For many families, the holidays mean traveling. Whether you go to visit extended family members or use the holiday break to take a vacation, traveling with your children can be daunting. We can’t promise that things will always go smoothly, but there are certain things you can do to make travel easier for everyone. To make your trip easier and as stress-free as possible, take a look at these holiday travel tips for families.
1. Make Sure Car Seats are Installed Correctly
This is an everyday requirement for all parents, even when not traveling. But if you’re traveling in a family member’s car or using a rental, make sure all car seats are safely and correctly installed. It’s never a bad idea to double-check your own car either.
2. Put Extra Time in the Schedule
Kids always slow things down, even when doing things they know they have to do every day. So, to avoid being late and keep your plans on track, try and pad your schedule as much as possible. Leave time for bathroom trips, extra time at airport security, or a random meltdown.
3. Set Expectations for the Trip, but Prepare to Have them Ignored
Depending on the age of your child, you can explain 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, but you can at least put it out there. And as a parent, you probably already know that kids are notoriously amazing at derailing plans. That doesn’t change while traveling for the holidays.
4. Pack Smartly
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 you know your kids will need like toiletries, medicines, and comfort items. Plan the outfits your child will wear and pack a spare in case of an emergency. If you’re 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.
5. Think Comfort When Choosing Outfits
Remember when we mentioned packing layers being a good choice for traveling in cooler weather? That principle applies to deciding how to dress your child for travel. Outside may be much colder than the inside of the car, airport, or plane. Being able to take off a coat, jacket, or sweater can help you avoid overheating. And having the layer to put back on if things cool off again is always good. And make sure your child is wearing something comfortable enough to be in for long stretches. Avoid anything too constricting, itchy, or otherwise uncomfortable.
6. Bring Entertainment
Make sure you bring things that will keep kids occupied during what could be an otherwise boring stretch of time. That doesn’t mean you have to let your kids become zombies in front of a screen the whole time. You can 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 a queasy reading while in motion. Coloring and other activities are an option if you have a lap desk for them. Audiobooks are another great option. Your local library may have some, or you can use one of the many apps that offer them.
7. Pack 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 you are on a plane or in the car, you can’t rely on healthy and cost-efficient items being available on a trip. Plus, if your kids are super picky or have allergies, having things you know your child can and will eat will be useful.
8. Keep Essentials Within Reach
Whether you are in the car on a plane, keep a few things you know you’ll probably need easily accessible. This will cut down on 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.
9. Schedule Breaks on Long Car Trips
If you’re going to be in the car with your kids for a while, then you should look at your 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 if you plan ahead you can probably make it work. During breaks, make sure kids get to use the bathroom, stretch their legs, get a snack, and maybe get some energy out. Unfortunately, this is not an option on a plane ride, but hopefully, that journey won’t be as long.
10. 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 the aforementioned 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.
11. Follow Health Guidelines
All of these holiday travel tips for families are good for domestic travel as well as international, but this one is especially important if traveling outside the country. Look at any vaccination requirements for your destination and discuss your travel plans with your doctor. Make sure your child gets properly vaccinated in time and takes any preventative medications needed before the trip.