Planes, Trains & Automobiles: 5 Tips for Family Holiday Travel

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With the holiday season upon us, travel in some way, shape or form is inevitable. Whether you are driving across town or taking a flight to another country, you may be anticipating getting to your destination with your little ones in tow. Here are some tips to make it a little bit less daunting including some valuable insight from our very own, Ms. Laura, whose family is from the UK. She has been traveling back and forth with her kids, now 2 and a half and 11 months, since her first was born.

So without further ado, 5 Tips for Family Holiday Travel:

  1. Avoid peak travel days. Try your best to avoid traveling the day immediately before or after the actual holiday when airports, train stations and roads are the busiest. Tickets can often cost the highest on these days too! If you aren’t able to leave a few days before or after, traveling on the holiday is actually often cheaper and less congested.
  2. Surprise the kids with something new. Sometimes shiny and new is exactly what they need! This doesn’t have to be anything expensive either. Laura suggests, “I always purchase some of what are probably stocking stuffers but the Target dollar section has great travel toys, coloring books, etc. The key is to keep them completely hidden until we get settled on the plane. Then everything is brand new and (hopefully) exciting! I keep my fingers crossed that they will keep her occupied for at least an hour before she watches a new movie or gets too tired.” Keeping the kids busy with educational games like “I Spy” or “Memory” doesn’t add to your luggage and can be fun in a new place.
  3. Pack lightly. Pack the essentials and as little as possible. Try to avoid the “I’ll be on a plane for 10 hours with my children, therefore I need to pack everything in my house to entertain/feed/change/dress them”. Packing light will make shlepping your baggage easier and you may find that you don’t use most of what you bring along anyways. Think about getting your kids their own backpacks to tote around their toys, books and carry-on items. If you are traveling a far distance, purchase items like diapers, wipes and snacks once you arrive at your destination. Make a plan to wash your clothes mid-trip and rent larger items like car seats, strollers and cribs once you arrive.
  4. Take the red-eye. Laura says, “This may sound obvious but if you have an especially long flight, train ride or drive, it may be worth it to travel overnight. I always try to book the latest flight possible because I want them to sleep through it!”
  5. Prepare your children the best you can. Generally, trips, holidays and parties can be overwhelming and sensory overload for small children. It’s great practice to talk about your upcoming trip days or even weeks in advance. Help them get excited about the journey. Showing them photos or telling them stories about family members or friends your child hasn’t met yet is a great way to make new faces more familiar on arrival.

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Additionally, don’t be afraid to ask for support or help if you need it. Flight attendants, train conductors and other sympathetic parents are always willing to lend a hand. Be prepared for anything as the weather and holiday rush can cause delays.

Lastly, keep your expectations low. Traveling is rough on adults–just imagine how your child(ren) must feel. Don’t be surprised if they are not their typically cheerful, polite selves after sitting in the car all day. Adjust your expectations to their age and the circumstances. As you plan for a “fun” holiday season, think about those plans from your child’s perspective.

For even more ideas, check out: My Tips for Traveling with Young Children, 20 Tips for Traveling with Children, International Travel with Kids

Happy traveling!

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