For most families, the holidays mean traveling. Whether visiting extended family members or using the holiday break to take a vacation, traveling with your children can be overwhelming.
Things won’t always go smoothly, but you can do certain things to make travel easier for everyone.
Use these holiday travel tips to make trips easier and as stress-free as possible.
1. Add Extra Time in the Schedule
Children have a way of always slowing things down, even when doing everyday tasks that they do regularly. To avoid being late and keeping on schedule, try and pad your schedule as much as possible. Leave time for bathroom trips, extra time at airport security, or a random meltdown.
2. Set Expectations for the Trip
Depending on the child’s age, explaining to them what they can expect during the trip and what you might expect from them as well. This can include letting them know how long it might take, what kinds of things they can do in the car or on the plane, and acceptable behavior during travel. That doesn’t mean they will listen or behave perfectly. Most parents already know that kids are notoriously amazing at disrupting plans. That doesn’t change while traveling for the holidays.
3. Pack Smart
Anyone who has traveled with a child, especially a small one, can probably tell you they don’t travel light. But try and avoid bringing extraneous things when packing. This can be especially important when flying. Bring things your kids will need like toiletries, medicines, and comfort items. Plan their daily outfits and pack a spare in case of an emergency. If flying, it’s a good idea to keep a change of clothes in your carry-on bag just in case your luggage gets lost. Since it can be colder during holiday travel, layers are a good idea but choose sweaters and jackets that can be added to multiple outfits to avoid bulky suitcases. Make sure your child is wearing something comfortable enough to be in for long stretches. Avoid anything too constricting, itchy, or otherwise uncomfortable.
4. Bring Entertainment
Bring things that will keep kids occupied during what could be an otherwise boring stretch of time. That doesn’t mean letting kids become zombies in front of a screen the whole time. Alternate screen time with non-electronic entertainment. Try car games like I Spy, 20 questions, or trivia.
Books can be good for kids that can read, but some children get queasy while reading in motion. Coloring and other activities are an option if a lap desk is available. Audiobooks are another great option. Check the local library or use one of the many apps that offer them.
5. Pack all the Snacks
If you’ve been anywhere with kids – even just out to the park for an hour or so – you probably know to bring some snacks along. Whether on a plane or in the car, don’t rely on healthy and cost-efficient items being available on a trip. Plus, if kids are super picky or have allergies, having things your child can and will eat will be useful. Also suggest some special snacks like lollipops or candy for those special moments when peace and quiet is needed.
6. Keep Essentials Within Reach
Whether in the car or on a plane, keep a few things you’ll probably need easily accessible. This will cut down on the time digging through bags and can nip a potential tantrum or accident in the bud. Things to think about keeping within reach include paper towels or tissues, wipes, water and snacks, sweaters or jackets, favorite comfort or entertainment items, and first aid items. Another good thing to keep on hand is small bags for collecting trash. Any old shopping bags you have lying around will do nicely.
7. Schedule Breaks on Long Car Trips
When traveling in the car with kids for a while, look at the route and see if there are places along the way to stop every few hours or so. This will obviously add to travel time, but when planned, could probably work. During breaks, make kids get to use the bathroom, stretch their legs, have a snack, and get some energy out. Unfortunately, this is not an option on a plane ride, but hopefully, that journey won’t be as long.
8. Prepare for Planes
Airplanes can seem exciting to kids if they’re first-time travelers, but the reality is that they can be uncomfortable and boring. Along with entertainment and snacks, bring things that will help while taking off and landing. Gum is good for popping ears, and earplugs or headphones can help with noise while in the air.
For more information, visit your local Child and Youth Programs Office.