Tips for Holiday Travel With Kids

The holidays are coming and if you’re anything like me, that means two things: eating everything and traveling. Holiday travel with kids, whether it’s across town or cross-country can be pretty stressful. Having traveled cross-country eight times, I thought I would share a few things I’ve learned about traveling with kids – without going crazy.

1: Give them their own backpack.

Ashley talks about this in her post about packing a backpack for toddlers. Whether you’re flying or driving, having a backpack of their own can make travel with kids so much easier. On a plane, their backpack frees up space in your carry-on. It also ensures they have a wealth of things they love. For road trips, it gives them one more thing to do (find all the car toys stashed inside). Our son loves packing his backpack, and we love filling it with things we know he’ll love to do when we’re on the road or in the air.

2: Car games and toys!

Remember when we were kids, how we got travel-sized Magna-Doodles and Etch-a-Sketches? Played I Spy and Tic-Tac-Toe? You can totally do this while traveling with your kids! While my son is too young for Tic-Tac-Toe (we’re close!), your kids may love a game of I Spy on a long road trip. Toys and games just for the car or airplane make it novel, and your kids may not get bored as easily with a new Water Wow book, color-by-numbers, or a Magna-Doodle to keep them occupied!

3: Plan stops if you’re driving.

We drive to Ohio once a year to visit our family. It’s 16 hours without stops, without traffic, well, you get the picture. We never try to make it straight through, but our goal is to get about halfway and stretch the drive over two days. To keep all of us from getting bored and hangry, we plan stops every two-to-three hours. Everyone gets to get out of the car, get a snack, use the restroom, and stretch their legs. It breaks up the monotony of highway after highway, tree after tree. 

4: Ship your gifts ahead of time.

This is especially important if you’re traveling long-distance. It is challenging enough to travel with kids without trying to figure out how to get lots of gifts to grandma’s house! Checked bag fees add up, and there is only so much you can fit in a carry-on. Likewise, If you can, try to encourage the family members you’re visiting to ship the large things to your house and have small things for the kids to open for the holiday. 

5: Pack extra, and pack the favorite outfits early.  

I bring two or three extra outfits per if person if we can’t do laundry. If we can? I pack one extra outfit per person. I also pack the favorite outfits early, because who wants to be on vacation and missing their favorite shirt? 

6: Build in downtime.

No matter how much you plan your trip, holiday travel with kids brings some challenges: fewer toys, more non-childproofed homes, and lots of sitting. Even with packed toys and games, it can be a challenge to keep small hands away from breakable objects, and can end with frustrated children at the end of the day. Instead of planning every minute of every day, we plan for breaks throughout our trip to go to playgrounds or kid-friendly museums. Our son can get his wiggles out without us worrying something is going to get broken, and without him worrying he’s going to be told “no.”

7: Have fun!

Traveling at the holidays is stressful and being out of routine is always a challenge, no matter how old you are. Remember to take time to have fun and enjoy the season, no matter how crazy it feels.

Tell us – what do you do to make holiday travel with kids less stressful?