Holiday travel with kids can be a challenge. Whether you’re driving or flying, normal routines are interrupted, and challenges such as traffic jams or delayed flights can lead to boredom and fussy children.
A little preparation can go a long way to making a holiday trip with kids go more smoothly.
The following tips from sources such as Parents, Reader’s Digest and the AJC will help everyone keep their sanity when embarking on holiday travel with kids.
Pack ahead of time
If you’re stressed at the start of your trip, you could be setting the tone for your entire first day. If possible, have everything packed the night before so you’re not rushed and cranky when you’re starting your trip.
Prepare some snacks
Even adults can get cranky when they’re hungry, so why should kids be any different? Be prepared with snacks like cereal, pretzels, granola bars or string cheese and have them easily accessible in the car or on the plane. Water is also a good choice for a drink, since kids aren’t likely to guzzle more than they need. If you’re flying, you can pick these items up at an airport store after you’ve gone through security.
Bring some distractions
Help your child pack some small, quiet toys, books, a small box of crayons, paper and a favorite stuffed animal or blanket for the trip. These will help keep them busy and offer comfort in unfamiliar places or situations.
Let kids help plan
Allow children to have input on sightseeing when making travel plans. Maintaining a child’s interest can make for smoother travel. Let kids choose their own entertainment when traveling. On long road trips, try to find points of interest along the way if you have time.
On the road
Prepare for emergencies
If you’re hitting the road for a long trip, have your mechanic check your car out before you go. Few things can ruin a trip faster than a breakdown along the way. While you’re at it, also pack a basic first aid kit, a flashlight and jumper cables.
Get enough sleep
This advice holds true for both parents and kids. If everyone is sleep-deprived, they’re likely to be cranky. And if you’re driving, you’ll need to be as alert as possible.
For those with very young children, you may want to use Pull-Ups even If they are potty-trained. If you’re stuck in traffic and are miles away from the nearest bathroom, they can provide an emergency back-up. The same goes for flying, during takeoff and landing when passengers are not allowed out of their seats.
Take frequent breaks
Stop every couple of hours if you’re on a long road trip. This can give kids a chance to stretch their legs and burn off some energy.
Prepare for messes
Have an extra change of clothes for everyone, as well as wipes and resealable plastic bags. Traveling with kids often means dealing with a diaper blowout, car sickness or other unexpected mess.
Point out the sights
Holiday travel with kids can involve some long, boring stretches, but they can often enjoy mundane sights like a funny billboard and farms with cows and horses. If it’s a long trip, your child may also enjoy seeing changes in terrain along the way.
In the air
Fly early in the morning if possible
Early flights are less likely to experience delays, and they’re often less crowded. With any luck, your kids will end up napping for part of the flight.
Dress in layers
You’ll be outdoors, in the airport and in the airplane cabin, so your child can experience a wide variety of temperatures. Dressing in layers can allow him or her to add or slip off a jacket or another layer if necessary.
Make sure you’re sitting together
Since computers assign seats, make sure you’re sitting together before you board the plane. Be sure to check and sort it out before boarding begins.
Parents with young children are sometimes allowed to board the plane before other passengers, so you can have a minute to let your kids check out the seat, window shades and bathroom. You’ll have the chance to get settled in and not feel like you’re in such a rush.
Keep it clean
Wipe down surfaces that can harbor germs, like trays. Also carry along hand sanitizer to use before eating or in other cases where germs can easily be transmitted.
Don’t pull out everything at once
Don’t pull out your child’s entire stash of snacks and entertainment right when you’re seated. Most kids will find flying to be exciting at first. Once they’re been in the air a while and have become bored, then you can reach for the toys and food.