The holidays and college break are almost upon us, but here are five things you can do right now to ease into the season.
- If you haven't already made travel arrangements for Thanksgiving and the winter break for your college kid - or discussed it with your 20-somethings - do it now. Crummy economy or not, these are still the busiest travel holidays of the year. Having trouble booking a flight? Look for unusual departure times - it's much easier to fly early Thanksgiving morning, for example, than the night before - or try an alternate airport. Fly into Newark instead of JFK or LaGuardia, or Burbank instead of LAX. And if you live anywhere near your child's college and can accommodate a few extra guests, extend offers of hospitality to your child's roommate or new friends.
- Remind your child to arrange his transportation to the airport. Many colleges run free shuttles to the nearest airport, but they require reservations. Don't miss out and end up paying $40 for a SuperShuttle ride.
- Is your child going to need any appointments? A trip to the orthodontist, eye doctor, or favorite hair stylist when he's home? Book those appointments too, or nudge him to do so post-haste.
- Discuss what you want to do as a family during the holiday break. Your child will want to spend time with friends, of course, but this is the time to put certain family things - Thanksgiving festivities, brunch at grandma's, some cool concert or whatever - on his radar. Open communication about expectations goes a long way toward making the holidays lovely and stress-free. And if you're planning on any special outings or events, you'll need to book tickets or make reservations soon.
- This is also a good time to start thinking and talking about holiday gifts for your college kid. New college students grow and change an enormous amount. Your child may have acquired new passions, discovered an abiding love for the works of Thoreau or the possibilities of scuba. Or... the de-stressing power of the rollercoasters at a nearby amusement park. There may be gift possibilities you haven't thought of - students at Los Angeles area universities, for example, usually want a pass to Disneyland. Or family economics may have changed, in which case you'll want to discuss priorities. Handmade gifts and shared experiences can be vastly more meaningful than storebought.