The single biggest issue with kids and traveling during the holidays – or at any time, really – is the waiting. Waiting in line to board a train or airplane; waiting at an airport for the weather to clear; waiting at the destination point for Grandpa to pull up to the curb and pick everyone up.
All this standing around is bad enough for adults, but for kids? It can be tantrum inducing. There are things you can do, however, to make sure that your holiday travels are safer, more relaxing and the kids aren’t throwing themselves on the carpet and ready to lose it.
Traveling by car
While traveling by car means less waiting in line, it’s also often the longest method of transportation with intense boredom setting in at about the five minute mark and clamors of ‘Are we there yet?’ starting at the ten minute point. However, bad weather and long road times can make the drive a little bit precarious if the driver isn’t giving their full attention to the road, so this is one of those times when certain rules need to go out the window.
Like what? Screen time. There is nothing more valuable to a child than their screen time and an iPad full of movies along with a set of headphones is a guaranteed easier ride for everyone in the car. With younger kids, you can raid the dollar store to stock up on a series of things to hand out, one at a time, at intervals, to keep the little ones busy.
Also? Snacks. Have a lot of them on hand and give them out on a regular basis. Plan a route that ensures that there will be sufficient stops to stretch and use the restrooms and make sure that the car is well equipped in case of an accident. After all, snowy winter weather is lovely when clip-clopping along a field in a horse drawn carriage but on a major highway? It can be treacherous. Emergency blankets, supplies, first aid kit and hand warmers are ideal tools to stash in the trunk, just in case.
Of course, the best thing about traveling by car is that you aren’t limited as to how much baby or kid paraphernalia you carry along with you. That alone will make your trip a little easier.
Traveling by air
With a baby or toddler, the ideal is to have their stroller as long as you can. They are more secure and you always know where they are. Check it at the gate if you can’t bring it on board. For babies, a special air travel seat in their own airplane seat will be far more comfortable for the longer flights than having them on your lap the whole way. It’s an expense, but if you plan for it, it’s doable. For older children, the screens are still a good way to keep them distracted, as well as snacks and dollar store doodads.
For older kids, make sure you don’t forget to bring their portable booster seats. The ride in a taxi, rental car or Grandpa’s 1978 Impala will be smoother and safer if they’re riding high.
Deal with waiting in line by playing some games with your kids: ‘I Spy’ works just as well in an airport as it does in the car. A lot of airports in the US now have well stocked play areas so a flight delay might be less problematic if you can fly through airports that are ready for families.
Add a small pillow in your kids bags, and something they can use as a blanket, so that if they need to stretch out during a layover or for a long wait on the tarmac, they’re covered. Literally. It’s best to be prepared for weather delays, to say nothing of the large crowds, during the holiday season. Be sure to have all medications with you, as well as a good number of diapers or formula in case you end up sitting in the terminal for quite a while.
At your destination
Having the booster or car seat at the ready is the safest way to ensure that no matter what kind of vehicle you’re in, the kids are safe. Fortunately, there are now many travel-friendly options available when it comes to car seats and booster seats. Rental agencies don’t always have them available or they may not have the safest models so you’re best to be prepared.
If you’re going to be away from home for a while, it can be worth sending some of your bulky supplies ahead of time: diapers, wipes, formula, etc. Just don’t send Mr. Stuffy because if he gets lost, the holidays could go from fun to furious in no time at all.
And after all that planning and prepping, don’t forget to have a wonderful holiday! Sit back, sip some eggnog and smell the pine tree: it’s all worth it in the end.
Grainne Kelly is a Family Travel Expert, Certified Child Passenger Safety Technician, and a former travel agent who revolutionized the child travel industry by inventing BubbleBum: the world’s FIRST inflatable booster seat that weighs less than one pound and can deflate in minutes, making it simple to throw in a backpack or purse.
The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely the blog contributor’s. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider. Writers may have conflicts of interest, and their opinions are their own.