12/20/2013 10:11 am ET Updated Feb 19, 2014

Your "Holiday Travel With Family" Survival Guide

A trip with the kids doesn't have to stress you out. This season take the steps to make it a holiday to remember

Forget a partridge in a pear tree or your kids' two front teeth. If you're like most families all you want for Christmas is to survive all that family togetherness time.

Let's face it -- travel can be stressful at the best of times. Add holiday hype, snow covered roads, airplane lines and kids who may have had a bit too much candy cane frosting and you have the makings of a travel Armageddon.

Follow these tips to help keep the coming Apocalypse at bay:

1. Plot it out: You've only got a few days before you head out on your vacation. Today is better than tomorrow for starting to prep. Grab a calendar and map out what the days around your trip and after you're back look like. Give family members a different colored pen and have them add in any personal commitments they've made. Family events should trump individual plans over the holidays (give it its own pen), but typically first to claim the slot wins. Being able to turn down that annual event you hate because the neighborhood cookie exchange is the same night is a guilt-free feeling worth its weight in gold. And knowing what commitments you're coming back to will help the return go smoothly too.

2. Leave it at home: You're headed to Mexico for the holidays because all you want to do is lie around on the beach while the kids build sandcastles. So why are you packing your laptop and six pairs of heels? Packing light means less time at the airport waiting for bags that may not arrive and more time getting to know the man behind your next umbrella drink. Opt for an e-reader over a bag of books and if you need to/want to stay connected take the device that does the most instead of your phone, tablet and laptop. Besides, baggage fees can add up: Muster your inner scrooge and save that cash for an extra night's stay instead.

3. Pick your hotel wisely: If you're planning to be away over the winter break and you haven't booked the hotel of your dreams yet, you're likely going to need the magic of Frosty the Snowman's hat to get in. Your other option? Review sites. A recent survey from Holiday Inn found that 79 percent of Canadians surveyed read online reviews, and while only 46 percent write a review, 72 percent of those who do say they do it to "pay it forward." That's good news for anyone searching the review sites for last minute deals. It could mean the difference between a newly renovated gem and a dilapidated has-been.

4. Choose your "deal" wisely: You won! You found a great deal on a luxury hotel property that has incredible views and dining that makes you swoon. All's well and good until you arrive and discover that there's no pool for the kids to splash in, internet costs extra and your room has a shower, but no tub for bathing the toddler. A deal is only a deal when it's for something you actually need. If everything you need is extra, you may want to move along.

5.Make sure your family knows what's coming: Talk to the kids about what holidays away from home will look like. Is Santa coming to Peru with you? Is grandma's pecan pie? Will Sally and Bobby have to share a bed for a few days? Kids do better when they know what to expect. Talk openly and often about what the holidays will look like and your chances of a holiday everyone enjoys increases.

Heather Greenwood Davis is a freelance writer and the founder of