What are your holiday plans? Your friends and family ‘in the west’ might be on their way to you. After all, it’s probably cold and snowy where they are, so they’ll be glad for the excuse to come spend Christmas on the beach. But maybe you’re not in a hosting spirit, so maybe you’re the one that’s going overseas. Or over land, to another Aussie relative. With Christmas travel, you’ll probably take the whole family with you, and that means three things. One, there’ll be nobody left to ‘sit the house’ and feed the pets. Two, you can’t have anyone drive you to the airport. And three, you have to plan for home security.
The third one is fairly simple to do. You could rent out your house via AirBnB or something similar. It might double as pet care, but only if you vet your guests carefully. After all, pets are territorial too, so even if you take them to the nicest kennel with the sweetest staff, the fact they’re not on home turf (plus the stress if missing you) will get to them. At least if they’re at home, they’re surrounded by familiar things, and if your house-guest is nice enough, they’ll make some new friends. This way you can Skype (the pets) and say hi.
Leave the lights on … kinda
If you trust your neighbours, you can mention you’ll be out of town, so they can look around for any suspicious activity. You could leave them your keys and they’ll feed the pets. But if the neighbours themselves are a point of concern, just programme your lights to go on and off on a timer and they’ll assume you’re home. Actually, it won’t fool the really nosy ones that are familiar with your comings and goings, but it could trick the passing thief that doesn’t know your family’s patterns. You can also ask nearby security teams to patrol.
That takes care of the basics. Now you have to get your family out and onto a plane in one piece, and on time. You could always call Uber or Lyft, but that mostly works with adults. If you have a child with you, or an elderly parent, forget it. It will take ages to strap in the car seats, and many drivers will get impatient waiting for the inevitable lost shoe or forgotten dentures. You’ll be docked points for the delay, and they’ll probably apply surge pricing. Also, while an airport cab will get you there, how will you get back with holiday luggage?
It’s much easier for everyone if you drive your own car. You already have the car-seat routine down, and it might have special features to help elderly passengers or differently-abled family members. There’s also more room in the boot for luggage, and you can plot the airport route better, allowing for delays, spills, diaper changes, and checklists to be sure you carried all your passports and vaccination cards. But where do you leave the car?
Plan for the car
As part of your prep, call your local park-and-fly service. Tell them what your specific needs are, how long you’ll be travelling, and how big your entourage is. Some popular ones have a valet parking option and airport shuttles to take you to your gate. They have covered and uncovered parking, car detailing services, and safe storage in case you left anything in the car (though they’ll remind you to check for valuables). Some even have assistant service staff to help you load the kids and grand-parents onto the shuttle, saving you time and travel stress. Plus it costs marginally less than hiked airport parking.
Now that the car is sorted and the house is safe, rethink your airport wardrobe. Yes, you want to wear something warm if you’re heading into the snow, or dress sufficiently summery if you’re going to (another) beach. But consider the rigorous security procedures preceding your typical flight. Double-check your hand luggage for problematic liquids, which can include sunscreen or baby bottles (100ml max). Devices with batteries are tricky too, so put them in a single bag and label it clearly so all your drives don’t get wiped by x-ray search.
For clothing, wear loose shoes that are easy to remove when you walk through those beeping machines, and keep track of all the metal on your outfit – jewelry, belt-buckles, clicking soles, underwired bras etc. It will save you those annoying multiple passes through the machine. Check for coins in your pockets or glints of steel in your buttons. Pack quick snacks separately to keep the kids occupied in case of delays, and remember, yoghurt is liquid too, so if you carry a six-pack for the kids, expect to leave it in the luggage bin.