them there for a week. I wanted to make sure that they could get along well with the other animals and feel comfortable with the people taking care of them. I was much more at ease while away knowing that my dogs were enjoying themselves and were being well cared for.



  • Make sure you have paid your bills on time before leaving for vacation. That’s the last thing you want to have to do or even think about while you’re supposed to be relaxing. You also don’t want to be unpleasantly reminded that you didn’t pay when you get back.
  • Bring cash! You should always have some cash on you in case you need it for emergency situations where you’re unable to use a card. A lot of people swear by a debit or credit card because of the convenience and because cash is “too easy to spend.” But when traveling, cash is especially important to have on hand. Not only can it help you get out of a bad situation, such as car trouble or worse, a mugging, but it can also help you limit your spending if you budget a certain amount of cash per day. And here are some additional tips if you’re traveling out of the country and spending money abroad.

Home Security

  • Let a trusted neighbor know that you will be out of town and have them keep an eye on your house while you are gone. Ask them to get your mail and your newspaper so that it will be less obvious that your home is unoccupied. Also, make sure that your neighbors have your contact information in case anything happens and they need to get in touch quickly. And of course let them know that you will return the favor next time they go on vacation or invite them over for a potluck dinner swap. What are neighbors for anyway? Alternatively, if you don’t have anyone you can trust in the area, ask a family member or friend to drive over a few days while you’re gone.
  • Buy a timer for your lights, and set it to random so that it seems like your home is occupied at all times. In Home Alone, the burglars, Harry and Marv, knew which households were out of town based on the Christmas lights turning on and off at the same time each day. After watching this movie, my husband and I use a timer set to random for our Christmas lights and even our Christmas tree. The lights go on every night at 5:30pm but will turn off every night at a different time. This is also convenient because we don’t have to constantly turn them on and off daily.

When Walking Out The Door

  • Throw away any perishables in your fridge and then take out the trash. You do not want any smelly surprises when you return home.
  • Run the dishwasher a few hours before you leave. It is important that your dishwasher run at least once a week to keep it working properly. You also do not want food particles hanging out on your dishes for extended periods of time.
  • Disconnect appliances or anything electrical that does not need to be plugged in. Even if an appliance or gadget is not turned on, it still uses energy while being plugged into the wall. This is a great way to reduce your utility bill and make your home more energy efficient while you’re away. If you want to learn exactly how much this can save you, buy a Kill-a-Watt Energy Monitor or ask someone to get one for you as a unique Christmas gift idea.)
  • Set your thermostat at 55 degrees F. This is the lowest temperature that you can safely have your home dip down to.

If you are traveling this holiday season, I hope you have a joyful and stress-free time!  Do you have any additional tips you’d like to add to the checklist here?

(Photo Credit: Spicules)

Casey Slide
Casey Slide lives with her husband and baby in Atlanta, GA. She graduated from the University of Florida in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering and worked for a prominent hospital in Atlanta. With the birth of Casey’s son in February 2010, she decided to become a stay-at-home mom. Casey’s interests include reading, running, living green, and saving money.

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