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9 tried-and-true tips for traveling with kids over the holidays

When I asked parents what their No. 1 tip for holiday travel with kids was, the most common answer by far was “don’t.” But for parents who don’t have the luxury of staying home between Thanksgiving and New Years, there are some surprisingly low-fi but ingenious ways of getting through your family journey.

  1. On a plane, give a toddler a full box of Kleenex to play with. It makes a giant mess in your seat, but takes only a few minutes to clean up. If you’re feeling less bold, a big stack of Post-it notes. If you’re in a hotel room that has a little love seat, turn it so it’s right against the wall, and it’s a perfect little bed that a toddler can’t fall out of. Use duct tape in hotel rooms for impromptu childproofing (sealing electrical outlets).  — Lisa, mom of two
  2. Frosted animal crackers are a special treat for boys who are good on airplanes. Milkshakes are a special ice cream treat for boys who are good on long car rides. These items may not be eaten on at any other time or in any other circumstances. — Annie, mom of one
  3. Amazon Prime. Ship diapers, food, toys, etc. to your destination to avoid a lot of luggage and stress. — Joanne, mom of one
  4. Pillows stuffed under the fitted sheet turn a bed into a more tot-friendly sleeping zone if you have a roller like I do. — Petra S., mom of two
  5. We bring our two convertible car seats in the large car seat backpack travel bags. Before we check them, we stuff them with the heavy items from our suitcases because they are free to check and actually hold a lot of stuff. This has saved us many a heavy bag fee! — Maeve D., mom of two
  6. For babies, put together bottles beforehand to avoid measuring and mess. For formula, we would bring several bottles with the powder already premeasured and then an empty bottle to use to measure and add warm water. Bring extra in case you end up with a flight delay! — Marisa B., mom of one
  7. Whenever possible, we bring disposable blackout curtains with us — it helps the kids sleep in, and hence, the parents. (If you’re careful with them, you can reuse them, because they’re not cheap.) — Carla N., mom of two
  8. Once you get through security, walk, walk, walk. Don’t go straight to the gate. You’ll just end up sitting around, and on top of the hours you’ll be spending sitting on the plane, that’s the last thing you want to do with kids. Tire them out! We try to make walking through the terminal an adventure. We also let the girls pick out two treats to eat on the plane — I do not care about nutrition on travel days as long as they are happy and quiet. We like to wait until the last possible minute to board. It totally goes against our type-A personalities, but there is no reason to herd your kids into the boarding lanes just to have them sit on the plane for up to half an hour longer. If you’ve checked your bags, you don’t need an obscene amount of overhead bin space, and if your kids are old enough to walk on the plane themselves, let them — at the last possible second. — Claire W., mom of two
  9. When the kids were little, we pretended that Christmas was a few days earlier than it really was so we didn’t have to travel with gifts. They were none the wiser. — Jason H., dad of two
9 tried-and-true tips for traveling with kids over the holidays
Image: Liz Smith/SheKnows

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