Even though Thanksgiving and the holiday season seem a long ways off, you could make things a lot easier for yourself and your kids if you start thinking and planning for the end of the year now. If there's any travel involved, you need to be getting tickets or arranging time off or taking care of various other details. You will need to coordinate with your ex and it should be easier to do it now without the time pressure of being nearer to the holidays. It's also easier if your ex hasn't put his/her plans in stone yet. You would also have time to get reduced fares and to grab the time off before others at work claim it.
Here are some things to think about:
1. Look at the schedule. Make sure you even need to have a discussion, before you get started. In Texas, we have a standard possession schedule that covers the holidays. Start off by looking at the specific language of your court order. You and your ex can agree to change the schedule, but neither can force the other to do so. It's better to find out now if you or your ex needs a change. There's still time to get things done.
2. Talk or email or text (politely) with your ex. Don't demand or threaten. If you don't need a favor now, you will need one later. Don't burn your bridges by being unreasonable.
3. Be clear and specific with what you need. Beating around the bush wastes everyone's time. What you want to do may not be too difficult, especially if your ex needs you to change something. Spell out exactly what change you need. Be clear so you can have a clear discussion and understanding.
4. Listen to the other side. Your ex may not be able to agree or may not be able to do all that you request. If that is the response, you might discuss other options. Always have a Plan B. Your ex may have good reasons for not agreeing to what you request, but maybe you can still come to some agreement.
5. Follow the Golden Rule. Be willing to compromise. You may need a big favor next year. Until the last child is out and married, and maybe even after that, you need to keep a decent relationship with your ex. You will be dealing with your kids for a long time, so don't be enemies with your ex.
So, be nice, be prepared and start early!