How to Survive Holiday Travel with Kids

Holiday travel has plenty of challenges. But, with a little planning, you can sidestep avoidable holiday travel drama and bring meaning and magic to this special time of year.

Before leaving the house:

Plan: Sure, they’re cute when they’re sleeping. So, make sure you have adequate space and arrangements at your destination.

  • The stress that your little miracles can add to your daily grind along with the unpredictability of the holidays are reason enough to make sure you have adequate accommodations at your destination. If you’re staying with relatives, ask about where you and your children will be sleeping so you can be prepared.
  • If the accommodations have signs of potential stress or lack of space, consider opting for a hotel rather than squeezing into an office at a relative’s home.
  • Don’t forget the special stuffie, blankie, or white noise machine they’re used to having.

Prepare: Brush up on rules and research things to do.

  • If you’re flying, review TSA regulations so you know what you can and cannot bring through security, particularly regarding food and liquids such as formula/sippy cups/bottles and your kids’ favorite snacks.
  • Usually holiday trips involve spending time with family and friends. But visits can be better if they’re sprinkled with some outings and planned activities to avoid bored kids and relatives getting on each others’ nerves. Research the kid friendly “must sees” at your travel destination. Get the kiddos involved in and excited about the planning process as well.
  • Update apps and software on electronics. Plan activities and movies to watch. Check out Learning Liftoff and K12’s mobile apps for entertaining games and activities as well as a list of great road trip games and activities that will minimize the number of times you hear, “Are we there yet?”
  • Get each child a disposable or inexpensive digital camera and travel journal so they can snap photos along with you and be invested in the trip. They can document fun things in the journals, which also encourages good writing habits.
  • Make goodie bags for your children to open in the car, on the plane, or even during each day of travel. Fill bags with essentials (such as sunscreen, hand sanitizer, and chapstick), favorite treats or snacks, small toys, free printable activities and quotes, photos of or printouts about the place you’re visiting. My family moved from Maryland to California when I was in fifth grade, and my aunt had coordinated bags like this for our ten-day drive.

Pack: Pack appropriate clothing and accessories.

  • You don’t want cold, wet, and uncomfortable children on your hands. When playing in the snow as kids, my sisters and I would put plastic grocery bags over our feet before sticking on our boots… It’s also nice to have plastic bags on hand for trash, wet/soiled clothes, and other miscellaneous items.
  • If traveling abroad, don’t forget passports, as well as a second form of I.D. (even if you’re staying within the states).
  • Don’t forget your children’s health records, as well as kid friendly allergy, motion sickness, and/or prescription medicines.
  • A crushable duffel bag can easily fit in your larger luggage and is good for bringing home souvenirs, gifts, or clothes.
  • Have toys planned ahead and ready for entertaining your little ones on the way to your destination.
  • Don’t forget the electronics and chargers!
  • Include the cameras, journals, and goodie bags mentioned above or, at the very least, snacks. Nutrition is a must for keeping kids happy during any trip, whether by car, train, or plane. Many airlines charge for everything but water, nowadays. And don’t count on your kids being satisfied with the tablespoon of pretzels that are provided. Pack snacks that you know will fill and satisfy your kids. But keep in mind those TSA rules, too.

At the airport:

  • Don’t forget to take your child seats out of the car! You can check them at the gate so they are available when you get off of the plane and head to your ground transportation at your destination.
  • Don’t try to carry too many items on the plane. Kids are enough to deal with. Check your luggage. Some airlines even allow passengers to check bags for free.
  • Although you’ll want to pack your child’s rucksack to ensure that nothing is left behind, have your child carry and be responsible for their own backpack. They love having a job to do and it can keep them out of mischief!
  • Some airports have kid zones, check out Travel and Leisure’s compilation of America’s Most Family friendly Airports.
  • Teach your kids about airplane courtesy, such as no kicking the seat in front of you or yelling at your neighbor across the aisle. While you may still be the recipient of unwarranted eye rolls from other passengers, know that you are doing your best and try not to stress too much.

Is a big trip not in the budget this year? How about taking a virtual field trip with your kids or heading to a nearby state or national park? Let us know your winter plans and how you plan to survive holiday travel with kids.

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