Tips for family holiday travel
Holidays are a favorite time of year for family gatherings. But traveling to your destination and back, especially with small children in tow, can be daunting. However, with planning and a few expert tips, you can make getting there as much fun as being there.
Fortunately, we’re not the first generation to have to pack up the family and travel “over the river and through the woods” during the busy holiday season. A quick web search will deliver expert advice galore. We’ve done a preliminary dive into this deep pool of parental wisdom and found there are several tips that most commonly pop up.
Like most things in life, a successful trip begins with a good strategy. Here are several things to consider when putting your plan in place:
Pack light – Traveling with children can be like moving an army, especially if you need cribs, strollers or are planning to bring holiday gifts. Consider shipping gifts and other large items you don’t need during the actual journey ahead to your destination. That way you won’t have to drag them through airports or stuff them into your trunk. Most hotels can provide a portable crib if requested at time of reservation.
If flying, reserve your seating in advance – When possible, book your seats in advance so you can get the family in adjoining seats. Try to get seats as far forward as possible. The further back you go, the plane gets noisier and takes longer to exit after landing.
Fly early in the day – Flight attendants suggest parents with children fly as early in the day as possible because those flights can be less crowded and most passengers on them – including children – just want to sleep.
If driving with babies, leave later – If you’re traveling with infants or toddlers, plan to leave later in the day when their energy is lowest – often during afternoon nap time.
For long road trips, make frequent stops – Schedule a series of breaks for meals, restroom needs and even roadside attractions (Who wouldn’t want to see the world’s largest ball of string?). This gives everyone plenty of opportunities to stretch and move around.
Bring distractions – Children quickly become bored no matter how short the trip. Bring a variety of books, toys, games, music, videos and other activities to keep your child happily occupied.
Bring snacks – Having a few healthy snacks for the kids and for yourself is important, especially when you encounter unexpected delays. Try to avoid or at least limit sugary snacks which often tend to get children wound up.
Expect messes – No matter how you travel, when kids are involved, there will be messes. Pack extra diapers, wipes and paper towels for dealing with the inevitable. Pack disinfectant wipes to sanitize the lap trays and arm rests which tend to house most of the germs.
As we said above, there is plenty of great advice to help you and your family have safe and enjoyable trips. Here are a few resources we found particularly helpful:
“How to Fly with Baby” – Parents.com
“Flying with Children” – Federal Aviation Administration
“Top Five Holiday Travel Tips” – Association of Flight Attendants
“14 Tips to Enjoy Family Road Trips” — Positive Parenting Solutions
“12 Road Trip Hacks Every Family Needs” — Family Vacation Critic