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Friday, December 15, 2017

By Myscha Theriault, Tribune News Service (TNS)

Due to a delay in some of our international vaccination protocols, my husband and I are spending the bulk of this winter’s holiday season hotel hopping in the Tampa Bay, Fla., area while we decide upon the first destination for our international adventure. If the number of other couples and families we’re noticing is any indication, this is apparently a popular travel choice.

Bnbfinder.com founder Mary White concurs. “Many of our B & Bs have a long history of being sold out between Christmas and New Year’s, indicating that the popularity of traveling during this time is a trend that’s here to stay,” says White. “They provide guests a special experience, which is one reason why they’re in such high demand. The 1785 Inn in New Hampshire, for example, has sold out nearly every year over the holidays in its 31 years of business, and the Inn at Westwynd Farm in Pennsylvania reports a 100 percent occupancy rate for more than 10 consecutive years.” Whether you’re spending your December getaway at a resort or a more intimate boutique establishment, there are a few things that can make the experience more streamlined.

Amenities: While a gym, pool and spa top my personal favorites list, the truth is a hotel stay for the holidays is much less stressful with practical amenities and perks as well. Particularly if you are doing it with the kids in tow. Personally, I think suites with adjoining rooms are the way to go for family hotel stays during winter break. Having even a small living room area with a desk and wet bar allows differently aged family members to be up earlier or later than others, and provides a place to set up a micro-sized Santa experience after the kids go to bed in their own room.

I also don’t recommend going without a fridge in the room, preferably one of the taller models with a separate freezer compartment. Not only does this let you keep your vodka on ice around the clock, but separating fill-in microwave goodies such as meatless nuggets and vegetarian lo mein from perishable produce snacks becomes notably more streamlined. Even if there isn’t a microwave in your room, there’s typically one available near the morning coffee and continental breakfast station.

Snacks: I like going out for a holiday meal or romantic evening cocktails as much as the next girl. That said, I also don’t always like to feel pressured to rush out the door in the morning or have to find the energy to go out and forage for snacks after a long day of sightseeing. That’s why having a snack stash available in the room is one of my favorite travel strategies. It makes it easy to fill in if you oversleep in the morning, and keeps kid-friendly food on tap for the bedtime munchies.

Teens can typically be satisfied with microwave popcorn or a multipack of holiday muffins, but grownups in search of a little extra style might consider a chilled bottle of sparkling wine, some high-end chocolates and a tray of miniature baked goods. During a November anniversary getaway, my husband and I enjoyed a tray of tiny pecan tartlets, cruelty-free Prosecco and hummus with crudites in between our various outings. Funds saved from purchasing these items at the warehouse store were redirected towards a carefree night of frozen drinks at the nearest beach bar and a foot-pampering pedicure.

Activities: To a certain extent, your activities selection will be driven by your choice of destination and accommodation venue. Cooking classes, skiing, snorkeling or even dune buggy rides are possible depending on where you choose to go. Things such as inclement weather, children’s bedtimes, and Santa prep however will require you to spend at least some time in the room, and having a few indoor activities in your hip pocket will help keep family drama to a minimum.

One thing to consider is making sure your holiday gift giving fits both your itinerary and the size of your space. Chances are, if you’re opting for a destination experience, you’ve already decided to forego inundating your family members with excessive gifts. With this in mind, couples can choose to exchange one small, intimate present each. Jewelry, gloves, warm socks or scarves are all classic choices, as are travel-sized fragrances. Children can enjoy streaming movies with a seasonal theme while wearing gifts of snazzy new winter pajamas. Electronic chapter books for older children and printable coloring pages with new crayons for the little ones will also keep your offspring entertained while providing you with a little peace of mind.

Preparation: Preparing for your time at the hotel is only part of the equation for homeowners. Getting your house ready to be empty for a time takes effort and planning as well. According to a recent home hazards poll conducted by Allstate Insurance Company, three in five Americans will be traveling away from home for the holidays, spending an average of five nights out of town. Many of these people will forget or neglect to take certain steps to secure their home against theft and weather damage.

According to this same survey, only 16 percent of holiday travelers will bother to leave a faucet dripping to prevent frozen pipes. A scant 23 percent will set a timer for house lights, and only 30 percent of these same travelers will have a neighbor stop by to bring in their mail. Savings is another motivator when it comes to preparing your house for a trip. Unplugging unnecessary devices, turning off your hot water heater and readjusting your thermostat are all simple ways to save a few bucks while you head over the river and through the woods to Grandma’s.

(Trekhound.com founder Myscha Theriault has sold her home, all her furniture and most of her other belongings to travel the world full time with her husband. You can follow her adventures on Twitter via @MyschaTheriault.)

©2015 Myscha Theriault. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo: Nick Ares via Flickr