Christmas travel

Getting organised: 5 tips for efficient Christmas holiday preparations

Finally, after a hectic few months, it’s time to get everything wrapped up (see what I did there?) and head home for my Christmas holidays. I’ve left my plans late this year so everything’s a bit last-minute and I only have a few working days to get organised, so I need to be smart and efficient with my pre-holiday prep. It is reassuring though to think there are so many other people in the same boat who will form part of a mass exodus home for Christmas over the coming week, and in support of the poor disorganised souls like me, I’m sharing my top tips for efficiency and reduced stress during a mad dash!

1. Make gift shopping a military operation

I have made a list of each person, what I want to get them and which shop/mall I need to go to for it. Unfortunately I don’t have the luxury of time to be able to wander around the malls seeking inspiration and ‘getting a feel’ for what’s out there and picking up things as I go. This approach did mean I had to take an hour to sit down with a cup of tea and think about it (and send a few messages to my mother for advice) but it means that I now have a clear shopping list, sorted by mall/shop, which should enable me to go out and get it all done in one evening (and without giving people thoughtless gifts out of desperation). And I created the list on Workflowy so I can update and review on my iPad mini whilst I’m actually out doing the shopping too.

2. Make a packing list

Yes, hands-up, I am into lists in a big way! But, I know I am not going to have a lot of time to pack and as with the gift shopping, I don’t have time to mess around thinking about new outfits and combinations, so… I have a rough plan of what I am doing each day (nothing too detailed, but at least letting me know which days/nights I am out, when I’ll be in places I will be walking/running, etc) and I have written a rough idea of the clothes needed for each of these days. In theory, this will stop me from making the age-old mistake of packing too many clothes that I never wear (something I need to avoid when taking back so many presents),  and will ensure I can get all those winter clothes washed and ironed this week before I leave, plus I can be certain I haven’t forgotten the UK essentials such as my SIM card, umbrella, gloves etc (in practice, I have a feeling there may still be too many clothes in the case!)

3. Be prepared and exchange money 

Normally the money is the last thing I worry about when travelling, choosing to just use my card when I arrive to withdraw money, but I have been struck one too many times in places where there is no ATM or where they don’t work and it’s proved ridiculously stressful. Now I don’t expect England to have these issues, but I am going to be jetting around the country like Santa and his crew and I don’t want to have to think about where and when I can get the next withdrawal (whilst getting charged each time), nor do I want to be stuck behind queues of desperate last-minute shoppers at an ATM, especially if it runs out of cash (so frustrating, and always seems to happen just as I get to the front of the queue!) Travelex has outlets at Terminals 1 and 3 of Dubai Airport which saves an additional chore in advance of the trip (I always have plenty of time once I get to the airport so it’s a good use of time).

4. Prepare entertainment whilst working

Travelling at this time of year is always hectic and emotions are generally high, and whilst I could quite easily get swept up in the atmosphere at busy airports and train stations, I choose to try to be patient and calm and let those who are stressed charge ahead. This is not the easiest thing for me to attempt, but I am generally aided in my quest by my iPad, whether it’s for writing, reading, listening to music or watching movies. This year I had been worried that I was running out of time to sort out some new entertainment, but when I sat and thought it through, I have identified a couple of hours when I need to do some admin work from home before I go, and realised that during this time it would only take a few minutes to identify what I want to download and leave it running in the background while I work (and yes, I have made a list to be downloaded!)

5. Make sure eGate is still valid

This little gem of a card is issued to Dubai residents by the General Directorate of Residency and Foreign Affairs and allows you to skip the lengthy queues for passport control and progress through a very swift card swiping and fingerprint identifying machine instead. I can’t believe I had lived in Dubai for some many years before I invested (only AED 200) in this card, it was so easy to apply for and has been an absolute godsend from the moment I received it. Check in is now stress-free no matter how busy the airport, especially if flying Emirates from Terminal 3, where you check in your own luggage and print your own boarding pass from the machines too – you don’t actually need to speak to a human being throughout the whole process.

With these tips in mind, I should be able to get myself organised in time for my departure in a couple of days (providing I take my own advice of course!) and before I know it I’ll be sitting in the departure lounge, enjoying some liquid refreshment, feeling content with a case full of presents that Father Christmas himself would be proud of… That is if I stop procrastinating and writing blog posts!! Good luck to everyone else with the last-minute preparations!