Making Christmas Portable


For a long time, we kept Christmas simple by hosting at our house. That way, we could call the shots and keep the holiday calm for our little family. But, alas, our move to Portland meant we left most of our friends and family on the East Coast, so if we want to see them for the holidays, we have to travel. Making your Christmas portable can be done, but it requires some planning, creativity, and a focus on what matters for your family.



I love shopping for gifts, but I figured out on our first cross-country trip that the wrapping should wait until after we arrive at our destination. I found this out the hard way by discovering that TSA agents had unwrapped every single present I had packed. Now, to keep our holiday portable, I have presents delivered to the home of whomever is hosting the gathering where each gift will be opened, and wrap them when I arrive. When I’m trying to bring back Portland-specific gifts, I mail them in a flat rate box from USPS. That leaves space in our bags for clothing and other necessities and keeps us from lugging pounds of presents around the airport. I also buy gifts for family units instead of individuals, or organize a Secret Santa list to keep the Christmas list short and the presents light.  


Since Santa doesn’t want us carrying piles of presents, he has to get creative to stay portable this time of year. One year, our older daughter asked for our dog to be with us on Christmas, but Santa replied with a stuffed animal and a note from our pet about how she just didn’t feel up to the airplane ride since she was so comfortable at home. Santa also brings weather-appropriate clothing when it snows back East, and gift certificates to events and classes to be used back home. As long as there are a couple of new things to wear or toys to play with, our oldest is usually happy. 


We do our “East Coast Tour” when we are back East, so we usually stay four or five places while we are there. I try to keep it as simple as possible. I pack toiletries, a few changes of clothing and underwear, and items for the baby all together so that I can quickly dig them out and leave the rest in the car or downstairs. It’s a really helpful portable packing tip when we visit my brother-in-law’s house with its four flights of stairs!


Instead of paying to airline check baby gear like a Pack-n-Play or a high chair, I buy what we need at a consignment store there, and either donate it at the end of our trip or ask someone to store it if we will be back to visit soon. It keeps our holiday portable, and my parents and in-laws usually don’t mind having an extra chair or playpen for times when other children visit them.  

Focus on the People 

Presents are great, but the real reason we spend hours traveling is to spend time with our friends and family. So, we try to focus on making quality time with the people we love. We go to movies and holiday light shows, we play card games, and we’ve even been known to write songs together. My 92-year-old grandmother doesn’t participate in the shenanigans like she used to, but her eyes light up to see her loved ones enjoying each other. We even dial in calls with my brother and his family in Amsterdam (a really fun time to play with the Christmas filters on Facebook chat).  

Those are the moments that make the sore muscles and many miles worth the trouble, and those are the memories our family will carry with us on the years when we have to keep Christmas at home.

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Aside from being a writer, Kendra is a Birth Trauma Doula at KarysMa Birth, where she helps moms find their joy after birth trauma. A former middle school English and theatre teacher, she has an insatiable love for learning and a flair for the dramatic. Among the best moments of her life, she counts marrying her husband Steve during a dream rainbow wedding, planning a princess picnic on the beach with her eight year old daughter Karys, giving birth to her one year old daughter Saryn in the middle of a blizzard, and sitting on stage with Glennon Doyle. A Navy brat for the first 13 years of her life, Kendra settled in Virginia for eighteen years before she was finally ready to move again, relocating to Portland in 2014. You can find her work on Portland Moms Blog, The La Leche League Blog, and The Not Your Average Mom Project, as well as the hard drive of her computer.