What's a great tip for traveling with kids during the holidays?
Don't Be a Hero! Find the path of least resistance and give yourself permission to take it. For us this means that our kids will eat more cookies than they should, they will have more 'screen' time than the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends, they will be shooed away at holiday parties while the adults are chatting, they will go to bed super early whenever humanly possible. And it means that on almost all of the nights of our multi-generational Christmas trip to Disney World, the boys will dine at Simba's Clubhouse while the adults enjoy a few precious kid-free hours.
Plan to enjoy uninterrupted time with your kids! I know I always get excited for a long plane or car ride because I get to catch up. At home I'm always busy with laundry, cooking, working, etc. But on the plane I have nothing but time to catch up. We just enjoy each other. No distractions, movie players or bags of distractions. We get so disconnected by our regular lives, this is a time to just reconnect! Telling stories and listening to the stories of their days and observations of NOW.
If visiting family and friends, make your schedule clear before leaving home. Send out an email with your plans for each day including what activities you'll be doing with whom. This helps make the most of your limited time and reduces any sore feelings or guilt trips if you can't spend quite as much time with loved ones as they would like. Be sure to schedule some alone-time too; non-stop social visits can be exhausting for children (and grown-ups!).
If you've got a long, crowded flight with young kids over the holidays, don't skimp on QUIET plane toys.
You might also consider grabbing a handful of low denomination Starbucks gift cards. Distribute them to the people around you before the flight and apologize in advance. You're sure to get a laugh and this will dispel tensions before they start.
Make sure that you have enough things for the kids to do in the car, and that you take regular breaks. Also, make sure that you don't plan for more than 4 or 5 hours in the car at the time if it is at all possible.
If you are visiting family, try to keep at least your bed time routine the same as much as possible. Kids thrive on routine, while the holidays are all about chaos. Keeping one thing familiar can help keep them happy and everyone sleeping just a little bit better. Also be sure to give kids downtime from all of the holiday activities. Take a walk, hit the playground or just read a few books.
If you are staying in a hotel bring a few decorations from home so that you can keep the trip festive and have some familiar cheer with you!
Set your child's expectations before you leave home. Kids like routine --Turkey every year at Grandma's house or waking up Christmas morning in their own bed. As much fun as traveling can be, it can also be stressful for your children. Prep them a few weeks in advance for the differences that this holiday season may bring and make sure to bring a few special things from home. A jar of grandma's cranberry sauce or their own pillow may make them feel a bit more comfortable where ever you are you.
1. Pad of paper and pencil for games such as Hangman, Boxes, Noughts + Crosses
2. Spare sweatshirt for travel sickness disasters
3. Wristbands for above. They REALLY WORK
4. Origami set. Your child will be absorbed for hours, they weigh nothing and can be chucked away when finished.
When providing activities and toys, be sure they are age appropriate and if you have more than one child that all toys are the same or similar to help prevent arguments.
Having snacks is a must, nothing worse than hungry children and not having anywhere to stop. Try to steer clear of high sugar foods, although having treats on hand to reward good and patient behaviour is always a winner for us.
Be sure to take toilet breaks when there is a toilet available, if you're driving pack some tissues in case of emergency toilet breaks etc (for girls especially), also allow the children to drink enough fluids, but not excessively or this could mean constant toilet breaks which is also a time waster!
For younger children they enjoy games such as eye-spy or spot the car (pick a colour each) and the first one to see a car that colour wins. If you're taking electrical distractions such as iphones, ipods or gaming consoles be sure to pack a car charger on long trips too.
If you usually drive to the airport and self-park, consider taking public transportation or asking friends for a lift during the heavy holiday travel days. Nothing creates stress faster than finding there is no parking and finding that the only open spots are in a land far, far away when you have loads of stuff in hand.
If you are on a long flight, think small and educational toys/books/movies that can enlighten and excite them about their destination ( and help keep the memories alive when they return..even for young children).
We've been traveling the world as a family non-stop for the last 6 years ( 43 countries on 5 continents on just $23/day) , so have lots of tips on how to enjoy the holidays abroad. One fabulous key today is free Skype webcam calls that allow you to participate with family and friends at a distance..so you can enjoy the beach in Bora Bora AND send kisses "live" to Grandma and relatives in the snow on Christmas Day! ;)
Before you break into your airplane busy bag (stuffed with toys that probably add up to a big $$ investment), check out what's around you and get creative! Sugar packets and a couple of cups are the makings of a great 3-card monte game. A (clean) airplane barf-bag and a little imagination make a nice puppet. With a little ingenuity you won't have to break out the ipad until the flight is well underway
Pack them a lunch box that they can self serve themselves if old enough with least messy items fruit, snack items rice crackers, small sandwiches etc and their water bottle , a treat kept in front is a perfect distraction if they are over it and you can't stop yet.
Timing - try book flights or your travel time for when your kids will sleep or when they will be in a good mood.
Toiletries - make sure you have enough on hand to see you through your travel days.
Toys - they don't have to be new, but have enough toys and distractions on hand to keep little ones busy. A good guideline is one new thing per hour.
Treats - never underestimate the power of a bag of chips or a cookie.
Temperament - try to remember that travel is stressful so psyche yourself up to handle anything with a smile. If you're tense and grumpy, your kids will be too.
Young children often become disoriented during travel; add to that the excitement of the holidays, and they might not know if they're coming or going! To help our kids remember how many days are left until Christmas (and to give them something to do while in the car or plane), we bring the concept of the advent calendar on the road. We wrap a small, inexpensive gift (such as a book or travel game) each day, and label it with the number of days left until the holiday. They love the count down, AND the fun of having something new to entertain them in unfamiliar homes, hotels, and restaurants.