6 Tips for Easier Holiday Travel With Kids

6 Tips for Easier Holiday Travel With Kids

If you have to travel with kids this holiday season, try some of these easy tips!

By Wendy Robinson

The holiday season means many things to my family: great food, special time with extended family, and hours in the car. Like many families, we have to travel out of state to visit our families, something that can be tough on younger kids.

If you plan to hit the road (or the air) with your kids, here are some tips that might make travel more of an adventure and less of a headache:

1. Prepare the kids. Hold a family meeting prior to the trip to talk about what to expect and “choose activities and make plans for how your time will be spent,” suggests Andrea Wallace, travel agent and mother of two (ages 11 and 13). She also encourages families to talk about “how the destination might be different than home and what to expect when you get there.”

2. Talk security. If you plan to fly, make sure you explain the security check process to the kids before you arrive at the airport. TSA has a handy page on their website to help you know what to expect when taking kids through security. Wallace also suggests looking into whether qualifying for a TSA pre-check might be a good option for families with kids under the age of 12. A pre-check pass can really reduce the wait time in long security lines.

3. Never underestimate the power of snacks. I like to get small candies and play games like “I Spy” with candies for prizes. I also like to have things like squeeze packs of applesauce and healthier cheese and crackers so the kids aren’t totally hopped up on sugar.

4. Think about distractions. I like to hit the dollar store and get a few new things that won’t break my heart if accidently left at a rest stop or in the seat-back pocket in the airplane. Eileen Ogintz, nationally recognized expert on traveling with kids and creator of Taking the Kids, says she is a “big fan of audio books for road trips” and suggests askin your child’s teacher or school librarian for suggestions of fun, age-appropriate books the whole family can enjoy.

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5. Prepare for new faces. My kids only get to see their extended family once or twice a year, so before we go, we like to take some time to look at pictures of their aunts and uncles to remind them who is whom. We also try to prep them on how to say “no” if they don’t want to hug or kiss a relative they might not remember (“Let me show you how I do a high-five, Uncle Bob!”).

6. Think about bedtime in advance. One of the hardest parts of traveling with kids used to be getting our kids to sleep in unfamiliar places. I’ve found that it helps if we bring our white noise machine from home, along with their pillows and stuffed animals. Sometimes familiar sounds and smells can help. I also find that if we are staying at a hotel, nothing wears them out faster than an hour in the hotel pool!

7. Avoid delays. Ogintz recommends that families avoid taking the last flight of the day or flights with tight connections (choosing a direct flight is even better). She says, “In these days of overbooked flights, if your flight is delayed or cancelled -- especially during the holidays -- you will have trouble getting another flight for the whole family.”

It can be tough traveling with kids across state lines, but it is worth it when I see my daughter curled up on her grandma’s lap, sharing a piece of her uncle’s famous chocolate pie.

What are your best tips for traveling with kids?

Wendy Robinson is a writer, working mom, and graduate student. Someday she'd like to sleep in again. She also blogs at www.athleticmonkey.wordpress.com.

Image ©iStock.com/michaeljung

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