Family Holiday Travel Tips

My daughter waiting for our flight to board. We're lucky, she loves to fly! My daughter waiting for our flight to board. We're lucky, she loves to fly!

Traveling with children can be easy and fun! The key is simply being prepared. We have lots of experienced parents here at KinderCare headquarters. This year, as the holiday season approaches, we wanted to share some of our favorite family travel tips.

  • Wear kids out before traveling. Hit a playground before you leave town or encourage them to play outside before heading to the airport or getting in the car. Many airports have play areas for children; check the airport website to locate the play area. This is especially important if travel will coincide with naptime and you are hoping they will sleep en route.
  • If seat assignments and overhead space aren’t a concern, board toward the end of the boarding process to reduce the amount of time spent sitting on a plane.
  • Take late flights when possible. Red eye flights may be a little harder on the grownups, but can be much easier for kids if they will be able to sleep – which is good for everyone!
  • Pack a gallon resealable plastic bag with a full change of clothes for each child. Shirt, pants, underwear and socks. Squeeze the air out to make it lay flat in the bottom of your carry-on. If your kid needs a change of clothes, you are going to need something to contain the soiled original outfit. Into the bag it goes!
  • When traveling with a large group, consider having everyone wear brightly colored matching shirts. This can help you keep track of everyone in a crowded airport, train station or tourist attraction.
  • Have favorite age-appropriate movies, educational apps or games loaded and ready to go on the smart phone or tablet. You may need to show smaller children how the headset works and let them practice wearing it several times before the flight.
  • Window clings (usually available at the dollar store) are an excellent distraction on the plane. Children can stick them to the window and the back of the tray table, rearranging the different shapes. This is also a way to practice colors, shapes and vocabulary.
  • Healthy snacks are a must. Some ideas:
    • Fruit in squeeze pouches
    • Trail mix or crackers in small packages
    • Dried fruit or raisins
    • Easy to consume fruit like whole apples, grapes, or blueberries
    • 100% fruit juice boxes or shelf stable milk for car trips
  • Bring an empty refillable water bottle. You can fill it up at the airport using a drinking fountain once you get through security.
  • Think about bringing fun or special food as treats. If your child doesn’t normally get a lot of sweets, a small treat can go a long way toward warding off an in-flight meltdown.
  • Color safe markers (the kind that only appear on special paper) are great for travel. Although they may be little more expensive, it’s nice to know coloring won’t leave a mess on the tray table or chairs.
  • Allow your child to choose a few small toys or books to pack in your carryon. You can “surprise” him or her with them later during a moment of boredom.
  • For nursing moms, bring your nursing cover or a blanket (or whatever makes you feel most comfortable) and try to time a feeding during takeoff. Nursing can help baby’s ears adjust as the altitude increases and often infants will be lulled to sleep by the white noise.
  • If you are traveling with a breast pump, be aware that airport security may confiscate thawed gel ice packs. Make sure the ice pack is frozen when you head through security.
  • If you don’t fly often or haven’t in a while, review the TSA’s Traveler’s Guide for the latest restrictions and tips for getting through security faster. You may also want to review the TSA’s Traveling with Children information.
  • Try to relax, keep a sense of humor and be patient. Travel can be stressful for adults and children. A little bit of flexibility, understanding and good humor can go a long way toward keeping your trip fun.

For further reading, here are some additional articles on traveling with children.

  • Rough Guides has excellent tips, especially for international travel
  • More tips from Babble.com
  • BabyCenter blogger Kristen Chase has great tips, especially the last one
  • TravelMamas has excellent resources including packing lists, vacation ideas, and travel tips

What’s your favorite family travel tip?

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