Delayed flights. Crowded airplanes. Cranky children. Car seat struggles. Panic attacks over lost stuffed animals. Yup, sounds like holiday travel to us.
Traveling with children during the holiday season can sometimes be the most un-wonderful time of the year. But there are ways to make the travel less stressful and perhaps, even enjoyable. Here are some important tips and tricks to keep in mind.
1. Book Early Flights: Aside from booking your holiday flight early to avoid paying peak prices, try to book the first flight out. Being the first flight of the day often means fewer chances of delays.
2. Avoid Peak Travel Days: If you can be flexible with your plans, avoid peak travel days like the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the Sunday after. In total, 24.6 million people are expected to fly between Nov. 21, through Tuesday, Dec. 2 Over Christmas, December 21 is the most expensive day for flights because it’s also a popular day to travel.
3. Pack Healthy Snacks (and a Lollipop or Two): Airports are slowing improving their restaurant options, but most meals bought before the flight are still pretty junky. Same goes for roadside fare. Instead pack your own fresh fruit, trail mix, crackers and refillable water bottles. If you’re traveling with toddlers, stash a lollipop or two for desperate moments. Whole Foods sells organic lollipops that should assuage your guilt about giving them a sugary treat.
4. Charge Your Devices: Having your smartphones and other devices fully charged and loaded before your trip is crucial, especially if you or the kids plan on watching an iPad or playing a Nintendo DS on the way there. And don’t forget to pack the charger cords too.
5. Plan for Delays: Because there will be so many folks traveling over the holidays, it’s best to go into your trip expecting delays. Therefore, pack extra snacks, clothes, diapers, wipes, toys, etc. Better safe than stuck with a leaky diaper on a plane that hasn’t even taken off.
6. Buy a New Toy for The Trip: Introducing a new toy especially for flight is a great way to keep your child happy, and most importantly, seated, for a solid amount of time. We recommend bringing a small bag filled with toys or arts and crafts. Kids love rifling through the bag to see what else is inside. Check out more great travel toys here.
7. Digitize Your Travel Plans: Store every reservation number, confirmation number, address and phone number you might need in your smartphone. TripIt.com is a great app for consolidating these. You can also download individual airline, hotel and car rental apps. Those are especially handy if you get delayed and need to book a hotel or a rental car in a hurry.
8. Take Only the Gear You Really Need: For instance, don’t bring a portable crib if you’re staying at a hotel that offers cribs in the guest rooms. (You may want to bring your own crib sheets though.) You can also use a gear rental service at your destination which allows you to rent whatever you need during your stay. And it doesn’t hurt to ask friends or family in the area for items to borrow.
9. Ease Up on The Schedule: Since traveling is already stressful, worrying about sticking to your kids’ normal activity schedule is only going to make you more frazzled. Once you’ve had the first day of the trip behind you, then try to get back on schedule.
10. Just Remember, This Too Shall Pass: We just flew cross-country with a 2-year-old who hit the overtired wall and spent about an hour on the plane in hysterics. Nothing we tried work, not a bottle, not a lollipop, not a sippy cup of water, not medicine and not even "Frozen" on the iPad. It was that bad. Eventually, she went to sleep but it felt like we had flown around the world, twice, before she quieted down. We offered to buy the people sitting around us a glass of wine but they all understood. So the flight or road trip may feel like forever but it will end at some point. Until you have to turn around and do it again.
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