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The holidays are right around the corner, and maybe you’re one of the millions of Americans traveling to spend them with family. Traveling can be stressful, especially if you have small kids in tow. Whether flying or driving, there are things you can do to make your trip a lot less unnerving and a lot more fun.
Ways to Make Family Holiday Travel Easier
When we have a big trip planned with the kids, I start by making a list of everything we’ll need, and I start packing what I can a few days ahead of the trip. The less I have to do the night or morning before, the better.
Simplify by cutting down on the number of bags you need to pack. I like to pack one suitcase for my husband and I, and one for my two young boys.
I generally place the boys’ daily outfits in plastic Ziploc bags to make things easy. It keeps their clothes sorted and they can easily get themselves dressed each day of the trip. Plus, they can store dirty clothes in them for the trip home. Everyone gets one outfit each day, plus extra socks and underwear for all of us.
Baby and Toddler Travel
If you’re traveling with a baby or toddler, you’ll definitely have more to pack. You’ll want to think about what you’ll need for the drive as well as what you’ll need once you get there. What are the sleeping arrangements? Is there a crib there already or will you need a travel crib? Will you need a high chair? A stroller?
If you’re traveling by car, it’s easy enough to take all of this with you. If you’re flying, you can use your car seat on the plane and check your stroller at the gate (for free), but you may want to look into renting baby gear for the rest of things you’ll need. Or maybe a family friend there has something you can borrow for your stay. The lighter you can travel with kids, the easier it is.
Now that you’ve scored a budget-friendly flight and you’re packed, you’re ready to hit the road (or the skies). If you’re driving, use GPS to figure out your route so you know how long you’ll be driving, including the most recent traffic and other delays. If you’ll be traveling through big cities, plan to leave at a time that avoids rush hour while you’re in those cities.
Some people prefer to travel late at night to avoid traffic and so that kids are more likely to sleep. If you do this, make sure the driver is well rested and wide-awake! Stock up on travel pillows and eye masks for your weary passengers if you choose to use this travel strategy (and drink coffee if you’re the driver).
Pack snacks. There’s nothing that amps up your stress level quite like traveling for hours with a hungry toddler. Pack car-friendly snacks to keep them satisfied and to avoid having to make extra stops for food.
Bananas, dry cereal, raisins, string cheese, and grapes make great snacks. Remember, you’re all cooped up in a small space together for a few hours – sugary snacks probably aren’t ideal for this. The sugar high is real. Pack water bottles instead of soda or juice. Kids won’t guzzle water as quickly, which means fewer pit stops along the way.
Keep Boredom at Bay
Plan ahead for how to keep your kids entertained on your road trip. I like to pack a small bag for each child with a drawing pad and colored pencils, activity books, reading books, and a small toy or two. I also make sure we have plenty of movies on hand for the DVD player in our van.
All the classic car games like I Spy, Slug Bug, or scouting out license plates are a good way to pass the time as well.
Take breaks. Get out and stretch your legs every 2-3 hours, and let your kids run around a little and get some energy out. Allow at least 10-15 minutes before getting back in the car for the next leg of your trip.
Sit Back and Relax
Once you’ve reached your destination, unload the car, unpack, get settled in, and spend the rest of your time enjoying the holidays with your family. With these tips you’ll be on your way to experiencing total travel freedom. It takes a little bit of preparation to get ready for a trip, but it’s worth the effort.
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