12 Movies To Inspire Christmas Wanderlust

For better or for worse, your holiday plans are made. The bags are mostly packed, the presents mostly bought and wrapped (unless you’re my husband, who probably hasn’t started his shopping yet), the itinerary for driving, flying or just staying home is set.

After the holiday travel is over, it’s time to enjoy some family movies about holiday travel. Whether you’re home or on the road, declare a pajama day over the next week and throw on a DVD (or 2 or 3) for the family to watch together.

In case you need some suggestions, here is the FamiliesGo! list of 12 Days of Holiday Travel Movies.  All but one stream on *Amazon Prime. If we missed your favorite, feel free to suggest it below. Check Common Sense Media for age recommendations if you aren’t sure.

12 Travel -Theme Holiday Movies For Families

1. The Road to Utopia

Holiday Inn; classic Holiday MoviesTechnically it’s not a holiday movie, but it takes place in Alaska where there’s a lot of snow. You’ll appreciate that you don’t have to travel via dog sled.

Plus, Bob Hope utters one of my favorite movie lines ever when he asks for lemonade in a dirty glass at a Yukon rest stop.

2. Holiday Inn

Most of the travel is between New York and “Connect-Ticut.”  But who wouldn’t want to spend time at a New England inn where the snow is always ankle deep, Fred Astaire is hoofing it and Bing Crosby croons “White Christmas?”

3. Polar Express

Tom Hanks, a wide-eyed boy and a magical train journey that’s infinitely better than Amtrak.

(You can ride the Polar Express from St. Louis’ classic Union Station in December. Read about it!)

4. Elf

I didn’t expect to like this movie, which starts with a journey from the North Pole to midtown Manhattan, but it’s one of the few modern holiday movies I find really entertaining.

Plus, Zooey Deschanel sings “Baby It’s Cold Outside” in a way that makes you wish you had a Manhattan in you hand while you’re watching. (Maybe make one before you get comfy on the couch.)

5. Home Alone

Planes, trains & automobiles; classic holiday movies

If you had the bad luck to wind up on a flight that’s been rerouted or cancelled, spend time with the family that can’t get through the holidays without a major detour. The moral of Kevin’s adventures: No matter where you are, the holidays are what you make of them.

6. Planes, Trains & Automobiles

Oh how I miss John Candy. How I love Steve Martin’s tirade on the hapless rental counter guy that we’ve all done in our head.

If you had a rough trip back home this holiday season, pour the family some eggnog (add a good shot of rum to yours), pop this into the DVD player and you’ll soon appreciate that it could have been worse.

8. Remember the Night

This lesser known black & white movie features Fred MacMurray as a district attorney  and Barbara Stanwyck as the petty thief he brings home for the holidays. It has two great stars, a road trip and an opposites-attract romance. It’s worth seeking out, but probably for tweens and teens.

In The Lion Witch & The Wardrobe, 4 children bring Christmas and peace back to Narnia7. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe

I wish I could travel by wardrobe this season.  I’d much rather face down the White Witch than the TSA line at JFK airport.

Plus there’s tea with fauns, dinner with beavers and Christmas with a kingly giant lion. My whole family loves this trip to the English countryside and Narnia.


9. Love, Actually

Send the kids to bed, open the good wine and send the guys out of the room. This popular chick flick makes the list because everyone you have ever heard of is in it, and because of its icononic airport scene.

10. Catch Me If You Can

Take a voyeuristic trip to the days when flying was exotic and posh.  Plus, the movie culminates in a snowy French hamlet on Christmas Eve.

11. The Nightmare Before Christmas

Jack Skelington takes a joyous vacation to Christmas Town, then tries to return the favor to Santa Clause. A disastrous Christmas Eve journey results, but there’s a happy ending. We love

the holiday, modern holiday movies12. The Holiday

Yes, it’s another chick flick, but it’s romantic and a bit more kid-friendly.

My ideal holiday would be to spend Christmas in Kate Winslet’s little English cottage and New Years Eve at Cameron Diaz’s sprawling L.A. pad.

Bonus: The Wizard of Oz

The only thing that makes it a holiday movie is that when I was a kid they always ran it on television Thanksgiving weekend.

But the big production numbers have a festive quality and it does feature several innovative ways to travel.

Pin these holiday movies for later!



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  1. December 6, 2015 at 1:06 pm — Reply

    I’d definitely be up for “Elf” or “Home Alone.” Great movie ideas for travelers at the holidays!

  2. December 4, 2015 at 9:25 pm — Reply

    I also like “The Santa Clause” the first movie – sadly the sequels get a little too silly.

  3. Cathy Sweeney
    January 6, 2013 at 11:32 pm — Reply

    Love Actually has become our must-watch (multiple times) holiday movie every year. Still like some of the old-timers, too like Holiday Inn. Nice list!

  4. Mary {The World Is A Book}
    December 30, 2012 at 3:53 am — Reply

    What a fantastic list to keep for a rainy or snowy day. I have a few of these movies and now need to go searching for some I haven’t heard. Love Actually is one of my favorites. Thanks for this!

  5. Sonja
    December 29, 2012 at 4:42 pm — Reply

    Nice ideas! We’ve still got another week and a half of vacation and will need things to do. We’ve already watched Elf twice. 🙂

  6. Liz
    December 22, 2011 at 11:42 pm — Reply

    Great list! I almost hope it snows next week so we can stay in and watch movies:)

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